Oily rag: Celebrate chance to dine for less

By Frank, Muriel Newman

This week we continue our "spend-less" Christmas theme.

Here's an idea for a Christmas treat for the children - make gingerbread men (or persons, if you prefer), using this simple recipe recommended by Chelsea Sugar.

You will need flour, baking soda, ground ginger, brown sugar, butter and an egg. Sift two cups of flour with half a teaspoon of baking soda and a tablespoon of ginger, add half a cup of sugar, then rub in 150g of soft butter. Add one egg to mix into a dough, adding extra flour if the dough is sticky.

Place the dough in the fridge for about half an hour then roll on a lightly floured surface until about 5mm thick. Use a gingerbread man cookie cutter to cut out shapes or use a sharp knife to create your own shapes. Bake in a preheated 180C oven for eight to 10 minutes.

When cool, decorate the gingerbread men with icing and lollies, using a small amount of icing to "glue" the lollies in place. Make the icing into wiggles and squiggles for clothes and other adornments. It's a great way to entertain children on Christmas Day - especially if it's raining!

Christmas is also a time for eating out. Here is a smorgasbord of ways to wine (not whine!) and dine on the smell of an oily rag.

Keep an eye out for "kids-eat-free" deals.

Have an entree instead of a main and share a dessert- just ask for two spoons - or skip the dessert altogether and make one at home.

Some restaurants offer an early-bird menu for early diners - or have a late lunch as the lunch menu is usually cheaper (some oily raggers have even been know to stop off at a certain establishment to take advantage of their 60c icecreams!).

Share a plate. Most restaurants will allow two people to share a plate for no additional cost.

Look for "2-for-1" deals. Take along a buddy and split the cost so you both save.

The add-ons are usually the biggest cost of dining out. Avoid ordering the drinks by saying "water please" when you are asked for your drinks order.

Take a doggie bag, but instead of giving the leftovers to the dog, have it for a second meal. That way a $25 meal becomes two meals at $12.50.

Seniors should ask if the establishment offers a senior citizen discount.

Keep an eye out for dining discount coupons. The coupons usually appear in local newspapers, in your mailbox as junk mail and on the internet. They are likely to appear more often when trading is a little slow - as it is nowadays! Read the fine print as they often have conditions attached, such as dining on certain days or times.

Check out the ethnic restaurants operating from low-profile premises that only the locals seem to know about. They run off the smell of an oily rag and pass the savings on to their customers!

Sporting clubs and RSAs usually have big, good value meals.

Ask about a banquet meal and work out if it is cheaper than ordering individual dishes.

One oily rag family said this year the men are making the Christmas lunch. They have been inspired by the countless cooking TV shows and have decided to try some of the recipes. They reckon it's going to be good fun and a time to experiment with a big range of dishes, including roast duck instead of Christmas turkey (which is good news for the turkey, but not the duck!).

Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Readers can submit their oily rag tips at www.oilyrag.co.nz

- Hamilton News

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