Pricewatch: Life hacks for the lockdown

Top tips from readers to help with household chores

Just over 40 years ago, Viz made its debut in comic shops in the UK and over a 10- or 15-year golden age the adult comic brought all sorts of entirely inappropriate and, more often than not, sweary characters to the attention of a gobsmacked world.

While many of the characters – Roger Mellie, Billy the Fish, Sid the Sexist and Millie Tant – became (sort of) household names, the unsung heroes of the Viz glory days were the “readers” who sent in top tips on how to save money and make life better.

The top-tip model had long been a tried and tested one and had featured in the British press for many years before Viz came along but it made it its own. Among the sterling advice featured in its version were gems such as: “Don’t waste money on expensive iPods. Simply think of your favourite tune and hum it. If you want to ‘switch tracks’, simply think of another song you like and hum that instead.”

Cheapskates were encouraged to “save money at Christmas by returning last year’s cards to the sender with the simple inscription ‘Same to you’”.

Among the money-saving tips for supermarket shoppers was one which suggested taking “one grape to the till. It won’t register on the low-tech, insensitive scales so you will get it for free. Repeat this procedure 100 times or so and you have yourself a free bunch of grapes.”

Then there was the idea of putting tea bags in the immersion to give yourself hot tea on tap and we also liked the notion of getting an old telephone directory and scratching out all the names of people we didn’t know to get a free address book.

You get where they were coming from.

Anyways, the reason Viz came to the Pricewatch mind last week was because of a notion we had while grating cheese.

For many years, we have grated cheese the wrong way. We used to sit the triangle-shaped cheese grater vertically and then grate the cheese on to a plate or board or whatever. But then we realised – or someone on Twitter realised – that if we grated cheese while the grater was horizontal and lying on the hard cheese grating side, then it would be much faster and much more efficient. Not only would the grating action be improved, the cheese would collect in the actual grater allowing for easy pouring into pots or whatever.

Minds blown.

As lightbulb moments go, it is, perhaps not that bright but it prompted us to go in search of other life hacks – to use the zeitgeisty phrase or "top tips" to use the Viz one – to share with a wider audience. We asked on Twitter for some ideas. And in they came. Fast.

Frying eggs

The first one was from Elaine Walsh. “A saucepan lid when frying an egg traps in the steam,” she wrote. It means you “don’t have to flip, cooks quicker – perfect eggs”. We tried this and it does work although it is not like flipping eggs is a particularly onerous task.

Separating them, however, can be. Not for Mary Conroy, mind. She shared a tip for separating eggs that was as simple as it was genius. “Break the egg on to a saucer, then use an inverted eggcup to hold the yolk while you tilt the plate and let the egg white slide off.” It does create washing up but sounds a whole lot less messy and more reliable than the method we have deployed for many years.

“Cook frozen peas in a small bowl of water from the kettle. Saves using a pot and saves hob space,” said Conor Kane. He’s probably right.

It was almost like Joyce Hickey had sight of the Pricewatch fridge when she suggested that we “take salad leaves and herbs out of plastic packaging and store in lunchboxes in the fridge. They will stay fresh and non-sludgy for much longer.”

Too late for the latest round of mushy leaves we are getting ready to bin but we’ll remember this for next time. She also suggested that if we have a lemon “that will go off before you use it, slice it up and freeze it in a bag for use in drinks”.

Like Pricewatch is the kind of consumer-focused page that ever has lemons in drinks.

“Place garlic cloves in microwave for 20 seconds and they simply pop out of their skins,” wrote Angela Holohan. We’ve not got round to trying this yet, but if it works it will be life-changing.

Ber Phelan suggested we “zap a lime/lemon in the microwave for a few seconds, juice is easily released when squeezed”.

“Fill ice-cube freezer bags with fresh milk, keep in the freezer. Put a cube in your tea or coffee as needed,” wrote Denise Carroll. In normal times, this might be an idea but at present the Pricewatch freezer has no space for an ice cube as it is stuffed with pandemic produce that we haven’t got round to eating yet.

When Marie-Claire Digby gives us tips about food, we listen. And so should you. She agreed with other Twitter users that ginger “freezes brilliantly” and say it’s fine to “grate/microplane it from frozen (no need to peel), or if using fresh just run a teaspoon over it and skin comes off, if you want it peeled”.

The tips weren’t all about eating and prepping food, mind you. “Wrap cling film around your paint brushes and rollers if you want to take a break (even a day or two) between painting instead of washing out each time,” suggested Deirdre Colwell, while Joanne Pender reckoned the best way to clean those paint rollers was to chuck them in the washing machine. That sounds weird to us, to be honest.

Not as weird as the idea from Claire Ronan. “Halve a grapefruit, dip it into a saucer of rock salt use the grapefruit/salt combo to clean your oven. Leaves it sparkling.” And well it might but we’d prefer to eat the grapefruit, to be honest.

Conor Feehan wrongly assumed we were the types to keep our car sparkling when he suggested that “car wax on glass shower doors lessens the amount of soap/limescale build-up”. We don’t have and never have had any car wax to hand. But we’d nearly buy some just to check it out.

Extension lead

Steve McCann had an idea we first thought was foolish, but the more we thought of it the more brilliant we reckoned it was. “Bring an extension lead on holidays with you and you’ll only need one adapter rather than loads of them for chargers and the like.”

“A few drops of essential oil such as tea tree or eucalyptus in your cupboards or on the kitchen counter will keep ants away,” said Mary Broughal.

Nicola Corbet told us that a “wooden spoon over boiling pasta [means it] never boils over.” We keep forgetting to try this. But we will.

We will also try the following idea from Orla Broderick as the summer nears. “Sounds odd but works,” she said. “A ziplock bag with handful of pennies, squirt of lemon and a tablespoon of salt. Then half fill with water and hang at open back door. Stops flies coming into house.”

Joyce Hickey was back to share her dad’s lawnmowing hack. “Trim the edges first, throw the clippings on to the lawn and the whole lot will go into the mowers’ grassbox”.

You are all welcome.

But of all the tips, the one we felt would work best – or at least the one that resonated most – came from Keith Murphy. “If you open a bottle of wine, drink it, don’t keep it for the next day or even to add to dishes.”