That’s luxury!


Image: Flickr CC – via lism.

There were more than a few crossed legs Down Under the other. Half of our nation – the fairer half – winced a little, crossed their legs and then started to growl.

A very deep frustrated growl, directed towards our Government Social Security Department, Work and Income NZ (WINZ). You could hear it rumbling like lava beneath New Zealand’s dormant volcanoes. You see, WINZ had decided in their wisdom that certain feminine sanitary products (Tammys and pads the radio host called them. Tammys and pads?) had been classified as luxury items that beneficiaries could NOT purchase with their WINZ card.

WINZ of course denied that was the case, but two women came forward shrieking liar liar, pants on fire. They told of their very embarrassing experiences of having their purchases rejected by the (no-doubt) young adolescent checkout operator. Because he would be, wouldn’t he. Just as inevitable as the operator being a he also!

Amongst the considerable debate on the radio and the growly newspaper articles and furious Facebook shares, a very important question was raised.

When it comes to day-to-day living what would you call a luxury?

I know I wouldn’t call tampons and pads a luxury, because there aren’t many alternatives. I guess a mooncup or those knitted washable reusable pads (yes there is such a thing out there!) could be seen as an alternative, but a good alternative?

But what other things would qualify?

What about condoms? Surely not a luxury item. There’s modern day Gladwrap.. but is that a good alternative?

The official WINZ line is that it’s only electronics, cigarettes/tobacco and alcohol that beneficiaries are not allowed to purchase with their payments card, but the rumour mill says otherwise.

They say there’s grocery items also. Like excessive amounts of seafood is banned, apparently.

As is expensive meat cuts and luxury brands of even staples such as bread and milk.

There’s that word again – luxury.

Surely, it’s a relative thing, one woman’s tampon is another woman’s luxury. One man’s feed of kai moana (seafood) is another man’s luxury. In the Depression years oysters were eaten off the rocks and were seen as a cheap healthy food source, but these days the state is happier funding diets laden with fats and sugars than healthy fruit, meat and veges.

It was interesting to listen to radio commentators listing the items that had been verboten as too fancy for their mother’s shopping trolleys.

One girl even rang in to confess to The Edge team that her mother refused to buy pre-packaged raisins in those cute little boxes but rather refilled the one recycled raisin box with pickings from a bulk bin buy of raisins.

Oh! Shock horror!

I remember my own Mum saying that ham was out of our budget, that we could only eat luncheon meat. Of course that was before the very thin slices of shaved ham were available. My own kids don’t know how lucky they are with their shaved ham off-cuts. That’s one bonus here, the supermarkets sell ‘meat pieces’ which are the ends of joints of meat they’ve shaved. You get a way better quality of meat and who cares if they are irregular shapes. Sometimes you even get a good mix of salami and ham and even roast beef.

We were also not allowed – special biscuits (i.e anything other than plain), packaged popcorn (you can make it yourself), fancy cereals (Weetbix or Cornflakes, you choose), or crumbed breaded anything!

Another no-no item was packaged bags of crisps, or juice drinks. Mum would simply shake her head and say ‘there’s water in the tap.’

But the spoilt little git prize surely belonged to the American exchange student staying with friends in 1970s Auckland who demanded fresh orange juice for breakfast every day.

Fresh orange juice? Who the hell did he think he was?

In this, our very own age of austerity, I’ve come up with my own list of things that we just cannot justify. I’ll admit there were some items that were exactly the same as Mum’s all those years ago. Huh!

My Vegemitevix List 


  • Chocolates (as in boxes of)
  • Spirits (as in bottles of not churches full of)
  • Soft drink (Coke, Lemonade)
  • Juice (I’m turning into my mother!)
  • Packaged meals or prepared sauces
  • Muesli bars (I am my mother)
  • Cereal that’s fancy (ie has more than one type of nut or dried fruit)
  • Skinned, boned chicken. (whaat? I have fingers!)
  • Chopped up anything (I have knives and I know how to use em)


  • Chocolate (the small bars. Cannot live without)
  • Wine (see chocolate)
  • Coffee (Proper coffee – no coffee no workee)
  • Salad leaves (think of all the fibre)
  • Cat food
  • Dog food
  • Loo roll (no handee towels are not a good alternative)
  • Fresh lean meat, good and fresh fruit and veges
  • Tammys and pads (not for me, I’ve jumped out of the gene-pool but for the other women folk in the house)

What have I missed?

What’s on your verboten list in your house and is it very different from what was forbidden in your mother’s home?¬†



'That’s luxury!' has 6 comments

  1. August 22, 2013 @ 8:51 am MidlifeSinglemum

    Obviously if you have a dog then it’s food isn’t a luxury. However, the dog could be classed as a luxury – how much does it cost you a year to keep a dog? A lot.

    I am trying to buy only basic foods. I suppose my luxuries would be: Hair dye from the supermarket pharmacy, muesli and plain yogurt for my breakfast, conditioner (essential to most of us but an essential luxury), Childrens’ and adults’ vitamins in the winter. Oat milk to liquidize with frozen bananas for a deliciously thick shake that I use as a meal replacement. (I often eat a few things with my meal replacement.)

    I’m trying to cut out coffee and switch to hot water with fresh mint which I’m trying to grow on the balcony. When this jar of coffee runs out…. possibly.


    • August 25, 2013 @ 10:16 pm vegemitevix

      You’re trying to cut out coffee??? Braver woman than I. I don’t like to imagine my life without coffee. Shudder!


      • August 25, 2013 @ 10:37 pm MidlifeSinglemum

        In theory. LOL at the little individual boxes of cereal – we yearned for them but were never allowed. I’d also forgotten. Also orange juice was a luxury and we were allowed one glass a day with breakfast. When we had lemonade or other fizzy drinks at the weekend only (and even then only at mealtimes), we had to drink a glass of water before we were allowed any.


        • August 27, 2013 @ 10:00 am vegemitevix

          That sounds so much like our house when I was growing up. Huh how funny that mothers around the world thought the same way about little boxes of cereal.


  2. August 22, 2013 @ 2:11 pm Potty Mummy

    Those mini packs of cereals – they were on my mums don’t go there list, as they are on mine. Also, ready meals, and jarred sauces were out for both of us (we can both make our own). Other than that, though, must-have luxuries that my mum once would have refused (but interestingly now many of them appear in her own cupboards); EV olive oil, balsamic vinegar, hand cream, brand-name toothpaste, organic dairy (although not in Russia, obviously, since it’s almost impossible to find), organic vegetable stock, and yes, branded sanitary products… As for the wine, however – we drink less than my parents.


    • August 25, 2013 @ 10:18 pm vegemitevix

      Oh I forgot the mini packets of cereals, nope we weren’t allowed them either, and I definitely don’t buy them. My lot ate an entire packet of Sultana Bran in two days! I’m with you on the jarred/packet/pre-prepared sauces though, it’s cheaper easier and better for you to make your own.


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