Great tips and ideas guys thanks!
I've never been brave enough to actually even build a binary from source never mind an entire OS but you only live once...
It seems, from the current Raspian download page, that Raspbian is 4Gb:If you want to save 1.2GB use plain Raspbian image and get rid of NOOBS completely.
So I'm wondering: isn't Noobs actually smaller?"The Raspbian with PIXEL image contained in the ZIP archive is over 4GB in size..."