Passover spending – the food edition


Money (Photo credit: AMagill)

Passover is an expensive time of year. Even if you try to stay on your regular food budget (hard, but some people do!), the other spending can really add up.

What other spending?

  • New clothes for kids
  • New jewelry / clothes / scarves / etc. for wives (maybe husbands, too, but wives are a mitzva!)
  • kitchen things (bowls, dishes, baking rack, pans…almost everything has to be different)
  • nice paper goods or other things to pretty up your seder table
  • wine or grape juice (although there should be some good grape juice sales on now!)
  • guests
  • miscellaneous: cleaning help, dry cleaning, child care, chol hamoed (the in-between days of the holiday) outings, sheital wash and set, etc.

We could spend a fortune if we wanted to! And that’s not counting traveling or going away for Passover – or the increase in food spending that the majority of people see.

Of course, these things aren’t all necessary. You can buy thrift store clothing, kasher what you can, go without anything premade, not host anyone, stay home for chol hamoed, and do all kinds of other things to minimize costs. But a certain amount of extra spending is going to happen this month – and really, some of the simcha (joy) from the holiday is certainly boosted by our favorites, whether clothes, wine, food, guests, or something else. (And there’s an idea that what you spend on the holiday isn’t part of “your” allotment of money for the year, anyway!)

So what’s a balabuste do do?

Plan for it! 

It can be really hard to do. But we all have a finite amount of money, and while you can go over that amount (“thanks” to credit cards…), it’s really not worth it! So it’s time to take a good look at your budget and see what extras you have that you can put toward making Pesach, and what you can take from this month to put into your Passover fund (less child care expenses? Less entertainment?)

Writing about budgeting is not really my forte, so I’ll refer you out to Mara from Kosher on a Budget for more specifics on a Passover budget and making a year-round Passover fund.

I’ll address each of the spending items above, but in a series of posts this week (bli neder!). I don’t want to “talk” your ear off now – we’ll break it up!

Now, for general thoughts on organizing and saving on Passover Food:

Know your budget: While I know some people who make do on the same amount for the month of Passover, many plan for 1.5 times their normal budget – if you did this and spend $500, you’d plan for $750. Depending on your family size, number of guests, kids coming home, and cooking style, that could be too little, though. Some people do about double. But again, it varies widely by family. If you need to cut down on spending, plan a leftovers meal, or a vegetarian meal, or make-your-own…

Plan ahead, but be flexible: Have a meal plan in mind. I have our previous years’ menus in my Shalom Bayit Book, and I know what we like and what we don’t I do usually include several new recipes just because I like to do that, but we have family favorites that we don’t eat often, so they are special. But if I see something I can really use on a great sale, I will adjust to use it. Sometimes chicken or lamb is on a great sale a few weeks before Passover, so I freeze it and plan around it. A little flexibility can save a lot of money.

Buy what’s on sale: But only if you’re going to use it. For example, this is one of the two times of the year the kosher grape juice goes on a big sale. It’s usually about $7 for a big bottle of Kedem grape juice, but before Passover (and the Tishrei holidays), it goes on sale. It used to be about $2.50 a bottle, but last year and this year, I found it for about $3 a bottle. Still, this is *huge savings.*  Warehouse stores like Costco and BJs tend to have it in stock now, too, for about the same price per ounce.  I usually buy enough to last us for half the year at each sale (30 bottles, counting about 1/week) and need to budget for that, too!

But buy carefully: Some things require a hechsher (kosher certification), while others don’t. And this changes from year to year and product to product – there was even something approved, disapproved, and then retracted this year already! Whichever sources you follow, be sure to check it out. A $1 box of chocolates you can’t eat is still a waste.

Shop your cupboards, too: I had a jar of Moroccan fish balls that were OK for Passover, as well as some staples. Does your cupboard have some KLP cans or jars already lurking? Use them! Do you need a special sugar, honey, or seltzer? If not, and you have one in your cupboard, don’t buy it now – the price will be more inflated. Use what you can from what you have.

Check the ads: Like grape juice, other Passover staples go on sale, often before the holiday, even up to a month before. I don’t go to a bunch of stores (although I used to!), but I will look at the ads and choose where I go and what I buy based on them. I do go for loss leaders, like grape juice, matza meal, or chicken. But you should also watch for things like free matzah with $100 purchase, or 10% for every x amount spent. Those can be put toward those expensive Passover items and help you with the costs. And buying a little at a time spreads out the cost a little more – IF you remember what you bought (maybe with the help of a list).

Don’t buy it just because it’s there!: I’m sure you’ve seen the gala spread of packaged gourmet foods you can have for Passover. Although what every family can choose from varies based on their customs, allergies, and likes, you don’t have to buy Pesach mustard for $5 a tub – unless it’s a staple for you. Potato starch cakes can easily run $40 each. Maybe jam isn’t going to be missed, or chocolate spread, or marshmallows (although that might be a nightmare some of the kids here have!) Ketchup is a must in our house, and my husband loves bottled horseradish sauce year-round. Plus, I love chocolate, and so that’s a staple for us, of course. 😉 But just because you see it and it’s available, you don’t need to buy it!

When to buy: You can buy a little at a time or a lot all at once. But remember that prices often go down after Passover starts. So you don’t need to have everything on hand for the whole holiday at the start! (Eggs and milk are an exception.) But keep in mind that some things are likely to sell out, so if it’s a must-have, buy it before. And things like dairy and refrigerated goods are less likely to go on clearance, so you can buy them before to minimize your shopping and make sure you have them on hand. And things like produce are OK to buy whenever, especially the more perishable things – it would be terrible to lose a bunch of fruit because you bought enough for the week and it spoiled before you could eat it!

Shop AFTER, too: After Passover, many dry goods can be bought and saved for next year, too. And they are likely to be much better priced then! Just keep track of what you have in your Shalom Bayit Book so you don’t forget and buy twice, or assume you have it and don’t. We find cake mixes, matza meal, canned goods, and some other dry goods are good for a year with no problems. Check the expiration date on things like mayo or ketchup, too, which you may be able to store (unopened!) for next year. And, again, keep good track!

**Keep track!** : My last tip, and possibly the most important, is to track what you buy, spend, and keep. I have price flyers from previous years, my shopping lists and totals, current inventory of usable things, wishlist of what I want to get for future years, hits and misses (what worked and what didn’t), and more. I can guess what my budget will need to be for the holiday based on previous years, and I know what I need to buy and what I have. It makes things MUCH EASIER for next year.

What tips and tricks would you add?

About Amital

A die-hard listmaker and observant Jewish mommy of 5, managing the challenges of life bit by bit with the help of a Shalom Bayit book and lists. And chocolate, of course. Lots of chocolate.

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