The first night of Passover is in a couple of weeks. Are you ready?
Let me ask you another question: How will you make this Pesach different from all other Passovers?
If you’re like many people, the cost of Pesach can be pretty overwhelming. Between the pounds brisket, the dozens (and dozens) of eggs, and the liters of wine – not to mention all those kosher for Passover specialty items – a week of Pesach can cost two to three times an entire month’s worth of groceries.
But it doesn’t have to. You can still make a stunning seder, with all your family and friends, and enjoy delicious chol ha’moed meals without killing your budget or running up your credit card bills.
Think it’s impossible? Here are four questions to ask yourself so that this Pesach will indeed be different.
1. Do I have a plan?
Before you start your Pesach shopping, it’s important that you have a plan. The single best way to save money at Passover – and anytime of the year – is to be intentional and focused about what you’re doing.
So, take a few moments to sit down and make a plan. Start with your finances – what can you afford to spend? What’s a realistic number, on top of your regular food budget? My definition of “realistic” is that you can cashflow your purchases without carry a credit card balance to the next month.
Once you know how much you can afford to spend this Passover, it’s time to make your menu. Most of us are good about making detailed plans for our seders, but what about the rest of the holiday?
A detailed menu plan will not only save you money but sanity as well. So plan out your breakfasts, lunches and dinners – and if you will be a guest at someone else’s home, be sure to plan for a host/hostess gift, too.
2. Is this a short-term expense or a long-term investment?
Many people prefer to use disposables on Passover – it’s easier and quicker, and goodness knows, we put so much work into getting ready for the holiday as it is.
Plus, the cost of 100 paper plates is surely less than buying a set of 12 dishes, right?
Every time you toss a plate or cup in the trash can, you are throwing away money. Sure, if you do it just this once, you’ll probably save a few dollars over buying a full set.
But, Pesach comes every year! As long as your life is relatively stable (i.e. you’re not still a student or planning to move to Israel next year), then buying a set of dishes, glasses and cutlery will save you some serious money in the long-term.
Of course you don’t need to go out and buy fine china. Unless that’s in your budget. Rather, keep an eye on the sales throughout the year so you can stock-up at clearance prices.
Apply this same “investment” thinking to your table linens, small appliances and other housewares. For our family, a food processor is a must – as is a good quality set of knives. When resources are tight, it’s better to do a little bit each year, as your budget allows, rather than having to replace low-end items.
3. Is this something I can do without?
Matzah, wine, horseradish root – these are the Passover non-negotiables.
But “coffee” cake in a box and fluorescent jelly candies? I’m fairly certain neither our ancestors nor our sages dictated that we eat this seemingly standard Pesach fare.
So before you start throwing everything you see with a Kosher for Passover hechsher into your cart, take a deep breath and ask yourself: “Is this something that I can do without?” It is only eight days after all.
The best part of “doing without” is that all the money you save will actually allow you to indulge in some truly delicious foods that your whole family can enjoy.
• Instead of spending $7 for a boxed cake that will serve 4 people, tops, buy a few pounds of strawberries and a bag of chocolate chips to make hand-dipped berries.
• Instead of buying a $6 box of Pesach Os – which, let’s face it, tastes like cardboard – why not break out of the boring breakfast box? Scrambled eggs, yogurt and fresh fruit, and of course, matzah brie, are all great choices.
• Instead of buying kosher for Passover tuna at $3.50/can, pick up some fresh salmon or tilapia. Whether you grill, bake or poach it, dinner will definitely taste a lot fresher.
4. Does this really need a special Kosher for Passover (KLP) hechsher?
One of the single best ways to save on your Passover bill is to walk away – far away – from the special Kosher for Passover displays and aisles at your grocery store.
Many, many products don’t require a KLP hechsher.
One of my favorite items on this list is Extra Virgin Olive Oil. No more dressing my salads with cottonseed oil! Ground, unflavored coffee is also kosher year-round without special Passover certification. And raw nuts don’t require a KLP hechsher, as long as they don’t have preservatives like BHT.
Even dish soap doesn’t need special certification. So instead of paying a premium for Pessadik dish soap, you can pick up some Dawn on sale – use a coupon and you might even be able to get it for free, or very nearly free.
Are you a Passover-saving expert? What are you best tips for saving dough during this unleavened holiday?