How to Have a Budget-Friendly Pesach
The members of many Orthodox households ask every year how they can make memorable Sedarim and delicious meals on Pesach, when limited budgets clash with expensive yom tov items, which is a more frequent question at a time of rising prices, exacerbated by the current pending recession.
Stacey Zrihen answers these questions.
A resident of Lawrence in the Five Towns area in New York and a veteran certified financial planner, Zrihen guides Jewish families on living observant Jewish lives within the constraints of finite finances. An Orthodox lifestyle—large families, kosher food, day school tuition, et cetera—is expensive, she points out. “Finances are a major challenge”—which can be most evident at Pesach time, when holiday food is expensive and even the prices of year-round kosher food traditionally go up.
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, Zrihen serves as senior financial advisor for the Westwood Financial Management Program of the Achiezer Community Resource Center in Lawrence (the agency honored Zrihen with its Pillar of Chesed Award in 2020) and lay leader of the OU’s Living Smarter Jewish coaching program.
Among the more than 1,000 Jewish families—in the US and overseas—that she has counseled are singles and families, seniors and young married adults. Calls made to her usually spike in the weeks after a yom tov, she says, when bills for holiday purchases come in and the stress that comes with paying them also rises. This stress can be avoided, or at least reduced, she says.
Stacey Zrihen On How to Prepare for Pesach with Less Financial Stress
As told to Steve Lipman
- Make a menu. Figure out in advance what you will prepare and serve during Pesach this year; let that be your guide to what you will buy. “Never go shopping without a list.”
- Prioritize. When you’re shopping, menu in hand, and you find that you cannot afford everything on your list, decide what items take priority. If rising prices make your usual amount of appetizers and side dishes difficult to serve this year, be willing to cut the number.
- Check the ads. Most kosher supermarkets advertise their specials in flyers, online and in Jewish publications before the holidays. Keep an eye on them so you can take advantage of the best prices.
- Involve your family. Let them have a say in what will be served at the Sedarim. They will then have fewer complaints about the yom tov cuisine, and their input can guide your shopping budget. “Let the kids be part of the meal-making.”
- Don’t splurge on new, creative recipes. If your favorite year-round kosher cuisine is good enough, don’t shell out limited funds on new holiday meal offerings that require expensive ingredients and spices.
- Be flexible. Do you always serve brisket at your Seder? Is another cut of meat cheaper this year? Then buy the less-expensive option.
- Check your fridge and shelves. Some of the items you bought during the year and never opened may be kosher l’Pesach. Use them instead of buying everything new for this year’s chag.
- Shop early. Don’t wait until after Purim, when you will face the deadline of preparing for yom tov and may succumb to the pressure of buying what you may not really need.
- Avoid impulse buying. If something that looks attractive in the store aisle is not on your shopping list, it should not be in your shopping cart.
- The law of averages. Pesach shopping is going to cost more than your regular week. Try to keep things simple in the weeks leading up so that your other grocery bills that month help balance out the Pesach expense.
- Ask friends and family to pitch in. If your Seder guests offer to bring something, take them up on their offer. Instead of flowers, suggest a kugel or fruit.
- Resist pressure. Everyone has their own wish list, but that doesn’t mean you need to yield to every request. If your goal is to stay within budget, let that be your ultimate guide.
- Budget but enjoy. Don’t become a slave to worrying. Accept that Pesach will indeed be a more costly time of year and allocate money accordingly. Once you determine the amount you are able to spend, do it with a full heart!
- Review. Right after yom tov, sit down with your family and discuss which Seder items were popular and which weren’t so that you can take notes for next year.
Steve Lipman is a frequent contributor to Jewish Action.