Especially in these difficult economic times, preparing for Pesach can cause many to feel stressed. But who says Pesach has to be costly? We spoke with two well-known home organizers and came up with some money-saving tips.
1. Stick to basics. Many people feel the need to “keep up with the Schwartzes” by trying new, complex recipes that call for expensive ingredients. This is a sure-fire way for your budget to spin out of control. Aside from eggs, oil, sugar, salt and matzah, what more do you need?
2. Cut out pre-packaged foods. Sure, there are many prepared foods for Pesach, but they tend to be pricey. Plan your meals around fruits and vegetables, which are less expensive and healthier than pre-packaged options. While this may require adjusting your cooking style somewhat, especially if you are used to making lots of kugels and starchy side dishes, it will not only save you money, it may stave off unwanted pounds. There are plenty of tasty fruit and vegetables side dishes you can take advantage of. Think sliced butternut squash with a honey glaze instead of squash kugel; ratatouille instead of lasagna; baked apples with strawberry glaze instead of cranberry apple crunch; plain matzah with avocado and cheese instead of prepared kosher-for-Pesach waffles. Also, who needs expensive Pesach cakes and cookies? Offer your family cooked or baked fruit for dessert.
3. Write out a menu and shopping list before you go to the grocery store (and remember to take it with you!); this will help you avoid buying unnecessary products.
4. Become familiar with price differences. This is a tip you’ll want to apply all year round. For instance, fresh herbs and spices are cheaper than bottled spices; canned fish is cheaper than fresh fish. Sure, fresh salmon is delicious, but you can find great recipes using canned salmon (remember that all canned goods require special Pesach certification).
5. Buy in bulk. Check with your grocery store and ask if discounts are available if you buy a case of goods or in “bulk.”
6. Check which items don’t require special Pesach certification. Buy brands that are kosher for Pesach all year round instead of buying the specialty Pesach brands. Also, certain OU-certified products are kosher for Passover without special Passover certification. These products include inedibles such as aluminum foil and pans, candles, cleansers, detergents and paper goods, as well as food items such as unflavored regular coffee (not instant or decaffeinated), unprocessed raw meat or poultry, regular cane sugar and bottled water (without any additives). For a complete listing, see the OU Guide to Passover or visit www.ou.org.
7. Bake from scratch. Pesach baked goods and prepared mixes can be costly, so the more goods you bake from scratch, the more money you’ll save. If you’re concerned that your Pesach cakes won’t taste as good as the mixes, stick with recipes that don’t require any special “Pesach ingredients” such as potato starch or matzah meal. Such recipes include ice cream, chocolate mousse, puddings, sorbets, et cetera.
8. Get organized! Make a master list of the foods you used, those you needed more of and those you bought too much of, and next year you won’t buy all those cereals or cake mixes that your children didn’t eat anyway!
9. Preserve your spices—you may also be able to keep them from year to year.
10. Jot down which kitchen items you already have and which you need to buy for the following year. You’ll save lots of money if you aren’t buying duplicates of items you already have. Another suggestion: save receipts and track Pesach purchases along the way to prevent buying doubles.
What about trips and activities on Chol Hamoed?
No need to spend a month’s salary to have fun. Focus on spending quality time with family and close friends and creating memories. Be creative. Do art projects. Plan arts and crafts activities. You can also save money by shopping at dollar stores in advance or beginning a crafts closet containing paper towel rolls, tissue boxes, doilies, and tissue paper.
Serious fun on a shoestring budget
Plan a picnic at the park
Take a hike
Visit a local museum
Visit the zoo
Spend the afternoon bowling or ice skating
Esther Simon, MSW, is a mother of seven and a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers. She lives in Los Angeles and specializes in time management and home organizing. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rivka Slatkin, a mother of three, is a professional organizer living in Baltimore. She is a member of the Maryland Association of Professional Organizers and the creator of Jewish-Life-Organized.com.