Margie Pensak, Director of Public & Media Affairs
When we prepare to celebrate our freedom from Egyptian slavery on Pesach, the last thing we want to do is enslave ourselves to debt in paying for that eight-day celebration! The Gemora states that when Hashem assigns a person’s livelihood on Rosh Hashanah for the coming year, Shabbos and Yom Tov expenses are not deducted from the sum allocated; however, it is not a mitzvah to spend money for those expenses, needlessly. With a little forethought and planning, you can implement some helpful year-round money saving tips in anticipation of Pesach.
Optimally, it would be wise to budget for Pesach well in advance. Decide how much you will have to spend, and what you might need to cut from your budget to achieve that figure, by asking yourself some simple basic questions.
· How much do I typically spend on groceries per month?
· How much did I spend for Pesach last year?
· What are the specifics of this year’s Pesach plans?
· Will I be eating meals at home or eating out?
· Will I have more expenses because I am entertaining guests?
· What can I afford this year?
· How can I cut back on expenses a month or two prior to Pesach?
· What can I live without?
It might be a good idea to put aside $20-$50 each month, for example, so you will not have to come up with the money you need all at once. You can put this same system in place to cover the costs for Rosh Hashanah and Succos, as well as other Yomim Tovim. Budgeting and other money saving tips, for Pesach and year-round, can be found on the blog, Kosher on a Budget (http://kosheronabudget.com/), where you can subscribe to the daily Kosher on a Budget Passover Newsletter.
If you have not budgeted for Pesach well in advance, fear not! There are still ways to alleviate the financial strain as Pesach nears. Keep in mind that some products either do not require a special Kosher for Passover certification, or their label bears that extra certification throughout the year. You can shop for these items prior to Pesach and stock up on them when they are on sale. Also, remember that pre-packaged products and specially prepared foods for Pesach are more costly; consider making as many foods as possible from scratch.
First and foremost, stay focused - and plan well. Decide on your menu, taking into account where chol hamoed falls out on the calendar. Be sure to make a list before you go shopping. Hopefully, you can refer to your post-Pesach notes from the previous year to remind you of your ever-changing Pesach needs.
These could include:
· Number of boxes of matza, matza meal, cake meal, and potato starch used
· Number of bottles of wine needed
· Popular brands
· Amount of milk used
· Amount of chicken used
· Amount of produce needed
· Number of eggs used
· Products that were not eaten the previous year and are not needed this year
· Unpopular recipes not to be repeated
· Overbought or underbought items from the previous year
Keep in mind that many stores will not accept returns on Pesach products after yom tov, so try not to overbuy. If you do have some leftover products, such as spices, matza, matza meal, potato starch, baking powder, baking mixes, nuts and canned goods, etc., you may be able to store them away for the following Pesach. (Depending upon the item, it should be stored either in the freezer or in a cool, dark place). Canned foods, paper goods, and kitchen utensils can also be stored and used from year to year.
Prior to your Pesach shopping spree, check your kitchen cabinets for products that you already have and will not need to buy. As long as they are new, unopened cans, bottles, boxes, jars, or containers kept away from chometz, they may be used for Pesach. These items include: aluminum foil products, paper and plastic goods, baking soda, 100% pure cocoa, pure cane granulated sugar, non-iodized salt (dextrose-free), caffeinated unflavored tea, grape juice, certain wines and unflavored water and seltzer. Unprocessed raw meat and fowl (i.e., without added spices or flavoring) are Kosher for Passover year-round, and do not require additional Kosher for Passover certification (Note: raw hamburger patties and ground meat and poultry require KFP Certification). So, if you come across a good sale – even months before Pesach – and you have the freezer space, stock up.
Of note, according to HaRav Moshe Heinemann, shlit”a, one can use part of the chicken wing directly attached to the body as the zroa on the seder plate, instead of the more costly zroa bone (taken from an animal or bird). The Mishna Brura requires that the zroa have some meat on the bone; others use the neck of a bird.
Kosher consumers should take advantage of lower prices on Pesach items that might be found outside of their immediate vicinity. Living in Boro Park, for example, doesn’t preclude one from shopping in a lower priced store in Flatbush. Warehouse club members (e.g., Costco, Restaurant Depot, etc.) might also find that buying certain items at a warehouse (produce, certified kosher frozen fish, paper and plastic goods) is more cost-effective. Since certain matzos, matza products, and wine can be ordered online, you might want to compare online prices before brick and mortar shopping.
Comparison shop and look for sales by previewing local supermarket circulars before embarking on your shopping trip. Stock up when items such as grape juice go on sale prior to Rosh Hashanah and Pesach. Buying frequently used products by the case such as wine, grape juice, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and paper and plastic goods, might be the most economical way to go. Another cost-effective measure one can take is splitting case orders with family and friends, if large quantities are not necessarily required or desired. Don’t hesitate to ask for a volume discount. You have nothing to lose!
Whether you shop for Pesach in increments or all at once, keep in mind that prices often go down after Pesach. Buy your must-haves, sure sell-outs, and less-likely-to-go-on-clearance items (like dairy and refrigerated goods) in advance. Since you do not need to have a full stock of supplies on hand at the start of yom tov, consider holding out until mid-Pesach to buy some reduced priced items. In addition, you might want to buy produce throughout the week of Pesach, considering that some fruits and vegetables are more perishable and subject to spoiling.
After Pesach, check out the often substantially reduced items in your supermarket Passover clearance aisle. Since some items may be stored unopened for up to a year (i.e., mayonnaise and ketchup, depending upon their expiration dates), you can shop for many of them after Pesach and save them for the next year. If you decide to do this, a record should be kept to track what has been bought so you do not end up buying more than you need.
Remember that Pesach lasts only eight days so you could do without certain nostalgic products or prepared foods. Nevertheless, if all of the aforementioned helpful hints fail, one kosher consumer humorously concluded, “It seems to me that the biggest savings at this time of year are never really found too close to home. Whenever and wherever possible, going to your in-laws or parents normally generates the largest savings!”