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! Although the Gemorah states that when Hashem assigns a person’s livelihood on Rosh Hashanah for the coming year, He does not deduct Shabbos and Yom Tov expenses from the sum allocated, it is no mitzvah to spend money for those expenses, needlessly. With a little forethought and planning, you can implement some helpful money saving tips, year-round, 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: How much do I typically spend on groceries, monthly? How much did I spend on 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, Succos, and other yomim tovim, as well. 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 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 in advance of Pesach and stock up on them when they are on sale. Also, remember that pre-packaged products and specially prepared for Pesach foods are more costly; consider making as many foods as possible, from scratch.
First and foremost–stay focused and plan. Decide upon your menu, taking into account how chol hamoed falls out on the calendar, with regard to fleishig/milchig meals. Be sure to make a list before you go shopping. Hopefully, you can refer to notes made after last Pesach, to remind you of your ever-changing Pesach needs, which answer these questions: How many boxes of matzah, matzah meal, cake meal, and potato starch were used? How many bottles of wine did we drink?
What brands/types were popular? How much milk did we drink? How many pounds of chicken? How much produce? How many eggs? What products were not eaten, last year that I can refrain from buying this year? What recipes were not popular last year that can be cut out of this year’s menu? What items did I buy too much of and too little of, last 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, matzah, matzah meal, potato starch, baking powder, baking mixes, nuts and canned goods, they might be able to be stored away and used 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 trip, check your kitchen cabinets for products that you already have and will not have to buy. As long as they are in new, unopened cans/bottles/boxes/jars/containers, and kept clean of chometz, they may be used for Pesach. These include: aluminum foil products, paper and plastic goods, baking soda, 100% pure cocoa, pure cane granulated sugar and non-iodized salt (dextrose-free), caffeinated unflavored tea, grape juice, certain wines, unflavored water and seltzer, and various canned goods. Unprocessed raw meat and fowl (i.e., without added spices or flavoring; note that raw hamburger patties may have additives in them that are chometz) are Kosher for Passover year-round, and do not require additional Kosher for Passover certification. So, if you come across a good sale, even months before Pesach, and you have the freezer space, stock up. By the way, regarding the ceremonial seder plate shank bone, instead of using the more costly Zroa bone—taken from an animal or bird—consider using the permitted equivalent limb of a chicken– the part of the wing that that is directly attached to the body, according to HaRav Moshe Heinemann, shlit”a. In keeping with the Mishna Brura requirement that the Zroa should have some meat on the bone, yet 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. Just because you live in Boro Park, for example, doesn’t mean that you should preclude 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, such as produce, certified kosher frozen fish and paper and plastic goods, is more cost-effective. Since certain matzos, matzah 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 grape juice, for example, goes on sale, in some locales 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. Perhaps, you can split case orders with family and friends, if you do not need such a large quantity. 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 starts. 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 everything on hand for the whole yom tov from the start, consider holding out to buy some products that might be reduced mid-Pesach. In addition, you might want to buy produce throughout the week of Pesach, considering that some types are more perishable and subject to spoiling.
After Pesach, check out the often substantially reduced items in your supermarket Passover clearance aisle. Since there is very little difference in most of these items if they are stored unopened for a year (like mayonnaise and ketchup, depending upon their expiration dates), you can shop for many of them after Pesach, for next Pesach. If you do, record and keep track of what you have bought so you do not duplicate your efforts and spend money, needlessly.
Remember that Pesach is only eight days and perhaps you can do without certain nostalgic products or prepared foods. However, if that reminder and all of the aforementioned helpful hints do fail, as one kosher consumer jestingly put it, “It seems to me that the biggest savings at this time of year are never really found too close to home. When and where possible, going to your in-laws or parents normally generate the largest savings!”