Thursday, April 3, 2008

Frugal Pesah: Contradiction in terms?

High on the list of hard things to deal with when it comes to Jewish Simplicity has got to be Pesah. (Right after bar/bat mitzvahs, synagogue dues, Jewish fundraising, kosher food, day schools, etc etc.) First of all, you have to throw out all your food, or at least all your grain-based foods. This actually isn't so hard if you plan for it, meaning cutting down on your buying of pasta, cereal, etc. a month or so out so you don't have a lot of stuff to get rid of. If you observe strictly, you need a whole 'nother set of dishes, pots, pans, etc. for the 7 or 8 days of the holiday. But again, this is a one-time expense - as long as you stay away from doing all disposables, which you definitely should!

But then there's the scam that is Pesah food - apparently there is such a thing as a Pesah surcharge, when the same matzo meal that costs X amount in November (were you ever to buy it then) costs X + A LOT when you try to buy it in April. (I should put real numbers in there, but I'd have to do some research and I'd need to stand up to do it.) The House of Representatives had the gas industry over the coals the other day for the windfall profits; they should really get the Pesah food industry up there! Talk about windfall profits and gouging the consumer!

Then there's the incredible cost of doing a seder. We have, let's see, there's 5 of us (but 2 of my kids basically don't eat), my parents, my brother and his family, that's 11 already. We have another older couple coming, and possibly 2 Israeli students in town for a competition, that makes 15. If my cousin comes for the first night that's 4 more. The second night we'll lose the cousin, the Israelis and the other older couple but probably add a friend of DW's who's the parent of the peer of one of my kids, that's 5+4+2+4 = 15. So for those of you scoring at home, that's 34 people over 2 nights.

I went to KC and bought 7 pounds of brisket and 2 kosher chickens. It's probably not enough buy DW doesn't eat meat and like I said, the kids are picky. But the red meat alone was $100. (I told you, kosher is expensive.) I have to say in my own defense that this is quite literally the only time we serve red meat to guests the whole year.

So my plan is to make the meat the first night, make as much soup as I can from one of the chickens, and serve the boiled chicken along with the red meat on the first night, then the leftover meat and roast the other chicken for the second night. We may have to scrimp on the brand of gefilte fish we use.

I bought a 5-pack of matzo, some matzo meal and some potato starch. I'll probably need some kind of instant stock. But I think basically everything else we're going to make will be from fresh ingredients - soup, roasted vegetables, haroset - I'm not sure about dessert, that's DW's department.

So understanding that "saving money" is really not in the plan for Passover, the most importnat piece of advice I could give is don't buy too much prepared food. Take it from me, the Pesah version of cheerios will not fill you up. And do you really need a whole bottle of Pesah ketchup for an 8-day holiday? The more you prepare from scratch (fresh food doesn't need a special kosher certification) the healthier and more frugal it will be.

The other possibility is to have your guests contribute something to the meal - the wine, the flowers, if you're sporting the food it doesn't seem too much to take people up on the question "what can I bring?" (Note: if you are the guest, ask this question!) If kashrut is an issue you probably won't want to do the potluck seder, but if it isn't then why not?

I'm going to give this some more thought. I'll probably have more to add to this in the next few days. In the meantime, can anyone think of anything to add?

1 comment:

bpt said...

Great to see you bringing this up in the blogosphere!
Turkey breast is often on sale at Passover time, so it's a good time to stock up. They're hard to find the rest of the year.
Same for whole turkeys, I imagine - but I'm too lazy to deal with them.
Chag sameach!!