How to Shop for Passover on a Budget, Part I (Guest Post)

Today, I’m excited to host Susie Sharf from Cheapskate, who will be sharing her best tips for shopping for Pesach on a budget. I know, I know — It’s not even Purim yet! But with so many of you asking for Pesach shopping tips, I thought an early start was advisable.

 

passover savings How to Shop for Passover on a Budget, Part I (Guest Post)

I grew up in Brooklyn, Supreme Wonderland of Low-Cost Kosher Food. I had my choice of hundreds of kosher restaurants and supermarkets and was spoiled rotten when it came to kosher food acquisition.

Ten years ago, I got married and moved out to Denver, Colorado. Wow, what a splash of cold water in the face that was. I was astounded to see how much more kosher food cost “out-of-town.”

And then along comes Passover. Pesach shopping can be, er, stressful. And very expensive, especially if you live in a community outside of metro NY. After going through my share of Pesach spending frenzies, I think I have finally figured out how to apply some common sense principles to the Pesach shopping process, so I can get through it without blowing my budget or losing my mind:

1. Make a master list.

I’m not talking about a one-time Pesach shopping list. Make a list of all the Pesach foods that you need from year to year, and save it as a file on your computer. Each year, rename it and save it anew, so that you can revise it for the current year and still have a record from previous ones.

I have a working master list that is ten years old. It evolves from year to year, depending on what our needs are, how many guests we are planning on having, etc.

My master list will be very different from your master list, but feel free to use mine as a starting point. I keep it in a spreadsheet so that I can make notes right on my list, like which items from last year I’ve stored, which items I need to buy this year, last year’s prices, and which store or website had specials.

This master list is probably my most important Pesach shopping tool, and keeps me from “reinventing the wheel” every year. Armed with this list and having it all in front of me, I’m much less likely to buy KLP (Kosher l’Pesach) stuff that I don’t need, and I rarely forget anything that I do.

2. It’s only 8 days — You can do without.

If KLP tunafish is going for $4/can, you and your family can go for eight days without tunafish. You really can. Have fresh salmon instead. Same thing for cranberry sauce, pickles, cereal, or pretty much anything else that your family might normally eat during the year.

If you’ve got kids who insist on having cereal in the morning and KLP cereal is $6/box, make breakfast something special for them and whip up some homemade matzoh brei with fresh fruit. Aside from the basics, there is almost nothing that you can’t do without for a week.

Pesach food itself is so special, with so many wonderfully creative and delicious recipes, that it’s not too difficult to skip the regular favorites if they are exorbitantly priced.

If you find that baking and cooking ingredients are pricey as well, take at look at this: the OU has a great list of Passover substitutions in their incredibly useful downloadable handbook (it’s on page 34).

3. Arm yourself with a knowledge of Pesach-related halacha.

Knowledge is power! Make sure you know what needs a special KLP hechsher and what doesn’t. This can slice your Pesach spending in half. Download the OU’s and Star-K’s Passover booklets and become acquainted with your local reliable Va’ad.

I’m going to point out some helpful halachic tidbits that were true as of last year; however, keep this in mind: I am clearly not a halachic authority, things do change from year to year, and halacha and minhag vary from community to community, so please check with your halachic authority this year to confirm that these factoids are still true.

The reason I’m bringing up these points is to show you that you do not need to get special, pricey, KLP hechshered stuff for many of your Pesach shopping staples. All of the following were true as of last year, according to either the Denver Va’ad or the OU:

  • Unflavored seltzer does not require any KLP hechsher, if the only ingredient is carbonated water. Same thing with bottled water. (Club soda and tonic water do require a KLP hechsher.) So instead of spending $3/bottle on KLP Diet Coke, get your $0.70/bottle store-brand seltzer instead. (And it’s way healthier!)
  • Unsweetened whole frozen fruit without syrup or any other ingredients is acceptable without KLP certification, i.e. “ingredients: blueberries” (if there is any added sugar, salt or preservatives, it does require a KLP hechsher). Instead of buying pricey KLP ice cream, invest in a Pesach food processor that you will have from year to year, and make your kids frozen fruit smoothies or slushies.
  • Raw nuts, whole or chopped (e.g. almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pine nuts, walnuts, etc.) without preservatives or other additives such as BHT, BHA or corn oil, are acceptable without Pesach certification. (Peanuts are kitniyot, and pecans do require a KLP hechsher.)
  • Any retail package of raisins with a year-round OU is acceptable without KLP certification.
  • Ground coffees that are unflavored and not decaffeinated or instant, and are hechshered for year round use do not require a special KLP. (Instant coffees are another story.)
  • All OU certified inedibles (aluminium foil and pans, candles, cleansers, detergents, paper and plastic goods, polishes, and scouring pads), as well as frozen fish, unprocessed raw meat or poultry (including ground), non-iodized salt, granulated white sugar, unflavored regular tea bags (not decaffeinated) do not require a special KLP hechsher.
  • Most non-food kitchen items that are used for cooking, as well as most toiletries, do not require a special KLP hechsher. This includes soap, shampoo, detergent, dishwashing detergent (yes!), cosmetics (except lipsticks or lip balms), water filters, etc. Last year’s list is here.

It is crucial to know what you are doing and not just assume that you need to replace all your regular food with special KLP brands. Put the Va’ad on speed-dial on your cellphone! When you are shopping, if you’re unsure about a product, give them a quick call. Solid knowledge of halacha is not just inherently good to have, but it can save you money.

4. Pesach shopping starts now. Actually, yesterday.

Go down your list. Separate out the items that don’t require a special KLP hechsher (or routinely have a KLP hechsher year-round) and keep an eye out for sales and coupons.

Golden Blossom honey has a $0.75/1 coupon here. Reynolds Wrap foil has a $0.75/1 coupon here. C&H sugar has a $0.50/1 2 lb. coupon here. Reach has a $1/1 coupon for their toothbrushes here.

Clear a corner in your basement, put a large box there and start accumulating non-perishables, so that you are not faced with a $1000 shopping list two weeks before Pesach. For perishables, while you can’t start stockpiling weeks in advance, you can set aside some coupons with long expiration dates.

You know all those egg coupons that have been popping up recently? Remember how many dozens of eggs you bought last year before Pesach?

You can also start collecting coupons for some special, pricey KLP items as well. Make sure you print these Osem coupons and send away for these A&B gefilte fish coupons now. Keep checking those “heimishe” company websites, like Manischewitz.com, and keep an eye peeled for matzah coupons, which usually come out about three weeks right before Pesach.

There are always fantastic sales immediately after Pesach, with stores trying to unload all of the KLP food that they didn’t sell. As long as you have a basic understanding of what you can and cannot stockpile from year to year, and which items will keep, you can make out like a bandit at these sales.

RealSimple magazine recently published a great article on stockpiling and expiration dates. You might be surprised what you can keep year to year.

As far as kitchen/household items you’ll need for Pesach, shop all year-round for those, too. If I know that my Pesach crock pot is on its last legs, I make a note and keep an eye out for crock pot sales, which usually happen in the summer time (last summer I snagged three huge stainless steel crockpots for $10 each at Target). Do the same with glasses, dishes, pots, flatware, gadgets, and paper goods. This past Sukkot, I got a great bulk deal on Reflections plastic silverware (the kind that looks just like metal) at a dollar store, and I stockpiled it with Pesach in mind.

Bottom line: If you do most of your shopping out of season, you will be more relaxed and less rushed come April.

***

Susie Sharf is a web designer and frugal blogger who hones her money-saving skills in Denver, Colorado.  You can profit from her experience by visiting her blog, Cheapskate.

Stay tuned next week for three more money-saving tips from Susie. Are you interested in writing a guest post about Pesach? Send me an email with your idea!

Have you started shopping yet for Passover … or are you still focused on Purim? And I’m curious to know if you also keep a master list like Susie does (I need to start doing that)!

Comments

comments

Comments

  1. Thanks so much for these tips! And the coupons! =D

  2. Rivka H. says:

    I have a master shopping list AND a master cleaning list (with every single individual task that needs to be done) in Excel. The shopping list notes which store I plan to buy each item at, and I can sort by this before printing. I make sure to take the cRc (or OV, which is based on cRc) and OU Pesach lists with me to the store, after reviewing them at home. I buy very very little with specific KLP hechshers.

    I think one of the big expenses of pesach is that we need (?) to buy new packages of a lot of things that we use during the year – I buy new packages of paper goods, aluminum foil, sugar, and lots of other things, that I continue to use after pesach is over… maybe those should go on my regular grocery budget instead of pesach budget?

    Although in the past I’ve just totalled up all my Pesach purchases, I think this year I will keep track of categories (paper goods, matza, wine, meat, etc.) to make a more complete analysis (yes, I’m an engineer ;) ).

    • Wow, that cross-referenced list sounds awesome! I’ll be curious to know how it breaks down for you with your sub-categories. I do often wonder about the paper goods – do they *have* to be bought new? I should ask my rabbi.

  3. Rivka H. says:

    PS – has anyone received those A&B gefilte fish coupons?

  4. I’ve been working off a master list i started 2 years ago. So handy! I try to make do without for Pesach for a lot of things, with a small splurge on a couple of items. Since it is just my husband and me, i’ll buy one cake mix, because its just cheaper than buying all the individual ingredients. I also work on very veggy meals, meaning things that use fresh vegetables over mixes and rely on garlic, ginger and fresh herbs for flavour so i’m not buying all sorts of spices and sauces. I will buy a thing of sauce or crushed tomatoes, because matzah pizza is so yum.

  5. Diane Rabin says:

    I randomly run through the Passover aisle early,. and pick out the things that tend to “go” quickly and/or get the deals that you can find early (i.e @ Shoprite on Long Island, Shoprite tuna, OU-P, was 1.00/can, so I bought 15!!)
    while this is dangerous, b/c you sometimes forget what you bought early, you know you have them.

  6. This is a great post because I try to tell people this stuff all the time – it’s ONLY one week!!!!! There are so many ways to “get around” what you “usually” eat and also make the whole week special and fun. My kids end up eating Pesadik apple cake or sponge cake or whatever other desserts are left over from Seder for breakfast all week long…plus I do splurge and buy the Israeli chocolate spreads (KLP!) and we eat that on matzah. I make sure that we “get” to eat fun things and don’t worry so much about buying all the mixes, etc. Each year I find we can get by on less and less “official” KLP stuff and more and more fruits, veggies, fish, cheese, etc.

  7. Yeah the master list is a great idea! I made one a few years ago and after Chag is over I also fill in all sorts if note like, what we liked and what we didn’t like, if we were home , away had guests etc.. any details that will explain amounts or “different” items on the list.
    You are so right its a HUGE help and I have saved so much because of it.
    Thanks ,Looking forward to part 2

    Daniela
    http://isreview1.blogspot.com

  8. Rivka H., I did get the A&B coupons via snail mail. I don’t know how long ago you asked for them, but you might try emailing or calling A&B to find out why there is a delay.

    Just fyi, if you buy Kirkland Frozen Atlantic Salmon from Costco during the year, it is KLP without a special hechsher (according to the OU). Cheaper and healthier than gefilte fish. I also buy the Frozen Steelhead Trout, and I have an email in to the OU to see if they are ok as well (will post if they are).

    Thanks everyone for the kind comments.

  9. Thanks for the tips!

  10. Another post clearly designed for me!!! I have several master lists–menus, recipes, ingredients, all cross-referenced and all (shockingly) handwritten. They all go together on my Pesach clipboard, which I take with me to the grocery store. Also on the clipboard: the cRc’s annual guide to Pesach, which is conveniently color-coded.

    I like to take a preliminary scan of the Pesach aisles, noting prices, during a regular grocery run so that I know what to buy at which store. (By the way–only two stores. More than that is just lunacy.)

    I also try to live more on (lowercase) whole foods than on all the processed KLP garbage, but my splurge tends to be on the boxed cake mixes. The marble and coffee cakes have been my Pesach breakfast for longer than I can remember.

    I’m fortunate to have the entire chag off work, so I have a lot of fun making meals. This year, however, I suspect that I’ll have a few other things on my mind and my to-do list during Pesach! :)

  11. Orthonomics says:

    Susie-I’ve posted my own money saving tips in the past but like to feature other writers. Can I use this as a guest post too with your permission and Mara’s?

    Thanks.

  12. Orthonomics, please email me at frugalskate@gmail.com, thanks.

  13. Rifky S. says:

    Just did a mini run @ Waldbaum’s with the “kids” and scored 32 bottles of Kedem Grape Juice $2.99@. That should cover the first 2 days. I’m waiting for Shop N Stop, whose price is sometimes even lower, but so is their max. I also never got the A & B coupons, but if you can get it there is a 2nd alternative called Fresh Frozen. It might even be part of the A & B family (location of warehouse), which at list price is about $3 less per loaf. I’m clearing out the freezer Monday in search of all those bargains I hope to spot as they pop up! But I live in Brooklyn.

  14. I have master lists for everything. :) Pesach shopping, Pesach cleaning, Pesach chores (You have to pick up the dry cleaning every year, right? So I made a master list of chores.) etc. etc.
    As for new packages of paper goods, you do have to buy new ones, if you keep them in the kitchen or dining room. As Pesach approaches, I keep new bulk paper goods in my basement storage area, and bring up as needed. The paper goods, tins, plastic cups, etc. remain chometz free
    !

  15. Great stuff here. I would add/reiterate these things:
    1. The master lists from year to year are crucial, for all the reasons stated. Money-saving, time-saving, sanity-saving. Ditto for going in with complete awareness of what is KLP without special hashgacha. I usually go through the OU, CRC, and RA (Conservative rabbis) lists and make an integrated master list of for myself. (The RA has become more conservative over the years with regards to KLP and basically doesn’t permit anything that the Orthodox lists don’t permit, so it’s no longer as necessary to consult for observant non-Orthodox Jews.)
    2. Focus shopping and cooking on things that are inherently KLP, and focus special KLP buying on things that are impactful or important. Cheese is obviously necessary. Lotsa matzah. But meat, fish, eggs, lots of veggies and fruits…I eat a ton of matzah during Pesach and never suffer the fabled, um, dietary effects, and I think it’s b/c of all the fruits and veggies. Cereal is *pointless*. There are no ill effects from 8 breakfasts of matzah with jam and scrambled eggs, and the bang for your buck with the boxed cereal is so low.
    3. Quinoa. Quinoa. Even if you’ve stopped buying it a lot during the year b/c of the economic impact on Bolivian locals (who now can’t afford it), you might consider it OK to rely on for 8 days (although you might also consider that a holiday whose theme is going out of slavery might be the worst time to rely on a product that seems to undermine economic justice…If you’re OK with eating quinoa, it is so very useful and versatile. Anything you’d normally put on rice and pasta you can put on quinoa. Tabouleh is actually IMHO better with quinoa. Mu stepdaughter makes an awesome quinoa mac and cheese.
    4. Costco! They’ve got an unbelievable selection of relatively inexpensive KLP stuff, including very reasonable prepared food to make your seder easier.

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