With only one full day of chol ha’moed, all of Passover kind of ran together for me. It was wonderful, but what a whirlwind!
Now that Pesach is finished and my kitchen is “turned back over” to chametz, I’m taking a few minutes to reflect on the finance part of what is probably the most expensive of the Jewish holidays.
As you might remember, we increased our food & household expenses budget from $500 to $800 for the month of April. In addition to hosting big crowds for both seders, we had our dear friends from Houston coming to visit for the whole chag – which meant 7 more mouths to feed than normal.
I also used about $300 in overage from February and March to buy-ahead some of our necessities, such as grape juice, soup chickens, and grated cheese from Costco, plus brisket and rib-eyes for our seder and yom tov meals.
Given all those extra resources, I thought I’d come in under budget, but alas, I’m about $150 over. Of course, I did spend $60 on a new lamp for our dining room, which I’m lumping into that amount as well (hey – it’s a household item!).
Fortunately we spent less than allotted on clothing and haircuts, so the net overage for April is less than $100 – which I’m hoping to clean up in our budget next month.
Aside from the straight-up numbers, here are a few more random notes and money saving ideas for future Pesachs, based on what I learned this year:
#1. Buy Ahead.
Buy Ahead. Buy Ahead. Buy Ahead. Did I mention that you should buy ahead?
I’m not even talking about the specific KLP stuff (see #2), but rather all the items that don’t need a special KLP hechsher and yet, I ended up paying full price because I hadn’t planned well enough in advance.
Erev Pesach, for example, I ran out to get more brown sugar. The cheapest OU option was the store brand – which cost $2.49. Of course, the very next week, C&H was on sale – plus I had a $.50/1 coupon that would have doubled, so I could have paid just $.99.
Now, if I took that $1.50 savings and applied it over 30 or 40 items, my Pesach spending could have been significantly less.
In order to help me remember to buy ahead next year, I made a list of items that I could have done MUCH better on, had I been paying better attention. Then I made myself a Google Reminder for March 1, 2012 – about 5 weeks before Pesach. Included on this list are:
- Brown sugar
- White sugar
- Tea bags
- Instant coffee
- Toothbrushes – Woe is me, who foolishly paid full price for electric toothbrushes for my boys!
- Paper goods & “nylon” to cover the tables (I managed to score a few clearance items at Target back in February, but I want to do even more of that for next year – especially if we’ll be hosting as much as we did this year)
#2. Stockpile KLP products NOW for next year.
The 10 boxes of matzah I bought last year were as “fresh” as the 15 more boxes I bought this year. I’m taking that as a sign that I should stockpile with abandon for next Pesach. 😉 Well, abandon within reason! I’m no extreme couponer.
Some of our stores put KLP items on sale half-way through the chag, but I’m hoping to score a few more deals tonight. I’ll be looking for matzah, matzah meal, potato starch, spices, and other dried goods – plus KLP cheese, which can be frozen if I hit the motherlode. And of course, I don’t have to save it for next Pesach!
#3. Make notes as you pack up – and leave them in an obvious place.
Last year, I stored 2 canisters of unopened matzah meal in my Pesach tubs. Of course, I had no recollection of that fact when I went shopping this year … and ended up buying three more canisters of matzah meal. I rotated my stock and used last year’s canisters first, but guess how many I ended up having left?! Yup – two canisters, which got stored away again for next year.
In order to avoid the same mistake, I made a note in my Google calendar with a list of all the items I stored away – including matzah meal, spices and a few other odds and ends.
I also made note of the kitchen stuff. For example, I bought silverware trays to use for Pesach this year, but I ended up liking one so much that I kept it for my regular silverware. So, in my calendar, I wrote that I needed to buy a meat silverware tray.
Finally, I did a quick once-over on my Pesach appliances and other supplies. Anything that was broken or in poor working condition got noted – so if I find a killer sale during the year, I can BUY AHEAD when the price is right.
As an aside, I have found that buying one or two pricier items each year helps to make the cost of Pesach more manageable. Last year, for example, I picked up a really good set of meat knives, and boy – was it a pleasure to carve our brisket and dice our veggies with them! By doing this piece-meal buying over the last 10 years, I now feel that I have pretty much everything I want (and need) to get through Pesach as comfortably as possible.
4. Meal Planning & Recipe Thoughts
I did a surprisingly good job of sticking to our menu plan, which was especially helpful with our houseful of guests. The only problem was that I didn’t think to print out a copy of the menu plan before chag, which meant I was guessing by second day yom tov what I was supposed to be making for dinner! We ended up doing okay and had plenty of food, but next year, I will definitely PRINT OUT A COPY – duh!
As for recipes, I found this one-bowl Kosher for Passover blondies recipe that I loved. As did my guests. It was uber-easy and very moist. The matzah crack was incredibly well received – thank you all for the suggestions – although I hated having to use two whole sticks of margarine (which practically cost their weight in gold). Oh, and my chocolate covered strawberries were also popular, as always.
At the seders, my Coca-Cola Brisket was a crowd pleaser, and since I made 20 lbs (!), we had plenty of leftovers. I just wish I’d frozen some of the gravy since reheating without made the meat a bit dry. Mashed potatoes and stuffing were popular as a side – and super easy, so I’ll definitely do that again next year, as well.
If anyone was wondering about that oven-baked matzah brie, I unfortunately didn’t get to try it. I forgot to leave my oven on a temperature hot enough for actual cooking, so we made it fresh in a pan the next morning. Oh well – there’s always next year!
Tell me: How did your Pesach go? Any recipes that really worked? Or totally flopped?
Did you come in under budget? If you ended up going over budget like me, what’s your plan to reign in your spending for next year?