7 Ways to Save for the High Holidays

Somehow it went from being Rosh Chodesh Elul, to being a week until the start of Rosh Hashana. Does anyone know how that happened?!

Two nights ago, I was asked at the class I taught in Detroit how to apply KOAB strategies to saving at the High Holidays.

“Uhhhh, start early?!”

Well, with just a week to go, starting early might not be an option for everyone. But don’t worry, there’s still budgetary hope: Here are seven ways you can save for this upcoming High Holiday season.

#1. Put it in perspective.

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the (largely internal) pressure to put out an incredible spread – with brisket and roasted turkey and stuffed chicken… and chicken soup and fancy round challah… and multiple sides… and of course at least two options for dessert.

As I tell my non-Jewish friends, it’s like making Thanksgiving dinner four times in two days. And with all of three days yomim tovim this year, it actually works out to be 18 Thanksgiving dinners over three weeks!

Yeah, no wonder the High Holidays are a little bit hard on the budget.

But before you go crazy, I think a little perspective is in order. If you truly have the resources to splurge, then go for it. But if your budget is tight for Tishrei, remember: The mitzvot of Rosh Hashana are not impress your guests with your culinary brilliance, nor to set the fanciest table with the most elegant linens.

Rather, what we are supposed to be most focused on at this time of the year is T’filah, Tzedkah and Tshuva. Nothing in there about roasted turkey! I’m not saying serve your guests hamburger pie. But I am saying, keep it in perspective.

As you enjoy the company of loved ones, remind yourself of what truly matters. And then use the rest of these steps to make sure that debt is not a vow you are taking on to celebrate the season.

#2. Make a budget – becuase you can’t spend what you don’t have.

Just like you need a regular monthly budget for food, so too do you need a budget for Rosh Hashana and Sukkot. Don’t just hope that it’ll all work itself out. Take it from me, it rarely does.

Instead, if you haven’t already, sit down tonight and figure out how much money you can really afford for Rosh Hashana – and how much more you can allocate in your October budget to cover Sukkot meals.

Also important is to have some tracking method. Be sure to evaluate your spending  frequently so you can stay on track with your budget.

#3. Make a menu plan based on what you already have – and what’s in season or on sale.

When making your Rosh Hashana and Sukkot meal plans, it’s important to start by shopping at home. Check your pantry, your freezer and your fridge. What do you have that you can already incorporate into your recipes?

Then take a look at the grocery store sale circulars (many of which come out today) and find deals on fresh produce, dry goods and baking supplies that you can use in your yom tov meals.

The more money you save by using ingredients you have on hand or that are on sale, the more margin you create in your High Holidays budget. And the more margin you create, the more brisket you can afford to buy!

#4. Use frugal cooking strategies

Instead of filling up your guests’ bellies with meat, meat, and more meat, why not choose to have just one main course? Rather than brisket and turkey, you can put out one of those plus an impressive array of tasty, filling and, yes, more frugal side dishes.

And don’t forget that chicken soup is the ultimate frugal food. Not only can you pull off the chicken meat and use it later for a quick-and-easy chicken pot pie, but you can actually save the carcass and use it to make another pot of soup.

If touching the bones skeeves you out (What? Just me?) hopefully you’ve got a hubby to bag it up and freeze it for you. You should also do the same, by the way, with the bones from a roasted turkey or whole roaster chicken.

#5. Let your guests bring something or pot-luck a meal.

Sharing meal prep is a great way to avoid burn-out in the kitchen – plus it’s a huge money-saver. Whether it’s a bottle of wine, or a home-baked dessert, let your guests show their gratitude for your hospitality.

Another great option is to pot-luck a meal with other families.  In fact, with eighteen upcoming meals, I know most of us are going to be looking for some lower key options.

#6. Stack coupons with sale prices to get the best deals.

Just because it’s Rosh Hashana doesn’t mean you can’t still practice all your ninja-like couponing skills. Find the stuff that’s on sale, and stack your coupons with those sales – just like you would any other week. Don’t forget to check my Coupon Database for your coupons before you head out shopping.

Let me say it again: We build margin into our budgets by saving money where we can, so we can splurge where we want. If a nice cut of meat is a MUST for you, but your budget is TIGHT, give yourself some wiggle room by getting deals on your ingredients for side dishes and dessert.

#7. Take notes for next year & start early.

Once yomtov is over, open up Outlook or Google calendar and make some notes. What recipes worked? Which ones flopped? Did you have too much food? Not enough? What was the one thing you realized half-way through yomtov that you should have done differently? Write all that done on some day in early August, so that next year, you can start saving even earlier.

Shanah Tovah u’Metukah – and “on a budget”!

Tell me: How do you save for the high holidays? What are your best tips for having a lovely yom tov without breaking the bank?


  1. It depends on the community/extended family whether this is an option or not. But set aside a few meals as super-low-key, non-guest meals. Serve challah and spreads or a big salad or just a pot of matzo ball soup. No one needs six fancy meals over three days. Sometimes good challah or one yummy dessert is all that you need to make the meal feel like yom tov.

    • I totally agree Julie. We are doing that with Shabbat dinner and will probably do that at least once or twice over sukkot.

  2. Over the month of August and early September, every time I cooked for Shabbos, I made one or 2 of the dishes in bulk (ie, meatballs, carrot muffins, chicken soup, mushroom barley soup, unstuffed cabbage)… and froze it. Obviously the things that keep better, like saucy meats, I made earlier. Also, my Shabbos meals in August were pretty low key, so I could freeze a greater portion. While my weekly challah recipe usually yields 6 challahs, for the past few weeks ive been making only 2 challahs and 3-4 rolls, freezing the remaining dough. Now that yom tov is here, I can unfreeze a bunch of the dough packets and just braid and bake the challah. This took some coordination, but it really helped my budget by spreading holiday costs over 2 months AND was a huge time saver.

  3. I have majorly paired down my meals for the holidays – one main, a salad and some simple sides. We’ve hosted our families for the last few years and there have been a lot of three day holidays so it’s the only way to survive. Everyone who comes brings something and helps cook something – or clean something – once they get to our house. My mom is bringing meat from NY and vegetables from a great farm stand, and my father in law is bringing a case of wine.

    Here is this year’s menu http://elishasdoubleportion.blogspot.com/2011/09/nitzavim-vayelech.html

  4. My menu plan includes several repeats. For example, I know we can’t finish an entire vegetable strudel in one meal, so I’m planning to serve the second half of it as the main dish later in the chag. To make up for serving leftovers, I try to space them as far apart as possible. 🙂

    The other thing to keep in mind is that the leftovers will likely get us through a few days after Rosh Hashanah. That means a much smaller shopping list that week, and much less time spent cooking!

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