Can Jews celebrate Passover without breaking the bank?

Ha’aretz 4/9/12

It is no shock to anyone to say that keeping kosher is horrendously expensive. This blog, among thousands of others, has commentated on how prohibitive this expense is and how someone should do something to make it more affordable. But for all the laminations of the cost of regular kosher food, Pesach takes the Kosher for Passover chametz-free cake.

Our festival of freedom is massively taxing. We have managed to turn Jews leaving Egypt with only what they could carry and half-baked bread, into eight days of unmitigated expense. I recognize the economics of how costly it must be for food manufactures to create food that is Kosher for Passover, the cleaning of the equipment and the extra checks by the kashrut authorizes. Yet, whether you choose to stock up at the start of the festival, escape on holiday or eat out, you are doomed to emptying your wallet for eight days.

supermarket Illustration: Stocking up for Passover at the supermaket.

Getting away for a holiday preserved for the wealthy among us, with prices at seasonal peaks, while restaurant who cared to undergo the arduous process of becoming Kosher for Passover can charge whatever their hearts desire.

So, with the last two options scratched off the list, I began wondering if it were in fact possible to prepare in such a way that Pesach could be affordable. The following list comprises tips I picked up from friends and family for making Passover just that little bit more affordable:

1) Disposables are your friends: Unless you have a Passover set stocked away (the one you got as a wedding set but was too ugly for you to ever use), go disposable on everything. Buy in bulk from a Costco (or regional equivalent) and do the same with silver pans for ovens etc. Buy silver foil but don’t go crazy, you should not need more than two rolls and if you run out you can always go and get more.

2) Milk or meat: For hot meals, try to avoid cooking either milk or meat for eight days. This will allow you to buy one knife, one frying pan and one saucepan instead of two. Don’t get fancy. If you can’t make that recipe that requires three types of graters don’t break the bank buying them.

3) Lists: Make a list of the meals you want to make over the holiday, and work out what exactly you need. Going to the kosher store (or online, see below) without a clear guide will lead you to buy in excess.

4) Shop around: Look for deals online and in major supermarket chains. By shopping around a little you can save a bundle.

5) Team work: If you have friends that keep the same level of kashrut as you, team up and share the burden. You can each buy half and eat at each other’s houses.

6) Community seders: If you can only stretch to one seder, see if there is a communal one happening second night.

All of this might seem obvious, but if this was your first Pesach as a new family or you are far away from your own family, the experience is daunting. The complexity of the rules and their very stringencies lead some to give up and others to break the bank.

This is my first Passover with my new family, and I am very far away from my folks in Israel. Attempting to make Pesach on a grad student budget has been challenging but doable. Thinking rationally about the irrational rules and regulations stopped me panicking about the prohibitive costs and has allowed me to actually enjoy the festival.

So many non-Jewish communities extrapolate so much value from Passover. Though it is hard, we, as a community, need to work on somehow lowering the costs so that Jews everywhere can focus on the values, rather than the costs, of the holiday of freedom.

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