Its almost Rosh Hashanah and Sukkos. We like to think of big family meals, tables laden with food and drinks flowing and….Money being spent. Yom tov is EXPENSIVE. Its not something we like to think about but the high holy days can be a stressful time if you are on a strict budget. When you are living very carefully on the money that you have, extra expenses can really be a struggle.
While Rosh Hashanah 2020 may be a little different this year, we are still going to have our big Yom Tov meals, even if there are no guests. Those of you with large families will have an overflowing tables even if you are still social distancing!
There are some who go all-out for Yom Tov and don’t really care to spend extra on this season but remember that if you are putting money on a credit card to pay for your expenses you will regret it later on. You don’t want to be paying for Sukkos on Pesach.
The best way to tackle the large expenses of Yom Tov is to put aside money for Yom Tov all year round. I have an “envelope” for Yom Tov expenses which I try to fill every month. But even with saving, money is finite and holidays are expensive. So….
10 tips to save a dime on your Yom Tov Meals:
- Serve Challah and dips. On Rosh Hashanah I like to make sweet challah but I like to serve dips so that people fill up on that. I make one sweet challah (raisin or chocolate chip) and one regular challah so that everyone can have dips with their challah. i try to keep my dips cheap- things like eggplants tend to be cheaper than olives, for example.
- Serve soup. Starting a meal with a nice soup is a good way to fill up on something cheap and festive. You want your family and guests to fill up on the cheaper items first so that you can skimp on the more expensive stuff. Don’t get carried away and make a fancy, expensive soup with lots of ingredients! A simple cream of potato or zucchini soup is fitting start to an elegant meal but a very cheap and filling dish. Soup can also be easily frozen as leftovers (see #7). I sometimes hear from people that they skip the soup course because its too much food but this is such an easy way to have people fill up before the main course.
- Spread out Simanim. We like to have simanim on Rosh Hashanah but instead of making separate dishes for each of the simanim, incorporate them into your meal. Make butternut Squash soup or kugel with leeks. The less stuff you have to buy means you will have to spend less money. You can either take a bit of each dish and serve it a the beginning of the meal or you can just have it throughout the meal.
- Lighten up the sides. Many traditional side dishes are based on pretty cheap items- sweet potatoes, potatoes, etc. Cut down on the margarine, butter, salt and oil to make the vegetables less heavy. The cost savings may be minimal but the lighter version will be easier to swallow and will encourage guests to eat more of these vegetables. A light lettuce or tomato salad is another easy, cheap side dish.
- Shop around for the meat and other main dishes. While it not exactly practical to shop around for the best deal on each ingredient- especially if you are cooking all week!- pick the most expensive or most used ingredient and find a deal on that. For Yom Tov, this will probably be the meat. If you save $1 dollar a pound on a ten-pound brisket, you will save $10. That is worth driving a little extra for! Keep an eye out for grocery stores offering coupons or deals on other more expensive ingredients like nuts, throughout the week.
- Bulk Orders. This is very community dependent but if there is a way to order meat in bulk and save money then do it! Pick a meat that is more flexible, like brisket, so you aren’t stuck with pounds of tongue that you have to serve. If its too expensive or you don’t have freezer space, see if someone wants to split a case with you.
- Cut down on drinks. Soda, punch, and juice add expense to your meal. Consider serving water or a homemade lemonade or sumac juice to cut down on costs and make your meal a little healthier. Some lemon slices or fresh mint in a pitcher of water make a festive addition to your table with very little cost.
- Cheap Wine. Wine is a real budget buster. For us, wine is a non-negotiable part of our meal but we do try to shop around for good deals. If a nice bottle is on sale then we buy it and save it for Yom Tov. We also buy some cheap wine so the nicer wine is drunk by those who appreciate it.
- Cake vs. Pie. While it may not be worth it for you to cut down on all expensive ingredients or dishes (It is Yom Tov, after all!) it may be worth it to cut down on the more expensive dishes on the menu. Pecan pie may be delicious but it is more expensive than marble cake. The more expensive the ingredient- the more sparingly it should be used.
- Leftovers! It goes without saying (but we are saying it anyways)- save leftovers. Take the time after your exhausting Yom Tov to properly pack up and fridge or freeze leftovers. Don’t leave all food to be eaten the next day. Freeze some dishes to keep for those days when supper is just not happening. Instead of ordering pizza, pull some leftovers out and you will be grateful you took the time to freeze it!
Do you have any tips to cut down on expenses for your Yom Tov Meals?
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