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Money Saving Tips for Jewish Families

Posted on 18 July 2010

Money Saving Tips for Jewish Families

The following article includes some excellent tips for running a Jewish household on a tight budget. I’ve reprinted it for you here with the author’s permission. –Rivka

Money-Saving Tips for Families

By Stephanie Savir

Being a stay-at-home mother has taught me a lot more than parenting skills. I have also learned how to economize and make the most of my monthly household budget. This has become my new full-time job. I run the household on a tight budget, and by doing so, make it more affordable to stay home with my children. Even two income families can benefit by analyzing their spending and cutting corners where possible. Here are some of the tricks I’ve used to stretch my monthly budget.

Track Monthly spending. Save all your receipts or keep a running list of expenditures in your wallet. You might be surprised to see all the places your money goes. See if some obvious places to cut-back become clear. If you spent $1,000 last month on household items, try to spend $900 or $950 the following month. My trick is to use cash only. We take out my allotted budget in one cash withdrawal every month. I can track cash expenditures more easily than paying by credit cards. As my cash runs low, I become more and more careful with what’s left. In a few months, I figured out how to ration my monthly budget and still meet all my household needs. Using this system, anyone can quickly learn what’s a necessary purchase and what isn’t. You’ll be much more likely to buy things on sale and make more economical spending choices.

Plan a Weekly Menu. Make a plan of all the meals your family will eat and use that as a basis for your grocery list. Bring your plan with you to the supermarket; it will help you avoid purchasing items you don’t need. This will help you buy only those items you’ll use for the coming week. Many people decide their weekly menu in the store or buy groceries “in-case” they make this or that for dinner. Develop a list of the top 30 meals you make and let your children participate in choosing the lunches and dinners they’ll want for the coming week. They’ll be less likely to decline to eat your tuna casserole if they selected the menu themselves.

(In addition, follow these Leftover ideas to avoid throwing out tons of expensive ingredients.)

Avoid prepared foods. Frozen pizzas and pie shells, ready-made kugels, pre-packaged salads and bakery cakes are handy and quick but they cost a fortune. Really, the cost of the ingredients to make your own kugel or pie crust is so little. It does take time however, so make these items in large quantities and freeze them. A food processor can help you grate a lot of potatoes for kugel and mix up enough dough for six pie shells in no time. The first time making these items is the slowest – with practice, you can make all kinds of yummy, fun foods fast. Your own “prepared food” can still be available to you in your freezer once you’ve begun to stock up.

Compare Prices. Learn which household items are cheapest at which stores and stock up – especially when something goes on sale. For example I find Walmart has the best prices on several items I use. I have a list of the things I normally purchase there, and go monthly to stock up on OTC medicines, frozen apple juice, laundry detergent and toiletries. I do the same with other stores – but I try to be organized enough to go only once per month.

Buy reduced-price items. My family eats a ton of bread – but mostly in the form of toast – so I buy day-old bread and freeze it. If I want to make sandwiches, then I buy fresh bread. Day old bread can save you up to 50%. Deli ends and reduced-price produce also save money. You can make a fantastic chef’s salad, cholent or deli-roll for Shabbos using deli ends. I usually buy these items for immediate use, since they don’t have the same shelf-life as regular priced foods. They taste just as yummy, however.

Try to make two or three cheap meals a week. We may eat leftover cholent in wraps (like burritos), mushroom-barley soup, macaroni-and-cheese, lentil “veggie” burgers, chicken pot pie, tuna casserole or quiche. We cut back on meat intensive meals like meat loaf, chicken breasts and hamburgers. We save heavier meat meals for Shabbos and Yom Tov and the occasional barbeque, meal out or treat. We don’t feel deprived. It may take time to get your family used to these meals, or maybe you already eat some of these things for dinner – but doing it frequently can save quite a bit.

Learn the Halachos for using fresh and frozen veggies.Checking your own lettuce and broccoli isn’t that complicated, but you must learn to do it properly. Call the Star K’s kashrus hotline (or another reliable kashrus agency) at (410) 484-4110 to learn how to check your favorite fresh veggies for infestation. This is much cheaper than purchasing “pre-checked” fresh veggies. Frozen vegetables are even cheaper than fresh and are just as good in most recipes. A while ago I stopped buying many frozen veggies because I couldn’t check them myself and didn’t want to buy the expensive pre-checked brands. Then I learned that many frozen veggies don’t require a hechsher. Again, please check with the Star K to learn more about frozen veggies.

Cut back on disposables. OK, I never cut out disposable diapers, but I have cut back on usage of disposable plates, cups and foil pans. They have a place – when you have a lot of guests or bring home a new baby its certainly worth the ease of cleanup to use disposables. However if life is normal, take the extra time to wash your dishes and save money on the disposables.

Stock up on sale items. Once you compare prices, you’ll learn what the best deal is for ketchup or flour. When those items go on sale, buy three months worth or more. Then, when you finish your ketchup, you can “shop” from your panty – knowing you’re getting this item at the most economical price possible. Grocery sales seem to be cyclical and popular pantry items will go on sale several times a year.

Its important to mention the Shalom Bayis and Chinuch HaBanim angles to this money- saving program. First the chinuch side: your children should know there is a beauty to humbleness. They should appreciate a treat that Mommy makes for them since it contains more love than a store-bought cookie. The children should be made to feel like part of a team trying to help the family economize. They can understand that economizing is not about deprivation, but buying store-brand shampoo instead of brand-name. Its about making the most of what Hashem has given us instead of wasting it on more-expensive toothpaste. Then we’ll have more to spend on really important items like tuition and Yom Tov food and clothes.

On the Shalom Bayis side, when your husband sees you’re trying to make the most of your household income (whether he is the sole earner or you both work), he will feel like you are a financial team. Tell him you know he works hard for your parnassa and so you want to stretch each dollar as far as possible. Sometimes we wives don’t realize how much our husbands worry about the family income, so you can really show him you want to help him by economizing on household spending as much as possible.

One more Shalom Bayis note: If your husband loves a certain store-bought cookie or prepared food – don’t cut those items out of the budget. Its worth the extra few dollars to keep your husband’s treats in the house; afterall, he’s the head of the household. Cut back on the children’s goodies instead.

For the truly budget-minded, you should read The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. She raised six kids for under $200 a month. She has ideas to save in every area of running your home that can be adapted to fit a kosher, Shabbos-observant lifestyle.

Finally, once you start, you’ll keep noticing ways to cut back and economize. You can make your savings activities into a project, as I have, and enjoy the challenge of stretching your household budget and feeding your family without spending a fortune.

Stephanie Savir lives in Baltimore, MD with her husband and three children. A marketing and PR professional by trade, she is also a freelance writer for numerous websites and magazines. She can be reached at sjsavir AT aol.com.

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