1. Lists! Lists! Lists!
Look over your recipes and write down all you will need for Yom Tov for all the children and the grandchildren. And when you get to the store, don’t veer away from your list. Stick to the budget. If you are taking kids with you, tell them beforehand that you will not buy expensive candy or toys they find in the aisle— only food that is on the list.
Even better: write the list down and send your spouse or child that is old enough to grocery shop. That’s how you will not end up buying expensive mints, candy, and extra steak on a whim!
2. Serve Simple Foods Prior to Yom Tov
About two years ago, when my daughter was four, she came into the kitchen and nonchalantly announced that she wished I would die! I could not imagine what was wrong. I had not scolded her and we were laughing together two minutes before. “What’s bothering you, Chany? Why do you want me to die?” I begged.
“Because I would take care of myself and I would make farina for breakfast and supper every day!” I didn’t know if I should cry that my daughter wanted to trade me for a bowl of farina, or laugh that she was so refreshingly young and uncomplicated.
Farina for dinner may not be gourmet, and sometimes it’s tempting to order food Erev Yom Tov, because who has time to cook dinner? But simple dinners like grilled cheese sandwiches or a tuna melt can delight a kid as much as a slice of pizza. You can really slash expensive eating the week before Yom Tov, and do easier creative sandwich dinners or a bowl of oatmeal or farina.
3. Seek out Discounts and Freebies
Need more beds to accommodate the guests? Look for community circulars and specials, and compare prices on furniture or other big-ticket items. You can save big by comparing prices in stores. In addition, if your budget is maxed out, skip the toys and books this Yom Tov! They can really put an extra strain on your budget. But your kids don’t have to lose out! Arrange a toy swap with a neighbor or friend and do the same for books, or take advantage of your local library.
4. Pay with Cash
The thing about cash is that it is real. For months, my husband and I budgeted by not using our credit cards. And it works like a charm. I knew exactly how much cash I had, and made decisions each week based on the cash that was left after immediate expenses.
You don’t swipe anything or push off paying when you use cash. It’s also quite clear how much you can actually spend. So if you are short on cash, you will not buy extra ice cream or a seven-layer cake. You are likely to focus on the meat, fruits and veggies, and all you really need to make Yom Tov. Psychologically, swiping plastic may make you feel like you have an unlimited amount of funds, but that is true only until you need to pay the bill!
5. Be Unloyal
Not to family of course, but to brands. Brand loyalty costs a fortune. By comparing food items and not sticking to the brand you have known all your life, you can save a significant amount of money on your grocery bill every week. Shopping in your pharmacy? Buy the pharmacy brand of wipes, diapers, toothpaste, and detergent! It will save you a lot of money! To illustrate, according to Bloomberg.com, a 100-tablet package of store-brand aspirin at CVS costs you $1.99. Bayer aspirin is three times that much.
And generic brands work just as well in most cases. Also, these stores often have points and rewards for signing up to their stores. Go for it. I have saved hundreds of dollars buying Walgreens brand items, especially before Yom Tov when I buy in bulk.
According to Bloomberg.com “…if people bought store brands whenever they could, they’d save as much as $44 billion.” That means all of us! With that kind of money on the line, doesn’t it pay to be brand unloyal?
-Written by Nissi Unger