Pesach Shopping 101: 5 Steps for Saving Money and Time
Does this sound familiar? Good news: help is here! Over the years, my husband and I have streamlined our Pesach shopping to downright efficiency. Below we share some of our tips.
Step 1: Get into the Right Mindset
The first step in efficient Pesach shopping is keeping things in perspective: Pesach is only ONE WEEK! My husband and I always marvel at the almost sense of panic many Pesach shoppers have. Sort of like stocking up for a big 3-day snowstorm. Fear says,"there won't be enough. We are going to run out. Then we will be stuck." The result? Overbuying and much more impulse buying.
Relax. No one is going to starve. You won't run out of supplies. If you do, you can compensate or borrow from a neighbor, then restock over chol ha moed (intermediate days). Here's our mantra and I suggest you make it yours: "Pesach is only ONE week!" My husband and I say this continuously before, during and after Pesach. If you do this, too, you will be in the right mindset.
Step 2: Plan Your Meals
To save money and time shopping, you must have a plan. Every year, I break up Pesach into 3 parts: the first days, Chol ha Moed, and the last days. For each section I plan our meals in detail and write everything down in a notebook. From this list, I can see what ingredients I need for each meal and I know what to buy. I suggest planning ALL of your Pesach in one shot if you can. However, if you find this really overwhelming, then plan in stages. First, plan for the seders, day meals and about 2 days of chol ha moed to tide you over. Then, on the first day of chol ha moed, plan the rest of the rest of chol ha moed and the last days, too.
If this is all new to you, just remember to take small steps; make your plans in the right size chunks for you. All of your small steps will add up to money and time savings. Even if you only plan your seders and first days, you will see an improvement in your Pesach shopping.
Step 3: Write a List...and Stick to It!
It is essential to have a good working list in order to save time and money shopping. Now that you know your what your meals are, you can write all the required supplies on paper. When you go into the store, you are focused. You do not have to get distracted by all the choices because you know exactly what you need and you are looking for just those things.
A list is also a first defense against impulse buys. You know: you see something interesting not on your list and just HAVE to have it, so you put it in the cart. These buys really add up. If you do see something you forgot, or if you get a burning desire to buy a product that is not on the list, here's a trick: Put everything that you pick up on impulse in the top of your cart (the part where kids sit), separate from the other items that are on your list. At the end of your shopping trip, re-evaluate and ask yourself if you really need these items. If you do, buy them. If you don't, put them back.
Step 4: Keep a Running Tally
Here is a step that I use all year round and is KEY in saving money shopping. It's extremely important to keep tabs of how much you are spending. Every price of every item in the cart goes on a tally that you are continuously adding up. At the end of your trip, you should know just about exactly how much you are spending. This way, you know if you are sticking to your budget.
Remember those extra impulse buys in the top of your cart? Add them up in a separate column. At the end of your trip when you decide whether or not you need the items, you can also see how much extra it will cost you. This will add more clarity to your choices.
Step 5: Shop Around
It pays to know where to find the best deals and shop in more than one store. For example, the Dollar Store is pretty hard to beat for paper goods. Do you have a membership to a warehouse shopping center, like BJ's or Cosco? See how much you save by buying in bulk. My experience is that I don't actually save that much in these stores. That being said, BJ's has the best deal on lasagna-size steam pans. Since I need a lot for Pesach, I buy them there. Take a few minutes to scour the weekly supermarket flyers that you get in your paper. Don't drive yourself crazy; just skim to see if there are any deals. Also, many supermarkets offer incentives if you buy at their store. At our Shop Rite, for every $25 I spend, I can get a free 5-lb. pack of matza (including whole wheat!). Since I buy most of my meat there anyway, I make sure to get that free matza every time I hit $25! For many years we have been set on matza for Pesach--and beyond!--by using these coupons.
Well, that's it. It's not all our tips, but we really hope all this info helps. Wishing you and your family a happy, kosher Pesach. And remember, Pesach is only ONE WEEK!!!