Each year, many people wonder (with varying degrees of vehemence) why Pesach seems to be so expensive! Everything from milk and butter to crisps and cakes seems to go up in price and it can present a challenge for many. This year particularly, with everyone seeing a sharp rise in so many areas of our expenditure, Pesach will add notably to the budget, leaving some wondering, how they will manage altogether.
My goal in this article is not to justify the costs or to protect the businesses. Aside from the fact that to some, defending Pesach prices is a bit like defending billionaire’s megayachts, ultimately, I am a consumer in this industry and, while I believe that much of the change in price is understandable and few are getting rich over this, I don’t have insider information I can share, and we can debate the subject elsewhere. Suffice it to say that with significant ingredient changes and increased supervision needed there will always be an inevitable hike in price. This is, however, my attempt to share tips on how we can make an enjoyable, kosher Pesach in challenging times.
1. Buy simpler products
The more ingredients, the more likely something has been replaced with an expensive alternative. Take something as basic as a cake – the flour that would normally be used has likely been replaced with potato flour, tapioca starch and/or some sort of leavening agents. Each of these ingredients comes from different places and are often more pricey meaning that what seems an equivalent product to the rest of the year actually costs much more. This is true of so many products we are becoming used to purchasing special for Pesach – ketchup, fizzy drinks, macaroons and more. I know it seems that Pesach can’t happen without macaroons and coconut pyramids but maybe, just for this year, one of them might have to stay on the shelf.
2. Avoid imported goods
As we all become more aware of our carbon footprint, this is probably good year-round advice but certainly for Pesach, this adds hugely to the cost. Companies such as Rakusens, Rumplers and Chevington are UK based (sponsorship of this article still available!) meaning lower transport costs, keeping the price down. Inevitably everything will have risen this year with inflation but foreign products will have seen the biggest rise of all and, for those watching their bottom line carefully, will make a big difference.
3. Supermarket equivalents are often kosher for Pesach
Before everyone loses their head over this seemingly controversial suggestion, let’s just go through it stage by stage. Products that have not been altered at all do not require a hechsher – simple things such as water, fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh whole fish would fall under this category. Then there are a number of regular supermarket products that are supervised as kosher for Pesach year round including specific brands of tea, table salt, sugar and more. The full list can be found on the www.kosher.org.uk/passover. Finally, the longstanding worldwide custom is to purchase products one is able to with special Pesach supervision. Nevertheless, for those who know that this will be a great financial challenge for them this year, there are many products that, strictly speaking, are kosher for Pesach and may be used in a time of need. There were lists made available around COVID time which may still be accessible, and anyone who feels they are in this situation is welcome to be in touch with me directly for assistance and guidance.
4. Share your shopping
Although we seem to think about it for months, Pesach only lasts for 8 days! So if we have one recipe that requires oregano and one that requires lemon juice, to buy an entire bottle of each is an enormous expense. Instead, get together with a friend (or group) and, between you, buy ingredients that you plan to use very little of. Start by making a list – it could include things like spices, chocolate powder, tea, coffee or even ketchup and mayonnaise. Share the list with others and see what they may need small amounts of. Then split it up and share the cost around – this can really save a huge amount of money.
5. Decide what is important
The hardest decisions in life are not between good and bad but between conflicting priorities. Mitzvot are all about helping us set our priorities and, while Pesach can certainly put a financial strain on a difficult year, that is also an opportunity to ask ourselves how important is this to us. Almost everyone has had to reconsider what they spend on this year – from basics like heating and food to extras like jewellery and holidays. The question this month is where does Pesach fall in that list. Is it something that is crucial to us? More generally, do we want to dedicate resources to mitzvot over and above some of the extras we enjoy? Or is it the first thing to be cut when the purse strings tighten? These are questions that each of us has to answer for ourselves without judgement or pressure from others. Personally, I know that this Pesach I will take strength from knowing how much this festival means to me. I will remember how many challenging times so many Jews have been through over the generations and feel bolstered by the knowledge that my seder nights are part of that great story.
In conclusion, while I hope that these suggestions are helpful, my greater hope is that everyone who needs help this Pesach will be able to find it. In our own community, I encourage anyone who is struggling to approach us and see how our community can help – I am always available for anyone who finds themselves in hard times (at Pesach or any time of year) to reach out in the strictest confidence. In future years, may we all be blessed with years of plenty, and celebrate all our festivals with great abundance and joy.