Like so many others, I try my best to stretch a dollar as far as it can possibly go. I look out for bargains, I haunt the clearance racks and I cut coupons religiously. But when it comes to Pesach, an old adage my father used to quote comes to mind and I can still hear his voice saying, “There is a time when a dollar is a penny and times when a penny is a dollar.” In simple English, that means that while we all do our best to save, save, save, there are times when you just have to bite the bullet and spend, spend, spend. It seems to me that when it comes to Pesach, when the work is plentiful and time is at a premium, it might just be the time to loosen up the purse strings a little and splurge on some well-chosen items because, while they might cost more, they will save you oodles of time. And if time is money, then saving time does save you money.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting you run to the nearest supermarket and stock up on a week’s worth of prepared foods or the newest Pesach food item. (Frozen pancake batter, Pesach flatbreads, granola bars…seriously?) But some well-chosen purchases can be real timesavers and can simplify your life.
My number one favorite splurge for Pesach? Disposable plates. I confess, I do own one or two plates and bowls, but we pretty much use disposable for the entire Pesach. Years ago my mother-in-law begged me to take her Pesach dishes and while I was touched by the offer, I very politely refused. I still have very vivid memories of Pesach in my parents’ home, where after the men went to shul on the first Seder night, we would spend an hour taking down, washing and drying every single dish before we could set the table. I also remember my mother spending half the Seder in the kitchen washing dishes. Call me crazy, but I have zero interest in spending much of what is supposed to be a holiday that celebrates freedom washing endless dishes and, even with disposable plates, there are still plenty of pots and silverware that need to be cleaned. Disposables come in all varieties, from the not so pretty but economical, to truly gorgeous table settings that look real but are meant to be tossed. (For those of you who are seriously economy minded and wash those plates, I take my hat off to you, but even I don’t go that far.) Want to really spoil yourself for the Yom Tov meals? Get the disposable cutlery that looks like real silverware but is really just plastic in disguise. Use it, toss it and enjoy spending less time up to your elbows in soapy water.
Another ingenious item I am absolutely in love with? Non-iron dress shirts. While cotton-polyester blend shirts don’t need ironing, they just don’t have the rich look of all-cotton shirts. Unfortunately, keeping those 100% cotton shirts looking great is either costly (if you send them out to the cleaners) or time consuming (if you iron them yourself). I invested in one non-iron dress shirt for my son several years ago and while the cost, about five dollars more than the shirts I normally bought for him at the time, was a little intimidating, it was money well spent. My son wore that same shirt on Shabbos week after week and while it never came within ten feet of my iron, it always looked crisp and freshly pressed. Since then I have yet to buy him a single dress shirt that isn’t non-iron, because the amount of time they save me far outweighs the slightly higher price. Non-iron shirts can be found just about anywhere, from conventional stores to mail order companies and even Costco. Give them a try – you’ll be happy you did. Just a word of caution: never send a non-iron shirt to the dry cleaner or you will ruin the finish forever.
Back to cooking. Plan your menus in advance so that you can maximize your efforts. If three different recipes call for sautéed onions, then make one giant pan of onions and divide it up into three portions instead of sautéing onions three different times. Double recipes whenever you can – make extra soup or two potato kugels instead of one. It doesn’t take that much longer to make twice as much and stash the extra in your freezer to use on the second days of Pesach so you don’t have to start again from scratch.
As much as I am all for economical meals, Pesach is definitely the time of year when I find myself making more roasts. Think about it. If you are having ten people for a meal, you easily need two or three pans worth of chicken, which not only takes up most of the available oven space but also needs to be cleaned and trimmed, which is messy and time consuming. Serving a roast to those same ten people involves nothing more than unwrapping your meat, rinsing it, seasoning it and tossing it in the oven. Yes, it does cost more than chicken, but there is no mess and no work, which makes it perfect for Pesach.
Foil pans, foil pans, foil pans. I can’t say this enough. If you can make something in a foil pan instead of a pot or a regular pan, go for it. They don’t cost that much and you will save hours of time by not having to wash all those pans.
Take advantage of foods that can make your life easier. Stock up on those frozen cubes of herbs, including dill, basil, garlic and parsley which offer maximum flavor with zero effort. Canned fruits and vegetables can be a quick shortcut that can save you both prep and cooking time and their frozen counterparts can be used in endless ways, either thawed, lightly steamed, or in your favorite recipes. Buy extra canned or frozen fruit to use in smoothies, a very welcome Chol HaMoed treat. Splurge on pre-cut greens and your salads will be ready in just minutes and don’t even think about buying pre-made coleslaw when you can make it in minutes for a fraction of the price using pre-shredded cabbage and a few pantry staples.
By no means am I encouraging you to spend blindly in order to make your life easier. But don’t be penny wise and pound-foolish. If you are going to have to spend an extra hour on something, be it food, clothing or anything else – make sure to factor in the extra time as part of the inherent cost of the item. Above all, choose to spend your time and money wisely so that you can make your Pesach as enjoyable as possible!
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