Who doesn’t want to save money? The siren call of sales lures us all, and few are able to resist stocking up. Then, as we’re wandering the colorful aisles, we question ourselves: Do I have mustard? Are we running low on mayonnaise? So we stick it in our cart, thinking this would save us a trip. But unnecessary and duplicate items quickly clutter up valuable space in cabinets, and if the item isn’t needed to begin with, it’s money sent straight down the drain.
In my own home, I’ll admit to a never-ending supply of black olives and matza-ball mixes. In the home of a recent client, we discovered no less then four open boxes of dark brown sugar and three open containers of confectionary sugar. In another home, I pulled out four open bags of shredded mozzarella cheese from various sections in the refrigerator.
All the above scenarios could easily be avoided by one well-known, easy habit: keeping a shopping list. As my wise sister always says, if you don’t already know what it is, then you don’t need it. Sales aren’t necessarily a sale. They are but a decoy to get you to spend more then you planned. Buy what’s on your list, and you will have bought what you really wanted and needed.
So how to keep a list? I keep a current list on both my fridge and as a memo in my phone. This way, when my husband is out shopping and has forgotten the list at home, I can easily text him what I need.
Keep the list updated by adding staples when you’re running low, but before you run out, i.e. flour, sugar, barley, and the ingredients in the recipes you plan on making that week. I buy duplicates of staples that run out quickly such as milk, cheese, eggs, bread, cleaning supplies etc. and buy another set when I’m down to one.
When there is a sale on items you do use on a regular basis, buy just one extra. I guarantee the sale will come around again.
Oh, and Costco? It’s the devil. I know it’s tempting to buy the trillion gallon jug of olive oil, and the box of granola bars that will keep you in a steady supply until 2015, but few people have the storage space for such large quantities of food, and most often, by the time you’re half way done, the food has either gone bad, or you’ve gotten sick of it. If you don’t have room to store an item, then resist buying it. I will admit that Costco does have a lovely selection of produce. So if you have a large family who can actually finish six heads of lettuce within a week’s time, Costco could be a good choice for that.
In my opinion, the best way to save money is just not to shop. Make the most of each shopping trip by buying only what you really need. The less often you walk into a store, the less money is leaving your wallet and the less time you spend on this time consuming chore, leaving more time for other, more fun activities, like cooking.
This leads us to another, well known, timesaving tool. Freezing. Many people groan at the idea of freezing, preferring freshly baked goods and a steaming hot brisket straight from the oven. If you have the opportunity to take advantage of a leisurely Friday or days before Yom Tov to cook and bake, then by all means, do what makes you happy. But if you’re like most women I know, who are struggling to balance work and family, then let’s bite the bullet and say in a loud clear voice: I can’t do everything!
Now, I’ll admit, I don’t particularly enjoy being stuck in the kitchen, chopping and stirring. As a working mom, with Shabbos every week, and Yom Tov seemingly always around the corner, doubling recipes and freezing extras is the perfect way to add more time into my busy schedule.
Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way through trial and error:
The first time I make a recipe, I leave the cookbook out on the counter until I see how it came out, in terms of too sweet, salty, family preference, labor intensive etc. Then, I immediately make a notation next to the recipe to remind myself for future attempts.
Some foods freeze better then others, i.e. chicken, meats, cakes, bread and soups, though many experienced balabustas swear that everything can be frozen. I’ll never forget my sister-in-law’s boast that she made the entire Succos in the summer, including stir-fried vegetables and apple cobbler.
Once I have found a successful recipe, I make doubles of it and freeze half right away. The food does not have to cool off before going into the freezer, though you would save money on your electrical bill by waiting a bit.