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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Purim Frugality

Since it is that time of the year again (yes, once again I'm behind on mishloach manot), I thought I'd share a few of my own frugality tips while the cookies bake. My kids are funny, they live with the chagim year round, unlike their mother who is thinking, is [insert holiday] really coming?

The day of Purim is when I start thinking about summer and next Purim. All of those packages are art projects in the making. Crafts aren't my strength, but Purim usually leaves us with enough stuff to make some craft projects. I nab the clean plates, tissue paper, and whatever other items look like they could be reused for an art project.

We are always grateful to our friends who bring us mishloach manot in a snack box. My kids each have their own box in the pantry for keeping the snacks they pick up here and there. Boxes get worn out, so Purim has become the time that we replace our boxes where feasible. Any plastic containers and baskets I keep for organizing my own kitchen and pantry.

Purim bags and containers are placed in a box for upcoming Purims. While I tend to package our mishloach manot in a somewhat uniform way, the bags and boxes I'm able to salvage are wonderful for the children to make some packages for their own friends.

We split up fresh baked goods for lunches and snacks. Unwanted candies are great for the candy dish at work, but it has been a while since I have worked in a regular office. When I taught Sunday school, I used to bring treats for the kids. Since we sell chametz, I try to save the majority of the packaged snacks and juice boxes for our summer outings. Any kosher l'pesach items are rinsed and put away with our Pesach things to make their reappearance later. My kids like to pour their own grape juice, so if we receive mini grape juice containers, I put them away for the kids to make their own kiddush. They can be refilled easily.

Speaking of summer, this summer I'd like to try and make our Purim packaging in way in advance. The first half of the year is the most busy for me work wise and every year I find myself rushing to get the baking done. The kids are always excited to color the packages, but they don't have the attention span to sit down and get the job done. So, I'm considering getting a start in the summer and having the kids to a little bit by bit. Upper West Side Mom has a neat packaging project up. I don't drink coffee, but I think we can find something usable and get a head start this summer.

If you have any great Purim tips, please share. And a Happy Purim to all my great readers. We all know what chag is coming next, even if we are still in denial. Guest posts on Orthonomic Pesach subjects are always welcome.

23 comments:

tesyaa said...

Home baked goods are cheaper than store bought (and healthier) - ProfK already covered that in a recent post. But if you really hate baking, you can stock up on sale items when you see them in the winter months.

I won't discuss regifting mishloach manos itself, but I'll regift packaging with no qualms: if I receive especially nice bags and they are hardly used, I save the bags for next year. Also, when I see gift bags on sale during the year, I try to stock up at cheap prices. These come in handy for Purim. But I'm also not above using plain ziploc bags. Trust me, no one will be offended.

For the seuda, just as for Yom Tov, there are tricks to save money. My kids like meatballs, and using extra sauce stretches the ground meat even more. (Rice is a great filler in meatballs, too). I recently bought frozen tilapia for $3.69 a pound. I stocked up a little too much, but with Purim, Pesach, and Shavuos coming, I expect to use it all up.

Although I have bought costumes over the years with my 6 kids, in recent years my older kids enjoy designing and making their own costumes. Thrift stores are great sources of old dresses that can be cut up and remade into costumes. You don't have to be an expert sewer - safety pins will usually work. A great costume for a little girl is an old sheitel, a Shabbos robe in her size (can be borrowed), a little lipstick and blush, and you have a cute little Jewish mommy.

Shoshana Z. said...

We bought all of our costumes at the thrift store this year. That was awesome. We are giving only one official mishloach manot. To everyone else we are sending Purim cards from our local Tomchei Shabbos. The money will go directly to help Jewish families in need who are my neighbors. It feels really good. I think this will be the first year that I really enjoy the chag and relax instead of the yearly mahem that accompanies the baking, stuffing, and giving. I'm not putting it down for anyone who enjoys it. Just looking forward to another out-of-the-box experience.

Staying Afloat said...

We save all the bags from the mishloach manot and use them for birthday and hostess presents throughout the year. They're also an interesting way to send lunch with a kid who doesn't want to brown-bag it but has a way of losing lunchbags.

Also, if you're expecting, save a couple of little grape juice bottles for your hospital bag. If you have nothing to do with them, save one as a just-in-case and give the rest to your local bikur cholim/ Shabbos hospital room.

LeahGG said...

yeah - I use the mini-bottles for trips/if my husband has to travel for work.

gavra@work said...

If you are in the NYC (or other large Jewish) area, you can go to a Gemach for costumes, and if you need a "theme", plan your "theme" around the costumes, not the opposite.

Also one of the larger costs for mishloach manos is the packaging. Having a brown paper bag (you can even fit it into your "theme", such as bagged lunch or UPS) or other cheap packaging can save 20$ or more over the "purim specific" bags.

Lastly, Goldbergs in Boro Park has some amazing sales on Mishloach Manos items, even if you live somewhat far (such as Teaneck or Long Island), its well worth the trip.

P.S. Don't forget your Port Authority Carpool Plan and take advantage of the unidirectional tolls & free bridges!

Anonymous said...

If you'd like to give baked goods but don't have much time, you can bake from a mix.

I usually include bags of popcorn in mishloach manos. It's fun to make with an air popper (I add a little salt & olive oil) & reasonably healthy, besides being cheap.

Upper West Side Mom said...

In our family we each give one mishloah manot. That's it. We try and pick someone to whom this would be extra meaningful such as a new friend or someone who has recently become more observant. That save a lot of time and money. Also I always do some baking because I think it makes it mishloach manot extra special when you take the time to bake for someone.

The waste on Purim drives me crazy. I actually tell my close friends to please not to send us anything.

As far as the Seudah goes I have in the past done a dairy seuda and am considering doing it dairy this year. I know that some people say you must have meat but hamentachen and other deserts just taste so good made with butter. To me it's more special and festive to have a delicious dessert than it is to have meat!

megapixel said...

upper west side mom, I agree with you about the waste, but what do you do when people come and give you shalach manos? do you just accept it and not hand back something in return? I think I would be very uncomfortable with that. And what about your kids teachers/rebbes?
I also have never heard of a yom tov seuda being dairy. except shavuos.
I have managed to keep the shalach manos down to under $2.00 each and they actually get a lot of compliments - they dont look stingy. so if I send 30 thats about $60 bucks. but then each of my kids give a few - 5 to 10 per kid depending on their popularity.

Bklynmom said...

Large chain stores (Target, CVS, etc) drop prices on holiday stuff after the holidays, sometimes to 75-90% off. That's a good time to pick up bags, gift wrap, other party supplies, some food, even some types of arts and crafts projects and toys. True, jack-o-lanterns, candy canes and shamrocks may not do, but solid orange, black, green, red or pink bags will do just fine. And "holiday" candies come in different color wrappers than you see during the rest of the year, so if your theme is a certain color or something, you can save lots and get cooler items than you would otherwise. If you happen to have coupons, it works out even better.
Target markets crazy amounts of merchandise specifically for Christmas, then discounts after. I bought off-white table cloths for 99 cents, a pound of Starbuck's coffee for $1.25, little toys to give to my kids when they are deserving of a gift for 10-25cents, small planting kits for 15 cents. They also discount toys that were stocked for Christmas, even there is nothing "Christmasy" about them, so early January is a good time to stock up on gifts you may need in the coming months.

tesyaa said...

megapixel, our family and many others eat dairy meals on yomim tovim, when the meat meals get a bit much. We enoy them.

Miami Al said...

Megapixel, "I also have never heard of a yom tov seuda being dairy. except shavuos."

You really need to get out more... :)

We don't serve Dairy for the Yomim Tovim meals (except the first meal of Shavuot), but we do very light meals generally with some meat.

Plenty of people in my neighborhood did 4 Dairy meals for Shavuot, and plenty do Dairy lunches here or there.

Anonymous said...

I often prefer a dairy meal. Depending on your tastes, a baked macaroni and cheeze cassarole or a lasagna with a homemade sauce, eggplant parm or a souffle can be much bigger treat than another baked chicken breast dish.

Lion of Zion said...

Gavra:

"Lastly, Goldbergs in Boro Park has some amazing sales on Mishloach Manos items, even if you live somewhat far (such as Teaneck or Long Island), its well worth the trip."

anyone who requires a trip to brookyn to save money on mishloah manor is probably putting to much into it to begin with.
Also whAt exactly do you mean by "mishloach manos items"? There is a chiyyuv to include particular items? Incant imagine that boro park has better deals on candy than your favored local discount store

Tesyaa:

Ziplocks? What ever happened to the cheap bags with twisties?

How do you stretch meatballs with sauce?
Do you think rice is better than breadcrumbs?

gavra@work said...

LOZ: Perhaps, but that is part of the fun. And at 10/1$ to 3/1$ for many items you can get really nice stuff. Besides, they really do have better deals (unless your idea of MM is a cookie and cup of water (which may be perfectly acceptable for the mitzva, but does not put any "simcha" into it).

tesyaa said...

LoZ, I admit I am profligate. I prefer ziplocs.

Stretch meatballs with sauce: as long as you are serving rice, noodles, or mashed potatoes, a lot of people are happy with fewer meatballs and the tasty sauce the meatballs were cooked in on their side starch. At least, that's my experience.

Rice definitely gives more body & texture to meatballs than breadcrumbs, but I make them both ways. You can mix raw rice OR cooked rice with the ground meat - it's very versatile.

megapixel said...

hey, my Dad was strict about a few things and one of them was a yom tov meal was meat. (not even chicken-had to bassar)even chol hamoed!
another one was chicken soup Friday nite. Once I served veg. soup cuz I was too busy to make chicken, and my Mom was horrified.
A breach in tradition!what will you do next? lasagna instead of cholent? OY!

Lion of Zion said...

gavra:

i'm sure stuff is cheaper in brooklyn (everything is except for gas and real estate). i'm just saying that you have to buy a lot of m&ms to make it worthwhile to waste an afternoon coming.
(ok, the truth is i hate listening to all my teaneck friends compare war stories from their visits to brooklyn)

TESYAA:

will try rice.
don't care for sause. i'm a ketchup man.

tesyaa said...

LoZ: if you're using raw rice, short grain or medium grain would work better; otherwise the meatballs look like porcupines (but still taste OK). With cooked rice, it doesn't matter.

megapixel - LOL. My husband used to lean towards strict about meat on yom tov meals, but over the years he has seen the light & now on yom tov we do serve fish and even lasagna as a main course!! Not on Shabbos, though; but I have cousins who serve dairy Shabbos lunches EVERY SINGLE WEEK & they aren't even vegetarians! Have a great Purim!

Miami Al said...

Tesyaa,

It's 2010, life expectancy is approaching 80... If you want to live a long and healthy life, you can't overindulge in food.
Red Meat is not just expensive, it's relatively unhealthy. Not saying not to enjoy it, just to realize that eating massive quantities, like all of Yomim Tovim and Chol Hamoed is not a way to eat if you want to live to 120.
That said, do what you want, trade offs in everything, but the American diet has changed since people came to the land of plenty 50-80 years ago, and a constant intake of red meat is no longer the diet of the wealthy that the Jews were emulating when they got here.
The Halachot definitely reference eating meat, but consider that meat for Shabbat was probably a few pieces of meat/chicken thrown into the stew, not steaks and meatballs.
The mass availability of red meat is an American phenomenon, now here else in the world (except Argentina) is red meat such a staple, in part because it was more cost effective to grow here.

Ariella said...

It occurred to me that it would be great for groups that give each other to organize so that the food could really work for the Purim seudah. One person could do salad, another could make a dessert, and a couple could do side dishes. As my kids pointed out the the meat main dish is usually the most expensive component of the meal, each one could do her own. But this way, the mishloah manos could work as a Purim potluck that make up a meal instead of the collection of junk food that most of us really prefer not to have around.

But I know, people will just stick to their cutesy themes and continue spending more on the packaging than on the content.

Avi said...

@Ariella,

I know a lot of people who give out kugels and challah. The salad idea is nice. We did cookies and milk in a brown paper bag again this year.

rosie said...

A guy where we heard the morning megillah reading decided that he did not want to roam the neighborhood all day distributing shalach manos so he brought a large hot pot of coffee (which he refilled several times) and a costco tray of hamentashen and gave each person a cup of coffee and a hamentashen. He had cups, milk, sugar, and artificial sweetener and a few bottles of water for those who did not want coffee. He used a friend as his shaliach to hand to each davener. To his dismay, his wife still made him "do" the neighborhood when he got home.

Ariella said...

Avi, I also give out kugels and challahs. The Friday before Purim, I make a double batch of challah dough and freeze some to bake it fresh on Purim. I also make little kugels -- usually potato, but his year I made carrot.
Rosie, the people probably really appreciated the coffee more than they would the usual stuff put into mishloach manos. It should have been a fulfillment of the mitzvah, though, perhaps, not for those who opted for water.