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Monday, April 26, 2010

Moshiach will pay the Credit Card

I feel compelled to respond to a comment I received in the last post where I once again penned some thoughts to Matzav regarding what I believe is irresponsible journalism on the part of Matzav. Once again Matzav published a letter decrying the cost of being frum. But this time the article not only featured the subject of just how terribly expensive it is to be frum, but it centered around the subject of **contemplating suicide** in response to the overwhelming costs. Now, we all know that observance comes with a price tag, but there is a way of addressing that cost and a way to not address that cost. Frankly, publishing the words suicide in response to that cost is crossing a line in my book. I believe we are all familar with the words of Rav Feinstein who admonished a generation for saying "it is hard to be a Jew." I think the constant barrage of letters/editorials about being frum = broke do the same terrible disservice. My hope is that through this medium, I am able to offer up a different message that the challenges are surmountable so long as we recognize the underlying issues, approach the challenge with some courage and sechel, and trust that Hashem will not leave us socially ostracized and our children friendless and shidduchless because we didn't conform to the standards set by "the system."

This Pesach, Matzav treated us to an editorial whinning about how expensive Pesach is (Pesach poundcake is a killer). Two Pesachs prior, the Yated treated us to a letter complaining that Pesach has left families in the red (how do you afford those afikoman gifts and chol hamoed trips?). And each Pesach since I started penning my thoughts on these issues, I (with the help of some fantastic commenters) have put forward a number of money saving tips for consideration because I believe that man cannot serve to masters: Hashem and Mastercard.

This week I received this comment which I'd like to just address head on:

I've read the comments to the "letter writer" on Matzav and the comments here and there is a world of difference in the basic outlook. The comments on Matzav are religious in outlook - tefillah, Moshiach - and also very compassionate. Many commenters say they are in exactly the same situation and they totally understand. The comments on Orthonomics are highly practical and rather disdainful of people who put frum values ahead of balancing the budget. In fact, none of you really seem to understand the religious way of thinking. I have often read on this blog criticism of lack of birth control in the religious community - why do they have so many children? When I have commented that birth control will never be accepted in the frum world, I have read comments like "why not?" The point I'm making is that people who are religiously motivated and people who are motivated by practical concerns will never be able to understand each other. Oh, the reason frum people will not accept birth control is not because of community pressure - it's because first, frum people believe it is a commandment from the Torah to have children, second, they LOVE children, and third, they are willing to live at a very minimal level to sustain a Torah life. Visit Lakewood and see how most families there live. You will see that they truly believe in a Torah life, and while these are not your interpretations of what the Torah requires, they are admirably consistent. They are not motivated solely or even primarily by community pressure. They are motivated by BELIEF.

Note the title of my post, "Moshiach will pay the creditors." Way back when I was a student trying to wrap my head around the ins and outs of going concerns and bankruptcy chapters, budgeting and leveraging, I discovered these very issues were present right in my own community. I think the first time that it hit me was when I was sitting with a lovely Rebbitzen, small business owner, and friend who had just had a wedding like I'd never seen before, which was shortly followed by a much more intimate bar mitzvah. The wedding was a first wedding for this very large family and one of the largest I've attended to date. There was not a detail missing in the festivities from a formal vort, to the jewelry, to the edible flowers on the salad. I can only make an educated guess about the cost of the wedding, but I'm nearly certain I could put a child through (public) law school or med school including a generous allowance for living costs for the cost of the wedding. Somehow as we were chatting, I found out that they had yet to pay for the wedding. This might have been the first time I realized that people really did borrow against their homes to pay for things they wanted. I would not take out a credit card for another five years, so I was still in the dark that I could actually write myself a check for cash to take the vacation I so deserved.

Once my eyes were opened they were opened wide, I learned a lot quickly. A little later I was privy to a conversation between someone else and her daughter in which some rather large credit card debts were mentioned (they were adding to them because they "needed" new dresses for all the kids for a simcha and I believe the discussion was if they had enough credit for the purchase). I had just been signed to my first real job and couldn't comprehend how anyone could *pay* for such debt, especially given the demographic and career choice, and just blurted out, "how will you pay that off?" The reply: "When Moshiach comes, he will pay [off the credit card]." It would have been funny, except there wasn't a hint of humor. She later explained something to the effect that unless a frum Jew was wealthy, they would juggle debt.

A lot of what I have learned and write about comes from published words, conversations, and observations. But, I've also had my fair share of runs-ins with people who can't pay their bills or simply stiff you. E.g., I took on some work for a family that who does all of the same things my commenter mentioned. Every conversation has has a "religious outlook." Tefillah, bitachon, emunah, mashiach; it is all in the conversation. The problem? The work is done, but you get a message not to cash the check because something else came up. And the next check bounces from here to there and back again and the "practical" person ends up on the phone with a local posek trying to figure out what courses of action would be permissible to now collect the funds.

I don't separate the practical from the religious or frum. To me they are completely intertwined, and I see this in the Torah I've learned and from the Rabbonim I've consulted on "practical" issues. The commenter writes "[I/we are] disdainful of people who put frum values ahead of balancing the budget." To me balancing the budget IS a "frum" value.

The cannon canon of Torah is filled with instructions on how to engage in commerce and ownership. And there is a spirit there too. While borrowing is permitted, Mishlei comments on the relationship between the creditor and the debtor and tehillim makes mention of those who do not repay their debts. The sources address a mitzvah b'averiah in classic discussions on whether a person can fulfill the mitzvah of arba minim if they don't have ownership of the item. The wedding ring must be owned by the chatan to make a valid transaction. The Ben Ish Hai addresses such practical matters such as how a wife should budget and spend her husband's money in his writing for women. No less than Rav Salantar includes thrift in his middot.

Derech Eretz kadma l'Torah is a fundamental concept. I think that being able to pay your bills as agreed upon would fit right under the banner of derech eretz kadma l'Torah. Putting yourself in a position where you are engaging in a life of debt means that eventually something will give. Creditors will not be paid. Food and services that you consumed and made a beracha over will not be paid. Pledges that you made will go unfilled. Lawyers, dentists, and schools will go unpaid. Unfortunately there are businesses (grocery stores no less) with massive receivables on their books. Schools and shuls experience the same phenomena. Years ago I met a wonderful couple visiting from a certain neighborhood known for its piety. The family had a business within the community and when he found out I was an accountant, he wanted to share with me a trick he learned on how to 'clean out' as much as he could from the bank accounts of people who wrote him bad checks. Let's just say I didn't learn this trick in business school. I'm a very simple person. I still like to assume that when someone writes a check that it will cash.

Operating in a constant state of red invites ethical challenges. This is not to say that people who live with great wealth don't fall to the yetzer hara (think Enron), but supporting a lifestyle that is not commensurate with income is an invitation to the yetzer hara. I've seen it with my own two eyes.

To close I want to say one last thing: while many of my commentators feel strongly that families should not have "more children than they can afford," (there are VIN and Matzav commentators who say the same thing!), I have a liking for large families. I think that having a growing, expanding, and alive community is our lifeblood. I think it is well worth while to forgo plenty of extras to have more children. The issue that we have is defining the extras and we have made everything a requirement in the name of frumkeit so that we don't even know what "minimal" is. When camp become minimal and dental work to fix rotting teeth becomes extra, you have a problem. And that problem isn't particularly related to family size, but priorities.

115 comments:

LeahGG said...

the last line is somehow the crux of the blog.

When I think of "affording" another child, I barely think about the money - there's always a way to cut out something. I think about the energy. I barely have the energy for the ones I have. I simply wouldn't be able to give enough love and care to the ones I have.

There are some inherent lies being told in the community - 1. Camp is a necessity 2. Dayschool is a necessity - it's a priority, but it's not a necessity. 3. what work is "mechubad" - cleaning toilets is respectable. Lying and cheating is not. 4. It's ok to lie/cheat goyim/the government 5. We *need* new clothes for simchas, chagim, etc.

it's time to stop lying. If you cannot give your children basic medical/dental care, you cannot afford them. If you cannot afford to pay full tuition, your child shouldn't go to sleepaway camp (day camp may be a necessity for children too young to be home alone). If you don't have a college education and/or special skills, no one is going to pay you $20 an hour to do "clean" work.

Life isn't easy. Being a frum Jew isn't easy. Leaving the bills for Mashiach or the government or the worker bees in the Jewish community is not acceptable.

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

The suicide letter got me for a different reason - it displays a complete ignorance of halacha by a person who no doubt would insist they he has a great knowledge of the subject.
Take the following hard choice: you are behind in your bills, you can't afford the "frum" lifestyle. You can choose to commit suicide or say "Well, regular food is 75% than kosher, I guess we can't keep kosher any more". The other option: Suicide. Now, I am not advocating either choice, let me be clear, but which is worse? Eating treif you can do teshuva for. Committing suicide intentionally you can't. To see suicide as an option to threaten with is as laughable as saying "I can't pay the bills, I'm going to go become a sex tradae worker!" the person would never suggest the latter but threatens the former which is just as bad if not worse?

A frum lifestyle is actually quite affordable if one's priorities - live within one's means, only buy what you can afford, work for a living as hard as you can - are straight. Am I to believe that being frum = being financially incompetent in the hope that Moshiach will show up and bail me out in a great show of Deus et mashina?

LeahGG said...

MGI - eating non-kosher is assur. going to public school is only undesirable, and can save MUCH more money.

tesyaa said...

The whole issue of camp taking precendence over basic medical care is profoundly disturbing to me. Not just because of the obvious neglect and child endangerment that's taking place, but because of the question of how things came to this point in certain large segments of the frum community. I realize that social conformity is paramount in these communities; but why? Sociologically, insularity helps the frum community resist outside influences; and conformity is related to insularity. But I still can't understand how people can neglect their children and say that they're doing it in the name of LOVE for children. This is not a community I would EVER want to be a part of. It's sad that I feel I have so little in common with so many of my fellow religious Jews.

JS said...

Two quick comments:

1) It is interesting to me that bitachon only extends to having faith that God will provide if you do what everyone else does, but does not extend to God helping you if you decide not to conform.

2) People could have large families and not worry about finances as much if they simply delayed having children a few years while working, building a career, and saving money. When you get married at 20 or so, a few years of waiting won't limit you from having a lot of kids and those few years can be critical in getting one's financial house in order.

aml said...

Nice response SL.

Scraps said...

I find it interesting that the critical comment cited in the post mentioned the piety and simplicity of the Lakewood community. While their piety is certainly sincere, I'm sure, their simplicity...well, let's just say I've been to Lakewood a few times. Many families are living in homes they cannot afford, buy matching European clothes for their children, and are living off of Section 8 and other forms of welfare. How is taking money from the government "liv[ing] at a very minimal level"? I think that if all of those families were earning their livelihoods and living simply, I would buy the commenter's argument. However, as things stand, and as I have witnessed them for myself, I would have to disagree. It is not admirable to live off of government funds, however "pure" one's motives. It is especially not admirable to assume that living off government funds will be a way of life for the community. I am sure that many of the very frum people of Lakewood would look down upon others for doing the exact same thing (especially minorities, whom they consistently view with particular disdain). But because they are doing it l'shem the learning of Torah, it's totally fine.

Please do not misunderstand me - in some areas I do have tremendous respect for the people of Lakewood. This area just isn't one of them.

Anonymous said...

The shidduch system is part of what enforces ultra-conformity and allows it to escalate to the point where camp is more important than dental care. If a "good" shidduch is the be all and end all and you can't get a good (or any) shidduch for your children if they (or a sibling) didn't go to camp or the right school or heaven forbid public school, then everything else gets distorted.

Zach Kessin said...

Rice and Beans are kosher and cheap. What is expensive is kosher *MEAT* and cheese. Take those out of your diet and you can get quite cheap. Yea maybe you only see a chicken on Yom Tov, but if that is what it takes to make the budget come out then do it.

Offwinger said...

Great post!

Instead of emphasizing being more machmir regarding tzniut or kashrut, it's time someone started *teaching* basic choshen mishpat.

It is not frum to take and use things you have no ability to pay for. It is not frum to stiff workers or employees.

Using a credit card or check in your transactions doesn't make it ok. It doesn't turn something assur into something muttar.

Dave said...

I think I've mentioned this here before, but the last time I was in New York, I picked up a book from YIVO which consisted of essays on life in interwar Lithuania.

One of the things which stood out was that in parts of rural Lithuania, being "well off" meant that you could have butter with your Potoatoes during the week.

Bklynmom said...

A few points:
1. It's not just certain types of work that are seen as being "beneath" members of the frum community; it's also certain simple household tasks--cleaning, ironing, baking. Well, maybe not beneath, but way too time-consuming for a proper frum person to bother with. Of course there are those who can afford to pay for cleaning help, professional shirt laudering and pricy baked goods, but I seem to have met very few people who do those tasks (and others like them) themselves.
2. Even those parents who are open with their peers about watching their budget are not nearly open enough about it with their children. They come up with all sorts of reasons why a certain outing cannot be had or a certain item cannot be boughts, but never say "it's not in the budget right now." As mentioned here many times, children need to learn financial responsibility from early on.
3. Public medical school in New York State (of which I am a proud graduate) comes with a $22,000 tuition (give or take a few hundred depending on the campus). While I can certainly see how a wedding can easily cost more than $88,000, its is a scary thought indeed. Yes, SL, you could put a child through medical school!
4. Recently many previously not spoken about issues in the Jewish community have come out in the open. I have been truly (and pleasantly) surprised that both last week and this week JM in the AM profiled Jewish organizations that assist children of divorce, victims of domestic violence, victims of molestation, victims of child abuse. Unpleasant topics all, but necessary to bring out in the open, and I applaud the radio program for doing so. When will the Jewish community openly discuss responsible budgeting? Not just on blogs, which is great, but not sufficient? Shouldn't financial issues be discussed in larger forums?
I am not by any means equating financial irresponsibility with the horrors of abuse, just trying to make a point that we, as a community, seem to be more willing to discuss issues that were previously hushed up. If we can talk about truly awful things, maybe we can talk about financial responsibility as well?

Miami Al said...

In America, everyone is envious of the wealthy, and their are aspirations to match them. However, most people don't do it.

While people might have enjoyed "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," few middle class Americans actually tried to vacation like the rich.

The "Frum Economy" chases dollars, which is true everywhere, but because it's smaller, things haven't trickled down. At one point, air travel was for the rich and people got dressed up, now college students hop on a discounted fare in sweatpants for a weekend trip.

Look at the cruise industry: once a bastion of rich vacations, down market companies were promoting $49/night cruises last year (things aren't so deeply discounted this year).

The smaller "Frum" economy still caters to the rich. The "Frum" Cruise lines are charging $500/person/night. While the Kosher Cruises are a small premium (20%) to the non-Kosher equivalent, there is no Kosher version of the $50 cruise for $60 or even $75, just the $400 cruise for $500.

Americans eat half their meals out of the house, but most of those are down market places. A Kosher pizza place is price competitive to a small pizza shop (+/- 10% or 20%), but there is no equivalent of the $5 discount pizza place for $6.

When I take friends to a Kosher restaurant, none of their eyes pop out at the bill, the bills are in line with non-Kosher restaurants of a similar venue, the difference is there is no Kosher McDonalds with a $1.20 menu.

As a result, the aspiring upper middle class, trying to live like the American upper middle class, is cleaned out because there is nothing cheap. I brown bag my lunch, my co-workers go out every day, but it's normally a $4-$5 fast food trip... If I grab a lunch at a Kosher place, it's $12-$15. The equivalent treif places would also be $10-$13, the difference is, there is no "taco bell drive through" for Kosher people.

Over time, if not prevented by the Vaad, the Kosher market will evolve like the rest of America, driving down costs and making "luxury" (like lunch out) affordable like the American restaurant industry does, in the short term, it's extremely expensive.

The Frum schools and camps are targetting the wealthy that can afford to pay, offering the amenities that the expensive prep schools and summer camps offer. Ideally, downmarket alternatives should exist.

The biggest prevention of this happening? Scholarships and assistance to all.

If people weren't "entitled" to expensive everything, the market could supply them with what they want.

Can't afford a Cadillac? There is a Buick/GMC trim more moderately priced. Can't afford that, Chevrolet has similar vehicles at a cheaper price.

Once we take away entitlements and subsidies (including the subsidy of people walking away from their bills with no legal recourse), the market can solve these problems.

The middle class can't afford the same car as the rich, but they can afford cars. We need the same solution for our religious expenses.

Also, we need to communally value things that we want people to value. We should celebrate a lovely Simcha, with a nice and income appropriate celebration. We should not be screaming for more stuff via charity.

Stop elevating premium luxuries in the kitchen as Kashrut "requirements" (separate meat/dairy ovens and other nonsense without basis in Halacha -- when did double ovens enter the scene? pretty sure we've been keeping Kosher longer than that) -- the well to do can spring for Viking Ovens, but everyone should be able to get by with a Range from Kenmore or GE for $400.

Secular 20-somethings outfit their apartments from Ikea, things that their parents would never put in their homes in the suburbs.

Instead of subsidizing tuition in expensive prep schools, have communal tzedakah fund Torah education for those that can't afford it. Then everything will work itself out.

L said...

You tell em SL!

That is the difference between real, emes, ehrlich Yidden and the phonies.

The real Yidden are machmir on things like bein odom lachaveiro, lo signov, midevar sheker tirchak, choshen mishpat.....

The phonies are machmir on other things and stiff their fellow man when they owe them money. The real gedolim live as you advocate - simple lives, fiscally responsible, pay their debts.

I have been stiffed by some of those phony 'frum' types. They lie, cheat, and steal, and then make a big show of davening and external displays of piety. Do they think Hashem will listen to their prayers which come from a mouth that habitually lies? The gemara says that there are certain groups that do not 'see' pnei haShechinah. One of those groups is 'kat shakranim'.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, moshiach doesn't pay the bill - we, as a society, pay the bill.

Shira and Joey said...

Summer camp is a necessity to me because I work full time. Expensive summer camp is a luxury.

I really think the idea of necessity vs luxury is not the same for everyone. A sick person may need to eat chicken/meat every night. Most people don't. Some people do NEED two cars, others don't need any.

YoelB said...

The cannon of Torah is filled with instructions on how to engage in commerce and ownership

And it's high time the cannon was fired more often, though I suspect you actually meant "canon."

Anonymous said...

"The issue that we have is defining the extras and we have made everything a requirement in the name of frumkeit so that we don't even know what "minimal is."

Yes, the requirements in the name of frumkeit have increased. Perhaps, we will evolve at some point in the future and it will be required in the name of frumkeit that men no longer need to work to support the family. Oops, we've already "evolved" to that point.

Avi said...

It's not just living within your means, there are also structural issues that limit the means (the promotion of Torah over careerism) and inflate the living (private school tuition for all). But overall this is a terrific post. If you do mitzvot with borrowed money you cannot pay back, do those mitzvot count? Even if they do count, wouldn't that be something you would want to be machmir on?

G*3 said...

Miami Al, you make an interesting point about how there are no low-cost alternatives in the frum world, but isn’t that because there’s no economy of scale? McDonalds makes their food in factories in huge batches and ships it to all of their restaurants. The few kosher fast-food places are making their food from scratch in the kitchen, same as the fancier places.

The same holds for schools. Government-run public schools can buy school supplies in huge batches. A yeshiva buying two hundred desks is not going to get the same price per desk as a public school system buying a quarter million. Incidentally, only the MO schools are comparable to prep schools. The quality of education in most yeshivish schools is barely comparable to the public schools, and many of the Chassidish schools are much worse.

In general, the small size of the frum community effects what is available. For example, if one in every million people is a really talented author, then there are 350 top authors in the United States alone, but only three or four frum ones in the entire world.

Dave said...

There is plenty of inexpensive treif food out there that isn't being sold by chain restaurants.

And while there may not be sufficient business to support Kosher equivalents in much of the world, there should be plenty in primarily Orthodox neighborhoods.

Miami Al said...

G*3,

Yes and no. McDonalds may be super low cost through vast economies of scale, but there isn't a shortage of local fast food chains in different parts of the country. There is a local chain, Pollo Tropical that has spread decently in South Florida, with nowhere NEAR the size of the burger chains, that competes with low cost meals. There was a chain of Bagel shops in California, Noah's Bagels that merged up with Einstein's and isn't observed anymore, but was able to build a big chain.

Starbucks sources pastries locally, but just about all of their pre-packaged foods, plus all their flavorings, are Kosher.

Why are there ZERO Kosher chains? We see the occasional second location, but never a third or fourth. How is it that New York City doesn't have a chain of lunch restaurants?

Is it pure economics? There are somewhere on the order of 300,000 - 500,000 Orthodox/Orthodox persuasion (depending on where we draw the line) Jews in greater NYC, right? For comparison, Wyoming has a population of < 550,000, across a larger area. Superpages.com lists 10 McDonalds in Wyoming.

Just suggesting that the market, outside of an effort to prevent Kosher chains, should be able to support it.

Offwinger said...

Miami Al,

Funny you should mention Noah's Bagels, because they have had kosher branches in California and Seattle. Now, only the Seattle branch remains certified, and the reasons given for dropping the hashgachot in California were linked to economics of scale/distribution reasons (and the economic need for preserving opportunity for last-minute supply changes).
You're not factoring in the cost of land/rent into the equation. I'm guessing that renting or owning the land for 10 McDonalds franchises in Wyoming - even in population optimized locations - is a lot lower than it would be for putting a low cost food place anywhere close to the NYC population. Rent as overhead is an astronomical cost in many of the locations with a demand for kosher food providers.

Dave said...

You know, New York has a ton of Hallal certified street cart vendors.

Are there Kosher street carts in Brooklyn? If not, why not?

Bklynmom said...

Dave--
There has been one on and off in Brooklyn Heights, but I don't know if it's still around or the vendor's prices.

Miami Al said...

Offwinger...

Right, and the issues of suppliers stems from a lack of transparency in the Kosher supervision world.

If there is a list of approved supply sources or (even better) hashgachot that are approved, the company can manage supply better. When the supervisory companies want to approve every change on the fly, it's harder to run a dynamic business.

Dave's point about street carts is 100% on point, however. When I was in Israel, I saw street carts with Rabbanut Supervision letters, I can't imagine anything like that existing here.

For a street cart, one could monitor food at a central location, but requiring a moshgiach on the premises, or requiring Frum street workers with the expectation of exorbitant salaries would make such a business nonviable.

The push towards stringency in Kashrut renders a lot of business models impossible as well as running up the costs, for a certainly questionable gain. There are lots of hidden costs from a leadership that simply isn't focused on holding down costs, and issuing proclamations of "just spend less" isn't helping when you curtail supply in the market and therefore raise the market price.

At a street faire, I saw a pita stand, serving middle eastern food. No reason that you couldn't do a kosher one, but I can't imagine any Kashrut organization being interested in non-steady work of supervising that sort of the cart.

Lion of Zion said...

DAVE:

there used to be a falafel cart in midtown manhattan about 10 years ago, but i don't think it's around anymore?

there was also a controversial food truck in williamsburg:
http://www.jweekly.com/article/full/33780/food-cart-smorgasbord-or-shanda/

Dave said...

Two street carts?

In a city *full* of street food, you can at most point to two carts?

The single most cost effective way to sell food in a high-rent area, and no one is doing it.

That means one of three things:

1. There is no actual demand for low-cost Kosher food.

2. There is no one willing to serve that market.

3. There is an external impediment that makes it either impossible or unprofitable.

My money would be on #3. Which pretty much eliminates any sympathy on my part.

L said...

Miami Al: "Right, and the issues of suppliers stems from a lack of transparency in the Kosher supervision world.

If there is a list of approved supply sources or (even better) hashgachot that are approved, the company can manage supply better. When the supervisory companies want to approve every change on the fly, it's harder to run a dynamic business."

The O-U is very advanced/professional, I think they have that kinda stuff.

L said...

Another thing - there are pizza shops selling pizza for 99 cents a slice in NYC now. NY Times has written them up recently, search online for more info.

tesyaa said...

LoZ, I remember that falafel cart from the early 90s. Kind of proves Dave's point.

Dave said...

And there are Hallal carts *everywhere*.

I suspect two factors at play.

One, many of the Muslims in New York are recent immigrants, and like most immigrants, don't have a notion of some kinds of work being "beneath them".

Two, I suspect there isn't the equivalent of a profitable Hasghocha industry in the Muslim community. Although I could be mistaken.

Mike S. said...

Someone should remind your commentator that paying a debt is a mitzvah. And for a talmid chacham to fail to pay one promptly is a chillul hashem to boot. This is an explicit gemara.

Anonymous said...

Lack of cheap fast food is just a distraction from more serious economic issues.

Dave said...

Lack of cheap fast food is just a distraction from more serious economic issues.

Oh, sure.

Tuition is the thing that has to be dealt with.

That doesn't mean that the institutional issues that are blocking a product that should exist aren't related to the same institutional issues that make Camp a requirement and Day School as necessary as a bris.

Anonymous said...

Dave - and Day School as necessary as a bris.

Actually Jewish Day School is MORE important than a brit milah. Potential converts have to send their kids to Jewish Day School before they convert, and thus before they actually have their brit milah!

1/2 :-)

Mark

L said...

Here is the url for the NY Times story on pizza for sale now for a dollar a slice in NYC, in midtown Manhattan, and thoughts about how they manage the feat.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/16/nyregion/16pizza.html

The Times says that there are now fifteen (!) stores selling dollar/slice pizza in NYC.

Miami Al said...

L,

A friend was managing a restaurant that was in discussions with the OU. This was a few (3 or 4) years ago, but the OU wouldn't give him a list, each thing had to be approved. They wouldn't tell him whether a certain Rabbi's Hashgacha was acceptable, they wanted specific products. He didn't want to have to run menu decisions by them, so he found a Kashrut organization that was trying to be helpful.

This was a few years ago, the story is heresay, and down here is 1500 miles from the OU's home turf, but just suggesting that it isn't to clear cut.

Dave, agreed on the tuition front, but it's all the same thing. A leadership that attempts to "preserve jobs" by pushing up costs onto people which makes EVERYTHING more expensive.

More expensive food drives up wages for entry level people, since below a certain subsistence threshold, better to go Section 8/Food Stamps... part of this is to protect lucrative Kashrut business, part of it is to justify the higher dollar figures for "Kosher Food Stamps" program, etc.

All these extra costs add up and redirect money from productive uses to wasteful ones... see the Parable of the Broken Window...

Requiring expensive supervision instead of trying to make things cost effective drives up costs everywhere. The tuition situation is a symptom, not a cause, it's a symptom of always looking for ways to increase costs to "provide a job" instead of looking to decrease costs. Protect the hard earned dollars of Frum Yidden is NOT a priority for the Rabbinic Leadership, which is sad.

Mark -- you're right, no Brit Milah, you're outside of the Covenant, no big deal. No Day School, and you're outside of the control of the system, way bigger deal.

Shoshana Z. said...

I have always (!) wanted to have a kosher hot dog stand. I can totally see my (home-schooling) family doing this once my kids are all old enough to help run the thing. I'm all for a family business venture.

JLan said...

"Why are there ZERO Kosher chains? We see the occasional second location, but never a third or fourth. How is it that New York City doesn't have a chain of lunch restaurants?"

Carlos and Gabby's has been doing something like this- there's one in the Five Towns, one in Brooklyn, another in Queens, and one in Riverdale (there might be more, I'm not really sure). They also tend to have lunch specials in the $6-7 range (offering a drink and fries for free with a few tacos or burritos or what-have-you at normal price).

Miami Al said...

JLan,

Thanks for the information, glad to see that there is SOME normal economic activity going on. That's also demonstrating that there is the ability to create a reasonable Kosher lunch chain that is priced comparable to the non-Kosher world.

If that is happening, then we are simply seeing the Frum Economy following the American Economy a few decades later as it's size gets big enough to support it.

Clarification for those looking to attack me: "Requiring expensive supervision" is NOT the same as "Requiring supervision." Expensive supervision is when you start doing things that drive up costs without providing a material benefit to the owner OR the consumer.

In all the cases down here where a company was busted for selling treif food, I don't know that ANY of them were caught by the mashgiach (and in the case that looked like straightforward extortion with false claims, the mashgiachs insisting that everything was okay fell on deaf ears. The cases that I've heard about down here were where they got caught during an audit (meat expenses were too low for the volume, etc.), etc., not the day-to-day supervision.

Therefore, a cost effective solution would depend upon surveillance cameras of entry/exit points, routine financial audits, and random inspections, all of which would be FAR CHEAPER than a full time person and far more effective.

I keep Kosher. I would like to have more cost effective options to keep kosher. I find the business of the kosher economy to prop up companies etc. anti-consumer and part of the high cost of being an observant Jew.

Dave said...

There is also the matter of Hashgacha if you are going to open a Kosher business.

An individual can pick which hescher they consider appropriate, which heter or chumra they follow.

Restaurant, you need a Hashgacha that the bulk of the community will find appropriate.

And the thing is, there is no right to a Hasgacha, nor is there a legal way to fight for one in the United States. So if the supervisory organization decides they want you to pay for an expensive Mashgiach suddenly, your options are to pay, or to have them remove their Hechsher.

And if they are even marginally clever, you have no recourse. All they have to do is say, "No, no, we're just no longer certifying them" and they are absolutely lawsuit proof.

mlevin said...

Miami Al - just because there are 500,000 orthodox jews doesn't mean that they will all eat at that place. My husband works with two chassidim. One is Bobov the other one is Lubavich. They had a department wide luncheon and were willing to go to a kosher place. Bobov refused to enter any of those establishments because they were goish. So, they ended up going to a none kosher place and ordered a kosher meal for a restaurant down the block. Bobov refused to enter the traif place and Lubavich guy said it wouldn't look right if he were seen eating at the traif place, so he just drank water. End result the kosher restaurant lost parnossah. And you want a cheap kosher food place?

LeahGG said...

more achdut would also be good for the finances...but hey, if we didn't fight each other, who would we fight? Iran? (oh, yeah, that might be a good idea, since they want to NUKE US OUT OF EXISTANCE)

Lion of Zion said...

"I have always (!) wanted to have a kosher hot dog stand."

aren't there a couple of baseball stadiums with with kosher hotdog concessions?

Anonymous said...

Miami Al - Therefore, a cost effective solution would depend upon surveillance cameras of entry/exit points, routine financial audits, and random inspections, all of which would be FAR CHEAPER than a full time person and far more effective

And cameras don't fress!

Mark

Anonymous said...

mlevin - My husband works with two chassidim. One is Bobov the other one is Lubavich. They had a department wide luncheon and were willing to go to a kosher place. Bobov refused to enter any of those establishments because they were goish. So, they ended up going to a none kosher place and ordered a kosher meal for a restaurant down the block. Bobov refused to enter the traif place and Lubavich guy said it wouldn't look right if he were seen eating at the traif place, so he just drank water. End result the kosher restaurant lost parnossah.

This is utter stupidity! The easy solution is to tell the two Chassidim where to go (i.e. to wherever they want to go to eat). Then the rest of the department can enjoy a kosher lunch out once in a while.

They should try being the only frum and kosher observant Jew among hundreds like me (and used to be only one among thousands). Unappreciative schmucks!

Mark

Anonymous said...

I wrote the comment that Sephardi Lady used in her post. I find it sad that the only message you all got from my comment was that if someone believes in tefilah, they are justified in incurring debts they have no intention of paying. What a total misinterpretation. I did not think it necessary to say that most of the frum people I know are completely, punctiliously scrupulous in all their dealings - and that I expect them to be. I was brought up by two such frum people! Perhaps my circle is limited and I haven't been exposed to as many dishonest chareidim as you all have.

On the topic of low cost kosher restaurants - first, there is a kosher hotdog stand in Camden Yards Stadium in Baltimore, the only one in the country. Second, the best way to save on the high cost of eating out is to eat at home. I asked some chareidi children in Baltimore if they ever go out for pizza - I was treating them and they were very excited. They answered emphatically, "Never!"

And those Lakewood people with the matching outfits for their children? Perhaps they are from an in-law or hand-me-downs from a modern orthodox sister (like a family I know). You can't make assumptions from what you see. The people I know in Lakewood are living in the most poor way, you could not begin to imagine. Yes, most are on Section 8 - that's how they survive and remain in kollel, and I think it's shameful. They don't look upon it as bilking the system or a misuse of government funds as I do. They look upon the government as a medinah of rachamim, a merciful government, to use their phrase.

Okay, now you can all throw your brickbats!

Anonymous said...

Sunday, my wife and I bought matching windbreakers at WalMart for $10 each. Clothing, wigs, and all other accessories can be bought at reasonable prices in stores and on line. All it takes is some investigation. Look at utility, not fancy labels. Don't ape the wealthy class.

Offwinger said...

Anon @ 9:33 AM,

I don't doubt your sincerity, but I think you're projecting what you believe and feel onto other people.

Your anecdotes simply don't match what far too many charedi leaders and people are willing to stand up and say in public! This is not about anyone assuming that there is dishonesty "behind the closed doors." There are people claiming with PRIDE that they do not have to worry about paying off credit card debt, and there are institutions that have a routine policy of NOT paying workers on time! Thank g-d that you personally have never experienced this or suffered from it. However, that doesn't mean that those speaking out agaist this have a vendetta against charedim or "frum values."

The other big problem is that you have divided the world into "frum" people - who are compassionate, have emunah, and believe in tefilah against people who can't understand "frum people," because they are too caught up in pragmatics. There are religious and righteous people of all sorts of types. Speaking about emunah and bitachon and tefillah does not automatically make a person religious. Acting ethically does.

And, FWIW, there *are* other kosher hot dog stands outside of Baltimore. There are other arenas and stadiums have them too. Perhaps you are as uninformed about the choshen mishpat lapses we are lamenting here as you are about the options outside of Baltimore and Camden yards.

tesyaa said...

A pet peeve: the obsession with clothing, including children's clothing, is often made to seem like it's a mitzvah. "A Jewish girl is a bas melech." Does the King's daughter wear Payless? I don't think so! This must be the explanation for why even little toddlers wear $70 leather shoes that they will outgrow in a few months. The frummer the school, the fancier shoes the girls wear, at least in my observation.

tesyaa said...

I mentioned $70 leather shoes: let me explain that leather shoes for children are probably worth it. What I meant to say was I see toddlers wearing $70 DESIGNER ITALIAN leather shoes. You can buy leather shoes from other manufacturers for much less; not to mention sneakers.

LeahGG said...

shoes that give proper support and have soft enough soles are worth paying a premium, particularly for children, whose feet have not yet been ruined by things like high heels.

that's why I paid what I considered a fortune ($40) for diadora "sport" sandals for my daughter last summer, knowing she'd wear them almost daily for 6 months.

For the Shabbat shoes that she wears once a week for a few hours, though, I was happy to buy something much cheaper as long as it looked cute and didn't hurt her feet.

ProfK said...

One person here who is quite thankful that we don't have a plethora of kosher chain eateries. Ever check the content of the food at those low cost chains? A heart attack waiting to happen. And just what, pray tell, is wrong with eating at home or bringing packed lunches to work with you? We were a healthier nation before we got on the "their food is better" kick. And if the price of kosher restaurants is keeping more people from eating there? Thank goodness for that--at least some of our Klal might have a fighting chance of being healthier, and certainly of keeping their money in their own pockets.

mlevin said...

profK - what you are saying about fast food is true, but you are overlooking the fact that cooking from scratch is both time consuming and not everyone is capable of cooking. So, while yes, one may safe $5 by brownbagging, he will lose $30+ doing something else during that time.

LeahGG said...

there are some ways to make "fast food" at home. For example, my favorite instant meal when I lived in the US was Morningstar Farms Grillers and Lenders Bagels. Stick it in the microwave, add ketchup, and yum.

(yes, it's junk food, but it's not as bad as mcdonalds and it's way cheaper than kosher delight)

Lion of Zion said...

MLEVIN:

"So, while yes, one may safe $5 by brownbagging, he will lose $30+ doing something else during that time."

as tesyaa has correctly pointed out, this only applies to people who are paid hourly and have endless opporunities to work (and take advantage of this).

saying that you don't want to spend 10 minutes at night to put a $5 lunch together because you could use that time to make $30 doesn't make sense if what you're really going to do is watch television.

PROFK:

"Ever check the content of the food at those low cost chains?"

how would you even do that?
(and i would recommend checking the food content in the local yeshivah elementary school. it's not pretty.)

"A heart attack waiting to happen."

typical home-cooked hungarian fare for shabbat is not exactly health food either. tastes like heaven. but not health food. :)

Orthonomics said...

To Anon, please re-read your comments on my post. You basically wrote that the "practical" way of thinking is not the religious way of thinking. I am making the case that sechel is very Jewish and there is a complete lack of sechel when the method of spending leads to contemplating suicide, forgoing basic healthcare, destroying shalom bayit.

The Jewish approach has always been Torah lo bashamayim hee. You assert that this blog is "rather disdainful of people who put frum values ahead of balancing the budget." My assertion is simply that "balancing the budget" or living within your means is a Torah value.

And, yes, there are far too many people and organizations that cannot pay their bills on time and that are seriously overleveraged and I believe that this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

mlevin said...

"as tesyaa has correctly pointed out, this only applies to people who are paid hourly and have endless opporunities to work (and take advantage of this).saying that you don't want to spend 10 minutes at night to put a $5 lunch together because you could use that time to make $30 doesn't make sense if what you're really going to do is watch television."

Not necessarily. first it takes more that 10 minutes at night to put together the lunch. You must purchase ingredients and wrappings plastics and/or foils and you must have an inventory of what you have and if you are making anything beyond a simple sandwich, you have to account for clean up too.

My sister in law used to spend hours every weekend food shopping for the whole week. She would walk from store to store, look for lowest prices and only then buy the stuff. I am not even mentioning amount of time wasted going through the periodicals to see which store has what on sale and then driving from one to another... Anyway her son needed help with homework. So, she hired someone for $50 per day to come and do homework with him. Imagine if she did not waste time on bargains and instead saved the $50 working with her son.

This is just an example, but there are many times when making your own food is counter productive.

LeahGG said...

Mlevin: yes, generally it is best to find one supermarket that has reasonable prices and do all of your shopping there as opposed to doing lots and lots of bargain shopping, because of the time/money rate, or to buy certain goods in bulk periodically at warehouse stores and do the rest of your shopping in one major supermarket. However, most of the "homemade" dinners I prepare require less than 20 minutes of my working in the kitchen, and we spend an average of 1-2 hours a week grocery shopping. The difference between eating in and eating out is ~$15 per meal, even if we're eating high priced ingredients, for a family of 4.

So we're talking about $15 for less than 40 minutes of work, but that's after taxes money.

Miami Al said...

Orthonomics,

Living within your means, working hard, following the law of the land, these are all authentic Jewish values that are straight from Torah.

However, Anon is quite correct that those aren't "Frum" values.

Anon certainly holds religious values... they just aren't religious values from the Jewish religion. Anon's Frum values are straight out of Calvinism, not Torah/Talmud.

But what can you do. Those of us in the modern Orthodox camp adopted the dress code of the gentiles, and Anon's "Frum" crowd took their religious outlook, what is to say one is right and one is wrong.

Anonymous said...

mlevin: It takes me about 2 minutes to make my lunch to bring to work - slap some peanut butter on some whole wheat bread, wash an apple, grab a yogurt from the fridge and throw everything in a bag. I do it all while the water is boiling for my morning tea. If I do something exotic like make tuna salad, it might take 3 minutes. Grocery shopping really doesn't take much longer to have enough to bring to work.

Lion of Zion said...

MLEVIN:

" it takes more that 10 minutes at night to put together the lunch"

it most certainly does not.

"You must purchase ingredients and wrappings plastics and/or foils"

huh? who does this every day? or even every week?

Mr. Cohen said...

I could be wrong about this, but I suspect that there would be less poverty in the Shomer Shabbat Olam if more Jewish men would be permitted to have jobs.

I hope you enjoy this concise but valuable Torah quote about the importance of working:

Tanna DeBei Eliyahu Zuta, Chapter 18, Paragraph 1:

Rabbi Yochanan taught:

I testify that any Torah Scholar who studies with sincere motives and works to support himself, will be fortunate in this life and the afterlife. He will be revered by: his wife, his children and Gentiles. Angels will help him, and G_d will love him completely.
__________________________________________________
To receive quick quotes from Jewish Torah books, go to:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DerechEmet/

ProfK said...

Lion,
The wonders of the Internet is how you find out the nutritional content of those fast food items. Just as an example, take Burger King. Go to the url below and look down at the bottom of the left hand menu. Click on nutritional downloads and you can see all the info (you'll need to temporarily allow pop ups if you have them blocked.) A real eye opener there.

http://www.bk.com/en/us/menu-nutrition/index.html

Re the traditional Hungarian cooking for Shabbos, I'm truly puzzled about what you mean. Are you referring to the whole panoply of veggie salads that are traditional and may be served on Shabbos? Or the huge variety of vegetable soups and veggie side dishes?

Anonymous said...

mlevin: not too many people use "wrappings, and plastics and foil" to bring their lunch these days. People who want to save money and the environment take their lunch and snacks in reusable containers.

Anonymous said...

ProfK: I don't know about hungarian, but a lot of home cooking for Shabbos is not very healthy -- soups loaded with salt, lots of high-glycemic carbs in the challah (unless its whole wheat), potato and noodle kugles, salads loaded with dressings, veggie salads (even houmus and eggplant with too much oil and salt). It's not as bad as burger king, but there is lots of room for improvement.

Anonymous said...

mlevin - first it takes more that 10 minutes at night to put together the lunch.

Are you kidding? We take leftover chicken from Shabbat (or a weekday dinner), put it into a pyrex, then add some leftover veggie, then put a piece of saran wrap on top, then cover it. Put it into a plastic bag to carry. Done. Takes between 1 and 3 minutes, 1 minute of the chicken is already cut, 2-3 minutes if a thigh has to be broken off the whole chicken.

mlevin - You must purchase ingredients and wrappings plastics and/or foils and you must have an inventory of what you have and if you are making anything beyond a simple sandwich, you have to account for clean up too.

When saran wrap/foil/etc goes on sale, my wife buys 20 or 30 of them. So we never run out. Clean up? After dinner, the lunch pyrex goes into the dishwasher with the dinner dishes. Takes 15 seconds or so.

Mark

Anonymous said...

Miami Al - Those of us in the modern Orthodox camp adopted the dress code of the gentiles, and Anon's "Frum" crowd took their religious outlook

A small correction. Those of us in the MO camp keep adopting the dress code around us (obviously excluding certain extreme fashions) as time goes on.

Those in the RW also adopted the dress code around them, but stopped adopting newer ones a couple of hundred years ago for some unknown reason.

Mark

Conservative scifi said...

There is actually a kosher hot dog stand at the Washington Nationals stadium in DC as well as a kosher stand at Washington Redskins stadium (both are certified by either StarK or the Washington Vaad). I have to believe (though I don't know), that there is a kosher stand at some of the New York teams, as well.

Lion of Zion said...

PROFK:

i meant how do i find out about the jewish eateries. how much sodium in a kosher delight chicken box?

the hungarian food i'm familiar with involves kugels swimming in oil, etc. (hungarians are the best cooks by far)

mlevin said...

LeahGG - I don't know how it can take 20 minutes to prepare a dinner, unless it was already cooked and you are just warming it up. To cut up a salad alone takes time, plus there is a protein and side to eat with it. Yes, I eat and serve leftovers all the time, but still it takes more than 20 minutes because you also have to take clean up into consideration.

Anonymous 5:44 - and I said before that unless you eat sandwiches everyday, it takes time to make lunch. As far as I know both tuna and peanut butter are in the sandwich category.

Anonymous 6:48 - reusable containers require washing and then drying which takes more time than using plastic or foil. I was giving an example of least amount of time to save money and still have a wholesome lunch.

Mark - taking chicken from shabbos requires cooking it. That takes time and skill. Not everyone is capable of cooking.

My point is that having fast food restaurants available is nice to have for those who are time strapped and it may not be as cost effective in all instances.

mlevin said...

Lion - all traditional foods are swimming in oils, that's because people's diets were poor and food was scarce. Fats and oils added precious calories to one's diet.

But these traditional foods were not eaten on regular bases and certainly in smaller quantities than what we have today.

Even plates that people used in those days were smaller in diameter, so definition of a full plate then and now are different too.

LeahGG said...

Dinner in 20 minutes: put water to boil, (takes 1 minute), go do other stuff. Add spaghetti (takes 20 seconds), set timer, come back in 7 minutes, drain, add sauce from a jar, sprinkle with cheese (another 2-3 minutes). Cut 4 cucumbers and 2 tomatoes (3 minutes)
Clean up takes about 5 minutes, since we have a dishwasher. However, if you have a bunch of kids (we only have 2) presumably, some are over age 5. A 5-year-old can help set and clear the table. An 8-year-old can help wash dishes (my parents had us washing dishes at age 6, and we were kids who did relatively few chores)

Chicken is one of the easiest things in the world to prepare.

I buy mine cut up. To prepare, put it in a disposable pan, sprinkle granulated garlic powder on it, shove in the oven. At the same time, I take rice and whatever frozen veggie I'm in the mood for and put it in the rice cooker and turn on the rice cooker. When the rice cooker's done, the chicken's ready. (prep time for that meal - under 7 minutes)

time that your food is sitting in the oven and you're not cutting stuff, watching stuff, etc, is time you can spend with your children, clean your house, shower, so don't tell me that it's time you're making food. If you have to have your food ready the second you get home, there are loads of easy crock-pot recipes where you throw some ingredients in in the morning and have food in the evening.

mlevin said...

ok, LeahGG, you win if you serve your family pasta with cheese and your vegie is cucumbers and tomatoes.

We hardly ever eat that. Our dinner includes Pasta or potatoes or rice, with fish, or chicken and our salad must have at least four different vegetables in it, including lettuce and scallions. So, I would use two curbies, two tomatoes, a bawl full of green stuff in the lettuce family and of course there is scallions or onions. Many times I make two different salads or make a cooked vegetable such as pepers or asparagus. The second salad involves avocado or radishes.

Yes, if I prepared it yesterday, today my dinner would be a lot quicker, but when you average it out, it takes time.

My job required me to be on call 24/6. And my husband's is almost the same. There were many times when I come late or work half the night. My husband is also on the phone troubleshooting. If my daughters have tests or weddings or other plans there is no one to cook or clean up. On those occasions we just make sandwiches or order out. Having a fast food place would be very convenient. Heck, there are days when I come home, ignore the mess and don't want to do anything but to vegetate in front of TV.

I really do not miss the stress of going to work or being woken up in the middle of the night.

rachel q said...

mlevin; if you want to justify eating out as "convinient" go for it. I'm sure you'll always fine some excuses why it is more convinient, cheaper, easier, etc. However, you'll NEVER be able to prove that it is ealthier. Yes, some shabbos food is bad, and some people don't know how to cook healthy, but that's their problem.
You can cook healthy, cheap and fast if you know how to. I cook and bake most of what we eat (family of 4). It takes me on average 4-5 hours a week to make all the food. I never cook for 4 people, I cook for 8-10 and freeze or eat the same for 2 days. If you double a recipe it only adds an extra 20% of the prep time, so I double and triple recipes. Eating out is simply too unhealthy

mlevin said...

rachel l. Who said anything about healthy. My point was that one shouldn't dismiss the availability of a fast food just because home cooking is healthier and cheaper, and I gave my reasons. As a matter of fact here is what I said originally:

"what you are saying about fast food is true, but you are overlooking the fact that cooking from scratch is both time consuming and not everyone is capable of cooking."

Where is it justifying? It is something to have access to.

LeahGG said...

mlevin: If you're talking about a 4 vegetable salad and a meat and a proper side dish compared to fast food, then you're really comparing apples to oranges.

Spaghetti and a 2-veggie salad or scrambled eggs on toast with an apple for dessert is a lot more in line with a McDonald's dinner.

Anonymous said...

mlevin - Mark - taking chicken from shabbos requires cooking it. That takes time and skill. Not everyone is capable of cooking.

I'm going to have to be a little harsh to make my point. It sounds to me like you are repeatedly making excuses for various things.

1) Anyone can cook a chicken, it may not end up being the tastiest chicken possible, but anyone can cook it. The simplest way is to open a pack of cut up chicken, dump it into a chad paami foil pan, stick it in the oven at 350 for 90 minutes and then eat it. ANYONE can do that.

2) Who said that salad "needs" 4 veggies? Maybe a special salad for shabbat, but a plain old weekday salad? Besides, you can just buy a bag of pre-washed salad and dump it into the bowl, use store bought salad dressing and you are done with the salad in 30 seconds.

3) (The harsh part) Sounds like you have pretty big kids (weddings, etc). Why are they so spoiled that they aren't doing all of this stuff for the family? I'm not a tzadik in any regard, but when my mom was in school, and had class every Friday until minutes before shabbat, I prepared the shabbat meals every week for about 3 years (turned out to be very useful because I learned how to cook). About 10 years later, my little brother did the same thing for a few years while mom was working every Friday. Why are your kids doing nothing to contribute towards the family life? As was said earlier, even little kids can do many kitchen tasks. Big kids can do everything and it's excellent training for real life.

4) Another meal that our family loves is flanken cooked in the oven. Just get a few pieces for flanken (prefer thick cut), put it into chad paami pans in one layer, sprinkle spices on them, cook at 350 for 30-40 minutes. At the same time, put asparagus in a pan, sprinkle olive oil, salt, and pepper, and put in the same oven for a little less time. Everyone in my family loves that meal. And it's a meal that literally takes less than 10 minutes to prepare.

Mark

Anonymous said...

mlevin, even at a fast food store you have to wait in line. Isn't that time worth money too? Do you have your lunches delivered to your desk? If so, is delivery expensive?

Bklynmom said...

I think one important point (of many) that keeps re-emerging here, even when it's not stated explicitly, is that everyone has (or should have) a different way of shopping, cooking, budgeting. Twenty minutes is too long to spend on a chore for one family, but quite manageable for another. Twenty dollars is a significant amount to one person, but not another. So long as each family is able to decide how to eat, dress, etc. for themselves and budget for it (without going into debt), we are fine. Some families can very well afford many luxuries, save for the future, and support many worthy causes. Many others cannot. It's when you try to keep up with your "community" and can't afford it that problems start. It gets worse still when your "friends" start telling you how you *have* to dress, feed your family, decorate your house, educate your children, etc. And worse yet when people listen to those "friends."

Anonymous said...

Excellent comment Bklynmom. On the eating out issue, I would also note that so many people who are self righteous about never/rarely eating out or getting take out are doing things that the eat-outers might consider wasteful or lazy. For example, I always bring my lunch to work and never eat out, buy used cars and keep them forever, have only used/old furniture, etc. but I drive to work and pay for a down-town parking space instead of taking the buse (its not NYC, but still very expensive). Many people look askance at that choice, but I have personal reasons for chosing the parking space. The problem is when people go overboard on too many items for their particular means. If some people absolutely hate to cook or don't want to subsist on the tasteless dried out chicken recipe someone else suggested and they figure out a way to fit take out into their budget, who am I to judge?

LeahGG said...

"tasteless dried out chicken recipe someone else suggested"
My chicken is neither tasteless nor dried out. I've had serious cooks ask me for the recipe and be surprised that it's as simple as it is.

Anonymous said...

My apologies Leah. I know if I just threw some cut-up chicken in the oven without marindade, or a sauce or coating, etc. it would be dried out and tasteless, but I wouldn't use the garlic powder you use (unfortunately, garlic doesn't sit well in my family) and I only use skinless breasts to avoid the fat.

Miami Al said...

Bklynmom,

You hit the nail on the head. The self righteousness of frugality here also stems from what this blog was a year or two ago, it was a bunch of frugal religious women talking about coupons, saving money, living frugally, etc.

As the recession swallowed up more people, and more tuition/Simcha posts came up, this site got a LOT more upper income families, who have very different expectations.

A family on an income of $50k living frugally has VERY different cost metrics than a family whose income dropped from $250k to $150k and trying to survive.

We have some good friends that are in a VERY VERY different financial situation. The husband is in a doctoral graduate program, the wife has my wife's old job. I was talking to him when he was exasperated about something in the finances and I looked at him and said, "don't playing keeping up with the Jones, and DEFINITELY don't play keeping up with me, my family income is over three times yours." He looked stunned, and then started nodded.

We're friends, our children love to play together, and we live in the same neighborhood (with VERY different housing situations). But when his wife sees our kitchen and talks about renovating her relatively new kitchen similarly to ours, it's just plain crazy. When he finishes his program, their income will rise nicely, but for now, they need to dial things back.

Before kids, my wife and I went out to a nice dinner every Saturday night. We went out to dinner 1-2 nights/week, and Shabbat meals were over the top. Three kids and a bunch of expenses later, and we don't go out often -- usually just if my parents want to take us out, and take out is non-existent.

Is it cheaper and healthier to eat at home and make lunch, yes, and I bring lunch to work at least 4 times/week. But the idea that everyone must live, act, and dress the same is bizarre.

I go to a produce store once/week and load up on fruits, melons, squash, and vegetables. That forms the core of our diet, and we're losing weight and being healthier. My food for the day consists of some left-overs on a bed of rice, and a bunch of cut up melon and fruit, so I can have lunch and two snacks.

However, I certainly don't judge (publicly), how people choose to spend their discretionary dollars. Some people like to go to expensive places on Sunday, we're more likely to picnic in a park or go to the beach. I like electronic toys, others like to eat more extravagantly. We like to do big things for kids birthdays, our birthdays, etc. Others prefer that to be lower key and always have company on Shabbat. Each family should be allowed to have flexibility in what is right for them.

I've been to lovely Bar Mitzvah celebrations that are a Kiddush in Shul and Seudat Shlishit at their house. I've also been to wonderful ones that are over the top catered meals with open bars.

The secret is to do something appropriate for your family.

Miami Al said...

Anon 10:44: not judging you, but as a foodie, a few suggestions:

Marinades/Sauces are delicious, but are usually VERY laden in oil and sugars. Cooking with the skin on preserves moisture and adds fat, but less than you are probably adding from the marinade to make skinless breast tasty. Do a calorie comparison, but your much more expensive cut of chicken (by us, skinless breast meat is $7-$8/lb, chicken thighs are around $2.50/lb) is probably higher calories.

For skinless chicken, season with salt, pepper, and oregano or parsley (dried) and let it sit while the over preheats to less the salt draw the moisture toward the surface. Put the chicken in a glass or aluminum tray, cover, and cook for 30 minutes @ 350 in the oven. Covering it will help retain moisture and avoid drying it out.

Serve on a bed of rice with steamed or stir-fried vegtables (spray a cooking spray on a no-stick pan instead of pouring oil in the pan) and you will have a lighter, healthier, and delicious meal.

I prefer dark meat, which is fattier, but I control portion sizes and avoid marinades/sauces that add a LOT of calories to any dish.

LeahGG said...

ah - skinless chicken indeed dries out that way. When I make skinless chicken breast, I always make it in a stir-fry which is indeed time consuming.
My mom sometimes makes it just fried in olive oil (on a teflon pan w/ minimal olive oil) which does come out good.
Skinless chicken breast is quite expensive compared to ordinary cut-up chicken, and my husband will only eat it if it's in a stir-fry or schnitzel (and schnitzel is too much effort and too fattening)

PayingParent said...

My husband and I are both young professionals. We have 2 kids and don't plan on having any more any time soon. Even with this choice, we avoid going out to eat, wear clothes and shoes until they are completely irreparable, and do our housework and mowing ourselves- all so that we can pay full tuition and live in a comfortable house (not huge- comfortable). Meanwhile, I have one sister in law whose husband doesnt work and she answers phone somewhere. THey have yelled at us repeatedly that we dont have enough "emunah" because we practice birth control. They live on food stamps and medicaid. Yet, when I went shopping with said sister in law she wanted to know- should she get the $89 purse or splurge for the $99 purse? (For the record my purse is a 4 yr old canal st knockoff i bought for $30)
My other sister in law doesn't work and has a husband in Chinuch. She was complaining to me about not having a second car. Then she starts to complain that she doesnt have enough nanny help. When I tell her that we have never had a housekeeper, she looks at me like I'm nuts and says "Even my poorest friends have people cleaning their house for them- how can you stand it?" My Response: "I bet the cleaning ladies clean their own houses."

Anonymous said...

Thanks for tips M. Al. My idea of ingredients for sauces and maridades are not so unhealthy -- wine, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, orange juice, low sodium broth.

Anonymous said...

Paying parent: I just don't get it whenever I hear these stories about people on Section 8 and food stamps living it up. They must be getting money somewhere else. I have a disabled relative on Section 8, food stamps and medicaid. Her total income (from SSI) is approx. 650 per month and 90$ in food stamps. 1/3 goes to rent, leaving about 400 for everything else -- the food that food stamps isn't enough for, heat, electricity, phone, gas and car insurance, vitamins and OTC medicine, etc. There is NOTHING at the end of the month for any extras. She drives a 15 year old car that was a gift and all her clothes (except for undergarments), furniture, etc. are hand me downs.

mlevin said...

Bklynmom, Miami Al, Anonymous 9:20 - thank you, I think you got my point. Just because something is less healthier or less expensive does not mean it should be out of business and it does not mean that we shouldn't have a convenience of using their services if we choose to do so.

Anonymous 9:01 - my job included delivered lunch, but we were not allowed to order over $7.50. With that limit I literally had very few choices to choose from because kosher places were a lot more expensive. There was one reasonably priced milchig place it went out of business, I ended up ordering yogurt and baked potato from the non-kosher place or just settle for cereal and milk or brought food from home.

Mark - at this point I am unemployed and one of my children is already married. I was talking about my past not present situation. In those days my husband (if he was able to come home early enough) and girls had to make Shabbos because I literally came home 10 minutes before and would jump into the shower. If my daughters had other plans and couldn't help with Shabbos we would literally settle on sandwiches or take out. I remember times when I had company coming and was cooking and talking on the phone solving some emergency at the same time. And your cooking chicken recipe is not as quick as you make it out to be. Chicken needs to be washed and skinned, then spiced up. (Just throwing it into oven without washing is disgusting, I wouldn't eat at you house). Chicken without salt and spices tastes horribly. Asparagus needs peeling. So do potatoes and other vegetable. Rice/Kasha needs washing and cooking. Those prewashed vegetables do not taste as good, and washing/checking yourself is very time consuming. If it's only two vegetables it's not a salad. Besides one cannot eat the same chicken and asparagus every day. You need variety and variety takes time to achieve.

Avi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Avi said...

As usual, we have two separate problems. The problem with RW economics is that the income numbers don't add up, even if tuition is low. I know people in Lakewood who live honestly - the Torah demands it - and extremely frugally - because they have to. Husband learned in kollel for years, then had to find a job without any secular education or job skills. Both parents work without coming close to making ends meet for their large family. The government and their extended family members help out, but I know of times when they've been extremely frustrated, despite believing that kollel learning is good and secular education is bad, and despite never eating out, never making fancy simchas, and never sending kids to sleepaway camp.

The problem with MO economics is that the core expense numbers are too high for all but the most extreme income levels. You can brown bag it all you want, but if you have $45K - 90K in annual taxable tuition expenses the vast majority of high income families are going to struggle. (For some this is compounded by living in high tax areas required to support their high income jobs.) With structural costs so high, suggesting that they eat peanut butter sandwiches instead of a takeout grilled chicken salad is almost irrelevant. That's not to say that it is irrelevant; little things do add up. But we know several dual income professionals who cannot afford to make repairs to their modest homes, cannot afford to give tzedaka, and are already maxxing out on hand-me-downs, couponing, etc.

tesyaa said...

Avi - I don't entirely agree. Little things add up a LOT. It may be possible to reduce babysitting costs (which can be substantial) by juggling hours at work. You can eliminate housecleaning and landscaping costs by doing it yourself and getting the older kids to help. Is it a lot more work? Sure. But it may preferable to incurring debt. In terms of housing, even if you need to live near NYC, there's almost always a cheaper option. Elizabeth and Passaic have a mix of housing stock, and some of it is quite inexpensive, though it may lack curb appeal and need a lot of cosmetic work. People have learned to stretch for as much house as they can, but if they want to stay debt free and not take "scholarship" money, stretching is a bad idea.

Anonymous said...

mlevin - Mark - at this point I am unemployed

Oy, I am sorry! I hope you find good employment soon. This recession is crushing so many of us, it's horrible.

and one of my children is already married.

Mazal Tov and ken yirbu!

I was talking about my past not present situation. In those days my husband (if he was able to come home early enough) and girls had to make Shabbos because I literally came home 10 minutes before and would jump into the shower. If my daughters had other plans and couldn't help with Shabbos we would literally settle on sandwiches or take out.

When I was a kid/teenager, we never had take out, it was simply way too expensive for us. We had an old rotisserie and worse comes to worse, we would put a chicken in it and eat that for shabbat (and it was even quite tasty!)

Even when I was away for shabbat, since I was off (and I was the only one in the family off) on Friday (all through high school and college), I would prepare the shabbat meals on Friday morning and then make my way to wherever I was going for Shabbat after I was done.

I remember times when I had company coming and was cooking and talking on the phone solving some emergency at the same time. And your cooking chicken recipe is not as quick as you make it out to be. Chicken needs to be washed and skinned, then spiced up. (Just throwing it into oven without washing is disgusting, I wouldn't eat at you house). Chicken without salt and spices tastes horribly.

Of course it has to be washed!!! Who cooks any piece of meat without washing it first?!?!!? But it does NOT have to be skinned and in fact tastes much better when cooked with the skin. If you want a piece without skin, take the skin off while eating it, not before cooking it. In my family, we often would fight over who gets (or how much of it) the skin (we called it "haut" until our teens when we finally figured out that haut means skin in German), and now my own kids often fight over who gets the larger parts of the chicken skin. Lately they've been "calling" the neck, and whoever calls it first gets it. It's too bad because I also really like the neck and never get it anymore :-)

Asparagus needs peeling.

Nonsense. Asparagus does NOT *NEED* peeling. Just get skinny asparagus and cut off an inch or so at the bottom where it's tough. Also the way we cook asparagus, roasting or broiling (instead of steaming or boiling) tens to produce a much more tender cooked product. Try it someday, it's really great.

So do potatoes and other vegetable.

Potatoes definitely need peeling, except for those small red potatoes that are so tasty.

Rice/Kasha needs washing and cooking. Those prewashed vegetables do not taste as good,

That's life when you are short on time. By the way, sometimes I'll buy a cabbage and cut it up for cole slaw instead of lettuce-based salad. Just grate in 2 of those small pre-peeled carrots and it's great. If you want to get fancy, get a small red cabbage and cut up some that as well. I can make an entire simple cole slaw in less than 5 minutes, dressing included.

and washing/checking yourself is very time consuming. If it's only two vegetables it's not a salad.

Also nonsense about 2 vegetables. Cole-slaw is 2 veggies. Cucumber salad can be 2 veggies (cucumber and onion) very easily. Sure for shabbat, a nicer salad (add mandarin oranges, ro terra chips, etc) is good, but not for a simple dinner during the week.

Besides one cannot eat the same chicken and asparagus every day. You need variety and variety takes time to achieve.

Goodness gracious, the asparagus was just an example I used because you or someone else mentioned it! We also roast or broil broccoli, cauliflower, mixed root veggies, or brussel sprouts, a favorite in our house (the kids fight over the last one almost every time!)

Mark

Avi said...

tesyaa - I don't entirely agree either. :) Definitely better to save money wherever possible and not ask others to subsidize your tuition. But when the structural costs are so high, simply admonishing people to be frugal on lunch options is just not enough. Your suggestions to lower other major costs - move to cheaper housing - are well taken. Sending to a cheaper school, moving, aliya and homeschooling are all proven ways to lower structural costs, though they often create other issues of their own.

Dave said...

It is no longer recommended that chicken be washed before cooking. The bacteria will be killed during cooking, and studies found that rather than making things safer, it was instead increasing the risk of cross-contamination in the kitchen.

Asparagus never needs to be peeled. If it is fresh and trimmed Asparagus from a farm, use it as is. Otherwise, take the root tip, and bend. It will snap at the point that you should trim it.

And why are you peeling potatoes? Wash them, sure, to get any dirt or grit off, but peel them? No need.

Finally, oil in marinades will not penetrate the meat. The molecules are too big. Salt on the other hand will end up transferring flavors in.

Miami Al said...

Roasted vegetables are the best. Clean carefully to make sure no infestation, throw on a cookie sheet, salt and pepper, and throw it in the oven, and instant side dish.

We wash our meats, but we are very careful regarding cross contamination. We prep vegetables in a different part of the kitchen than we prep either meat or dairy, mostly because that let's two cooks work and not stomp on each other.

Avi, your point about the MO vs RW is spot on, plus the suggestions of roasted vegetables is for MO Jews, RW Jews don't eat vegetables for "infestation" reasons. :)

mlevin, you simply have to embrace modern food preparation techniques! You cook like my mother-in-law does!!! :) just kidding, but way less peeling and prep work in our house. Let the flavor of the vegetables speak for itself, especially with top quality seasonings and fresh herbs!

Getting pizza takeout (admittedly from the high end place with quality pizza and toppings) will run $25-$30 for our family. Spending $30 on organic, locally grown (and FRESH) produce goes a lot further than one meal, and the fresh locally grown stuff tastes great and doesn't need as much prep work.

Anon 10:44: the kitchen science heavily recommends again the vingegar and acidic fruit juice based marinades, the damage to the texture of the meat requires adding more flavor (and sugars). I won't pretend that I've never marinated in orange juice or italian dressing in a pinch, but especially for a kosher home, where the chicken is all pre-brined, you'll do much better with dry rubs and herbal treatment than marinades, the rubs make the flavor of the chicken pop instead of hiding it.

Anonymous said...

Miami Al: Some of us live in the northeast where we can get locally grown veggies only a few months a year and where a 400,000 house gets you a kitchen that is 10 X 10 with limited counterspace so no separate prep areas -- or even separate sinks. to clean chicken or meat, I have to clear the sink and counter, wash the chicken and then clean the sink, cutting board, knife and counter before doing anything else.

Anonymous said...

Avi: I agree. I sometimes wonder if having the huge tuition number over your head (even if you are on partial scholarship) makes trying to economize in seem futile and makes other expenses ( a t20$ pizza here, $60 for a housecleaner there) seem inconsequential even though those things do add up. I think that one of the reasons I am frugal and a reasonably good saver is not because I am a better or much more disciplined person than anyone else, but because I am fortunate to have a decent income and some savings already. I might be just as irresponsible as others if I felt overwhelmed by debt or huge tuition bills. This speaks to the importance of getting young people off on a good financial start with education and the means to support themselves and some financial education at the outset.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:31pm - Some of us live in the northeast where we can get locally grown veggies only a few months a year and where a 400,000 house gets you a kitchen that is 10 X 10 with limited counterspace

That's because you choose to live in the northeast. And for some reason most of you insist on living in expensive places like Teaneck, Woodmere, and Monsey even though you might not really be able to afford it while sustaining a normal lifestyle at the same time. Your choice!

Mark

Anonymous said...

Anon: 6:31 -- Yes, I chose to live in the Northeast so I could help care for my parents and other elderly relatives. Shame on me.
By the way I'm not complaining. I was just responding to someone else's comments that seemed to assume everyone has a spacious kitchen with separate work stations and year round farmer's markets. I know people in FL who also have tiny kitchens and 1000 square foot homes or smaller. Isn't one of the themes of this blog to make do with and be happy with less?

I also learned on a few trips south that I am physically miserable in the hot, humid weather and could not take it year round as I literally cannot function and its gotten worse as I get older. Yes I get reminded of how much I hate the heat/humidity in the summers here too. I am one of the few people who want to retire to Alaska or Canada, but never FL unless I can afford a second home and go there just for Dec. - Feb.

Miami Al said...

Anon 6:31 -- life is filled with choices. How you make those choices will influence your life. I like my spacious home with a kitchen with three prep areas. I like living down here with year around farmers markets.

I also know that if I was in Teaneck, I'd be poor and living in a tiny place, because my income wouldn't support a nice living arrangement there. Oh well, life is full of choices.

BTW: contrary to popular Jewish belief, as US Citizens, you are entitled to live ANYWHERE in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and as a Jew, in Israel. You are not actually restricted to NYC + 50 miles as the crow flies, or Miami Beach.

There are way cheaper places to live than either place. I like it down here, but I also know that if I moved to Texas, I could own a couple of acres and live like I do, because I live in a relatively expensive area of the country, it's just cheap compared to the DC->Boston corridor.

I share what we do, others share what they do. For the cost of one takeout pizza, we get organic groceries to augment what we pick up from local farmers markets or supermarkets here.

I also consider leaving the office at 7:15 working extremely late, in NYC, that'd be a short day in my field.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:44, everyone has their reasons or excuses to live where they do, and it's your choice. And like I said earlier, it's amazing how all your relatives, including the elderly ones that need care, also choose to live in your area.

I hate the heat and humidity, and suffer mightily with it, but I hate living to work rather than working to live ever more. Sure I would prefer to live in San Diego, but I just can't afford to live there, so I don't. Plus luckily, my family from the NY area has slowly been migrating down here as well. Only one sibling left in NYC and parents split their time between here and NYC.

When I started out down here, we had a crappy 10x10 kitchen with leaks all over, a treif dishwasher that we (obviously) never used, a broken fridge, and nasty ancient fluorescent lights that flickered all the time. We lived with it for many years while saving money for a renovation. Then I spent 9 months doing the plans (ALL the plans and engineering drawings, etc were done by me) for the renovation. Then got a contractor, sent my family to my in-laws for a few months, ripped up half the house and had the renovation done. Now b"h, we have a very nice kitchen that is usually used at least twice a day.

Mark

mlevin said...

Well, we originally lived in NY because of jobs. There is not place with such a wide selection of jobs as is in NY. We didn't move to NJ because their taxes are higher and you automatically need two cars and it costs more to commute and childcare is harder to find. The best decision we ever made. Now, that my daughter is married and lives five minutes away we wouldn't move. My other daughter loves NY so much that she doesn't want to move anywhere. Guess we are stuck.

Abacaxi Mamao said...

I live in New York City and can testify to the existence of farmer's markets from around May through November. That's seven months of fresh fruits and vegetables--more than half the year. There are also year-round farmer's markets that are open except when it snows (root vegetables, squash, apples, pears, greenhouse herbs and lettuce, and more in the winter--some of those things are obviously better and fresher in the fall when they are harvested), and the fruit and fruit&vegetable stand near my workplace that does the same. (The vegetable stand is not necessarily local and definitely not organic, but it is cheap!)

And, having grown up in a very modest home in the Boston area (Modern Orthodox, four kids, dad was a research physicist and mom was a homemaker and then preschool teacher once the youngest was in first grade), a lot of this
sounds crazy to me. We went to day school, but municipal day camps in the summer (which I hated because all
I wanted to do was read and create art!), where we knew from a very young age (4?) to only eat the food we brought from home, and from a later age (6? 7?) that it was okay to check packaged food for hashgachot and eat it if we were offered. We grew up eating things like tuna casserole, cottage cheese kugel, pasta with cottage cheese or other cheese, sometimes salmon or cod (ONE of those things) with some veggies from the fridge if we wanted (carrots, peppers, cucumbers) for weekday dinners and fresh fruit around. Everyone had sandwiches for lunch and carrots, graham crackers, rice cakes & pb, home-popped popcorn for snacks. On Shabbat, we had soup, chicken or turkey (sometimes in pie form, sometimes cooked over a bed of rice and mushrooms), rice or kugel or potatoes or kasha varnishkas, simple steamed veggies for dinner. (Asparagus or artichokes were a special springtime treat!) Chicken or cholent and some kind of starch and veggie for Shabbat. Sometimes we even had milchig Shabbat lunches, like lasagne or spinach quiche or salmon croquettes. Yum!

It wasn't until I moved to New York after college that I found out about serving more than one kugel, meat, or salad at one Shabbat meal. I still make very simple Shabbat meals, sometimes dairy or parve, because that's what I can afford and have time for. I really love salads, so a recent Shabbat lunch included a green salad (baby spinach, red pepper, tomatoes, mushrooms), a lentil salad (lentils, fresh parsley, green onions, oil, cumin, and coriander seed), tabouli, delicious fresh bread from a kosher bakery, egg salad, lox, and cream cheese, with chocolate and strawberries for dessert.

It's not "frum," but why not? It's definitely special (who has time for that kind of prep normally?!) and delicious. I won't say that people haven't looked askance, but those people usually don't get invited back. :)

Thus week, I have lentil salad, tabouli, green salad and more for my weekday lunches and dinners. I also keep whole wheat wraps, baby spinach, and
sliced smoked turkey in the fridge for a quick and healthy dinner. (I put the all together in a wrap.)

Miami Al said...

My 3 year old points out restaurants in the mall as "Lo Kosher," and he explains to me each time that those are for other people, not us. It's a bit tedious to have it pointed out 20 times in a day, but he gets it, it's not that hard.

I just don't understand this fear that our children will be exposed to non-kosher food and can't be taught to not eat it.

Abacaxi Mamao, my kids grow up with a similar diet as you, lots of delicious and healthy foods. We don't do Dairy for Shabbat, but we have done paerve meals of fish and salads... delicious.

You want to do "old world" meals for Chagim, go nuts, but the idea that there is this "frum" diet where we take special once/year foods from the old world and make it every day is crazy.

Organic for foods are mostly marketing, but the organic company that we get food from is a local organic coop, and locally grown produce is fresher and tastier.

But, there ARE winter vegetables... hence the term, winter squash (winter squash is planted in the spring, harvested in the fall, and stores for the winter).

There is year round food, otherwise people wouldn't have made it in the human-hostile northeast United States in the pre-train era... like that whole Colonial period.

Anonymous said...

I like to add the Morningstar soy stuff to some pretty easy dinners. One of my kids favorites are "Bacon" egg and cheese wraps. But you have to watch out. My grandmother was making scrambeled eggs for my kids one time when my daughter asks her "Where's the bacon?" Grandma almost had heart failure.

Abacaxi Mamao said...

Miami Al--Glad to hear that others don't think I'm weird! In Manhattan, my eating habits are definitely an anomaly among the Orthodox. It's a bit of a social issue--I am hesitant to invite people to Shabbat meals who will expect two kinds of chicken, three kinds of kugel, and the broccoli-with-mayonnaise-and-red-cabbage salad that is so popular here. I am less of an anomaly among less-frum Jews, who are more into the healthy, reduced-meat-consumption, locavore diet popularized by Michael Pollan and others. Shabbat meals, in my experience, are a much more low-key, relaxed, inexpensive affair outside of NYC region (and maybe other large Orthodox communities, like Baltimore?) and anywhere in Israel that hasn't been too influenced by the Teaneck crowd.

Also note that I grew up only eating red meat on chagim, and when I went to visit my "meat and potatoes" grandparents, who warned us against eating too many vegetables, lest we not have room for the meat!

The Morningstar stuff is great, except that I can't digest soy.

Miami Al said...

Abacaxi Mamao,

Are we unusual? I guess so, when we moved down here, the other young families all served NYC Shabbat meals. Overtime, I've watched an increase in salads and vegetables, and a decline in roasts and kugels.

Part might be the temperature, when you've walked to someone's house in 94 degree weather, you're not angling for cholent quite the same way...

That, combined with declining incomes and increased costs of meat has definitely caused a shift in diets that I've noticed.

OTOH, here vs. Manhattan, vegetables are MUCH cheaper, Kosher meat is more expensive, incomes are lower, and housing costs are a smaller portion of one's budget. In Manhattan, the grocery tab is likely incidental, here it can be a substantial portion of your budget if you are eating a lot of meat.

We definitely eat less meat than most of our contemporaries, but it's been a while since we've had a "brown Shabbat meal," most of them have some greenery, and not just a salad soaked in dressing.

LeahGG said...

Interesting - we're low-effort here. We have tiny kids and I have fibromyalgia, so we go simple. Shabbat dinner is usually salad (we buy pre-washed mix and add tomatoes and cukes), hummus, olives, challah, chicken, rice, sometimes a steamed veggie, and fresh fruit for dessert.

Lunch is salad, challah, pickles, deli meat, fresh fruit for dessert.

In winter, if it's cold, I make chicken or pea soup. If we have guests, I make a stir-fry and/or a kugel.

It's kind of nice not to be tied to the kitchen all day. I usually start cooking 2 hours before shabbat and have time to bathe the kids and shower between then and candle lighting.

Anonymous said...

I was just wondering, would Visa take an IOU made out via "Moshiach"???

mother in israel said...

Abacaxi, my mother a"h could not believe it when I told her that an Orthodox friend's family served two types of meat at Shabbat lunch. I grew up out of town.
In my experience when more dishes are cooked/served, more gets thrown out.

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