Preparing for the Holidays in a Highly Inflationary Environment
As moms, wives, grandmothers, and heads of households, we have a lot on our plates when preparing for Rosh Hashanah and the upcoming holidays. Rosh Hashanah generally follows the time we are struggling to get our children back to school successfully and safely. And let’s not forget the other hagim that arrive right after Yom Kippur: Sukkot, Shmini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah.
We are tasked with weaning our children and ourselves out of vacation mode and back into the school routines and responsibilities that accompany the back to school process. An additional layer of planning is required for Covid. We must consider if we are to mask or not to mask, and to comply with the requirements and consequences for Covid testing before sending our kids back to school. We must make contingency plans for childcare if our children test positive for Covid.
This year, another challenging factor will throw a monkey wrench into our fall planning. That wrench is the rising rate of inflation. Inflation is the rate of increase in prices over a given time period, which directly impacts our cost of living
The current rate of inflation is around 9.1 percent, compared to 5.4 percent last July – an increase of 69 percent. It’s the highest it’s been in over 40 years!
Everything will cost more: new clothes for school and the holidays, school supplies, gas for carpool, food for school lunches, meals for home and entertainment for the holidays, and more. I’m sure you are already feeling the pinch at the gas station, the supermarket, and when purchasing almost anything.
Consumer brands such as Coca Cola, Dove, and Huggies continue to raise prices as their costs for everything from wood pulp to salaries increase.
The good news is there are ways we can control our rising expenses and still enjoy our hagim.
Since one of the hardest hit product groups is food, consider changing your approach to food shopping.
Take inventory of your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer before shopping. Or as many experts say, shop your pantry first. You may have items that you have forgotten about or even meals that you cooked and frozen. Clean your refrigerator and freezer and organize your pantry. This step will also encourage you to cook with food already in your pantry and refrigerator/freezer, saving you time and money. Please don’t forget to label and store meals and staples where you can easily see and access them.
Always shop with a grocery list. “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” (Benjamin Franklin). Sitting down and putting a list in your phone or writing out a list saves you money and time A list facilitates meal planning and can even help you lose weight. If I forget my phone, which has my shopping list, I am at a total loss and walk down each aisle of the supermarket to recreate the list of what I need.
Buying store brands rather than name brands, buying in bulk, and choosing reusable vs. disposable items are also great ways to save money on groceries.
Remember, our goal is to minimize food waste and watch our budget.
Avoid Impulse Buying
Yes, I admit it. Impulse buying can be fun. But it is also expensive. According to a Slickdeals survey, the average person spends $314 per month on impulse purchases, up from $276 in 2021, a 14 percent increase. Seven in ten people have become more aware of their budgets due to the “huge impact of inflation” but consumers are reporting an increase in the frequency of their impulse shopping.
Stock Up With Basics
If your kitchen is stocked with certain basics cooking is easier and you can manage your budget better. Experts say a well-stocked kitchen will allow you to buy fewer new food items each week. Leanne Brown, author of Good Enough, a self-care cookbook, recommends the following most useful foods to have on hand: eggs, pasta, rice, bread, canned tomatoes, frozen vegetables and fruit, onions, and potatoes.
Use foods that are already in your pantry, like you do before Pesach when trying to finish your chametz. Cooking from the pantry and having a well- stocked pantry and refrigerator have become popular tools to keep within your budget and to prepare easy and healthy meals. There are even pantry chefs!
Check out the following link for a pantry essentials checklist from the food network: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/packages/cooking-from-the-pantry/pantry-essentials-checklist.
Look for budget-friendly recipes. We have many talented chefs and food bloggers (Jacqueline Elbaz, Kay Robyn Ashkenazi, and Aliza Salem), in our own backyard who I have profiled in Community’s Woman to Woman column. Check out their Instagram feeds for easy, healthy, and delicious recipes.
Less Is More
My husband tells me I overdo it when I entertain by offering too many options. Is it more important to be relaxed when your family and guests come over or be exhausted and frazzled because you are sleep-deprived and cooked an extravagant array of food choices? And you may have exceeded your budget, to boot.
Keep It Simple!
When you simplify, life can be easier and lead to more joy and rewards. Stay focused on what is meaningful about the hagim. Do you really need to plan seven course gourmet meals? Get grounded on what the holidays mean to you. What do you value most about them? I have a feeling you will say “family” and connecting with family and friends.
Worrying less about meals and watching your budget will also allow you to concentrate on your tefillot and your hopes for the New Year. This way you can also connect with Hashem and enjoy the spirituality of Rosh Hashanah.
Ask for What You Need
Asking for what you need can be healthy and empowering.
Be honest when a friend or family member asks you what you would like them to bring to a meal or how they can help. I have learned to accept offers from my friends to bring salad, fruit, dessert, or wine to a holiday lunch or dinner.
Try a Potluck
Potlucks have become popular again. A potluck is when each invited guest to a dinner or party brings a dish for everyone to share. Many guests offer one of their favorite creations and get to showcase their skills. The concept originated in the Great Depression of the 1930s and meant “the luck of the pot, or food for an unexpected or uninvited guest.”
Think about it. You have just spent hours in shul. Wouldn’t it be a relief to know loved ones are pitching in for a seudah? The participants in a potluck also feel engaged and proud when others compliment and enjoy the food they cooked. Sukkot is the perfect time to experiment with a potluck!
Potlucks are about creating a community through food. This model aligns beautifully with the values of our community, which was so aptly explained to me by Rochelle Dweck when she described Simply Traditional. Its mission is to capture recipes and a sense of suffeh of our community’s matriarchs and to bring together generations of families through food.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or write a letter to the editor, letters@CommunityM.com to share your ideas about managing the hagim during times of high inflation.
Shana Tova and Hag Sameach!