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Yom Tov on a budget

  • Budget
In these tough economic times, lavish Yom Tov and breaking-of-the-fast meals are often a thing of the past. But just because your budget is tight doesn’t mean you can’t have a special dinner that leaves everyone feeling celebratory and satisfied.
by TALI FEINBERG | Sep 26, 2019

Adrienne Bogatie of Kashering Your Life advises people how to create workable housekeeping and grocery budgets, how to use coupon apps in South Africa to reduce food bills, plan meals, and eat healthier.

She advises that on Rosh Hashanah, “Menu planning is one of the best ways to keep costs down for any meal. I have a checklist that I use to plan, and then I plan in detail. How many guests am I having? I have learnt to put a limit on this number. I used to have about 30 people per meal, but now I have my immediate family which is nine people, and then I have other family and friends and people who have nowhere to go. I limit it to 20 people.”

She has also stopped making a huge amount of food for each course. She used to make two soups and accompaniments, the fish course with three fish and two salads, the main course of meat and chicken, three to four vegetable dishes including starch and another salad, and two desserts. Now, she makes one soup and one accompaniment, a fish course with one fish dish and one salad, and then either meat or chicken (not both), two vegetable dishes, one starch dish, and one dessert.

“If I have a guest with a specific dietary requirement, I try to make the meal so that the guest can eat the majority of the food so as not to have to make an entirely separate meal for just one person,” she says.

“For the lunches, I make light meals, often using leftovers if there are any from dinner. On the second night, I make food that I can use for lunch the next day specifically, so I would make a roast that can be sliced into cold meat or enough chicken that it can be used for a chicken salad the next day. I usually make salads that can either be topped up, or will last for all four meals.”

If you have a friend who is struggling financially, you can take your leftovers nicely plated to add to her table for lunch.

Meal planning is crucial to working within a budget. “For instance, I work on one to two pieces of chicken per person, or 250 grams of meat per person. I serve more vegetables. Cool drink is 500ml per person, and I have water and iced tea on the table. I serve the cool drinks only at night, and iced tea during the day. Making iced tea is much less expensive. It works out to be about R5 to R7 per two litres as opposed to R16 to R20 for a cola,” says Bogatie.

When asking for advice on this topic on the Facebook group Joburg Jewish Mommies, many advised asking guests to bring part of the meal. “It’s essential, and it has taken me years to learn to accept. If each guest brings one dish, it’s a huge help and saving. If you’re a guest, insist that you bring a salad, fruit, cake – anything rather than a gift,” said one woman.

“All guests that can must contribute. In our extended family, one hosts and one does starters, two do mains, others do desserts. You can have a banquet, and it costs a family of five not more than R500 if done this way,” advised another woman.

However, if you are kosher, having your guests make a contribution can be a problem “but visitors who can do so should be asked to contribute a dish to your meal. Those who can’t bring homemade food can be asked to bring a bought item, usually drinks,” advises Bogatie.

“Also with simanim [pomegranates – a symbol of the New Year] use them in a dish, there’s no need for everyone at the table to get their own pomegranate, they are about R60 each. I usually put the seeds into a garden salad,” says Bogatie.

“A Yom Tov meal for ten people with three full courses, drinks, challah, and simanim costs about R2 000 to R3 000 a night. If you do big lunches, it can work out about the same. I use coupon apps and loyalty points to reduce costs. I look for things on special, and if need be, buy in advance, cook, and freeze,” she says.

Also on Joburg Jewish Mommies, women advise that you write a menu and shopping list – and stick to it. “You will find with the correct planning, you will save time, money, and petrol, and even find some extra for a Yom Tov gift for yourself.”

Others said to stick to what’s affordable. Keep the menu simple. There is no need for a gift for the hostess. “Our Rosh Hashanah meal is similar to a Shabbat meal, but with the added simanim,” said a Facebook user.

Ultimately, the meaning of the Yom Tov meal mustn’t be forgotten. Rabbi Nissen Goldman of Chabad on Campus works with students who are often on a budget. “The main thing is, who is Yom Tov for? For the Joneses [or the Cohens] or for Hashem? The main mitzvah is shofar, and yes a Yom Tov meal is also a mitzvah. If you have the budget for lavish, then that’s what’s expected of you, but a meal that you have put love into, which includes your loved ones and definitely those who wouldn’t otherwise have a meal is certainly more fitting for the day of judgement,” he says.

“After all, our sages teach that Hashem judges us with the metric we use to judge and treat our fellow person. That’s the best recipe for inscribing your name in the Book of Life! I would suggest that sometimes the nourishment we most need at mealtimes is not necessarily the belly food that is shared, but the food for thought we receive, the opportunity to connect to the people around the table in meaningful ways, and walk away with a new perspective on life with their help,” he says.

“Put effort into preparing appropriate food for thought to share at your Yom Tov table besides the delectable dishes. That can really change your guests’ lives.”

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