The following is a guest post from Mara, author of Kosher on a Budget.
As Orthodox Jews, my family keeps kosher, an expression of our deeply held commitment to Jewish law.
But aside from the spirituality of this religious practice, keeping kosher also has an impact on us financially. For example, our meat (beef, chicken and lamb only – no pork) costs roughly 300% more than non-kosher cuts. In addition, we can only buy dairy and packaged goods that carry kosher certification.
We have found, though, that while keeping kosher may cost a bit more, there are still plenty of ways to do it on a budget!
1. Menu Plan
Menu planning is a wonderful money-saving strategy for anyone, and all the more so for those of us that keep kosher. Running out for kosher pizza when you’re stuck for dinner ideas means spending $20 or more on a pie, and – if your family eats anything like mine does – your brood is still asking for more!
To simply my life and maximize our savings, I make a rough kosher monthly meal plan based on different themes for each day of the week: Monday is pasta, Tuesday is Mexican, etc. That way I have the flexibility to incorporate sale items, but still know what I need to prep in the kitchen come 5 o’clock.
2. Build Margin Into Your Budget
It’s true: Those of us that keep kosher can’t do much about the (higher) cost of meat or dairy. Ground beef, for example, is $4.99 a pound or more – and rarely, if ever, goes on sale.
Rather than getting frustrated, though, I’ve found it helpful to focus on the cost of items that we CAN control.
When I first started couponing, I spent six months just stocking up on toiletries, personal care items and household cleaners. I cut our spending in that category from over $100 a month down to less than $10. That $90 savings gave me a lot more breathing room in the rest of my budget.
Now that I have the hang of couponing, I am able to apply these strategies to many of the items in my grocery cart – from cereal and pasta to milk and yogurt. Kosher-keepers may not be able to take advantage of every deal, but there are plenty of kosher coupons – and more than enough sales to build sizeable margin into our budgets.
3. Eat Vegetarian During the Week
I know this tip may not help every kosher-keeper, but our family is able to save a small fortune by eating meat only on Shabbat – Friday night dinner and/or Saturday lunch.
You can save even more by making your own tomato sauce, beans (I like cooking dried beans in the crock pot and freezing them in 2-cup bags), and baked goods. But don’t worry, if DIY isn’t your cooking style, you can still save plenty by stocking up on the staples for quick and frugal vegetarian recipes.
4. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
When I first started reading frugal blogs, I will admit to being extremely discouraged. There were bloggers spending less in a month than I was spending in a week!
But we kept at it – planning our menus, eating vegetarian meals, and building margin into our budget — until we were able to reduce our grocery and household spending from $1,500 per month to just under $500 for our family of five.
Even though $500 may still be twice what others are spending, the number makes sense for our family’s income, expenses and savings goals. And ultimately, that is what is most important. (That, and being able to splurge on the occasional brisket!)
Do you keep kosher? Or find that other dietary restrictions make grocery budgeting more challenging? What strategies have you used to keep your spending under control?
Mara Strom blogs at Kosher on a Budget about how to live fruitfully… without multiplying your budget. When she’s not clipping coupons or baking challah, Mara enjoys playing in the backyard with her husband, three kids, and newly adopted dog.