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Tips for Celebrating Passover on a Budget

How to make Passover beautiful and affordable.

Passover, the annual celebration of the Exodus from Egypt, is one of Judaism’s most beloved holidays — but it can also be one of the most expensive. Passover requires a menu that avoids all hametz (leavened products) and often necessitates the purchase of many new foods that are certified kosher and free of hametz. Jews also attend one or two seders — elaborate festive meals with multiple courses. Complying with Passover rules of kashrut alone can present a financial burden, as many Jews find themselves in need of purchasing one or two extra sets of dishes or cooking utensils, or otherwise using expensive disposables. And food that has been supervised to meet the kashrut standards of the holidays comes with additional expense. Combine all this with the desire to create an extra festive occasion and Passover costs can add up quickly.

Passover celebrates freedom. So we’re here to help unburden you from financial strain. Here are tips for celebrating Passover in a way that is joyous and meaningful without breaking the bank.

Let someone else host the seder

This isn’t an option for everyone, but consider if it is right for you. Making a Passover seder can be an expensive undertaking. If you have hosted many in the past, try asking someone else to do it. If you know a friend or family member who is already hosting and are comfortable doing so, ask for an invitation and offer to help by bringing a dish or two. Many congregations also host seders that can be attended, sometimes for a small fee. 

If hosting a seder is meaningful to you or you must do it because there are no other options, then consider hosting only one seder and not both, or just forget this particular tip and turn to the rest of our list. And invite your guests to contribute a bottle of wine.

Instead of buying new dishes, make your regular dishes kosher for Passover

Many Jews keep kosher for Passover by owning a separate set of dishes for the holiday (or two extra— one for meat and one for dairy). Others use disposable dishes. Purchasing either can be expensive and, in the case of new dishes, then requires year-round storage. So consider what dishes you already own that can be made kosher for the holiday — adding zero dollars to your bottom line.

Plan the same menu for both seders

If you live in the Diaspora and celebrate Passover with two seders, you can cut down expenses (and effort) by planning the same menu for both and cooking large quantities. One huge pot of matzah ball soup is not much more expensive than a pot half its size.

Plan a menu around affordable ingredients

Many favorite Jewish foods — from potato kugel to borscht — were peasant foods, and therefore less expensive. (Both can be made for Passover.) There is no requirement to center your seder around an expensive cut of meat or exotic fruits. Lean into delicious recipes that make use of the affordable ingredients enjoyed by Jews for hundreds of years: potatoes, eggs, cabbage, carrots, chicken, beans and rice (if you eat kitniyot). And there’s no rule against having a vegetarian seder!

See what foods you already have

Check your pantry and see what you can use for Passover. Many ingredients — like unprocessed nuts, tea, coffee — do not require a special kosher for Passover certification. Avoid buying the specially certified versions of these things because they will be more expensive.

Keep your menu limited

Many are tempted to plan a large panoply of seder dishes. But truthfully, by the time the meal arrives late at night, most people do not want a twelve courses. Choose a few balanced dishes — such as a soup, a protein, a starch and a vegetable — and give yourself permission to keep it simple. This will make the meal much more affordable.

Cook what you know

Nothing is worse than buying lots of ingredients for an exotic recipe only to have the recipe come out so-so. Choose foods that you know you love and know how to cook so you don’t end up throwing out disappointing dishes.

Choose recipes with fewer ingredients

Buying lots of ingredients can quickly increase the cost of your food, so choose things that have shorter ingredient lists. If you are someone who replaces every ingredient in your pantry for Passover, this will be an especially helpful tip. You can also consider switching to fresher forms of certain ingredients. For instance, if you normally cook with a lot of garlic powder, but don’t want to buy an expensive new bottle for Passover, just purchase a few heads of garlic for the holiday.

Skip most of the premade foods

If these are a lifesaver for you, then ignore this tip. But premade Passover foods can add greatly to the cost of your meal. Similar items can often be prepared at home for much cheaper. For instance, for dessert, rather than buy expensive cakes and platters of fruit,  you can please a crowd with some cut up melon and homemade chocolate matzah

Buy matzah in bulk, and buy most of it after seder

One box of matzah is not terribly cost effective. A set of five can be much more affordable. But the stores are practically giving it away after seders are over so consider buying just what you need to get through seder and then buy the rest after the seders are done. Also, consider making your own matzah! (This applies to other Passover specialty items, like gefilte fish and macaroons.) But do be prepared for certain items to go out of stock. If there’s something you absolutely cannot live without, probably best to purchase it before the holiday.

You don’t need fancy Judaica

If you have lovely Passover dishes, a beautiful seder plate and other decorative items, of course enjoy them. But if you are just starting out and don’t have these ritual items, don’t worry! You don’t need a dedicated seder plate — you can just put the ritual foods on a dinner plate or serving platter. You also don’t need a special matzah cover — you can just use a napkin. And any wine goblet will work for Elijah’s cup. Use what you have and collect Judaica when you want to and can afford to.

Choose where to splurge

Passover is supposed to feel joyous and allow us to luxuriate in freedom. So while you employ many of these tips to keep your seder affordable, consider where you might want to spend just a little more to make it special. Do those trays of candied fruit slices remind you of childhood? Is it not seder without your favorite brisket? Consider where you might want to treat yourself and your family — and make it really count.

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