10 Low-Budget Ways to Celebrate the Jewish High Holidays
Rosh Hashanah, the two-day Jewish New Year, begins Sept. 13 at sundown, marking a marathon of celebratory meals that ends after Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. With synagogue visits that often require paid tickets and cooking up a storm, the high holidays can add up to a surprising outlay of cash. These tips will keep families on budget while still allowing for plentiful meals and meaningful moments.
Allow ample time for menu planning in order to keep an eye out for sales on nonperishable items, especially those that may be harder to find on sale during the final run-up to the holidays. Freezing ingredients is another smart way to stock up and avoid the last-minute rush. When planning, keep every meal in mind, including lunches.
Rosh Hashanah is typically known for feasting on heavy dishes such as brisket and other meats. Multiple cuts from the butcher can get pricey, so hack away at costs by planning a light meal for the second night. Guests can still enjoy a feast of soup, salads, and side dishes such as tzimmes, a sweet and savory vegetable stew composed of root vegetables and dried fruit.
Large centerpieces of fresh flowers aren't the only option for a beautiful holiday table. My Jewish Learning recommends thrifty ideas such as borrowing silver or china from a friend or family member, shopping tag sales, and decorating the table with edibles such as bowls of figs, grapes, and apples.
The first response when a guest offers to bring something usually is, "No, thanks, we're fine." This time, say yes. A contributed side dish or dessert can save both time and money for the host, and flower gifts can save money on centerpieces. David's Cookies carries delicious host gifts for the high holidays, and the site usually has some kind of sale or discount available. A potluck arranged with family and friends is another way to save on menu costs. Assign every attendee a different component of the meal.
The cost of taking on all the hosting and meal prep can be significant. Maybe aunts and uncles or cousins can host one of the nights to split up the burden. Also, accept any invitations that come in; perhaps they can lead to alternate arrangements -- at your place one night and at your guests' for the other night.
Many congregations serve holiday meals that are open to the community. These may be free for members or cost a small fee. Most Jewish community centers also set out a meal to join, and local Chabad chapters make it a point to offer meals at which all are welcome. Check to see what's available in your area.