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A 30% Off Shabbos: The Great Family First Challenge

Rachel Bachrach

The challenge: Make two beautiful Shabbos seudos while trimming a full 30% off the regular budget. Should they cut on kneidlach or compote? Rethink the soda or the salmon? Calculators in hand, three intrepid balabustas braved the great Family First Thrifty Challenge.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

SHABBOS saving gameIt was the moment of truth.

Esty Mandel, her husband, and four of their children sat around their Shabbos table in Monsey, New York. For the first time in — well, she couldn’t even remember how long — Esty had varied her menu. That Friday night, instead of offering her family breaded chicken cutlets, Esty handed them plates with strips of breaded chicken artfully arranged on skewers. Not only did the family not notice the smaller portion size, they thought their mother was being fancy.

All week, Esty had been busy figuring out where and how to trim and revise what she calls her basic chassidish menu: salmon and gefilte fish, dips, chicken soup with kneidlach and lokshen, chicken, farfel, potato kugel, lokshen kugel, and compote for dessert on Friday night; fish, eggs and onions, cholent, kishke, and ice cream for lunch Shabbos day. The total usually comes out to about $160 a week. So why was this Shabbos different?

For a while, Esty had been dissatisfied with her Shabbos fare. She felt she was spending too much on groceries and was always throwing out leftovers. So when Family First asked her to participate in a cook-off, Esty jumped at the chance. The challenge: to spend 30 percent less than her usual budget on two Shabbos meals for six eaters. The day of reckoning: Shabbos Parshas Vayeishev, December 16-17, 2011.

“I cook way, way more than my family eats. This week, I put into the cholent a $19 piece of meat that my husband had one bite of!” Esty told several friends when one of them mentioned the project.

A few days later, she was explaining the problem to me. “I just make unlimited food, and they’ll have one piece, and the rest goes in the garbage,” she said. “This type of project will be good for me. I’ve wanted to do it for a while, and now, I’ll be forced to sit down and see what I’m doing wrong, where I’m spending wrong.”


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