Monday, March 31, 2014

Saving money, a bit at a time...

So I just spent a ridiculous sum of money, since we are about halfway through our kitchen overhaul.

I figured it would be prudent to find a way to save a few shekels this week. That won't really make a dent in the thousands I have to pay, but it makes me feel better (a tiny bit) to say I saved money.

So here is what I did:

Found a place that had lots of produce priced between 90 agurot/kg and 1.90shekels/kg, and what we bought there (plus toilet paper at 63 agurot per roll and milk at 5 shekels/L) is the bulk of this week's grocery shopping, except that we do plan to start the Pesach shopping this week!

Found a place to buy goats' milk - organic even - for less than I've been paying, so I know where to get it from now on!

Found a place to buy specialty goats' milk cheeses for many, many shekels less than I've been seeing, so I'll be able to get some before Pesach!

Gave away a bunch of clothes to make us feel less crowded in our house.

Sold a bunch of nearly perfect condition clothes (for very little, but that's the way it is with second hand clothing).

Washed and set aside a few other things I'd like to sell.

Doesn't seem like much, but some days I just need to feel like "every drop counts"!

Did you save any money this week?

Deals at Home Center

I'll be near Home Center tomorrow, so I decided to check out their sales and see if they have anything on my list.

I discovered they have a  selection of small appliances on sale right now for 2/100 shekels. This sale includes:  a hand mixer, a sandwich maker, a toaster, a citrus juicer, and a kettle. 

They also have a selection that are on sale for 2/200 shekels, including: 6.5 liter slow cooker, an immersion blender (with attachments), a stainless steel kettle, a mixer with a stand (not exactly a kitchenaid, don't get your hopes up), and an iron.

They also have a selection on sale 2/300 and 2/400. You can check out  all their sales in their circular 

And they have steam mops starting at 300 shekels! I dream of having floors clean enough to justify having a steam mop!

Do you have any plans to buy new appliances this Pesach season?


Pesach recipe round-up

So far, I have not cooked anything for Pesach.

I have not experimented at all to make up any new recipes for pesach, though I DO plan to. Just right now we are really eating chametz, chametz, and more chametz! (yes, we have too much flour in the freezer, didn't I mention that earlier?)

But I am sure some of you are more organized, and are busy prepping your menus, writing your shopping lists, trying to calculate just how much potato starch to buy this year, or trays of eggs...

So here are some of my favorite Pesach recipes!

Mandel Bread

Pesach Rolls

Carrot Muffins

Cashew Butter


Banana Cake

Potato Kugel

(Oops, they are mostly dessert. Um, well, what can I say?)

There will be more coming. Just give me at least another week.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

How I'm getting ready for Pesach

Pesach is coming! I know, you don't need me to remind you, but I thought I'd share with you what I've done to get ready for Pesach.

1. I have made myself a semi-promise not to buy any more chametz products until after the chag. Of course, this is not a full-promise, because you never know when I will be craving some really junky chametz food and I might give in and buy it. This does happen sometimes when I'm sleep deprived...

2. I am trying to use up the Chametz in the house. I have realized, however, that there is NO way I will use up all the flour I have on  hand.
I guess it's either going to have to be sold to a non-Jew or given away...

3. I am reorganizing my kitchen (just had a ton of cabinets and shelving added to it) so there will be room for the Pesach stuff to stay there year round.

4. I'm dreaming of buying new counters, sinks, oven, and cooktop. Don't know if it will happen. I'm going to try.

5. I keep doing "research" - trying to come up with some more Pesach recipes that will keep my family happy! Especially the one who is not eating eggs. And the vegetarian. And the one not eating dairy who's allergic to almonds. Sounds like fun, right?

6. I am going shopping for new shoes. I have not bought new shoes in a VERY long time!

What are you up to these days?

Thursday, March 27, 2014


**GOOD NEWS!** This sale has been extended an extra 24 hrs! It will end on Friday, at 11:00 EDT (6pm in Israel)

To My Fellow Book Lovers,

There's another great sale going on at Better World Books!

Get 20% off 5 or more used books (from the bargain bin)!

That's a pretty awesome deal.

And of course, always free worldwide shipping!

Sale ends TODAY (Thursday March 27) at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time (5 pm in Israel), so hurry and get those orders in!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Free Attractions For Pesach 2014

Bank Hapoalim does this wonderful service for the country:  They sponsor free days at attractions

--- Retrieved from ---
all around the country for Chol Hamoed.

Here's the info for this year: Full days free are April 16 and 17, and April 18 and 20 are most likely shorter days, and you will need to check with the attractions regarding their individual hours of operation.

Here's the list of free attractions for this year. I have linked to websites in English, whenever possible. I hope you find this list helpful, and that you get to have some super-frugal fun over Pesach!

Please leave a comment with your favorite place to visit (from this list)!

If you haven't already, please like my Facebook page so you don't miss out!

The Ghetto Fighters' House Museum 04-9958052  
The Galilee Sculpture Festival in Maalot 04-9578871 
The Deer Forest  0508723920  
The Golan Antiquities Museum  04-6961350  
Park Qatzrin 04-6962412
The Umm el-Fahem Art Gallery  04-6315257  
The Wilfrid Museum of Israeli Art  04-9899566  
The Robotic Dairy 054-4962656  
The Museum of Art at Ein Harod    04-6485701

Haifa and the Northern Valleys:
The Museum of the First Aliyah (in Zichron Yaakov) 04-6294777  
The Janco-Dada Museum (Ein Hod) 04-9842350
The Haifa Zoo - 04-8372886 (open 10am - 3pm)
The Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art 04-8383554 
The Haifa Museum of Art 04-9115997  
The National Maritime Museum in Haifa 04-8536622 
The Haifa City Museum 04-9115888  
The Mane Katz Museum 04-9119372  
The Herman Struk Museum 04-6359962
The Treasures in The Walls Museum (of Acco) 04-9911004  
Gan-Garoo 04-6488060

Central Israel:
Tel Aviv Museum of Art 03-6077000 
Beit Hatfutsot 03-7457808
The Igudan Visitors Center 03-9555222
The Khan Museum of Hadera 04-6324562
The Nachum Gutman Museum of Art 03-5161970  
The Museum of Israeli Art in Ramat Gan 03-7521876
The Communications Museum at IDC Herzliya 09-9522795  
The Herzilya Museum of Contemporary Art 09-9551011  
The Rishon L'Tzion Museum 03-9598862  
The Design Museum - Holon 073-2151500
The Mikve Israel Visitors Center 03-5030489
The Rabin Center Israeli Museum *4585  
The Minkov Orchard 08-9469197
The Rubin Museum 03-5255961  
The Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center 03-5339278

Yad LaShiryon at Latrun 08-9784302  
The Bible Lands Museum 02-5611066 
Hasmonean Aqueduct Tour *6033  
The Temple Mount Sifting Project *6033  
The Jerusalem Botanical Gardens 02-6794012  
The Old Yishuv Court Museum 02-6281266  
The Menachem Begin Heritage Center 02-5652018  
The Ariel Center -Historic Jerusalem (First Temple Period) 02-6286288

The Ashdod Art Museum Monart Center 08-8545180
The Museum of Water and Security at Kibbutz Nir Am 050-9672874
The Joe Alon Center for Bedouin Culture  08-9913322
The Air Force Museum at Kibbutz Chatzerim 08-9906853
The Negev Museum of Art  08-6993535  
Chai Negev - Ecological Village 08-6562688
The Eilat My City Museum 08-6340754

Have a great time! 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Shabbat menu


It's time again! The weeks keep flying by, and every time I turn around, I need to think about Shabbat...

Looking forward to the day of Rest!

Here's my super simple menu this week, focusing on produce I got for 2-2.5 shekels/kg and the chicken I got for 9 shekels/kg:

Vegetable Soup
Roast chicken
Potato Kugel
Apple Crisp (got some cooking quality apples for 2.5 shekels/kg, so I can finally make this again!)
Roasted Cauliflower
Israeli Salad

and maybe some cookies, since I should be using up my stash of flour!

And that is it. I should get started...

What are you having?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Caramel popcorn

I published my old recipe for caramel popcorn a while back, but I wanted to make it easier and skip the baking step.

The old way was just too liquidy and annoying, so I've been playing around with it and I now understand that I just wasn't "getting" the idea behind making caramel popcorn. But now I've got it.

THIS is the way to do it:
Pop some popcorn and set aside.

Then, take:
1/4 c. coconut oil
1/2-3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1/4-1/2 tsp salt (I used coarse sea salt)
1/4 cup water

Place above ingredients in a pot and heat on the stove over med-high heat. it will melt and bubble and combine. Watch it so it doesn't burn, but let it bubble for a good few minutes.
Remove from heat. Add 1 tsp baking soda and stir and stir and stir. The mixture will get lighter and thicken up.

Pour over popped popcorn. Toss it with two spoons to coat the popcorn.


I had to grab the bowl to get a picture before the kids ate all of it

My kids are nuts for this one. Seriously.

I'm trying to figure out if I can use more molasses and less sugar... The molasses gives it a really special flavor, as does that sea salt...

Monday, March 17, 2014

Now that Purim is behind us...

Now that Purim is behind us, it is officially time to consider the impending arrival of doom, er, I mean Pesach.

Don't get me wrong, I actually enjoy Pesach when I can manage to escape from my kitchen! And after all the cleaning, kashering, planning, and shopping is done too...
That actually leaves me very little time to enjoy the chag, but this year I'm hoping to do better.

So starting now, I'm doing a mostly pantry challenge month. I want to stay out of the supermarkets and not buy anything extra - just fresh produce and milk, if at all possible. That way, when the time comes to do that outrageously expensive Pesach shopping (Hello, shmurah matzah for 18 for the seder, anyone?! Gasp! What was I thinking inviting 12 guests for seder?!), I'll hopefully be able to more or less stick to budget.

And as far as the Pesach prep goes, I'm happy to say that we've pretty much enforced a no-food on the second floor rule since we moved into our home, so I'm not worried about Pesach cleaning upstairs (just regular cleaning, which is hard enough!), and the downstairs shouldn't be so bad once we have the kitchen cabinets finished, and then we'll have a place to actually unpack our Pesach dishes into! I was hoping to have new counters, but it doesn't seem to be in the cards for pre-pesach, so we'll just have to kasher what we have (yes, they are granite, but just not the kind I really want). I'm hoping to get away without staying up too many late nights or rubbing my knuckles raw, what are the chances?

And as it gets closer, I really hope to come up with some no-fuss menus that will let me enjoy the chag and stick to all of our various food restrictions and avoiding allergens (aah, pesach with an egg allergic child and a nut allergic me. what fun!)...

I'm planning to be the one at the shuk buying everything I can for 2 shekels/kg at closing time. And then we'll eat a lot of vegetables.

Who else is doing a pantry clean-out now? Let's share some menu ideas!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Menu for the week


Weekly menu planning time!

Sunday was Purim, a little bit crazy, but fun, and while we had a bit of sugar overload, I'm pleased to say we avoided the majority of the processed junk.

So we'll start the plan with Monday!

Monday: Lunch: seudah leftovers (lasagna, salads)
Supper: Shabbat leftovers

Tuesday: Lunch: Lentil soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, cucumbers
Supper: Roasted Kohlrabi, broccoli nuggets, rice

Wednesday: Lunch: lentil soup, corn bread, make your own salad
Supper: pasta, steamed kishuim (green squash)

Thursday: Lunch: baked potatoes with various toppings, ???
Supper: vegetable soup, leftovers from the week

What's on your menu this week? How far in advance do you plan your meals?

Friday, March 14, 2014

My deal of the day

Check it out -

A case of strawberries (not overflowing, but lots of them).

Not perfect but still good (we'll throw out a few I'm sure)...

For 20 shekels. Total

I think we'll be eating lots of strawberries this weekend, and baking with them too.

So yum.

Maybe I'll attempt to a jam (I have no pectin, so we'll see)...

What's your deal of the day?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

GREAT Book Sale

Click to get to the sale!
Book Lovers,

There's a great sale going on at Better World Books!

Get 22% off 4 or more used books (from the bargain bin)!

That's a pretty awesome deal.

And of course, always free worldwide shipping!

I have a list a mile long, and I'm guessing the people at BWB will be sending me another M-bag sometime soon!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Purim, part II

Earlier, I wrote about how I minimize mishloach manot.

I'll admit, the first year I only made a few gift packages it felt very strange, and I was even a little sad. But, I realized, it is so nice to know that there is less work to do, and more tzedakah being given, so in the end, I've gotten used to it and decided it's a good thing.

There are still two more things that tend to cost a lot of money Purim-time: costumes (a minhag/custom), and a Seudat Purim (one of the mitzvot of the day).

I must admit, I was far from frugal this year when we figured out costumes for the kids... You see, since the Jewish Year began, I have spent about 2.5 months not exactly functioning. I got sick twice (once with the flu), and both times I ended up with long, drawn out, awful asthma spirals. Both times I took tons of medication (including steroids) and about a month to get back to breathing... So I've been feeling like I just cannot stay on top of things. And when my kids started asking about shopping for ready-made costume "stuff", I agreed, as I figured if I spent less time with sewing and designing and all that, we might actually be able to catch up on some of the other areas where we've fallen behind. So I spent about 150 shekels altogether on costume supplies.

Of course, for me, this was time-frugal, even though it wasn't shekel-frugal. Everyone needs to make that call for him/herself. If you are set on making your own costumes, there are so many DIY ideas out there. There are even some great "no-sew" costumes, that you can easily find if you search (and I've definitely done that in the past!).

The other thing to think about is the Seudah, the Purim meal.

This can be elaborate and fancy. Some people I know serve 4 course meals. And have lots of wine and other alcoholic drinks available, as well, as somehow this seems to be a Purim thing for many people.

HOWEVER, I am not a fan of using Jewish ritual as an excuse to get drunk, so I don't advocate having an "open bar" at your seudah. It will save you a lot of money and probably a lot of emotional distress as well. We bought a few bottles of Smirnoff Ice when they were Buy one Get one free at Yeinot Bitan, so we'll chill a couple for the adults at our table. That will do it for us.

As far as the food goes -- it's totally up to you! There is no real requirement except that you must wash netilat yadayim and make hamotzi on some bread, and have a meal - it should start before the sun sets, so it is still Purim! It can be meat, dairy, vegetarian - whatever you like. We are having a quiet family seudah this year (for a number of reasons), and we plan to have a simple meal, but perhaps a step above our norm. We'll have some homemade foccacia (a treat for us - I normally make healthy whole wheat sandwich breads!), a lasagna, macaroni and cheese for picky children, and some salad. The lasagna noodles are an "extravagance", as I don't usually buy them! (But we got some when they were on sale, of course, for about half price, or less. We paid 7 shekels/box.)

Dessert will be hamantashen, of course!

And that, my friends, is how we are having a festive meal without spending a lot of money. We chose not to go to our community's communal seudah (again, for a number of personal reasons), but if we had gone it would have cost us a lot of money (seems like 170 shekels, which for a meal "out" is not so terrible for a family of 6, but for us, a meal out WITH the kids and whole lot of people who may or may not get drunk -- I'll stop there), but for some people a communal seudah may be very worthwhile. Ideally, we would have another family or two over to join us for the seudah, but it wasn't possible this year, because of some logistics we could not work around. Sometimes it IS good to just have a family celebration though. This way our kids are getting 100% of our attention, and that is great. We'll make sure they all feel the Purim joy and celebrate the miracle of the day.

I'd love to hear how you plan to celebrate Purim!

Purim, part I

Hi all! PURIM is coming!

I know how much everyone loves Purim! And here, we are busily preparing for the big day, but I needed a break, so I'm ignoring my crazy house and writing a blog post!

There are 4 mitzvot of Purim.

I'm pretty sure that if you're reading this blog you've already figured out how you will keep the first one - megillah. Enjoy hearing the story of Purim, read right out of a parchment scroll (yes, it's real parchment, and yes, I've read it from the scroll), twice on Purim! Once at night and again in the day. Don't forget that it really should be heard twice!

The next one I'd like to talk about is "matanot la'evyonim" - the mitzvah of giving gifts to poor people. This is where the majority of my Purim budget goes. This year, we did a pantry challenge a few weeks ago and earmarked the money we hadn't spent on groceries as our matanot la'evyonim money, but obviously you can give less than this. You need not give a week's worth of grocery money. Enough to pay for a meal is usually considered sufficient, and you can even give gifts of food! However, we decided that this, for us, is what we wanted to focus on, so we chose to give extra and I would encourage all of you to do the same!

The next mitzvah I want to discuss is mishloach manot - sending gifts of food to friends.

As I've said in the past, the mishloach manot practice seems to have gotten out of hand in many places. 

Some people seem to enjoy making elaborate and fancy (and expensive) mishloach manot, and other people feel pressured to keep up with the Cohens, and make elaborate and expensive and numerous gift baskets, spending lots of time and money doing so. And if you are one of the people who can do this and it is not a source of stress for you, go for it. But if it is, and especially if it gets in the way of your matanot la'evyonim observance, it's time to re-evaluate.

Our community has a "lottery-style" drawing - everyone who chooses to particpate is assigned one family to give mishloach manot to. Now, that mishloach manot is expected to be NICE - i.e. food that can be used for a seudah, not junk and candy. So we'll be doing that. In addition, we will probably choose a few other people to give mishloach manot to, and we make some extras to give to random people who are working, mostly because the kids really like to go around in their costumes and deliver little packages. BUT we have opted out of junk - we now give a baked or cooked item, and a fruit, tied up in some sort of recycled packaging, with homemade "happy purim" labels. These do not have to be expensive at all. I've minimized to the point where I have, at times, simply put a muffin and an orange in a bag with a note. Other times I've gone a little further and included a homemade bread instead of the muffin. Either way, they are still mishloach manot, and perfectly good ones!

Personally, I'd prefer a small mishloach manot with something real in it over a basketful of candy any day. The last number of years, we've had to debate what to do with the candy we've received... Do we Give it away or Throw it away, that is the question?

What do you do, if you don't eat candy, with the junk you receive?

P.S. Next post about Purim, I'll write about the fourth mitzvah - the seudah (Purim meal). Stay tuned! (Find it here)