Passover Supermarket Sweep

If there’s any holiday my family and I have dreaded shopping for, it’s Passover.

Why is grocery shopping for Passover such a big issue? Partly because, just to make sure our Passover foods, dishes, cookware, etc. are not contamminated by the least possible touch of anything that is forbidden over the holiday, everything we eat (except most fresh fruits and veggies) and everything we clean with must be pre-checked by someone highly trained in Passover dietary laws, sealed, and stamped with a sign that it’s OK to use on Passover. Partly because, just to make sure something originally good for Passover use was not contaminated by anything not good for Passover during the year, everything has to be purchased new. (It’s to some degree like shopping for your first apartment – all the staples, all the cleaning supplies, all the everything else that you can just go to the cabinet and grab to season your food, or to whip up something fresh at a moment’s notice. Repeat annually.) And partly because of the crapshoot called “finding everything you need at the supermarket”. It’s here that any attempt at budgeting for Passover flies out the window, perches on the neighbor’s roof long enough to stick out it’s tongue at you, and proceeds to impersonate you at the ATM machine en route south.

(Should I bother to mention that kosher-for-Passover certification has a significant effect upon the purchase price?)

Time, money, effort, and duplication of efforts. AND duplication of efforts.

You see, most supermarkets only get Passover-specific deliveries once each year from each vendor, and when that inventory sells out, consumers are out of luck. Some, who have a large Jewish clientele, may get a few extra deliveries… but if you plan on waiting until the last minute, everything will have sold out. So there is significant incentive to shop early and to purchase everything in sight that one might conceivably need for the entire holiday. Whether or not it’s on your shopping list. And to overbuy, so as not to fall short.

On top of that, vendor Passover deliveries are staggered, so you may not be able to find everything you need all at once – but you can’t be certain if the items you can’t find have not yet come in, or if they’ve already sold out.

Shop early, shop often, and give that budget birdie some nice departing gifts.

I just dropped about three weeks’ food budget on staples for Passover – half again over what I was expecting to spend. And I still haven’t purchased meat, milk, grape juice, or wine. That’s next week’s challenge. And another full week’s food budget.


I think that budget birdie is laughing at me as he feathers his nest egg in shredded Benjamins.

On the other hand, I did manage to secure a box of hard-to-find whole-wheat handmade shmurah matzohs. And a backup box of normal shmurah matzohs. And machine-made whole wheat matzohs. And machine made low-carb matzohs. And low-carb Passover yogurt. And so on…

I posted a couple of resources to the “Jews with Diabetes” discussion group. The basic ones are the Jewish Diabetes Association and Jewish Friends With Diabetes. The rabbi at Jewish Friends… has a .pdf Passover primer that discusses everything from figuring out how much is the minimum amount of matzoh and wine you need to consume for each bracha (blessing), how to work bolusing and/or injections for the seder, and several other things. Much of this is repeated, but with slightly different details and other ancillary information, on both JDA and on the OU (Orthodox Union) site. Two important Pesach (Passover) links on the OU site are “Pesach - An Annual Nutritional Challenge”, aimed at the community of people touched by diabetes, and the OU Kosher for Passover home page.

I’ve posted a different set of frustrations and questions there, a bit more “technical-Jewish”, trying to keep the blog a bit more religion-neutral.

Please feel free to join the Jews With Diabetes group here on TuDiabetes, and also either to post to the group or to leave me comments if there’s anything else I can help you with.

If you follow some of the stuff on Jewish Friends With Diabetes… the rabbi suggests that matzoh is lower GI than regular bread (not sure why, but possibly because of the lack of yeast action breaking down the carbs). Also, many sacred foods are closer to nature, or prepared closer to nature, than what we get in the supermarket, the portion sizes are smaller, and they are eaten with the intent of sacredness… so one might argue that “eating closer to [the spiritual Path of your choice]” might also be “eating healthier” and “eating more appropriately for diabetes”. That premise I’m sure needs some research… Also, you might be interested in a book I purchased a number of years ago called Enduring Seeds by Gary Paul Nabhan (I think I have the name right). It was a call for returning to native ways of farming to maintain agricultural biodiversity, and the belief that the loss of many purebred/heirloom varieties of agricultural product (primarily plants, but also animals) will lead to our inability to deal with “bad seasons” and crop diseases, as well as diminishing our overall health. (If you look at the history of the banana – the primary variety when my parents were young, the Gros Michel, is extinct due to a crop disease that the variety could not fight. There has been speculation that the current most-popular variety, the Cavendish, may meet a similar fate in the next couple of decades.)