How to Keep Kosher on a Budget

Yes, you can stick to dietary standards without breaking the bank — just follow the lead of these kosher chefs.

December 13, 2019

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Keeping kosher means following the dietary restrictions set forth by traditional Jewish law. Not all Jewish people keep kosher, but those who do abide by a strict set of standards. The major rules are:

  • You cannot mix milk and meat at any given meal.
  • You cannot eat any pork products or shellfish.
  • Any meat you consume must be kosher, which means it's gone through a special process and been slaughtered by a shochet — a person trained and certified to butcher animals according to Jewish laws. (Packaged meats that have been butchered in this manner will bear the kosher designation on the package.)
  • Fish and eggs are considered pareve (meaning they can be consumed with milk or meat products), but fish is considered kosher only if it has fins and scales.
  • Any wine you drink or serve also needs to be designated kosher (as it's a part of many religious ceremonies).

Keeping kosher can be expensive, as items that go through the process of being designated kosher can often come with a markup. We consulted a few chefs to find out how to save money and keep kosher on a budget.

Eat more fish, less meat

Kosher meat and poultry often come with the highest price tag. "In my experience, the only kosher products that will really break the bank are kosher meats — with good reason. The meat is not simply just blessed by a rabbi; the animals are carefully selected and treated in order to be called kosher," says Yehuda Sichel, executive chef at Abe Fisher in Philadelphia. "That being said, a good way to save some change is to opt for fish instead of meat. Fish that is local and seasonal is not only sustainable, but also less expensive [like tilefish or fluke]."

Since fish is considered pareve — meaning you can prepare it with either milk or meat products — it gives you more room to be creative as well, in dishes like fish tacos, Mexican fish stew or Asian steamed fish.

Shop local and seasonal

It's a good general rule of thumb that also applies to keeping kosher: Visiting your nearest farmers' market and buying what's local and seasonal is a great way to save money. Sichel's picks are apples, potatoes and cabbage. "All of this produce is generally inexpensive, and the combination of the three allows for so many different recipe possibilities," he says. It's fun to consider seasonal items too, like the ingredients in these farmers' market salads, or the winter produce in this kale and broccoli soup (pictured).

Showcase more grains

It's not unusual these days to see people putting veggies and grains forward (with a smaller amount of protein), and this can be a money saver when keeping kosher. "Using lot of different legumes, seeds and nuts will really enhance the meal and will diminish the need for expensive proteins," says Chai Trivedi, executive chef at Hotel Indigo in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Dishes like a baked quinoa casserole or farro salad (just use kosher chicken stock) are satisfying enough that you won't miss the meat.

Buy inexpensive cookware

Because people who keep kosher need two sets of everything — one set of tableware and cookware for milk products and another set for meat — it can add up quickly. Trivedi suggests getting some disposable cookware or inexpensive cookware from discount stores until you can find sales on higher-quality cookware.

When you need to buy strictly kosher items

Trivedi recommends looking at Whole Foods for deals on kosher products. "Whole Foods locations carry over 2,000 kosher products, including poultry," he says. "And with Whole Foods falling under the Amazon umbrella now, there are many deals to be had on their website with free shipping."

When it comes to buying red meat, he still suggests going to a kosher butcher. Although it may be more expensive, you'll know you are getting good-quality, properly butchered, kosher meat.

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