Extra Costs of Moving: Financial, Cultural, and Spiritual Restrictions

Abbie writes in:

My family is considering a move to a smaller town for professional purposes. The only problem with this move is that we’re Orthodox and thus we follow the dietary laws. This means that the food our family eats must be kosher. Where we live now, we have great access to kosher foods but we’re pretty certain that our access to such foods is going to become much more expensive when we move. Do you have any suggestions for making this work?

Just to clarify, Abbie is referring to Orthodox Judaism for her family’s religion.

First of all, good luck on making such a challenging move. From what you describe here, this is clearly one of those moves that would come with a long list of “pros” and “cons.” From the way I understand it, your list that would be in favor of moving includes professional reasons as well as some cultural reasons, but the cons list includes other cultural reasons and spiritual reasons. Finding the right balance there can really be a challenge and I can understand a desire to mitigate some of the cons.

So, how can you handle this situation?

The first thing I’d do is study small towns that would be a good match professionally for your family. There are many smaller towns with an Orthodox Jewish community in them. The single member of the religion that I’ve had a strong relationship with lived in Madison, Wisconsin and seemed pretty happy with it.

Since I’m unclear as to exactly what the professional reasons are for the move, you might have a lot of towns that will work or you might be highly restricted. The less restricted you are, the greater the possibility you can find a town with a community in it that can support a local grocer that matches your spiritual needs.

What if that’s impossible? I see several things that you can do.

One option is to talk to the local grocers and see what they have in stock. I’ve had great success in the past requesting that grocers carry specific items with narrow appeal simply because I’ve requested them. Of course, this may have to do with the specific grocer that I often use (Hy-Vee, which is an Iowa grocery chain), but I do know that some grocers are flexible on what they choose to have on their shelves. Come armed with information on brands that you use that the store does not carry and see if they can help.

Another option is to buy in tremendous bulk on occasional food buying trips. This is going to require a lot of planning, of course, as well as some food storage space. Let’s say you live two or three hours from a large city that contains a grocer that sells a wide variety of the foods you need. This my be something that you can do in conjunction with working with your local retailer.

Yet another option is to rely on online grocers. One example of an online grocer that might meet your needs is All in Kosher. Amazon offers a pretty solid selection of certain types of kosher goods.

You might want to supplement these options by starting a garden. Since you’re involved in the entire growing process, you can be sure that the vegetables and fruits that your garden produces match your dietary and spiritual needs. This is also an incredibly inexpensive route for obtaining food, plus it’s an option that’s much more viable in a smaller town.

Most likely, you’ll have to use some combination of these tactics. If you’re looking at things through a frugal lens, though, my recommendation would be to have a very large garden and a freezer. This way, you can produce tons of vegetables for your family, which can provide the backbone of your diet and store them easily. If you work in conjunction with local grocers, you may be able to fill in most of the rest of your diet, leaving more expensive options for rarer occasions.

Good luck on your move!

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  1. Buying bulk is certainly a good idea, but most foods easily purchased in bulk will automatically be kosher. Dry goods like beans, rice, flour, other grains, sugar, etc. You can save money with bulk buying, but these things can be bought off the shelf anywhere in standard sizes and still be kosher. The more difficult issue is likely to be meat and dairy. A chest freezer could help with bulk kosher meat purchases. But an option Trent didn’t mention is adoption of a vegetarian diet, which would eliminate a lot of the difficulty. I’m not generally an advocate for vegetarianism. But it’s undeniable that in this case it would be a very frugal move that would solve a significant problem.

    Abbie might also like to check out Sharon Astyk’s blogs. Sharon keeps kosher on her upstate NY farm and writes extensively on home food production.

  2. Michelle says:

    I have the same problem, it is very hard for me to find vegan options where I live. Here are a couple of tactics I’ve learned. 1) Make everything from scratch. I can’t find pre-made seitan here, so I’ve learned how to make it on my own. 2) For the things you can’t make from scratch, make a trip, about every 2-3 months to a place where you can get those products, and STOCK UP. For me, that involves an hour drive to Whole Foods and a cooler for all my Daiya chesse, for you that might include a trip to a Kosher butcher and having half a cow in your freezer. Also, get a big freezer. You’ll need it!

    Best of luck with your move!

  3. Kate says:

    We actually live this lifestyle in a small city with a very small Jewish community, so let me see if I can help!

    Kosher meat, to the extent that it’s available, is astronomical in price and *never* goes on sale. Captive audience and all. As result, we generally save meat for Shabbat only in the winter. In summer, we tend toeat more since burgers and hot dogs are more reasonable.

    We’ve also had to accept That we can’t host a crowd for every Shabbat. We host about once a month, with a basic meat dish and lots of interesting and more inexpensive sides, we accept an invite to another Shabbat at least once a month, and have quiet home Shabbats the other twoweekends.

    We also take advantage of chags with my inlaws in a major Jewish centre to stock up meats and some of the common processed products (horseradish, occasional lunch meats, etc)

  4. arvin says:

    Good article overall Trent, and sounds like people here can make good suggestions also.

    Btw, in general all fruits and vegetables, fresh, are kosher, so such produce isn’t really one of their concerns. It has more to do with processed foods, at which point blessing from their religious leaders is something that isn’t really diy.

  5. Rachel says:

    Contact the synagogue and get in touch with some local families. Ask where they get their kosher food from. Even if not frugal, it might give you ideas. Sometimes a synagogue arranges a weekly/monthly delivery – the prices might be higher, but you’d save on time and transport costs.

    Buying in bulk further afield is a good option, and don’t forget social capital – if you check in with some friends before setting off, and offer to pick up some things for them as well, they will likely do the same for you on other occasions.

    The power of community is important with getting local grocers to stock specific items as well. If they stock an item that is kosher, encourage others to buy it there as well, demonstrating the demand, and supporting the local grocer’s effort.

    Granted, this does require an established relationship with the community, which could take time, but a small religious community is usually happy to welcome new members, and how well you think you would fit in is an important thing to consider in a potential town.

    Trent and others are right in that the more basic the ingredients, the more likely they are to be kosher without certification, and that fits right in with frugal practices anyway.

    Lastly, you have to remember that it all boils down to prioritising your values. Clearly the dietary restrictions are an important value in your life, so do try to save, but don’t feel that you are wrong to spend on this, the whole idea is to free up money to spend on the things you value most.

  6. Noadi says:

    Getting a chest freezer is a good idea. In general the foods that are going to be difficult to obtain in a small town are meats and dairy. Meats and kosher cheeses can be frozen. That should make it easier and even in small towns kosher foods which are shelf stable are available though the variety can be limited.

    I was really amused by the large number of jars of gefilte fish that went on clearance at my local grocery store after Passover this year. I’m not sure why they had so much in stock in town with such a tiny Jewish population (of which apparently almost none like gefilte fish, my boyfriend loves the stuff but then he like lutefisk as well so his taste in fish products is questionable).

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