couponing in the holy land

Frugal food shopping for the Anglo Israeli

Archive for the tag “budget”

How the other half lives: The Wolfowitz Family

Yael (30) and Mor (29) Wolfowitz have three children: Ariel (9), Netanel (8) and Yasmine (5).

They live in a 4 room (3BR) garden apartment in Yishuv Avnei Hefeitz in the Shomron for which they have a mortgage.

Yael is a secretary for the rehabilitation work center “Chimes Israel” in Kfar Saba.  Mor is a networks manager for Machon Mor as well as studying for a bachelor’s degree in information security in Michlelet Or Yehuda.  Their car is a company car.

Hobbies and chugim: Netanel takes a drums chug, Ariel is in an art chug and Mor loves to fish.

Vacations: “After three years where we didn’t go on a vacation due to financial reasons, last July we went away for four days to the family hotel Nova Like in Eilat.  Every year we also go on a vacation on Sukkot.”

Budget: Yael: “I am on the internet obsessively and check my bank account all the time.  We had a fall, but when that happened we returned to Paamonim, got myself together and returned to proper financial management.  It isn’t simple, especially in the months of July and August.  In the past we were dependent on our parents but now we are completely independent.  Because of Paamonim I am more careful and on my own I began to volunteer to help others better manage their home finances.  Today I am a different person and that makes me much happier.  When I get into a disaster I know how to get out of it, and that is the best present that I received.”

Monthly expenses:

Apartment: 2093 shekels

Electricity and water: 520 shekels

Communication and television: 350 shekels

School and chugim: 2050 shekels

Car and gas: 220 shekels

Insurance: 400 shekels

Kupot Cholim: 230 shekels

Food and household expenses: 2800 shekels

Culture and leisure time: 200 shekels

Vacations: 300 shekels

Miscellaneous expenses ( pets, haircuts, fines, clothing, shoes, present, etc.): 845 shekels

Loans: 1500 shekels

Savings: 1000 shekels


How the other half lives- The Bass Family

One of the most important issues for new olim is learning how to make ends meet at the end of each month.  Sometimes it feels as if we are drowning and wonder how it is that Israelis seem to have it so much easier than us.  Every once in a while the newspapers publish stories about average Israeli families and their financial situations.  I think it is important for olim to see how the other half lives to help us put our own financial struggles in perspective.  This article was published in Yisrael HaYom  on 12 September 2014.

Yasmine (34) and Amit (36) Bass

Two children: Orin (6) and Yanai (4)

They live in a 3 room apartment (2BR) in Haifa for which they have a mortgage.

Yasmine has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and is studying social work at the University of Haifa.  Amit is a welder for the electric company.  They own a 2006 Renault Scenic.  For hobbies, Amit plays sports on the beach for free.  Yasmine: “I am a proud housewife and student, and my hobbies and free time revolves around the house.”  The last vacation they took was three years ago when they went to Eilat through Amit’s work so it was very cheap.

The budget: “We are constantly in minus but we know that it is a temporary situation because learning is intensive right now.  We are about 4000 shekels short each month.  We generally live on Amit’s salary. Since I started learning two years ago we are living on our savings.  We sold our apartment in Rishon L’zion specifically so I would be able to learn.  With what we earned from the sale we were able to buy the apartment in Haifa and be able to start learning.   To my luck I am an excellent student – so that I am able to deliver the goods.  We received help from Paamonim and got insight into household financial management and we are trying to pay up front so that we don’t build up debt.”

Monthly expenses:

Apartment: 3388 shekels

Electricity and water: 565 shekels

Communication and television: 540 shekels

School and chugim: 742 shekels

Car and gas: 2210 shekels

Insurance: 660 shekels

Kupot Cholim: 223 shekels

Food and household goods: 3000 shekels

Culture and socialization: 233 shekels

Vacations: 0 shekels

Miscellaneous expenses (pets, haircuts, fines, clothing, shoes, presents, etc.): 1175 shekels

Loans: 350 shekels

Savings: 500 shekels


Shmita news roundup- JNF, marijuana and more

Good news for people who use medical marijuana- the Rabbanut has permitted the use of medical marijuana during shmita.  It does not permit the use of marijuana for recreational purposes under any circumstances, however.  Source: Ynet

JNF (KKL in Israel) has published their policy statement regarding shmita.  Some of their policy changes include:

  1. There will be no ceremonial tree planting during the shmita year, except for specific circumstances that are approved by the Rabbanut.
  2. There will be no planting by students or anyone else for Tu Beshevat.
  3. JNF will not distribute seedlings for planting by outside groups, including bee farms.
  4. Preparation for planting in the year after shmita will be done on an individual basis with approval by the Rabbanut.
  5. Work to preserve trees is permitted, including destroying harmful insects and diseases as well as activities to prevent fires.
  6. The olive harvest during the shmita year (תשע”ה) will take place without any halachic restrictions.  Regarding the olive harvest the year after shmita, the JNF and the Rabbanut will release their policy statement in the coming months.
  7. Harvesting carob during the shmita year  (תשע”ה) can take place without any halachic restrictions.

For a full list (Hebrew), go to their web site.

מדריכות במשתלת גילת. צילום: דוד גרינשפן

The Israeli government has just advertised that they will allocate 100 million shekels for shmita purposes next year.  It will be broken down into the following categories:

  1. 45 million shekels to support farmers who stop all activities on their farms;
  2. 20 million shekels to support farmers who won’t harvest their fruit but will maintain their orchards;
  3. 11 million shekels to support organizations who run an otzar beit din;
  4. 5 million shekels to support farmers who grow produce off the ground, which is not subject to shmita regulations.

The article does not say where the rest of the money will go.  Source: Haaretz


Home Economics: The Dvash Family

As a new oleh, one of the most important questions we ask is “How much money do we need to survive?”  The follow-up question after receiving our first paycheck is “How do Israelis survive on this?”

The answer is that many of them don’t.  That is, until the organization Paamonim stepped in. I wrote about them in previous posts (also here): instead of donating money to a family, they teach them how to live within their budget.  Mekor Rishon had previously posted examples of family budgets and the tips the family received to save money.  Yisrael HaYom has now started posting fmily descriptions, but without the tips.  I am translating them in the hopes that you can see how the other side lives.

The Dvash Family, Or Yitzhak 

Meital (38); 3 children- Idan (10), Shaked (7) and Yarden (5)

They live in a 5 room apartment (4 bedrooms) on the yishuv kehilati Or Yitzhak.  Meital has two degrees from the US in mental health and criminology.   She works as a rehab trainer in a hostel for people with psychological disturbances.  They own a Hyundai Accent Family, 2005 model.

Chugim: Idan- soccer, Shaked- basketball and Yarden- gymnastics.

Meital’s hobbies: being a full time single mom.

Their last vacation: 3 days at the Kineret in tents.

Budgeting: much better since she started working with Paamonim.   She used to take out loans of 2000-3000 shekels at a time.

Monthly expenses (shekalim): apartment (5420), electricity/water (530), Communication/television (686), school/chugim (2150), car/gas (660), insurance (0), medical (80), food/household (1200), culture/leisure (500), vacation (200)- divided into 12 months, miscellaneous (600)- pets, haircuts, fines, clothing, shoes,presents, loans (2000), savings (0).  TOTAL: 14,026 shekels

Source: Yisrael HaYom, 22/11/2013, Tzarchanut supplement p12.

Aliyah tip #4- Living in “minus”

One of the more comforting things I noticed when we moved to Israel was not the very low paycheck we had, but the way everybody seems to be in the same boat, trying to make their shekel stretch as far as possible.  There is no shame in post-dating a check, any checkout over 200 shekels can be spread out into “tashlumim” (payments), and the bank offers a very pleasing line of credit for when the monthly expenses are suddenly over budget.

These same comforts, however, can be very dangerous if not used wisely.   It is easy to lose track over how many purchases you are paying in installments, and if you are not careful they can become significant monthly expenses.  The “minus” that the bank so easily gives you accrues interest and you can very easily reach sums that you won’t be able to pay off with your current salary.  I remember when I brought my first paycheck to the bank to open an account.  We previously had an account at Bank HaDoar, which does not allow an overdraft, so I told the bank we didn’t need one.  Of course they didn’t agree- it was free and if you didn’t use it, you don’t pay anything.  So I agreed.  Based on my monthly pay of 10,000 shekels, they wanted to open an overdraft of 25,000 shekels!  I laughed and asked how they expected me to pay back 25,000 shekels  when I only earned 10,000 shekels a month?  Again, they smiled, and in the end I walked out with the overdraft.  I am forced to admit that there were times that we actually used that whole amount (summer camp, Pesach) and subsequently paid it off, but it was always an extremely stressful period not knowing whether we could get cash out of the bank because our line of credit was used up.

Since then our salaries increased, we tightened our budget, and we actually have an emergency fund saved.  We were fortunate to be able to do this on our own, but many people can’t.  For them, there is an organization called Paamonim.  This non-profit organization helps people get out of financial distress not by handing them money, but by teaching them how to manage the finances and keep their budget balanced; whatever their financial status.  Mekor Rishon newspaper followed some of the families helped by Paamonim and posted the tips that the families learned- you can read about one family in a previous post.  I hope to post other stories, but in the meantime if your Hebrew is good, you can read more stories/tips on Paamonim’s Hebrew web site.

Tip of the day:

זכות (+) and חובה (-) : make sure you know the difference on your bank statement! When we closed our first bank account, we missed the little ח next to the sum and instead of expecting a 4000 shekel refund, we had to pay 4000 shekels.  That was painful and embarrassing!

The cheapest vegetables in the supermarket

One of the blogs I follow, Bishul B’Zol (Cooking Cheaply), has a very good post on how to choose fruits and vegetables.  Here is a loose translation.

In my previous post I discussed purchasing seasonal fruits and vegetables, which are lower in price than out-of-season fruits and vegetables.  But have you noticed that some vegetables are cheaper all the time, even than the “seasonal” vegetables?  What I want to emphasize is KNOWLEDGE- look around in the supermarket, learn the prices of what you purchase and you will discover what is really worthwhile.

These are the vegetables that I have found have the lowest and most stable prices:

  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Potatoes
  • Cabbage
  • Onion
With this list, you can create a whole host of exciting foods- salads, stir fries, soups, etc.
Is this list restricting?  Yes, I think so.  I don’t think I could survive on these 7 vegetables alone.  Therefore I present a list of slightly higher-priced and slightly less-stable prices, but which are still a good deal:
  • Green Squash
  • Lettuce
  • Beets
  • Sweet Potato
  • Butternut Squash
  • Basic Herbs (parsley, nana, coriander, dill…)
  • Peppers (try not to get attached to one color)
  • Apples (not the specialized types such as Pink Lady- the basic types)
  • Oranges
I do not say that this these are the only vegetables you can buy if you are looking to save money.  Not by far.  However, I must remind you that our greatest expenses in the supermarket are not in the fruit and vegetable department, but in other sections such as snacks, meat, and frozen foods.  Ah, the frozen food section, where one package of Tivol costs the same as a weeks worth of fruits and vegetables…
I would like you to take two things with you from this post:
  1. You can eat from the first list and survive.
  2. You can use this information to make an educated decision when planning recipes.  Do you need to make a pashtida (quiche)?  An squash pashtida will cost less to make than a broccoli pashtida.  Cabbage salad will be less expensive than corn salad.
By the way, have you noticed that vegetables prices are cheaper than they have been several months ago?  To me, sweet potatoes, squashes, and peppers have all gone down in price.  Why?  Is it summer?  Are less people buying because they don’t have kitchens in their tents?  There was an article in Globes about prices recently, and what was sad to note was that although there were some small price decreases, most of the food they checked increased in price.  Cottage cheese, for example, did lower in price, but all the other dairy products actually increased!  It seems we still have a lot to learn about how to boycott effectively.
I hope you enjoyed a native Israeli’s view of supermarket shopping.

Israeli Cooking on a Budget by Sybil Zimmerman

With a title like that, it must be written for me!   I live in Israel, I love to cook, and I have to stay within my budget.  When we first made aliyah and invited over Israelis for meals, they would be surprised at how “expensive” my meals were.  They then proceeded to teach me how to make food that costs less.

Americans, especially those who use a lot of coupons, buy a relatively large amount of processed foods and carbohydrates.  How often are there coupons for vegetables, fruits, kosher meat, or cheese?

In Israel, however, the opposite is true.  Locally produced foods are much cheaper than imported foods.  Vegetables and chicken are relatively cheap.  Cheese is outrageously expensive as well as fish and red meat.  Pasta is relatively inexpensive compared with cereals and other processed foods, especially since you can rarely find coupons for those items.

The author’s recipes reflect this concept.  She bases her meals on vegetables, with meat/chicken/cheese/fish as a minor ingredient.  She almost always uses locally-produced foods in her recipes.

The best part of this book is that it reads like a history lesson.  If you are like me and read cookbooks like you read novels, this cookbook will take you back over 30 years to a simpler Israel- at least culinary-wise.  1978 was before Tivol, which revolutionized the vegetarian market.  The author discusses how to use SVP-Soy Vegetable Protein- which is dried and shaped into flakes, crumbles, and powders.  As she describes it, it has the consistency of a sponge and virtually no taste.  They are still on the market, and I agree 100% with Sybil’s description.

The author transliterates the names of many foods from Hebrew to English and even Arabic to help the new oleh learn the navigate the supermarket.  There are many outdated words, such as fruit squashes (petel syrup),  sterilized bottled milk (chalav amid), Afikal (shortening), and Marie biscuits (see Wikipedia).  She also lists the different cheeses on the market and describes how they are made.  Reading these lists makes me realize how far we have advanced over the past thirty years.  The variety and selection of food in your average supermarket has expanded exponentially since this book was written, much to my pleasure.

If you like food, and you like Israeli history, it is worth it to pick up a copy of this book.   Particularly when you can get it for as little as $1.40 at  You will also find a lot of the standard recipes that every Israeli chef should know how to make- tehina, eggplant salad, falafel, and the like.

Happy Cooking!

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