By Ziva Swire, MHWOW Program Coordinator

Hey! I’m Ziva and I LOVE hosting and cooking Shabbat dinner. I think it is so sweet and comforting to get your loved ones together for a meal to end the week.

But, when I first started hosting, I didn’t realize how expensive cooking for a group could be.Even though you are being reimbursed by MHWOW, because of the timeline of our closeout cycle, you could be waiting a few weeks or up to a month for your direct deposit to hit. So I wanted to challenge myself to make a delicious three-course Shabbat meal without spending tons of money. My goal was to serve 10 people for under $75. As tempting as it is to just order take-out, the cost can really add up and there’s something about a home-cooked meal that makes Shabbat even more special.

Here’s what I learned:


1. Planning your menu and writing out your grocery list before you enter the store is key. Knowing exactly what you need will help you stay focused and not impulsively buy that bag of  Scandinavian Swimmers by the cash register. I decided to do all my shopping in one place to save gas and time (because time is money!) and chose Trader Joe’s since it’s great for budget shopping and is a store that is available in most US cities. For international hosts, I would suggest shopping at a store like Aldi or Lidl, they are similar in price and items in stock.

I went with a build-your-own pasta bar. Here’s the menu I created, it is clickable so feel free to print and use it yourself:And the corresponding shopping list, also clickable if you want to print it out:

There were a few ingredients that I needed that I always have in my pantry/fridge, like olive oil and seasonings, that I left out on this list so make sure you always check all of the ingredients of the recipes that you are planning to cook to create a complete shopping list and avoid multiple trips to the store. Here was my receipt:

My total for everything was only about $72!

2. Try a vegetarian meal to reduce costs even more.
Meat is always the most expensive thing in your cart. This is also a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and would work nicely into a discussion about sustainability. Check out this food blogger’s website for awesome vegetarian recipes!

3. Ask your friends to contribute something to the meal.  Use your MHWOW reimbursement for the main dish and then ask your friends to bring the side dishes, drinks, or dessert. Those are easy items for people to bring and will be one less thing you have to worry about paying for and making.

A few of my guests posing before dinner.

4. Just because you don’t particularly like a certain food doesn’t mean your guests have the same preferences! I have a palette of a 10-year-old at times so I’m not crazy about vegetables. I literally had to Google “how to cut a bell pepper” because I’ve never made them before. But the roasted vegetables were a huge hit! I wished I had bought more because they were cheap, easy to prepare (thanks, YouTube videos) and my guests loved them.

The pasta bar that I created! It included salad, garlic bread, 3 types of noodles, meatballs, roasted vegetables, alfredo sauce, marinara sauce, pesto, and parmesan cheese.

What are your favorite budget-friendly meals? If you have a great recipe or you use mine at your next MHWOW program, email me at

Happy hosting and happy coupon clipping!