When moving has a spiritual cost

An Orthodox Jewish family considers a move to a town where Kosher foods aren't readily available. Here's how they can make it work.

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    If you have religious dietary restrictions, like keeping Kosher, how can you best cope with moving to a town that doesn't cater to them?
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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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