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The Annual Chametz Hunt Is On

By Hannah Reich Berman

Purim is by now but a fond memory. Currently, we need to get down to the business of getting ready for Pesach. It isn’t just housewives who are charged with the task; the stores that we shop in also have to get themselves ready. But one of us—either the housewife or the store—needs a reality check! Because as of this very minute, and from this time forward, the great food race is on!

From the moment that Purim ends, everyday grocery items disappear from shelves in kosher supermarkets. It’s an amazing thing to see. One day they’re there, and the next day POOF!, just like that, they’re gone. Understandably, store managers need to get ready for the big switch from chametz foods to Passover foods, but do they really have to start so early?

I may be a slow learner, but eventually I catch on and, at long last, this was the year that I finally did. So, the day after Purim, I headed to my favorite supermarket and bought enough breakfast cereal to last until Pesach. I wasn’t alone. Other shoppers were snatching boxes off the shelves at a pace that hasn’t been seen since the last major snowstorm prediction. Cheerios and Froot Loops were disappearing right before my eyes. And it didn’t end with cereal. Shoppers who have young children were also buying kids’ snacks, and carts were filling up with small bags of chips, pretzels, and Bamba faster than water could fill a basement in a flash flood.

The reason for this is that, by now, anyone with a brain knows that things will be disappearing with record speed. Within days, maybe even within hours, it will all be gone and consumers will be left to scrounge around for many of the foods that their families regularly consume. There is no polite way to say this—it is a royal pain! Fortunately, it is a problem that does have a simple solution.

For the next few weeks, people who under normal circumstances shop in kosher supermarkets will by necessity be heading to those supermarkets that do not cater to kosher homemakers. We will still patronize the kosher stores for meat, poultry, fresh fish, and take-out meals, but for everything else we will need to broaden our horizons. Doing that isn’t a first choice, but that’s the way it has to be.

Has it occurred to anyone that there has to be a better way to get a kosher food store Pesach-ready? Each time I walk into my favorite supermarket, I discover that things have been transferred from one spot to another. And for some reason, the transfer is usually to an aisle clear across the store. The activity resembles a game of musical chairs. Items from aisle three are now situated in aisle nine, and those products that were always found in aisle eight have a new home in aisle two. Everything gets transplanted to faraway places. What I wouldn’t give to know who micromanages these weird transfers! But on and on it goes.

Common sense would dictate that there is a method to this madness, but I fail to see what it is. There seems to be more madness than method. Also, there are additional workers walking around the store. Several fresh-faced young boys have been hired for this pre-Pesach period, and it appears that their sole job description is to help shoppers locate those items that have been moved to distant locations. The problem is that these new employees don’t know where anything is any more than the shoppers do, so when a customer asks the kid for something, the usual response is a polite “Wait just a minute, I’ll go ask someone where it is.”

I can’t be sure how anyone else feels about that response, but my thought is that I could do that myself. I too could look for a stock boy or a store manager and ask the question that they’re paying the young fellows to ask. These new temporary workers are sweet and they mean well. Since I don’t want to hurt their feelings, last week I smiled as I watched one of them leave after he promised me he would try to locate what I had asked him for. Then I stood rooted to that one spot and waited for him to return with the information. But when the kid came back, he gave me the answer that I should have expected: “I’m sorry, but that item is gone. We sold out. The store hasn’t been restocking because of Pesach, and we won’t have it again until after the holiday.”

Not only did that newsflash disappoint me, but what bothered me even more is that, for that non-information, I wasted a full ten minutes waiting for him to return. Even worse was that I knew from the get-go what he was going to say when he reappeared. But I didn’t want to be rude to the kid, so I waited.

For all those who, between now and mid-April, still want to have snacks on hand for their kids or a package of Sandwich Thins for themselves, it may already be too late. Supplies in kosher supermarkets are dwindling fast, so the best bet is to temporarily shop elsewhere for all things chametz. Nobody exactly wants to stock up on chametz right now, but most people want what they want while they can still have it. So the hunt is on! That’s the way it is. v

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at or 516-902-3733.

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Posted by on March 27, 2014. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.