A Heavier Easter Basket

A bunch of potatoes, taken by Mike Mozart via Flickr

Sometimes, something comes along that’s so simple, you stop and wonder why we didn’t think of it before.

The high cost of eggs is prompting some families to decorate potatoes for Easter instead.

Egg decorating is something I look back on with fondness. Mom would buy the PAAS kit and we’d sometimes use drops of liquid food dye from the grocery store. She’d cover the kitchen table in newspaper to catch the inevitable mess. Afterwards, we’d display our little works of art on the Easter dinner table. You wanted to keep them around as long as possible, but not until they got stinky.

There are religious reasons for painting and dyeing eggs at Easter. For some, eggs symbolize the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The hard shell represents his sealed tomb. Also, eating eggs was historically forbidden during Lent. But chickens continued to produce them, so, what to do? Decorate them!

But with egg prices up as much as 70% – thanks, Avian Flu – some people are turning to spuds instead. The potato industry is thrilled, of course. Potatoes USA, the potato-growers national marketing board, has even put out potato decorating tips. The comparable PEI potato growers are still touting potatoes as a side dish for Easter, not d├ęcor.

There are many advantages to the family budget for potatoes over eggs. First, they’re pretty cheap. Potatoes won’t crack or leak during the painting or dyeing process. They don’t limit you to the, ahem, small egg shape. Potatoes also have more character and many come with eyes ready to go. You can wash them afterwards and they’re still good to eat. A little bit of food dye inside a potato only makes them prettier. And if little Jackson drops a potato on the floor, it might get a bruise, but it won’t ruin his masterpiece.

SEE: Easter potatoes decorated at The Krazy Coupon Lady

The egg marketing board, meanwhile, says prices have stabilized enough that it doesn’t think people will abandon eggs for potatoes anytime soon. But with plenty of popular bloggers advising their readers to switch to potatoes, and the US potato marketing board trying to make it a thing, you just never know.

I started buying eggs in 18-packs some time ago. Even though we’re only a household of two, we seem to go through a lot of eggs. On Wednesday, I popped into my local Loblaws and the 18-packs were all gone. Yes, it’s Easter and yes, they were in the flyer! But I have noticed the bigger packages are becoming more popular: less cost per egg.

Although I don’t expect anyone will start hiding Easter potatoes as a new tradition, maybe the potato-over-egg idea for dyeing will catch on. It’s certainly practical. But maybe the fragility of eggs is part of the fun. And if you hard-boil them before decorating, and keep them in the fridge, your eggs won’t go to waste. Still, part of me hopes the budget-friendly potato will have its day.

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