Pesachis a yom tov (holiday) where we talk about many miracles as we retell the story of the Jews leaving Egypt. I am sorry to say, though, there are no miracles contained within this column that will transform your Pesach preparations into something completely different from what you have been used to. Before you sink into depression and think that there is no hope for you other than heading to a Pesachhotel, I am here to cheer you on and tell you that there are two tools that you can use this year that will pay huge dividends in future years.
You may not need these tools. Take the quiz below to find out:
Do you repeatedly run to the store for items that you have run out of while cooking and even have to run to the store a few hours before the seder to shop for missing items?
Do you unpack your Pesach boxes and find cans and spices from last year that you intended to use this year but forgot about, so you just purchased duplicates from the store?
Do you pour over cookbooks and internet recipes trying to decide what you are going to cook for yom tov, even though the food you made last year was enjoyed by all?
Do you ever pack up your Pesach things after yom tov ends and commit to memory that you need new measuring cups and a new tablecloth — yet when you start baking a cake the following year you find yourself sans measuring cups, and when you set the table for the seder you’re back to the tablecloth adorned with (now last year’s) spilled grape juice?
Did you answer yes to more than one? Two? All four? Been there, done that! If you find there is some room for improvement, I want to share with you two all-important documents that you can either develop yourself or email me for a template: “Menus” and “The Pesach Planner.”
In the “Menus” document, do the following:
List each meal, including your soup to nuts menu, as well as the number of people at each meal.
Be specific about your menu items. Don’t write “matzo kugel” if you have 11 different recipes for matzo kugel. Write “Aunt Freyda’s matzo kugel.” Or, if the recipe comes from a cookbook, write French Roast – “A Taste of Pesach,” p. 123 (that is a seriously good French Roast, I might add!) so you don’t confuse that with Bubbie’s French Roast.
Make mental notes on quantities and the success of each dish (not enough, needed half the amount, the boys loved it, make again, etc.). Once yom tov is over, type/write in these notes so you don’t need to rely on your memory, which you already know has failed you in the past.
Once Pesach is over and all of your pots and pans and dishes and frog molds get packed away (who thought of frog molds and why do I keep putting them back in the cabinet thinking that next year is the year they will be used?), take one extra day and plan for next year. Stop rolling your eyes! Save your current menu on the computer and “Save As” for the following year and change the days when yom tov falls out. If a menu worked, keep it! Nobody will tire of that food if it only is served once a year. Resist the urge to always make new and better. I have fooled my family into thinking serving the same foods each year is called “Tradition!” It also makes the shopping list part so much easier…
For “The Pesach Planner,” open a new document and create a table with four columns: Item, Have, Buy, Have Left. Fill in the table as follows:
“Item” column: Each item you will need.
“Have” column: Any items put away that you discover upon unpacking your boxes.
“Buy” column: Should have quantities needed of each item. Don’t forget to add the return trips to the store to those quantities.
After Pesach is over, note the quantities of each item in the “Have Left” column.
At the very least, you will have the beginnings of a list for the following year. If you can muster up one more day of energy during the post-yom tov exhaustion, make your list for the following year by transferring the quantities from the “Have Left” column to the “Have” column for the following year. You can even fill out the “Buy” column while it is fresh in your brain, especially if you were able to make your menus for the following year.
I know some of you are thinking this is over-the-top organization. This method won’t sit well with the instant-gratification crowd, as it takes some work in the beginning, but it really ensures easier preparation in the future. Remember to email me for a template if that helps. The most important point to remember is any type of tool should only be used to have a calmer and more peaceful Pesach, and if you develop better ways, please share with us. If all else fails, there is always a hotel!
Next column: Chol HaMoed — how is it possible that your family wants another meal?