To traditionally observant Jews, getting ready for Passover can be stressful, frustrating and expensive. The shopping lists, menus and variances in stringencies can make your head spin; the aisle of yellow-capped colas can make you dizzy.
As someone who’s basically making my first solo Passover this year, I asked my Facebook community to “hack my Passover” with their best tips for staying sane and organized in the weeks leading up to the holiday, and during its eight days. Here’s some crowdsourced wisdom—with eight days left before Passover, it’s not too late to get started…
- Make a cleaning plan. My friend Sara K. Eisen reported that she has a five-day plan, with four hours (except when it’s six hours, see below for her plan) designated for cleaning and preparing each day of the week before Passover. On the other hand, my British friend Jacqueline Nicholls advises, “Don’t start cleaning until the day before Erev Pesach (two days before the holiday). Even if you work full-time, and are making seder…cleaning will take up all the time you give it.”
- Buy cheap. Get a cheap set of reusable dishes from IKEA or the 99-cent store and keep them for Passovers future. You’ll only need them eight days a year, so they don’t need to be perfect or expensive, just functional.
- Splurge. I know that seems like it contradicts the previous tip, but if you have your eye on a new appliance that you’d like to use year-round, you can use Passover as the excuse to buy it, and then keep it for daily use after the holiday is over. You’re working hard for this holiday, so while you’re cleaning and making necessary purchases for the holiday, it’s okay to get something that you’ll look forward to using.
- Get good knives and a cutting board. Potatoes, onions, apples, more potatoes…there’s a lot of cutting and chopping on Passover.
- Cook in the oven, rather than on the stovetop. Nina Safar, of Jewish recipe site Kosher in the Kitch, avoids having to buy a lot of pots and pans and roasts and bakes most of the food she serves over the holiday. (Which is also healthier, by the way…)
- Make the menu first and work backward to determine what you need to buy. When you’re at the store, stick to your list and don’t let other items distract you and inflate your budget.
- Make time for the special foods or holiday traditions that will make it “feel” like Passover. In my house, it’s charoset that I make myself, using apples, cinnamon, nuts and wine; and an apple raisin matzah farfel kugel. They’re a bit labor-intensive, but it doesn’t feel like Passover without them. (Sorry apples, you’re not surviving the Festival of Freedom, but your sacrifice is appreciated – thank you for your service.)
- Eat normal food. Simple salads, chicken, fish, meat, cheeses, eggs, fruits and nuts don’t require any addition of matzah. (Although matzah brei – fried matzah with egg – does have its special holiday appeal.) Nina emphasizes roasting and baking as much as you can, which is healthier than frying, she added. Her go-to chicken recipe: oil, salt & pepper, paprika and some honey over chicken and veggies. Other kosher for Passover recipes available here.
Keep desserts simple. Resist the temptation to buy Passover cake mixes and cakes, and especially chocolate chip biscotti that don’t actually look or taste like chocolate chip biscotti (see photo). Fruit, nuts and chocolate served with tea or coffee provides a sweet end-of-meal flavor without the heaviness of many Passover cakes, weighed down by eggs, sugar and substitute flours. Nina’s trick for a Passover treat is to melt dark chocolate chips, then add toppings like macaroons or almonds or coconut powder and let harden and break into pieces for Passover bark.
Many thanks to the crowd, including: Banji Ganchrow, Jessica Cavanagh-Melhado, Randi Ginsberg Ostrove, Sara Tanz, Nina Safar, Susanne Goldstone Rosenhouse, Elise Braverman-Plotkin, Rebecca Stone, Jacqueline Nicholls, Sara K. Eisen and others….may your Passover celebrations be happy and non-stressful.
Here’s Sara K. Eisen’s day-by-day plan:
- Day 1: Clean in places you don’t normally (i.e. couch cushions). Also clean one shelf in fridge and one in freezer, leaving them empty.
- Day 2: Make menus and lists, and shop. Keep everything non-perishable in the bags and put in another room. Cold or perishable items in the fridge/ freezer stuff on the cleaned shelf.
- Day 3: Clean the kitchen. (Making the oven ready for Passover is particularly painstaking and often a multiple step process with actual cleaning followed by a ritual cleaning. – EK). This day is maybe six hours and not four.
- Day 4: Kasher (make kosher) the oven, line or cover shelves, cover and close up chametz, not to be touched until after the holiday.
- Day 5: usually the day before the holiday (Jewish holidays start at night): cook.
Out of the Orthobox: How to Clean for Pesach (with hourly breakdowns)
2018 Items that Don’t Require Kosher for Passover Certification (Star-K)
2018 Star-K Product Directory
Kosher in the Kitch