WEEK 3: The Pre-Pesach No Panic Plan – A Checklist

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preparing pesachPesach is less than two weeks away.

If you were panicking, that might have sounded more like: “PESACH IS IN LESS THAN TWO WEEKS!!”

But you’re not in a panic, right? You’ve been following this plan, right? (Psst…Check out Week 1 and Week 2)

These days, your pantry is looking pretty bare. Not much left except that weird cake that came in one of your kids’ Purim packages, some sauces, and for some, more chametz than you can possible finish in the next 2 weeks, despite how hard you’ve worked to use it up.

This week is all about doing everything you can to avoid the one-week-left-last-minute crazy. We all know that no matter how prepared we are, something will come up, so the more you can accomplish now, the more calmly you can face any unexpected event that might pop up next week.

Here we go.

WEEK 3:

Cleaning, Cleaning, and More Cleaning.

  • Now that you’ve cleaned the areas that don’t normally see chametz throughout the year, it’s time to start the areas where chametz is sure to be found. Most of us can’t do our regular kitchens or dining rooms yet because they are still in constant use, but playrooms, dens, family rooms, and the like can definitely become chametz-free zones for a couple of weeks. Be sure to check under couch cushions. If you have young children that like to sprinkle Cheerios wherever they go, this may require emptying toy bins and boxes.
  • You can also start wiping down and lining your pantry, fridge, freezer, etc., even if you are continuing to use them for chametz. This way, next week, you can carefully remove the lining with all the crumbs and, voila, pre-cleaned ready-for-Pesach shelves!
  • Many places do their yearly Sheimos collections around this time. See your community directories for drop-off locations and dates and finally rid yourself of those items taking up precious space in your home.

Make Room for the Chametz and the Pesach Items

  • Whether you sell actual chametz, or just have a lot of kitniyos and non-Pesach food items around, you will still need to sell your chametz. This will require having a designated spot where you will keep the chametz/non-Pesach food items for the duration of the holiday.
  • Start filling the area with everything you know you won’t be using over the next couple of weeks – as creative as we women are with meal ideas, it’s doubtful I can possibly use up 5 cans of corn and the 25 cans of soda my kids got for Purim in the next 10 or so days.
  • It’s also time to consolidate those few items that will actually be used over the next little while to give yourself the room to start bringing your Pesach items into your pantry, kitchen, etc. Clean and line shelves, and if you’re still nervous about chametz crumbs making their way onto your Pesach shelves, you can: A) Use the higher shelves; B) Keep everything in shopping bags; C) Have 2 separate areas; D) Wait until next week (not recommended – there’s plenty to do then…).

 The Kids are Coming Home.

My daughter ends school as of Wednesday next week. Many Yeshiva and Seminary students are already home.

Soooo…it’s time to make a list of everything you can’t do with your kids underfoot – which, as we know, is pretty much everything! And put your license-bearing offspring to work. The more you can get done before that dreaded final dismissal bell rings, the more pleasant a parent you will be as Erev Pesach creeps closer and closer. Think clothes shopping for yourself, getting rid of cleaning their stuff, finishing up any work projects and meetings.

  • For those of you who can’t take off work even though the kids are off, register for a pre-Pesach camp (they are lifesavers!) or book your child-care, if you haven’t already.
  • If you have married children coming home, make up the rooms now. Have them send you a list of special requests so you can prepare everything this week.
  • If you are shuffling sleeping arrangements to make room in your home, or have neighbors who have lent you their homes for the week, you may not be able to make the beds in advance, but you can prepare the linens, towels, air mattresses, toiletries, etc. so you can avoid last minute rushing around next week.

The Longest Cooking Parade You’ve Ever Attended.

After allowing some time for feeling accomplished about making the chicken soup last week, it’s time to get serious about cooking. Since Sunday is cleaning-up-after-Shabbos day, let’s say the Pesach cooking starts again tomorrow.

  • Set aside at least two nights for cooking this week. I’m planning chicken and fish nights, but do whatever helps you feel the most prepared.
  • On cooking day, prep/buy all the ingredients and recipes you will need and set them up so your work area is prepared.
  • As mentioned in Week 1, I like to prep 6-8 chicken recipes at the same time. I set out 6-8 pans, make 3-4 sauces/rubs, and clean 6-8 meals’ worth of chicken. Pour sauces/rub the rubs (“aye, there’s the rub”), and away you go. Do the same for fish (those recipes you think freeze well…Moroccan fish balls, ahem) and meats. Kugels  and some desserts also freeze well. Not everyone cooks this much beforehand – I like to cook as much I can in advance so I can avoid spending most of the holiday in the kitchen. As with any system, do what works best for you.
  • If you’re OK using disposable pans, and you know how much of everything you will need for each meal, it’s a good idea to bake the food in that size pan and then you can freeze it as is (labeled clearly and covered well, of course). Otherwise, once cooled, bag each meal’s portion in freezer bags, label, and freeze.
  • For those of you who have recipes that don’t freeze, consider preparing the sauces this week even if the rest of the recipe will need to wait until next week. We love scalloped potatoes for the holidays but they are best served fresh, so I prepare three batches of the sauce now and freeze them. I defrost it the night before I will be prepping the sliced potatoes; then I just layer everything and I’m good to go. One less step on the eve before a holiday goes a long way to minimizing the panic. Trust me.
  • Most salad dressings keep for weeks in the fridge so you may want to consider mixing a few while waiting for your food to cook/cool.

 Various and Sundries Shopping List

As the holiday approaches, the shopping list we created last week has continued to grow. Here are some items that you may not have thought of/bought in your initial shopping trips.

  • New toothbrushes, lipsticks, Pesach-certified medications, etc.
  • Extra items for any guests you may have (including the special requests mentioned above).
  • Bedikas Chametz kits (Also, set aside ten pieces of bread for the search – use little baggies to prevent crumbs).
  • Yom Tov candles/Yahrtzeit candles.
  • Prizes and Pesach-themed chocolates/candies to keep the kids (and adults) engaged throughout the long seder.

 Avoid Panic At All Costs.

  • We all know that the week before Pesach can be busy, no matter how prepared you are. Last minute changes, additions, forgotten to-do’s are bound to creep up so find some time this week to review everything you’ve accomplished so far. Pat yourself on the back. Have a glass of wine…or two…or start practicing for the Four Cups.
  • Make a list of the things you know you will have to do next week – those things that cannot be accomplished in advance. For some of you it may be starting the cooking because you don’t have a second kitchen (again, I’m so sorry). For others it may be the haircuts and shopping for kids who were in school until now. It might be dentist/doctor/optician appointments for children who live away from home and are only back for the holiday. Try to think of EVERYTHING and then think again. Think back to last year and what caused the most stress and panic – place that item at the top of the list so you can get it out of the way as soon as possible.

Coming Up Next Week: Backpacks, Cars, Seder Plates, and more!


This is the third of a 4-part series. Check out WEEK 1 and WEEK 2  and stay tuned for WEEK 4 of the Plan.

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