By the time you read this, you will no doubt have gone through countless articles offering suggestions galore for making your Pesach preparations go as smoothly, seamlessly and swiftly as possible. But am I willing to bet that no matter how many magazines and newspapers you pick up and how many websites you visit, there will be precious few telling you how to lighten your load when you make Havdalah on Motzei Pesach and find yourself facing a whole lotta work getting everything put away.
I write these words two days after Pesach 2017. While the bulk of my Pesach stuff was packed up within two hours after Yom Tov ended, there are still a few odds and ends left waiting for my attention – I find that investing a little bit of extra time post-Pesach makes the next year’s preparations considerably simpler. So here I am, right after Pesach 2017, writing words that you are reading just before Pesach 2018, offering advice, some of which may not even be relevant until Pesach 2019. How’s that for an article with a long lasting impact?
In truth, most of my post-Pesach ideas involve keeping track of various components of the Yom Tov as it unfolds so that by the time you bid a fond farewell to the holiday you are already well on your way to getting your house back into year-round mode. Not that I am in any way trying to rush Pesach out the door, but once it is time to get back to reality, it makes sense to streamline the turnover as much as possible. Consider the following suggestions:
Store as you go: I find that by the time Erev Pesach rolls around, my desserts are in the freezer, my kugels have been made and my roasts have been sliced, so my mixer, food processor and electric knife can all go back into the Pesach cabinets. Best of all, putting away items that aren’t going to be used frees up valuable counter space in your kitchen, giving you more room to work all Yom Tov long.
Use it or lose it: 2017 was the year I declared war on clutter in my Pesach cabinets, clearing out all those odds and ends that were just taking up space and hadn’t been used in years. Those two large pareve knives that we bought to chop horseradish but never use because they just weren’t sharp enough to do the job? They were evicted, along with a random peeler that never worked well and 25-year-old netilas yadayim towels that were ratty looking. If you haven’t used it in the last five years, just get rid of it.
Shop smart: Invest in several identical serving plates and bowls that can be used in a variety of ways. The gorgeous gold 10-inch plates I bought for $3.99 each in Home Goods were great for serving whole round kugels, fresh fruit and main dishes, while pebbled glass bowls from Marshalls ($9.99 for four) were great for salads, nuts and candy. Best of all, because I bought multiples of the same item, they looked coordinated on the table and stack up beautifully in my cabinet, taking up a minimal amount of space.
The same logic applies to containers. After juggling numerous mismatched containers in my fleishig cabinet, I got rid of most of them last year and am replacing them with inexpensive plastic deli containers from my local supermarket. Inexpensive, easily replaceable and able to nest neatly inside each other, they are a convenient and practical choice that saves valuable space at a bargain basement price.
Disposables rock: By the time you get to the sixth day of Pesach, take a good hard look in your fridge and freezer and make sure everything is in a disposable container, so that you don’t have to spend time after Yom Tov washing containers, pots and similar items. If you have ice cube trays in your freezer, stash your ice in zip-lock bags and put away the trays. If you are using a plug in water urn over Yom Tov and no longer need your stovetop kettle, put that away as well. The goal is to have as little to deal with as possible once Pesach ends.
Take an inventory: Keep track of what items you actually used over Pesach so that you have a realistic picture of how much you need to buy for next year. Does it really matter? Well, it probably doesn’t make much difference if you overdid it when you purchased your potato starch, but buying an extra two pounds of hand shmura matza can set you back a good $50, so it is a pretty smart to have an idea how much you actually need. Let’s face it: nobody wants to eat Pesach food once Yom Tov is over.
While you could just keep a handwritten inventory, I am a computer geek at heart and love organizing things in Excel. I use a master spreadsheet to track how much I buy and when Pesach ends, I subtract the leftovers so I know how much we actually used and that spreadsheet, with the actual quantities, becomes the basis for the next year’s shopping list.
Rave reviews: There are some foods we make on Pesach that are family favorites and win five star accolades, like my mother-in-law’s potato salad. And then there are those dishes that are better forgotten, like the pineapple fritters I made a few years back. Jot down which items were home runs and which were the strikeouts so that your 2019 menu is a crowd pleaser.
Write on: Over Pesach 2017 I found a few chinks in our Pesach armor. While I was sure we had a small funnel for pouring wine from the Kos Shel Eliyahu back into the bottle, (always a fun job after imbibing four cups of wine,) we didn’t. And we really need to order a fine shredding disc for the food processor to get a better consistency on both our chrayn and our potato kugel. Keep track of those little thoughts as they pop into your head (or if your brain, like mine, has more holes than Swiss cheese, write them down somewhere) and after Pesach make a list of everything you need for next year. Most importantly, find that list and read it a month before Pesach 2019 so that you can pick up all the things you realized you were missing.
Hit the sales: For those of you who have space to store Pesach groceries year round, it pays to hit the post-Pesach sales and pick up the basics at hefty discounts. Obviously, you want to check expiration dates and respect them, but items like canned goods, vacuum packed and sealed items (like potato starch, spices and cocoa) have pretty long shelf lives, while others, like ground nuts, keep very well if you stash them in zip-lock bags in the freezer. Just be sure to make a list of what you bought so that you don’t accidentally buy duplicates next year.
Most importantly, while you may be looking ahead to simplifying your clean up at the tail end, be sure to enjoy every minute of your Pesach. Yes, it is a Yom Tov that involves an awful lot of hard work, which is all the more reason to make the most of every single minute.
A zeesen Pesach, everyone!