I hate to tell you this, but Pesach without pressure is a myth. No matter what anyone tells you (and it’s usually men who tell you that Pesach preparations can be tension free), it just doesn’t exist. To be fair, I don’t know that there is any major holiday or occasion that doesn’t involve some kind of pressure. Eliminating the stress entirely is not a realistic goal. But minimizing it is.
Whether you are home for Pesach or packing up and moving out, it is a major event and, like anything else, requires planning. For those of you who are going to a hotel, I have no advice. Have a great vacation and think of me while you are sitting by the pool on Erev Pesach doing your nails because I promise you, I won’t have polish worthy nails by then. For those of you spending your Yom Tov with relatives, hatzlacha rabbah. I hope everyone gets along well and that the sleeping accommodations are okay. For those of us who are staying home for Pesach, listen up. It’s time to get to work.
Fear not. I am not one of those super efficient people who is ready to kasher her kitchen on Shushan Purim. But I am one of those compulsive people who likes to plan ahead in order to minimize the work, and equally important, the cost of making Pesach, so that both are less intimidating. And believe it or not, the time to get started is now.
I don’t have to tell you just how overwhelming your credit card statement can become Pesach-time. Between making sure that everyone has proper clothing and stockpiling food items, the numbers add up fast, which is why I like to start stocking up on Pesach items now. My first stop for Pesach shopping? My own pantry. You may be surprised to find out how many items you already own that are in sealed containers and have Kosher L’Pesach certification all year round. Check the labels and look for the “P” next to the hechsher. A quick trip through my pantry (know your minhagim) unearthed quite a few products including: assorted coffees and teas, sugar, cocoa, kosher salt, honey, duck sauce, balsamic vinegar and assorted canned goods packed by heimishe companies including sliced mushrooms, hearts of palm, pineapple, sour cherries, Israeli pickles, olives and mandarin oranges. Be sure to check out your freezer as well. Empire raw chicken products are Kosher L’Pesach 365 days a year. So just wipe off your newly acquired Pesach stash, set it aside and you are already one step closer to making Pesach. Make a list of everything you are putting away so that when the time to shop in earnest arrives you will know which items you already own.
Take the time to check out the OU’s Pesach guide (discuss now what your family uses) when it comes out, available both from the OU, in many local kosher stores and online at www.ou.org. Aside from the directory listing items that are supervised for Pesach by the Orthodox Union, the grey pages hold a treasure trove of information telling you which items can be used on Pesach without special supervision. Stock up on those items now as well to help minimize expenses as you get closer to Pesach. No matter when you do your shopping, now or closer to Pesach, take the time to double check every item you put in your cart and make sure it is Pesachdik. You never know when someone will have put an item down in the Pesach area by mistake and trust me when I tell you it is really very disturbing to notice on Pesach that you are holding food that doesn’t say Kosher L’Pesach on it.
Aside from all the cleaning and buying involved for the holiday that is ironically named “z’man chayrusaynu”, the time of our freedom, a major part of your holiday preparations involves food. Before you start googling Pesach cookbooks and recipes, take the time to go through your regular recipes – you may be surprised how many things you make during the year are one hundred percent chometz free. Time is at a premium, so why start experimenting with unfamiliar recipes when so many of your family’s favorites, including soups, main dishes and salads are already Pesach friendly?