Getting ready for Pesach can be daunting. There's a lot to do, and unless you're lucky enough to have a Pesach kitchen, there's not much time in which to do it. I don't know about you, but my mind becomes so overrun with the logistics of when and how I'm going to change my kitchen over for Pesach, that I can't even think about what I'm cooking until the very last minute.
Here are some helpful hacks to make the transition from chametz to Kosher lePesach a little less frenzied!
1. Start with the fridge and freezer. Get the top shelf or two ready for Pesach. Now you can buy protein, eggs, cheese, condiments, etc and have them ready for whenever you want to start cooking.
2. Make a comprehensive meal plan and shopping list. Include everything, including items for your Seder plate, hostess gifts, snacks for the kids. Buy non-perishables whenever you like and keep them in a plastic bag in any cupboard. At least you'll feel like you've begun your prep!
3. If you like preparing in advance, you can prep uncooked protein whenever you like, even if you haven't changed over your kitchen yet. Just clean and cover any surface in your house, buy Pesach ingredients and you can roll meatballs, marinate chicken/beef, and stuff cabbages to your heart's content. Keep everything in disposable foil trays in the freezer, ready to be cooked once your kitchen is ready.
4. If you have space in your kitchen, set up a basic open shelving unit just for Pesach. Keep all your Pesach everything on these. No need to empty out your cupboards or pantry. Easy to access during Pesach, and easy to put away afterwards because it's all in one place. I have a small, plastic chest of drawers that I keep a lot of my cooking utensils in. I just take it out of the shed during Pesach, and put it right back in there after.
5. Make a plan. Write it down. Work backwards from Pesach to establish when you need to do what. I like to change over the meaty parts of my kitchen a few days before Pesach so I can do some cooking in advance. I am taking two days off work before Pesach to do a big batch of cooking. So I need my kitchen ready for then. I'll keep the milky part of my kitchen chametz until the last minute. I do this so my family can still eat normally up until erev Pesach (by normal, I mean cereal, soups, sandwiches).
6. Erev Pesach. It's a good idea to plan for lunch on erev Pesach, too, because otherwise everyone panics and scavenges! It's going to be potatoes, isn't it?! So stick some jacket potatoes in the oven, prepare salmon and roast potatoes, or fry up some fishcakes for this meal. I also make an extra batch of Pesach biscuits just for erev Pesach and have plenty of fruit and veg cut up because everyone's searching for food on this day.
7. Treat Seder night like any regular Shabbat. There's no need to go crazy. Cook similar foods to Shabbat dinner: Chicken soup, roast chicken, shnitzel, potatoes, vegetable sides. The only difference is no challah! You wouldn't prepare for Shabbat two weeks in advance, so no need to here, either.
8. Whatever you do cook in advance, double it (or triple it!). Kugel, roast potatoes and shnitzel are big on pesach, so I make plenty of these once my kitchen is changed over and stick them in the freezer.
9. A Pesach slow cooker is something I treated myself to last year. I found it helpful to have another method of cooking because I was trying to cook lots in only a day or two. I made soup, pulled beef, saucy chicken, and meatballs in it.
10. Stick to simple dishes if you want to avoid buying all new ingredients. With a basic pantry of salt, pepper, garlic powder, chicken soup powder, oregano, cumin, lemon juice, chopped tomatoes and honey, you can make a lot of dishes. No need to buy every exotic spice. Make a list and then cook with what you've got.
11. If you enjoy baking, then go for it. There is no shortage of Pesach recipes out there. Check out our Pinterest board for delicious Pesach biscuit recipes. If not, you can easily buy desserts galore (or my favourite, the Pesach cake mixes). And if you don't want to do either, go simple: chocolate mousse, fruit salad, watermelon, ice cream.
12. Keep a Google doc with your recipes, menus and shopping lists. This will come in handy next year! Also keep note of what you have (eg. salt, washing up liquid, etc) and what you're missing (grater, measuring jug) so you know what you need to buy next year. Also note down where you've stored everything, in case you're anything like me and can't always remember...
13. Remember: it's only eight days. Matzah and cheese/matzah and cold cuts will be fine every so often!