The Hostesses Guide to Preparing for The High Holidays

Rosh Hashana is less than 2 weeks away AND I’m due with baby #5 on the first day of Succot!!! You better believe that I’m doing everything NOW to be prepared for the three weeks of feasting and celebrating. Thankfully, this year the first days of Yom Tov fall on Shabbat. (I love it when that happens!) That means fewer meals to plan and a whole week in-between to prepare for the next upcoming days of Yom Tov. No time to waist…lets getting planning!

Cook once, eat twice (or more). Chances are you are already planning on cooking for Shabbat next week. I just posted a recipe for 4 Pepper Hungarian Goulash that I made for Shabbat that can easily be doubled or tripled. Its a crowd pleaser and can feed a lot of people so go ahead and make it for Shabbat, double the recipe and freeze half of it for another Yom Tov meal. While you’re already in the kitchen over the next few weeks, plan on making double, or triple portions of any of the dishes the you can freeze and use for the holidays as well.

Make room in the freezer. Now is the best time to clean out the freezer and use up whatever you can or incorporate it into your menus. Forgot about the 5 pounds of ground beef that you bought on sale last month? Thaw it out and make meat sauce and/or meatballs to eat during the week. Found three boxes of puff pastry? Plan on using them for a dessert during the holiday. Found a few deli containers of chicken stock in the back? Great! One less thing you need to prepare! By going through the freezer now, you will be able to use up what you have and make room for the meals you want to freeze for the holidays.

Check pantry inventory and fill up on the staples. After cleaning out the freezer, open up your cabinets to see what you have and what you are running low on. Go through your spices and throw out anything that is more than a year old. Make a list of what you are almost out of that you use frequently. If you plan on doing a lot of baking be sure to have a reserve of flours, sugars, oils, baking powder and baking soda, vanilla, chocolate chips, etc.

Plan your menus. I’m here to help you with this one! I’ve been posting a few recipes that you can prepare ahead of time and I’ll be posting my full menus and all the recipes in the next few days. If you are already doing step one, take the time to plan on which meal you are going to use the frozen meals that you made in advance. Not up for making a salad or dessert for every single meal? Write in your menu where you plan to buy it from instead, (bakeries exist for a reason!), or make a note that you would like to ask one of your guests to bring it. Chances are they are going to ask what they can bring anyway so you might as well be prepared with an answer.

Gather your recipes. Many families have recipes that they only eat durning the holidays. But you might not remember where you kept them from year to year. For years I kept a journal (yes, actual old fashioned pen on paper) of all the menus with references for the recipes that I could look back on from year to year to see what I made. Now that everything is digital, I keep my menus in the Notes section of my phone titled “Shabbat and Yom Tov Menus” folder. If you’re using a recipe that you found online you can easily copy and paste the link right in the notes. Have a dish that you are making from a cookbook? Write the name of the cookbook and page number next to the name of the dish on the menu. Have a handwritten recipe from great grandma? Take a photo of it and insert it into the menu notes page or save it in a separate folder in your photos app titled “written recipes”. Have a recipe that is part of an Instagram post that doesn’t have a separate link? Bookmark it in Instagram, and write in your menu the name of the post and who posted it. For example: 4 Pepper Hungarian Goulash, saved in Instagram @l.a._kosher_kitchen. If you’re like me, you have recipes saved in dozens of places. Organizing the ones that you are going to use this year and having them all in one place will make planning for next year SO much easier.

Make grocery lists. Now that you know what you have in your freezer and pantry and what you are planning on cooking and what the recipes call for, it’s time to make the grocery lists. Chances are you shop at more than one store for your groceries. Go through your recipes and make a list for each store of what you need. Also, if you don’t already, now would be a good time to sign up for a grocery delivery service. Instacart, Amazon Fresh and the like will save you tons of time and energy shopping and will come in very handy if you are in the middle of cooking and realize that you need an ingredient.

Stock up on food storage containers. Since you are going to be cooking and baking and plan on freezing some of it, be sure that you have a good supply of food storage containers.

Make a cooking calendar. Now it’s time to get cooking. The more you spread out your cooking over the next few weeks, the easier it will be leading up to the actual holiday. Take a blank calendar for September and October and using your menus as a guide, plan on when you will cook and bake everything on it. See what you can freeze ahead of time and plan on making those dishes as soon as possible. Pick a day to do as much of the baking as possible in order to limit the number of times you need to turn on the oven, schlep out all the baking supplies and mess up the kitchen with flour, sugar and the like. Be sure to mark on your calendar which days you plan on grocery shopping so you can be sure that you have everything you need when you are ready to get cooking. Plan on getting take out for dinner on the days that you spend cooking for the holidays. You’re going to be eating a good amount of meat in the next month, so your family won’t mind having pizza, pasta, and salad once a week until then.

Plan your table. Lots of meals means lots of dishes. Having guests? More dishes, and cups, and napkins, and silverware. If you plan on using your dishes be sure that you have enough for everyone. If you are planning on using disposables, add them to your shopping list to buy or order them online now. I plan on using our Shabbat dishes for the first day of meals and disposables for the second day. Now is also a good time to be sure you have enough folding tables and chairs. Lastly, don’t forget to make note of which table linens and any decor you plan on using.

Don’t forget the extras. Candles for candle lighting, 3 day yom tov candles, drinks, wine, flowers, a hostess gift if you are invited for a meal. Am I forgetting anything? What else do you do to prepare for the holidays? Let me know in the comments. I would love to hear from you!

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