Making Pesach for the first time can be seriously overwhelming. There’s no need for it to be stressful though, so start by downloading our free, handy Pesach cleaning checklist,and then continue reading this guide for some great tips. Disclosure: this post contains commissioned links.
My husband and I have been making Pesach ourselves since the second year of our marriage. It’s just something that has worked best for us, and we absolutely love it. Yes, I’m one of the crazy people that loves not just Pesach itself, but the whole process leading up to it.
It took a couple of years to get it right, but we have found a good rhythm that works for us, in terms of cleaning, cooking and shopping. I work full time, especially in the days leading up to Yom Tov (that’s retail for you) andyet, we still manage to turn out a great Pesach every year.
The most important part of making Pesach is to reduce your stress. There’s no need to get stressed and it will actually be beautiful if you can find the joy in your preparations.
Below are three lists; one is my most helpful tips on making Pesach. The second list is essentials you’ll need for making Pesach the first time, while the third list is non-essentials that you can stock up on over time throughout the year.
Tips for Making Pesach Stress-Free
1. Plan your menu in advance
Before any shopping or preparations, plan your menu. Plan the seder plate, every single meal, every snack, every Chol HaMoed breakfast. This will achieve two things. One, you will only have to shop for food once, maybe twice. Two, next to each item write down every ingredient needed. That will form your grocery list. Then, write down everything needed to make that dish- pots, pans, peelers, knives, cutting board etc. Like this, you will have a better idea of what you’ll need to stock your Pesach cabinets with.
2. Make a budget
Whatever you think you might need goes onto a list. Plan your expenses carefully and include obscure things that you might forget- like cookbooks, shelf liners, Afikoman gifts and a Chol HaMoed trip. Whatever your expenses add up to, up that number. Pesach food costs more than usual, and you will likely end up buying things you forgot to add to the list.
3. Buy cheap
Throughout the year, buy items on sale. It takes people years to build up a Pesach collection- you don’t need all your kitchen gear and every utensil and gadget the first time you make Pesach. Dollar stores are your best friend. You don’t need top of the line products for one week every year.
4. Don’t buy unnecessarily
There are three types of things you don’t have to buy for Pesach:
- Don’t buy items that don’t need to be kosher l’Pesach, or buy ones that are already kosher for Passover all year round. Those are often cheaper than products specifically made for only Pesach.
- Don’t buy items that you likely won’t need. Pesach is only one week. If you can, do without. Try to make foods that use similar ingredients so you’re not buying a whole cabinet worth of spices and ingredients that you’re only using a bit of.
- Don’t buy items that you can make kosher l’Pesach; for example, you can kasher your silver kiddush cup, or you can wash dishtowels and tablecloths to use for Pesach.
5. Eat clean
Stay away from processed foods made kosher for Passover. They are mostly all overpriced and also, not particularly tasty. Stick to proteins like meat, chicken, fish, etc. which will have similar pricing to year round. Buy produce in a produce store for better prices. If you have a sweet tooth, make your own desserts and snacks.
6. Avoid dairy
If at all possible, consider no milchigs for the week of Pesach. You will save by not buying any utensils for that. If you love matzah with cream cheese, you can use a disposable knife to spread it, and you can get disposable foam cups for coffee.
7. Lists, lists, lists
Lists before Pesach will help you keep organized and focused. It’s helpful to plan out exactly what you plan to clean and cook and when.
Lists after Pesach are immeasurably helpful, as well. Keep running lists from year to year with recipes and menus that worked, items you have on hand or will find helpful for next year, and things like that. An Excel or Google Docs spreadsheet will work great. Keep them in a handy spot so you can easily reference them as you get closer to the following Pesach.
8. Hire help
If you can afford it, hire help! It is a lifesaver and the relief is worth its weight in gold.
9. Don’t spring clean
I repeat, do not spring clean! It is not necessary, and it can wait for after Pesach. It just adds to an already overwhelming amount of things to do. If you know there is no chametz in the attic, or that the encyclopedias (does anyone still have those?) haven’t been touched in a year, then don’t waste your time cleaning those areas.
10. Plan storage space in advance
In order to keep yourself in check when buying, and in order to keep Motzei Yom Tov less stressful too, plan your storage space before Pesach. Where will you be keeping things from year to year if you don’t have a dedicated Pesach kitchen? I like to use large storage bins. My parents like to use a storage closet that they can move in and out of the kitchen as needed. If you don’t have enough cabinet space to clear over Yom Tov itself, consider storage drawers to keep what you need on hand nearby. Find what works for you.
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Must-Haves for Making Pesach
This list is a good place to start with to figure out what you’ll definitely need when making Pesach for the first time. You may choose to get more than one of certain items, like spatulas or peelers. If you’re looking for things to stock up on throughout the year, but that you don’t necessarily need the first time, scroll down to the list of non-essentials.
- dishes. Many people opt to use disposable dishes over Pesach for both convenience and lack of storage space. However, it can also be more cost effective to buy a cheap set of real dishes to use from year to year. I use plastic, but I have real silverware and glasses (for both drinking and wine).
- hand grater (I put a food processor on the non-essentials list, but that’s because I don’t use mine often during the year and I don’t make tons of potato kugel. However, if you are heavily dependent on yours, this can definitely be an essential item for you.)
- Kos shel Eliyahu – try making one yourself for a little “me time” in all the Pesach rush!
- knives– this is one item where you don’t want to skimp on quality. Good quality knives will not only last longer, but they are safer to use.
- peeler– if you’ll have help in the kitchen, get a few of these!
- meat and dairy labels; trust me, you think you’ll remember from year to year which pot is meat and which is parve, but I can guarantee you won’t
- If your counters cannot be kashered, you’ll also need some form of counter covers; be it contact paper, or something else. I find it best to find these in your local stores.
- mixing bowls that can also double as salad bowls
- disposable aluminum foil pans; your best bet is to buy these by the case in your local supermarket
- hand mixer (only if you’ll be baking)
- baking sheets– these are great for roasting as well. You can use disposable cookie sheets as well, but your food will not cook evenly.
- cutlery- disposable or real
- hot plate or blech
- corkscrew; from experience I can tell you that you don’t want to find yourself without a corkscrew on Seder night.
Good-to-Have Items for Making Pesach
The items on this list are great for stocking up throughout the year. They’re not a must for making your first Pesach, so you can buy slowly over time, look for good deals and save some money.
- cookbooks- I debated putting this on the essentials list, but you can find a lot of great recipes on the internet and in Facebook cooking groups without spending the money on a cookbook. However, if you find you’re the type that wants guidance with unfamiliar recipes, definitely invest in one of these. My favorites are Perfect for Pesach (I use it year round) and Spice and Spirit Passover (particularly helpful if you have a lot of strict chumros.)
- Instant Pot – this is particularly helpful if you want to get a head-start on cooking early or streamline your cooking process. If you’re new to the Instant Pot, here’s a great chicken soup recipe to get you started.
- real dishes if you chose to go with plastic for the first year or two
Have you ever made Pesach on your own before? Do you have any tips to add for those making Pesach for the first time? Let us know in the comments!