5 Ways to Simplify Shabbat Prep
by: Ellen Appelbaum
This was a fun article to research. Who doesn’t have a tip or a horror story to share?
When I asked my daughter-in-law what she does to simplify her Shabbat prep, she laughed and said, “Get invited out!”
But since that’s not always possible, we’re going to focus on ways to make it a smoother ride.
You’ve seen Shabbat-Prep checklists, but it makes the most sense to customize your own. You know best what trips you up every week. What are the “must-dos?” What’s optional?
The must-do’s sound like the Country Yossi song, “’Cos I’m a Jew, I Do That Too.” A bunch of arbitrary tasks indeed: Rip a roll of paper towels. Cover the light switches. Turn off the refrigerator light. Take the batteries out of the talking llama (and remember where you put them).
Many Shabbat chores can be sandwiched between the bigger tasks. Boiling the eggs, filling the hot water urn, finding everyone’s socks, brushing a sheitel — put these on your checklist, and check them off when you’re done.
Especially if you have a small crew of people helping, or a small crew who think they are helping, a checklist keeps everything moving and focused.
Shop in Your Freezer, and Don’t Forget the Convenience Aisle
It’s satisfying to shop in the freezer on Friday. It’s a relief to find the zucchini kugel you made long ago on a snow day, the frozen stuffed cabbage you bought on a whim, and the prepackaged cookie dough that comes out perfect every time.
Do you love tabbouleh? How about couscous with Mediterranean herbs? These add much to a Shabbat table and require a maximum of three steps to prepare.
Keep It Simple
My abovementioned daughter-in-law, mom of four, chief of carpool, is a big fan of simple. She doesn’t make herself crazy with cleaning, though she will not say no to a cleaning lady on Friday morning.
But if it’s just you and the house, no cleaning lady, remember these quick-cleaning hacks:
- Wash the bathroom
- Put mail and debris you do not want to worry about into bags (keep track of those bags!)
Speaking of simple –
Don’t Patchke, That Is What Take-Out Is For
The two criteria for buying takeout (barring unforeseen circumstances) are:
- Is it so fabulous that it will make your Shabbat sparkle? Like a dragon-tempura roll from your favorite sushi place as your fish course?
- Is it something you want, but it’s super time-consuming?
If you can, it’s a good idea to set aside a takeout budget. (And to know what time the place closes!) For an item that is a ridiculous patchke but that you really want (l’kavod Shabbat, of course), it is a great comfort to know that a local kosher take-out has your back.
Thursday Is Your Friend
I’ve learned that there’s a lot you can do on Thursday, but the first part is internal – I have to remember that the day after Thursday is Friday and clear the decks of those weekday obligations that love to roll over to the end of the week.
At the very least, it’s possible to set up the candlesticks on Thursday. After that, the possibilities are vast. Some people set the table. Shopping on Thursday saves a lot of time on Friday. Some people make challah.
Emotionally, a little Thursday prep feels like the right thing to do, and practically speaking, it’s a good start on Friday.
Good on the Grill
Grilling your food is a yummy change-up, making even a simple dish into an exciting Shabbat treat. Grilling can even be fast if you do it strategically.
One enjoyable tweak for Shabbat grilling is to marinate. Armenian Beef Kabobs are a great example of the extra zest that a marinade will add to your Shabbat table.
Before you grill anything, there are some things to know: The meat should be room temperature. Chilled meat will not be a grilling success, because the outside will cook quickly, and even char, but the inside will be undercooked.
Another grilling success strategy is portion size. Cubes of meat or fish cook much faster than large pieces. Wedges of potatoes or potatoes cut in half cook more quickly than whole potatoes.
Finally, know your grill. A gas grill has hot and less-hot sections. When time is of the essence, use the section that meets your needs for that part of the process. Use the hottest section to sear the meat. Then move it to indirect heat, and put the next batch on to sear.
A Few Simple Recipes to Charm Your Shabbat Table
Wait, you haven’t been invited out yet? Okay, so it looks like you’ll be doing some cooking.
For meat dishes, get the kids to help make Shake ’n Bake Chicken Poppers, while you prepare Instant Pot Beef and Green Beans (solving your need for a healthy vegetable course) and Pesto Chicken Salad With Crunchy Rice.
One final tip is to use your phone to set the tone. Find the best soundtrack to bring in Shabbat in a special way.
Remember — you’ve got this.