Overwhelmed? Schedule Yom Tov Efficiently With Ida Levy
By: Ida Levy @KitchenAccomplished
Since the popularity of Instagram (and maybe before), I have found that it’s become a competition to see who can offer the best holiday tips, trendiest recipes, fanciest tablescapes, organization concepts, and menu ideas. In my nearly 20 years of marriage, I have always felt that the month of Tishrei should not be a cooking marathon, where holiday stress coincides with back-to-school stress. Let’s take it one hurdle at a time!
I try to keep most of my shopping/prep/cooking and baking to the one week leading up to the holidays in order to cut down on prolonged planning. I understand that it may not work for some, but when is anything ever one-size-fits-all? I try not to set the bar so high that I can’t provide consistent meals for my family the week before the holiday because the people that I want to enjoy the holidays with are the same people I’d be neglecting the week before due to stress! I don’t see Tishrei as a month of holidays; I take it one holiday at a time.
Coming after Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (which isn’t food-focused but presents its own difficulties), Sukkot is the time I like to get creative with meals and will spend a little more time prepping and in the kitchen. Since eating outdoors presents its own set of challenges, I try to keep my menus simple, yet impressive, delicious, and unique. A meat-based soup for chilly evenings and a crowd-pleasing one-pan meal (like chicken and spaghetti or pepper steak) with a few sides. This year, the Yom Tov days fall out over the weekend, so there’s a lot less to think about.
In general, I like to write a menu when I have some free moments two weeks before the holiday, then make the grocery list based off that. I’ll make myself a more detailed to-do schedule for the 5-7 days before, including things to be done on the holiday, for example:
Sunday- bake lotus brownies, gluten free cookies, challah (freeze all), order hostess gifts or flowers
Monday- shop for proteins and round 1 of produce, feed sourdough starter, tuna borekas, mac & cheese, roast (freeze all)
Tuesday- main grocery shop, sourdough, apple cobbler (freeze all)
Wednesday- artichokes, cauliflower, muddy buddies, kibbe mushroom
Thursday- last shopping trip, string beans, cut fruit, mushrooms, defrost for tomorrow
Friday- potato kugel, chicken, rice, fennel salad
Saturday- assemble fruit salad, defrost for tomorrow
Sunday- assemble flatbread, make fresh salads
Each of these lists is written on a small separate paper so I can add/adjust as needed.
Having a neat menu (I always offer my followers a unique free menu printable) helps a lot. There is nothing like highlighting things as they’re prepared and seeing my accomplishments. I also know exactly what needs to be defrosted/heated up for the following day.
If I’m invited out for a meal, I try to make it after I host a big meal so I can take a well-deserved break. Trying not to host two big meals in one day when possible will also help ensure the stress levels stay low.
I also make sure that I don’t pressure myself to have plans for every meal. It’s more than okay to just have immediate family for a meal.
Additionally, I take as many shortcuts as I can. That could mean Duncan Hines brownies, store-bought stuffed vegetables, or meals I prepare in large quantities and freeze in smaller portions (like macaroni & cheese or meatballs).
I also try to use my time in the kitchen as double duty - when my kids are eating dinner the week before the holiday, I’ll talk to them about their day while preparing an item on my to-do list. If I have a small pocket of time before a bus comes or an appointment, I’ll prepare just a part of a recipe so it’s a little quicker later (peel the potatoes, chop the onions, etc).
I hope these tips help you have an enjoyable and stress free month of Tishrei!