How to Make Pesach for the First Time

I remember my first experience making Pesach. It was relatively early in my motherhood journey, with a one year old in tow when at the time my husband asked if we could make Pesach at home rather than having to go out for all of our meals. And let me tell you, I did NOT feel prepared to make Pesach for the first time. After some discussion however, we had come to the decision to move forward, and went for it, full steam ahead.

Well let me tell you, in five years of making Pesach since then, I’ve learned a few things. Each year has brought with it vastly different circumstances, from being in full time school, through internships, work, unemployment and the opportunity to be a full time stay at home mom. I’ve hosted, and made my first seder. Through trial and error, I’ve forked the process through, spoken to more seasoned balabustas, and simplified the process.

And now I’m going to share my tips with you. Ready? OK, let’s go!

1.   Pace Yourself

This is key. As a first time Pesach planner, you want to make sure that you’re not taking on more than is physically, mentally and financially feasible. Begin with the basics, and build from there, year after year. There is no rush to ‘do it all’ your first year. Initially, you want to focus on essentials.

2.   Differentiate Between Halacha (Necessities), and Chumra (Stringencies)

Do some research on your local kashrus certification organization’s website as to what preparations are necessary, and what are considered stringencies, and then speak with your rabbi to determine which stringencies are or are not appropriate to take on at this point. Many kashrus agencies publish an annual Passover guide, detailing how to clean your home and how to kasher your kitchen for Pesach, as well as what items and ingredients necessitate a specific Kosher l’Pesach hechsher.

3.   Keep Your Rabbi’s Phone Number Handy

Our teachers taught us in grade school: there is no such thing as a foolish question. Same goes for halachic shailos. Yes, Pesach is one of the busiest times of the year for our rabbis. However, they’re used to it and expect our phone calls. PLEASE don’t feel that only a man can call in a halachic question – find a rav with whom you feel comfortable communicating so that you can ask these shailos yourself. On a practical level, it’s also fantastically helpful having a rebbetzin or another woman whom you feel comfortable calling, who’s been through the process many times previously.

A tip for keeping on top of shailos as they arise in your kashering process, is to have a notebook in which to write them down. This helps in two ways. First, you can wait to call them in until you’ve compiled a number of questions rather than trying to reach your rabbi multiple times in one day (and even so you may end up doing so!). Second, you’ll have a record from year to year of the questions you’ve had answered previously, so that you don’t unnecessarily have to make repeat calls.

4.  Enlist Help

Whether it’s a spouse, a relative, friend, or cleaner, enlist help. Cleaning for Pesach and kashering a kitchen for the first time is a big job. Go into the process with help.

5.   Create a List of Kitchenware You’ll Need to Purchase

In this article rather than going over what items you’ll need to purchase, I’ll give you general ideas to guide you. Remember to stick to the basics. Know how you’ll be using your kitchen over Pesach, whether for cooking for crowds, cooking for your family, or just eating over chol hamoed, or going all out and making sedarim. Then break this down into lists of cookware, servingware, eating, food storage, and any small appliances.

Next, work out which items you must purchase this year, and which you can hold off on. Alternatives to purchasing these items all at once in your first year include:

  • Buying of a lesser quality than you would for during the year – The expense of purchasing items for a first Pesach can be staggering. To keep costs down, pick up items at dollar stores, or discount stores like Walmart or Target. My Pesach meat dishes, six years in, are still this set of nice white Corelle Dishes – the added plus being that in turning over the kitchen, they’re a relatively lightweight material, and are very difficult to break in the shuffle. Remember, it’s only one week that these dishes are being used. Initially, go for pieces that are classic, practical, and won’t break the bank. You can always upgrade in later years. Another example is my trusty $10 hand mixer – no need to buy a stand mixer for all those egg white cakes and mousses, they’ll whip up just fine with this lower cost alternative. Food processor? Grater, like in the good ol’ days. You get the picture.
  • Pulling out your wedding and engagement gifts that you didn’t end up using for everyday – When I got married, I received about four sets of Pyrex dishes, as well as multiple kiddush cups, havdalah sets, and serving platters that weren’t necessary for use during the year. These were put away, and are now part of my Pesach collection.
  • Kashering – Many metal items can be kashered, including cutlery, pots and pans, kiddush cups, and others, though the process of kashering can be somewhat time consuming. and may require the harsh scouring of the items in question.
  • Using Disposable – Aluminum baking pans, and plasticware can make a huge difference to the ease of a hectic yom tov. Even those who try to limit their use during the year will find that Pesach may be the time to compromise.

* Remember to schedule time to tovel all of your new items. *

5.5   Create a List of Kitchenware You’ll Want to Purchase After Pesach, for Next Pesach

Yup, you read that right. I called this bullet 5.5 because it comes in conjunction with the one above. Now’s the time to start creating that list. This will be the springboard for your sale scavenging. The boxing week after I made my first Pesach, I purchased a meat set of pots at approximately 60% off their original value. As I wrote above. Build your collection of Pesach kitchenware slowly, saving on the initial costs, and more importantly, saving money altogether. Start the list now so you don’t forget what items you wanted after Pesach is finished for the year.

6.   Create a Plan for What Materials to Use in Converting Your Kitchen / Dining Room

This process will differ for every family. You’ll want to work out where to store your Pesach ingredients and dishware, and whether, and where to, you’ll be dispacing any chametz alternatives.

Next you’ll need to figure out how you’ll be covering surfaces. To cover counters, many families choose to use one or more of the following: corrugated plastic sheets (very inexpensive, available at most hardware stores, and easy to cut with a utility knife), custom cut plexi glass sheets (more high end), disposable plastic tableclothes (thicker vinyl ones are advisable so as not to rip, available at dollar stores), or simply heavy duty aluminium foil. You’ll also need to decide how to line fridge shelves, cabinet shelves, sinks, stoves, and ovens, if this is your minhag.

7.  Build Yourself a Cleaning Calendar

Again, this will differ drastically as per your family and home’s physical layout. As early as you can prior to Pesach, working backwards from seder night, begin marking down deadlines for cleaning rooms or sections of your home. For some practical advice and good perspective on simplifying the process, check out Ruchi Koval’s article How to Clean for Pesach in One Day. When it comes down to it, once again remember that dust is not chametz. Refer to this article written a number of years ago entitled How to Clean for Pesach and Enjoy the Seder based on responsa given by Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg zt”l on what circumstances necessitate cleaning, and which do not.

8.   Create a Meal Plan and Ingredient List

As well as you’re able, create a detailed menu as to what you’ll cook when, and what ingredients will be needed. Keep it simple as Pesach items are considerably more expensive than their year round counterparts. Create a space in your house, ie a plastic bin, or a designated cabinet shelf to store your purchased items if doing so before turning over the kitchen.

9.   Create a Game Plan for Actually Turning Over Your Kitchen, and then Do It!

Take two days, with no children in the vicinity (this can mean sleeping), and just go at it. Put in the elbow grease, enlist someone to help if necessary, and get the entire job done. When it comes to it, it’s not as daunting as it seems.

10. Treat Yourself

After all the hard work you’ve done, go out and take some time to relax. You’ve worked hard and accomplished a significant task, and deserve some rest and relaxation before going into yom tov.

Do you have further tips to share? Questions to raise? Please comment below to start gain from one another’s ideas!

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