Post Purim Notes for Next Year

Post Purim Notes for Next Year

Sitting down at the computer now, it’s been a busy and beautiful day. One aspect of this blogging platform that I’m particularly enjoying and coming to appreciate is the journaling aspect of jotting down my thoughts and knowing they’ll be there to reference in future years, to grow and to learn from. After each chag, we have those recurring thoughts regarding what went well, and what we’d like to remember for next year. Well, here’s my report. Perhaps it’ll enlighten more readers than only myself.

1.     First Thoughts

Aka, my gut reaction. Purim this year was beautiful. The mishloach manos were delivered, cards sent, megilla heard, matanos l’evyonim given, and seuda had. However, I. Did. Too. Much. Purim is a time with so much potential. We can involve our young children in the preparations, affording them a deeper appreciation of what each mitzva symbolizes. However, in today’s age of social media, where so many of us are looking at others’ themes and family costumes on facebook, pinterest, or instagram, or even just passing on the street while wishing one another a “Freilachem Purim,” we’ve got to get back to basic. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have themes. I’ll continue to do so as it makes the preparations even more exciting in our house. However, I’ll scale it back im yirtze Hashem next year so that we can focus on what’s important; our relationships with Hashem, with each other, and with ourselves. Lesson 1: Tone down the details – it doesn’t have to be perfect.

2.     Choosing My Kids’ Costumes

This year, while on vacation I found the cutest costume for my son. It was great, it was perfect, and it was all Boy. However, I knew our theme had been chosen for the wrong reasons when my son was at shul, saw someone dressed as a clown, and said “I wish I were dressed up as a clown.” Puzzled, I reminded him that we’d had a clown costume that would have been just his size this year. He answered me saying “I didn’t know that was an option.” Lesson 2: Let the kids choose their own costumes – it’s their fun. Don’t get me wrong, he enjoyed and had a good time in his costume, but we have to realize that as our little ones get older, kids must be able to express their identities through their own imaginations and ambitions – and on Purim, the costume is their form of expression.

Another aspect of the costume thought process that I’ve noticed in recent years, is that (at least the little ones) are being asked to bring their costumes into school on Taanis Esther. Particularly on years when I’ve put a fair bit of DIY effort into a costume, I’m hesitant to send it in knowing that it may get dirty of damaged before Purim. In lieu of this, I pull out a dress up costume from the dollar store that my little one can wear to school that day. saving his real costume for Purim itself.

3.    Planning Ahead

I’ll write down the following deadlines now, so that perhaps I might remember for next year.

  • Rosh Chodesh Shvat – Have a theme chosen.
  • One week into Shvat – Place eBay orders (I’ve become a huge fan of ordering aspects of costumes extremely inexpensively on ebay. However these can often take more than a month to ship.).
  • Rosh Chodesh Adar – Have a list of card mishloach manos / card recipients completed so I’m ready to go shopping and place card orders. Have all DIY costumes DONE. Take pictures in full costumes if using for mishloach manos labels / notes.
  • 7th of Adar – Have cards filled out, stamped and sealed, ready to mail. Mishloach maos shopping should be completed (possible exceptions if food items might spoil). Have mishloach manos labels / notes designed and printed. Have seuda menu completed. Have all seuda decor bought, including paper / plastic goods.
  • 12th of Adar – Have mishloach manos packed, and ready to go. IF making real food MMs that need to be assembled last minute, purchase easy to close packaging with no fumbling, tying, or curling aspects. Open gift bags are ideal.

 Lesson 3: Plan ahead, and stick to the plan. In short, I may or may not actually stick to these by the book next year, because life happens. But I do know that I’m going to try my best. There’s got to be a game plan. A game plan was soarly missing this year, and I felt it in my exhaustion leading up to Purim.

4.     Mishloach Manos

So many lessons here. Lesson 4: Buy open top bags (gift bags) if giving real food MMs so that they can be assembled in advance with the fresh food component just being popped in easily on Purim morning. Lesson 5: If making a seuda, cut down recipient list to the bare bones, and send cards instead. Between the cost, time management of making mishloach manos, and then delivering, in addition to making a seuda, something’s got to give. If you’ve got the time, go for it, however if life is particularly busy (and whose isn’t) it’s fine to cut down. Lesson 6: Keep them simple. Lesson 7: Skip the homemade themed baking projects. There’s a good chance they’ll end up not being eaten, and are extremely time consuming. Lesson 8: Remember that we’re meant to spend more on matanos l’evyonim than on mishloach manos – keep priorities in check.

5.     Seuda

OK here I declare an unabashed WIN. I pre-cooked and stored foods in the freezer and was able to meal plan with detailed ingredient lists. More importantly however, I finally convinced myself that I had cooked enough food (Jewish mother syndrome anyone?). Lesson 9: Know when to stop cooking. Ask yourself: is this appetizer necessary? The decor side of things, well, that could have been done earlier. I’m going to give myself breathing space on this one, because had misshloach manos been simplified (see lesson 5 above) decor would have been done much earlier. One aspect of expansion I would like to consider for next year is to Lesson 10: Consider inviting non family members who may need a seuda. There are so many people out there, whether a single parent or simply a single man or woman, or maybe an older couple whose children have moved away, and would appreciate an invitation.

6.    Matanos L’evyonim

This is simply an idea I’d like to share because I love having one less ‘to do’ on my task list for Purim. Lesson 11: Find out if you can prearrange matanos l’evyonim donations. My shul has established a set-up whereby members arrange for our rav to be a shliach of our money, and it’s all arranged before Purim so that I know there’s one less task to be done on this busy day.

7.    Megilla

I really, I mean really like the shul where I heard megilla last night, however it was a very family oriented minyan, which meant there were many stalls in the leining waiting for kids to quiet down, which meant we got home late, which meant my little one was very tired today. In future years, I’m going to reread this post and be reminded to Lesson 12: Attend a leining that’s quick, and quiet if there is one available – again, this applies especially if planning a seuda in our home.

……Till next year!

What lessons did you learn this year’s experience that you’d love to share? Please comment below!

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Meal Plan Week 5 – Spicing Things Up

Happy Sunday Everyone! I must have been thinking of warmer weather when I drafted this week’s meal plan, because there’s a distinctly Spanish feel to the menu. Please join me in turning up the heat. Many of us Northerners can use it right now!

Meal Plan Week 5:

Friday: Chicken soup, cajun salmon, roasted root veggie sticks, savory baby spinach salad, crockpot applesauceIMG_20141024_161450

Shabbos Lunch: Honey mustard salmon, cholent, roasted root vaggie sticks, spanish rice, mango strawberry baby spinach salad, strawberries for dessert

Sunday: Loaded hot dogs with baby spinach salad

Monday: Family get together

Tuesday: Squash pear soup, quesadillas with crockpot refried beans

Wednesday: Squash pear soup

Thursday: Oat cranberry pancakes, cottage cheese, fresh veggies

What are you making this week to beat the cold?

Please share in the comments below!

Meal Plan Week 4 & Why My Meal Plan Begins on Friday

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I struggled for quite a number of months to get into the flow of meal planning. I found that whichever website I was turning to for tips and inspiration, I wasn’t happy with the printables, although I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why.

Some ways in, it hit me – my week starts on Friday, not Sunday as for so many within the world of meal planning. I generally do a once per week grocery shopping trip on Thursday. Before I can sit down and plan meals for the week, I need to know whether we’re home alone for Shabbos, having ten people over for the meal, or we’re invited out. Since the bulk of my week’s cooking is done for Shabbos, with the most effort being put into making these meals special, I need to set out their structure before I can plan forward into the rest of the week.

Once I started beginning my week on Friday, things began to flow for me. I sit down on Wednesday evening or Thursday morning to plan my Shabbos meals, and then have some idea of whether there will be leftovers stretching into the week or not. I know how many meat or dairy meals I was to serve during the remainder of the week, and most important to me, I have the closure of Shabbos not just hanging as an unknown, but rather as an intentional, integral part of my meal planning.

Meal Plan Week 4

Friday Night: Challah, chicken soup, gefilte fish, green beans, beets, couscous, oatmeal craisin cookies

Shabbos Lunch: Challah, gefilte fish, cholent, green beans, roasted potatoes, cauliflower popcorn, oatmeal craisin cookies, cantaloupe

Sunday: Shabbos leftovers

Monday: Mexican black bean soup, french toast

Tuesday: Tomato feta pasta and sliced veggies

Wednesday: Mexican black bean soup

Thursday: Tomato feta pasta and sliced veggies

What day does your meal planning week begin on, and why have you chosen such a structure? Please share in the comments below!

Meal Plan Week 3

As a mom who’s only recently begun meal planning, I know that consistency is my biggest challenge. Building meal planning into a habit is one of my curent goals and I’m doing my beset to stick with it. While last week I was away and thus didn’t have the opportunity or perhaps the need to plan, I did come back thinking a great way to work on continuation would be to build accountability for myself. So here it is. The (hopeful) plan is that I’ll be posting my meal plans on a weekly basis. Feel free to grab ideas, comment, or ask for recipes. We all seek inspiration in the kitchen, and I hope this offers you some. Enjoy!

A note on leftovers. Cooking for a relatively small family, and being someone who tends to overshoot quantity (better have too much rather than too little!) we eat plenty of leftovers. To keep monotony at bay, I do try to change things up from meal to meal, or I’ll serve dairy one night and meat the next. So long as the food is good, we’re good with it!

Eggplant parm

Shabbos – out both meals! :)

Sunday – Homemade mac & cheese + veggie julienne salad

Monday – Homemade mac & cheese + eggplant parmesan + veggie julienne salad

Tuesday – Tomato soup + whole wheat biscuits

Wednesday – Homemade mushroom stuffed hamburgers on whole wheat bread + toppings

Thursday – Pancakes + cottage cheese + fresh cut veggies

What are you making for dinner this week? I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.

Why I Love Meal Planning

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Life with kids is busy, to say the least. What if there was one small change we could all make to simplify our lives?

Meal planning.

I discovered (ok, committed to) meal planning only over the past few months. Before that I would see food bloggers speaking of the benefits over and over, but couldn’t see myself doing the same. I liked walking through the grocery store and buying what looked fresh and appealing. I didn’t want my creativity to be stifled by having to follow a meal plan each night. I made menus for yomim tovim and for Shabbos, but never for weekday meals.

This method of non-structured meal prep allowed me to make decisions on a whim, cooking whatever I was in the mood for each night based on staple ingredients I’d keep at home – or run out for shortly before – with my little guy in tow. I was wasting produce that I couldn’t use up during the week, always feeling bad for tossing them.

Recently I took the plunge and committed to meal planning. The end result?

Structure = Less Stress – My menu is stuck to the refrigerator at the beginning of each week, so I know exactly what’s going to be happening, and when. I can then go on autopilot without having to stress out each day at the 4:00 crunch thinking “what should I make today?”

Time Management – When planning my menu, I’m able to see what preparatory tasks can be taken care of the night before. If I know that one day is going to busier and I need a throw together meal, I can chop veggies the night before, or even just take out the dry ingredients and have them ready on the counter so that meal prep runs like clockwork.

Less Wasted Food and Money – Meal planning allows us to take stock of our ingredients before meal planning. Once we know what we have on hand, we know what we don’t need to buy, and can avoid doubling up on perishable ingredients. Structured planning also allows us to pointedly make use of ingredients that may be on their way out, by planning to toss them into a soup or stew where the difference goes unnoticed.

Quicker Shopping Trips – I do a big shop once a week. That’s it. So I know that I ave to have all necessary ingredients on hand in order to follow my plan. Once my meal plan is set for the week, I’m able to create accurate lists, with the number of each food item I’ll need to buy, because i know how many times I’ll cook with it throughout the week. I then divide these up appropriately into the few stores that I hit during my shopping trip.

Failing to Plan = Planning to Fail – I now know the difference meal planning has made in my life. I’m less stressed, more organized, and feel good about how much less I’m wasting on a weekly basis. I’m hoping to put up my weekly meal plans going forth, to share with you some Ideas that will inspire you to get on the bandwagon and come meal plan with me.

Dinner menu for this week:

Fri night – Soup, gefilte fish, beets, green beans, roasted potatoes, roasted mushrooms, fruit salad, healthy rice krispy treats

Seuda Shlishis – G-fish, green beans, roasted potatoes, roasted mushrooms, fruit salad

Sun – G-fish, beets, green beans, roasted potatoes and mushrooms from Shabbos

Mon – Tomato zucchini meatball soup, fruit salad

Tues – Chickpea feta salad with whole wheat biscuits, melon

Wed – Tomato zucchini meatball soup, melon

Thurs – pancakes, cottage cheese, fresh veggies, fruit