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Physical Preparation for Pesach

We start preparing for Pesach when we start thinking about Purim, which falls a month before Pesach every year. We start using up the stuff on our pantry shelves, particularly the baking supplies. We think before we purchase any number of items like cereal, pretzels, and peanut butter - will we use it all before Pesach?

We have a calendar for Pesach preparation that we'll share with you. We got it years ago and refer to it every year even though we don't follow it exactly.

Calendar for Pesach Preparation

We originally got this calendar from the school Miriam attended for Kindergarten. We'll present it first pretty much as we received it, then share our comments about this schedule with you.

Four Weeks Before:

Three Weeks Before:

Two Weeks Before:

Last Week:
The following schedule must be adjusted for Shabbat, with the work scheduled for the days before Shabbat being done one day earlier. B'dikat chametz is performed on the evening before the first seder.

Our Reaction to This Schedule and How We Adapt It

Four weeks before, we start looking at what we have on our shelves. We do our best to use up everything we can before Pesach so that we don't have chametz in the house. We usually go through all our food storage areas and prepare an inventory of food, which we then divide into something like the following categories: Food to use up or discard; unopened food we won't use and can donate to a food pantry; unopened food that we will sell to a non-Jew for the duration of Pesach.

We plan our meals between Purim and Pesach as carefully as we can to use up as much of what we already have as possible. If it looks like we're going to end up with unopened packages of things like cereal, pasta, flour, we set those items aside for Project Mazon, which distributes the items to food pantries in our area. Since we often buy in bulk, we always end up with a certain amount of food (often frozen) that it would be a significant financial loss to replace. This food we sell to a non-Jew through our rabbi.

These days there are a plethora of kosher-for-Passover items available that replicate virtually everything one eats during the year. We don't buy these, as a rule, so shopping for hard-to-find items like kosher-for-Passover noodles or muffin mixes rarely enters the picture for us. We do start buying kosher-for-Passover foods as much as a month before Pesach, mainly because we like to spread out the economic impact of changing all the food in the house as much as possible.

Three weeks before we do start a general scrubbing and cleaning throughout the house. We discourage everyone from carrying food out of the kitchen/dining area, but it is not yet forbidden. We need to do our final Pesach cleaning a little closer to the event because nothing will stay clean in our house for more than a day or so.

Our main activity at this point is determining what we're going to eat, who we're going to eat with, and what we want to do at the seder.

Two weeks before we start working toward the kitchen. The bedrooms are ruthlessly scrubbed, vacuumed, swept, polished, dusted. As we finish each room, we post a sign on the door so that we'll remember not to take in food.

The last week before Pesach we finish our shopping and cleaning. The areas we use most are left until the day before Pesach begins. Since the first seder is on a Wednesday night this year, we will spend Tuesday cleaning the kitchen/dining/computer/family areas, clearing out all the cabinets, and finishing our shopping. Any non-Pesachdik food in the house that has not been sold will be moved out to the mudroom.

We will search the house for chametz sometime after it becomes dark, then start washing and putting away our Pesach dishes. We traditionally eat a very chametz-dik breakfast on the day of the first seder - usually pastries and juice boxes in the mudroom. If we're lucky, the weather is nice enough to have this meal outdoors. Afterwards, we clean up and burn the leftovers as well as the chametz we found on our search the night before.

Then we go in, finish changing the kitchen if necessary, pause to catch our breaths, and start cooking like mad.

What Other People Do to Prepare for Pesach

Many people we know make a corner of their kitchen kosher for Passover and prepare foods in advance. We don't do this for two reasons - Joan could never figure out just how to do this, and we like the idea of commemorating our Exodus from Egypt by our haste in having to prepare everything on the last day.

Food Inventories and Menu Planning

Sometime in the month before Pesach, we go through all the food storage areas in our house and list what we have. We try to do this about three weeks in advance, but sometimes we're a little closer to Pesach when we begin. We go through the extra refrigerator, the big freezer, the closet where we store our bulk-buying purchases, the shelves going down to our basement where we keep things like cans and pasta, our brand-new pantry shelves, and our main refrigerator. Everything gets listed from the 25-pound bag of cornmeal we bought last month to the leftover macaroni and cheese from yesterday's lunch.

Once we have the list, we go through it and assign each item to a category. The category names vary, but they mean basically the same thing each year:

While we are assigning food to these categories, we make a list of things we should use up in meals. A pound of fettucine, a package of hot dog rolls, a box of vegetarian chile mix, and three pounds of lasagne noodles means fettucine alfredo, smart dogs with chile, and lots of lasagne. Then we construct a menu plan to use up as much as possible (uh-oh, we can only fit in lasagne twice before Pesach, we'd better give the third pound of lasagne noodles to Project Mazon).

The last week before Pesach may include some strange meals - hot cereal for supper, pancakes for lunch (why did I buy TWO big boxes of pancake mix in February?), but this system works for us.