Ask My Readers | Hosting Your First Passover

question 150x150 Ask My Readers | Hosting Your First PassoverToday’s reader question comes from Shana via the KOAB Facebook wall. She’s wondering about making her first seder at home – and where to invest her resources. (I know – I’m in Pesach denial, too. Don’t worry – you can go back there just as soon as this post is over.)

This is the first year we are having Pesach at home. Do you have a “must-have” list for Pesach items – where to spend and where to buy cheap? I am torn between reusable and disposable and appliances vs just going super basic. Any advice would help! Thanks!

I’m sure my readers have plenty of great advice for Shana, but I quickly wanted to suggest a couple of points.

  • Determine whether this is a long-term trend of making seder / all of Pesach at home or not. The answer will impact how much it’s worth investing this year. Even if it is long-term, remember your budget. If you don’t have the money, you don’t have it! And that’s okay. Those Israelites, I’m told, made do without even an oven. icon wink Ask My Readers | Hosting Your First Passover
  • While I know it is the spirit of the law to use your finest wares for Peach, I have a hard time saving my best dishes for just one week out of the year. That said, I do try to have a few extra nice pieces – they are so much fun to unpack!
  • If you will have more than twelve at your seder, you may want to focus on building up your cookware this year – and stick to disposables for dishes.
  • Don’t try to do it all at once – and don’t feel the need to replicate your day-to-day kitchen. I wouldn’t recommend investing in any high-end appliances this year. See how it goes and if you’re really missing your food processor/kitchen-aid/blender/panini maker (just kidding), make a note of it – and plan to invest in one next year. That way, you’ll have all year to find the best deals!
  • Don’t worry too much about putting together a huge collection serving pieces – at least in my experience, many of these come as hostess gifts.
  • I would recommend investing in a good set of meat and pareve knives. And a few excellent cutting boards. They will never do you wrong.
  • Finally, don’t forget hagadot, the seder plate, and any of the other traditional “artifacts” your family uses (we don’t have a special Elijah’s cup, for example, but rather use a wine glass). One day I’d love to upgrade our hagadot, but for now we have an inexpensive set of eight paperback Artscrolls. And we ask guests to bring some of their own as well.

That’s the extent of my brain dump, but I’m sure you can help Shana out? Let’s talk making your first Pesach in the comments section!

Do you have a question about budgeting, couponing, menu planning or anything else? Please send me an email – I love hearing from my readers!

Comments

comments

Comments

  1. I second the recommendation for some good knives and cutting boards, and to prioritize some good cookware (and some wooden spoons, which can do so many things!) over dishes in the first year. If you don’t want to do disposable, cheap glass dishes are often easy to find. Think about whether you can kasher any of your year round cutlery (for example, if your flatware is solid metal). An immersion blender with add-ons (a whisk, a small chopper) can keep you from picking up many pricier appliances.
    Also, plan out in advance, and really go to the grocery store knowing what recipes you plan to make. If you aren’t going to use paprika, don’t buy it.
    I also keep a running list over Passover of what I need to buy for next year in terms of kitchen gear (both must haves and wants, like “you need a big stock pot IF you plan to make a big soup but not if you don’t’) so I am not left guessing as to the state of my supplies until the week before Passover. I’ve found that after a couple years of this, all we really need to get this year is food.

  2. Leah Sarah says:

    We get free hagadot here from shoprite or other grocery stores before Pesach. We just replace them when our sets get gross. They even come with coupons in the middle that you can use to buy pesach food(and plenty that are still good for all year round use, with expiration dates after pesach!). Just remember to rip out the coupons before yontiff starts as they are right in the middle of the hagadah :)

  3. While i’ve never hosted (sadly) here are my random Pesach prep things i do:
    Plan plan plan the menus way in advance. As you plan, see what the ingredients will cost – can you get away with fresh herbs over containers (which are often cheaper here anyway), do you need some special version of an ingredient for Pesach for that one dish? That also can increase the cost of the meal. Also watch for the format of your ingredients, i.e. if you don’t plan on buying a food processor, hand grating is great, BUT takes a lot of time and effort. Or if you plan on making potato soup, a masher is mostly ok, but won’t make it as nice as a blender. I did it for the first 3 Pesach’s, but this year found a nice deal on a cheapie Black and Decker Food processor. (50$!)
    The early (sigh i know) you turn over the kitchen, the early you can start and then freeze the foods you need.
    If you are going to spend some money on Pesach wares, definitely knives. While you can get away with baking in disposables and such, from experience, dealing with lousy knives makes prepping so much harder.
    I found a nice Haggadah at our Jewish library in the used corner, you might be able to snag some used ones too.

    Ok that’s it for me!

  4. Marsha in Chicago says:

    Ditto what Rachel said – the running lsit is critical. it saves me from buying things the following year that I already have that will keep – for example, no need to buy new balsamic vinegar every year when I only use about 1/3 of a bottle each year.

    Also, borrow, borrow, borrow. Your friends won’t need everything they have every year. If you have a mixer and they have a food processor, swap for a day to get your prep done.

    Also, this won’t help you so much now, but for the future, keeping your wish list with you at all times helps. You never know when you will end up across from an outlet store or looking at a clearance rack and seeing cute bowls or an extra set of serving utensils that will be great for Pesach. I was at a C&B outlet once in mid-winter and found a set of twelve small bowls that solved one of my previous year’s problems – not enough bowls for condiments on the table. (I served horseradish in my measuring cups!) Also, stores like Michael’s have lots of very inexpensive melamine serving trays that look nice and are unbreakable.

    Finally, one thing that has really helped me is that the vast majority of my stuff for Pesach is fleishig. We have four plastic bowls for cereal, but any dairy we eat (like matzah pizza) is on paper plates with disposable utensils. So much of what we eat that week is seder leftovers anyway that we don’t need much dairy. We have no pareve stuff at all for Pesach, and don’t need it.

    (I did, however, invest in a Pesadik ice cream maker a few years back when Linens and Things went out of business, so I also have mearuing cups and other things I need to make ice cream. Totally worth it – good ice cream is what gets me through the holiday!)

    Also, look into whether your area has a Boil-a-thon. If so, you can repurpose a whole bunch of your year-round stuff like silverware and save a ton of money.

  5. Oh yeah, i file away my menu and shopping list for the following year, so i have a rough idea of how i planned things out. Always feels like brand new every year!

  6. Marsha in Chicago says:

    Oh, and Shana, I know this isn’t the advice you asked for, but it’s the best Seder-hosting advice I know, so I’m sharing anyway!

    When I hosted my first seder (as a grownup – college ones don’t count here!), a friend suggested that when you get to the Karpas, serve a “dipping course” of food. It’s a nice little break, and it eliminates the “when do we eat?” whining. We serve potato chips and crudite, along with guacamole, an herb-mayo kind of dip, sweet and sour onions, and something else I’d have to dig out of my files. I put it all on a side table before we start the seder, and then everyone can just grab a small plateful to tide them over until dinner. Especially if you have kids at your seder, it works like a charm, and we’ve been able to concentrate much better on the pre-meal Haggadah contents that way.

    Happy to share recipes if you’d like.

    • Marsha–thanks. I’m going to add your suggestion to my list. I was at a seder several years ago where everyone moved into the living room and sat on couches for the Maggid section of the haggadah. It was easier to recline and feel like we were relishing being free. We’re hosting our own seder for the first time, and I think we’ll be moving to the couches, too.

    • (Annoying frummer-than-you comment here)

      Check with your local halakhic authority before making karpas a dipping course. Many people are careful to eat less than a kezayit of karpas in order to avoid issues of bracha achrona. If you are serving more than a sliver of parsley or potato for karpas, make certain than all of your guests are comfortable with it. Nothing worse than being the one person who is fasting while everyone else is digging into potato chips and guacamole.

      • I just want to clarify. I am not implying that I actually think I am frummer than anyone else. I just meant that I know that my previous comment could come across as annoying.

        • LOL. I knew what you meant!

          My husband’s adopted family (mishpacha ma’ametzet) in Jerusalem used to do this, until one year their cousin, who is charedi, came for seder – and couldn’t partake. It was fun while it lasted ;-)

  7. Etti Mermelstein says:

    First dont forget all the stuff for the seder, like everything on the seder plate. Also, make copirs of any year round recipes you can make to avoid having to buy new cookbooks. I say definstely invest in any appliances you will use often, food processor or immerdion blender. I also have found goid frying pans for fleishig are only needed if you are going to be doingvthis yearly. Ikea and dollar stores are fabulous for just about everything else. And the glass dishes at BB&B are the best !!

  8. I invested in meat and dairy dishes from Ikea and have never looked back. They cost me less than $100 combined, in total, and it’s such fun to take out a lovely set of china every year. My other splurge item was a good food processor. With all the prep I do in such a short time (think eight kugels in 2 days!) it’s a lifesaver. Great post! Thank you!

  9. First, do a search for last year’s Pesach posts (by Mara and by others) on KOAB. I just reread them last night! Use them as your guide. I, too, have tried to get 1-2 new items per year. This year, we got silverware at ikea so we don’t have to keep wasting on disposables. The silverware does NOT look like it’s the highest quality, but if I use it for the next 10 years, it will still only have about three months of heavy use, right? Our Pesach dishes are melamine from Target a few years ago; regular dishes are striped, and the smaller (coordinating) plates have polka dots. I like Rivki’s suggestion, and maybe when we have more space, we’ll get nicer dishes from ikea.

    Like Marsha, our Pesach stock is almost 100% meat. It works for us, and it’s easier.

    Somebody already said this (either here or on FB), but if you plan to live in the same place for a while, get counter covers. For about $25 in 2007, I got yards and yards of heavy vinyl, which I then cut to fit my countertops. This year, I’ll probably spend $5-10 to replace the segments that were not salvageable after last year (their fifth year in action… and the majority of the pieces are still in perfect condition).

  10. Definitely talk to your friends and neighbors! If someone who normally makes Pesach is going away, they undoubtedly have stuff you can use. Last year, we invited ourselves to Mara for all of Pesach, and I offered my treasure trove of Pesach appliances to my neighbors who were making Pesach for the first or second time.

    We didn’t bring any of those small appliances when we made ailyah, so I’ve made do without a food processor for now. I’m going to get a good one, use it for Pesach and then convert it for year-round. Yes, I’ll have a problem again NEXT year, but… yeah.

    Over the years, I have made a LOT of Pesachs, so I do have a nice supply of dishes and cookware. And over the years, I had slowly added to my small appliances. You don’t need the BEST KitchenAid for Pesach, but you don’t want the cheapest off-brand machine either. It gets HEAVY use for that week, so get the best YOU can afford, and add one appliance per year. Also, don’t wait until you’ve made 12 years worth of Pesach in America to decide you want to go live in Israel, but that’s another story….

  11. Ask around in your family, you never know who has decided they no longer need service for 12 in pesach dishes or silverware or who has ended up with an extra pot or pan. I got a ton of stuff from my grandmother when she moved out of her house and a number of other things from my mom when she realized she had collected too many pots and pans over the years. She also remembered that she had been storing my other grandmother’s dishes as well. I ended up with a full set of both meat and dairy dishes. My sister was offered some as well but her comment was that she’ll just always go to my mom and when that doesn’t work anymore she’ll come to me instead :) Plus now I have the memories when I look at those items!
    For appliances I found that a food processor was the most useful…I use mine for everything from whipping egg whites to making potato kugel and cookies.

  12. Everyone has such fantastic input! I concur. Just a couple of additions. I’m surprised every year by how NOT hungry we are when it comes time for the seuda. We eat a lot of matzo & lettuce before we get to the seuda. And we have to leave room for the afikomen. I nearly always make too much food for those night meals. Save your energy for the day meals. Also, I had a cheap (waring, I think) food processor that I bought for $25 many years ago at Venture (Do you remember Venture?). I thought it would tide me over for a few years, and it lasted over 20 years. It’s only for those 8 days, even though I’m cooking like crazy for those 8 days. It was fine. I also have a cheap little microwave so my kids can make their own matzo pizzas, potatoes, etc. If you have room, it’s handy.

  13. Great ideas!

    We got picknickware dishes at Target several years ago. They were basically the same price as nicer disposables, and they don’t last for forever, but they’ve seen us through for about 5 years. When I move to a house, I’ll invest in real dishes for Pesach.

    Like others said, start w. the basics. Stock pot for soups, a couple of frying pans, knives and cutting boards (we used to use the bendable ones, now upgraded to solid boards).

    Foil pans are fine for most of the baking, so that makes it easier. Like others mentioned, I inherited pots and some dishes from relatives.

    Also, keep in mind that you don’t need to buy new when the items are kasherable. My parents had an old set of silverware that we kashered for pesach.

    I use a lot of the same recipes I use all-year-round. Some need only slight modifications (veggie kugels, chicken dishes, salads, etc). I never buy lemon juice for Pesach – I just buy a few fresh lemons.

    I also try to limit how many cabinets I need to clean out – the more I can just close up, the better. That being said, I do empty my pantry for pesach – it becomes the place where we store food and dishes. I don’t bother emptying silverware drawers – I just leave the 2 trays of silverware out on a wheelie cart we have in our kitchen. The remaining implements are also in other trays or cups at the back of the counter.

    I haven;t had a dairy pot in all my years of making pesach. Just a frying pan for eggs or Matza brei (matza pizza can be made on foil or in tins). We just bought one for this year.

    We also bought meat mugs b/c I didn’t have good hot cups for tea and/or soup.

    Amazing Savings/NWL are also good sources for cheaper odds and ends. We got a set of colorful plastic mixing bowls and a set of bowls w. lids that are my staples for preparing, storing, and serving foods.

    Whenever we get gifts of housewares (extra mikasa platters, etc), I usually save it for Pesach these days, so I have a couple of nice bowls & platters.

  14. Devorah Simon says:

    I have special toys only for Pesach. They only come out once the kitchen is turned over. The older kids love to “teach” the younger ones how to play with the long lost toys. Each year I invest in only 2 toys for everone and it is amazing how quickly we amassed a huge tub. The best finds are after December 25th but once my teenager found a skeeball for $25! Hide them well! And ALWAYS put them away when you are switching the kitchen back. It is the kids jobs to collect all the missing pieces while I am washing the dishes.

  15. OK I am doing my first Seder this year and here is my plan. How does this sound??

    #1. Put a special emphasis on putting together a great Haggadah. I am using The Velveteen Rabbi’s free downloadable/printable version (this version explains a lot and has Hebrew, transliteration, and English and seems a great “for everyone” version). I think I will add some extra bits in (questions for thought/discussion) and bits of Uncle Eli’s Passover Haggadah for the kiddos.

    #2 Make the meal vegetarian. That way everyone can eat everything and it keeps the costs lower. Use a roasted beet for the Zeroa.

    #3 Buy or make my Seder plate. If I can’t find a Seder plate that is within my budget, I will use my fanciest plate and then use glass bowels on top to “make” my Seder plate. My table may be eclectic, but candles and a nice table cloth will pull it together.

    #4 Assign parts to people in the invite so everyone can come ready to contribute. We are lucky to have children at our Seder…so we have to have portions of the meal that will engage them (and let everyone’s inner child free)!

    #5 Make pillows to use at the table or ask everyone to bring a reclining pillow with them (I have some throw pillows…but not 15)!

    #6 Plan songs/music and focus on a fun, enlightening, fulfilling Seder.

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