Today’s helpful guest post about Pesach menu planning comes from KOAB reader, Caroline Musin.
I will admit it—I love Pesach.
I love seders, I love Haggadot, and I love having the luxury of having this particular week off work. I even love the food… well, most of it.
I do not love the week before Pesach. I truly do not love it. However, as many of my friends will tell you, what keeps me sane and ready for Pesach is my trusty clipboard.
This clipboard is the center of my entire Pesach plan. It contains my handwritten recipe lists from years past (often including menus and even guests), my grocery lists (separated by store), and the color-coded shopping section of this year’s cRc Pesach guide.
While planning a week’s worth of meals has never been part of my general plan, I have found that the more I can plan for Pesach, the better. This also translates to significantly fewer trips to the grocery store, and I think we can all agree that that’s a good thing.
I sat down last week with my lists from past years and decided what would be on the menu this year. Before I share the menu itself, here are a few tips to help you figure out what you’re going to eat this year:
- Take all of your Pesach cookbooks (or other cookbooks that have recipes you like and can use/adapt), and sit down with them. Work your way through the cookbooks and note recipes that look interesting. In addition to the name of each recipe, be sure to write down the page in the cookbook, the name of the cookbook, and the specific quantities of ingredients needed. The extra time you spend on that last sentence will save you hours. I promise.
- Wow—you have an obscenely long list. You don’t really want to make all of those recipes, and some of the ingredients are not going to be easy to find. Or you might need a scant amount of one ingredient that is only sold in very large quantities. Or you don’t have the right preparation utensil in your Pesach supplies. Drop these recipes, or consider my co-op note at the end. This will save you hours. I promise.
- Think about what the people in your house like to eat, both during Pesach and throughout the year. Since until now it’s just been me, and I like leftovers (code: too lazy to make different food every time), that becomes a planned part of my menu. Your non-chametz favorites (salad, homemade dressing, mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, fruit, guacamole) can become staples of your Pesach menu and keep you out of a matzah-induced stomachache.
- Draw out a grid of the week of Pesach, leaving space for three meals on each day. Mark out any meals when you have been invited to someone else’s home. Equally important—mark any meals you are hosting for others. Plan those meals first.
- Using your list of recipes, mix and match to create your first draft of menus.
Caveats to the menu below—I live on my own, so most meals are planned for only 2-3 people. This plan also assumes that except for sedarim, I am responsible for every single meal. While that is not a likely outcome, I’d rather overplan than be stuck on Day 6.
Now that you know my menu planning method for Passover, here’s what we’ll be eating. Attached is a Google Document of my Pesach menu plan, which you can feel free to download and adapt to your family’s needs.
Monday, April 18
First Seder (out)
Tuesday, April 19
Lunch: gefilte fish, guacamole, charoset, salad, brownies
Dinner: Second Seder (out)
Wednesday, April 20
Lunch: unplanned (oops!)
Dinner: chicken, homemade cranberry sauce, quinoa
Thursday, April 21
Lunch: matzah pizza, salad, clementines
Dinner: salmon, roasted potatoes, popovers, salad
Friday, April 22
Lunch: matzah brei, guacamole
Shabbat dinner: chicken (or possibly chicken soup as an entrée), spicy potato stacks, quinoa with zucchini, popovers
Saturday, April 23
Shabbat lunch: leftovers
Dinner: matzah pizza, salad
Sunday, April 24
Brunch: matzah brei, fruit salad
Dinner: chicken cutlets, sweet potato soufflé, popovers
Monday, April 25
Lunch: matzah brei, salad
Dinner: gefilte fish, meatballs, roasted potatoes, salad
Tuesday, April 26
As for breakfast, I have a weakness for the boxed coffee cake and marble cake mixes. What can I say? They have formed the backbone of my Pesach breakfasts for as long as I can remember! While they are not necessarily frugal, I definitely compare prices among stores, and since this is one of the very, very few processed items I purchase for Pesach, I have given myself a pass here.
Co-op Note: my plan for organizing a group of people to share the purchase of certain ingredients didn’t quite work, but one friend emailed me and offered to trade matzah for horseradish. I was happy to agree—it makes for less work, less excess, and less out-of-pocket for us both!
I hope menu-planning looks a bit easier now. If nothing else, please remember that you can make beautiful meals without relying on fancy-pants recipes. Don’t be afraid to make something more than once. I find that having a grid helps me figure out how to repeat without overdoing the food; it also helps me see that there’s an extra meal here and there that might need to be worked out or rebalanced.
Have you made your Passover menu plan yet? What’s your method for keeping it from getting unwieldy? Anyone else use a clipboard like Caroline?