Getting Organized for YomTov Cooking | My (New) Yom Tov Cooking Binder

Do you ever do something that is so simple, so obvious, so effective that you find yourself wondering, “Why didn’t I think of this sooner???”

That’s how I feel about my new yomtov binder!

I am so in love with how this very simple binder has revolutionized my YomTov prep, that I just had to share it with you.

If you read my Highs & Lows post from earlier today, you know that I found myself completely ready for Rosh Hashana at 4 p.m. on Sunday. That has *never* happened to me before. I’m usually running around like crazy right until candle lighting.

I credit my new-found “zen” to the binder! Given that it worked so well for us, I wanted to share what I did, in the hopes that it might work for you, too.

Supplies: A three-ring binder and a package of sheet protectors. You will also need a printer, which ideally has the ability to photocopy/scan as well. 

Step #1: Make your menu – Print it out and slip it into a sheet protector. I try to menu plan at least two weeks in advance, so I can take advantage of two week’s worth of sales at the grocery store.

Step #2: Make your grocery list according to your menu – Print it and slip it into a sheet protector. I wrote down everything I needed, then crossed out the stuff I already had at home. This way, the complete list was created so I can reuse it for future years if desired. I also divided up my list by stores, since with kosher options being what they are in Kansas City, I find I usually  need to go to at least three different stores to get everything.

Step #3: Make a detailed To Do list for each day of yomtov prep. Type up that list and print it out, putting it into a sheet protector. Since RH started on a Sunday, I found myself especially stressed about how I’d get everything done in time with Shabbat to contend with as well.

I usually start cooking two nights before yomtov, but this year, I started on Thursday night, cooked most of the day Friday, did a few things Saturday night and then again on Sunday. Having my husband off work on Erev Yom Tov was also a HUGE help, and I’m glad I’ll get to enjoy that four more times this year!

Step #4: Type up, cut and paste, or photocopy every single recipe you are making for yomtov. If a recipe was online, I used the online print feature most blogs have these days. Otherwise, I cut and paste the recipe into a word doc and printed it that way. I even scanned and photocopied the few recipes I was making out of a cookbook. Every recipe got printed and put into a sleeve protector, which I put into my binder by category – appetizers, main dishes, side dishes & salads, desserts.

This proved to be a huge time-saver. Instead of needing to look it up on my phone, or find the cookbok, or search Google, I just flipped to the right page in my binder!

My binder sat on my countertop during all of yomtov prep. Since the pages were protected in plastic, I could easily wipe them down if they got shmutzy from cooking (which they did). I also was able to use a dry erase marker to cross items off as I completed them.

Eventually, I will make up a pretty cover for my binder, and I also plan to add in some dividers and create new sections for all the yomim tovim. I figure it worked so well for Rosh Hashana – why not?!

Instead of reinventing the wheel every year and wasting time looking up that apple cake recipe online (or realizing I don’t have some key ingredient), I now have my Yom Tov “Brain” to keep things running smoothly.

How do you get organized for cooking on the holidays? Anyone else using a binder with sheet protectors? I’d love to hear about it!


  1. Heather M. Glass says

    You’re brilliant!

    • I also mark down what time they come home from shul so we know how to set the timers. I add in special notes like when to get a baby sitter and I keep track of my guests. It is fun to go back and see who came, what I served them. My notebook goes back to 1989.

  2. I do! I have a binder that’s a little different than yours, but I laminate or use sheet protectors and then carry over my RH checklist (all those simanim!), YK checklist, etc…for everything. Daily and weekly routines, menu planners, and more are there for regular use.

    I keep track of what I have and what I need for each holiday so if I buy some Hanuka candles on a random clearance in May, I don’t buy another set in December.

    And it’s a HUGE help for Passover – I can shop all year long for what I want (new pot?) because it’s on my wishlist AND get it dipped with plenty of time to go. And I can tell you what errands I needed to do, how much grape juice and wine we drank last year, how much matza, how many guests, menus, what went poorly and what went well, etc…

    I call mine my Shalom Bayit Book (SBB) and it really does help run the house!

  3. LOVE this idea. My problem is that i cook mostly from cookbooks and i dont have a printer/copier at home 🙁

  4. Mine’s not so neat and tidy! I just do it by hand!

  5. I find myself using same menu, etc.. for the most part…apple kugel….etc…
    I make lists same as you before yom tov so i have master list, but the idea of making master list with everything then just crossing out what you have in the house is even more brilliant! I also add in 1, 2 easy NEW recipes never did before, as before yom tov is not the time to start experimenting. If I use my tried and true recipes, then it is also easier for me to figure out and plan what I can be multi tasking on…….cooking potatoes, while sauteeing veggies for veggie muffins and making cake mix at same time!

  6. I do something like this and it is truely zen! I started with a Pesach binder and it has helped with all the pre-pesach craziness. I also keep cleaning schedules and wishlists.
    Now my High Holiday’s book is not nearly as tidy! I think I will take on this sheet protector idea, BRILLANT!
    I love all things that help make my OCD seem normal 🙂

  7. BTW, Mara, my obsession is WET erase markers. Like what you use on overhead projectors — that way, you can make notes on the plastic, and they don’t smudge until you wipe them down with a damp rag.

  8. I do a similar thing, with a menu for each day of yom tov. Instead of copying the entire recipe, I just record on my menu the cookbook and page number the recipe is on right next to the recipe. While it may not be as convenient as having the recipe right there, it is less “stuff/paper” to deal with.

  9. I made myself a detailed cooking schedule for RH this year and loved how it made me feel so much more relaxed to know exactly what would get done on which days. Plus, dividing it all up between lots of different days (with some of those days way in advance) split up the labor nicely.

    Specifically, the two big advantages were (1) setting aside one day for all the pareve baking/cooking (for hostess gifts, as opposed to the dairy cooking for us) and (2) roasting the vegetables for multiple dishes at the same time as opposed to heating the oven to a high temperature three separate times.

  10. I also take notes after Yom tov. What was food was good? What wasn’t:-(
    What did I use/not use.
    Also I think it’s good to write down if you need candles, yahrzeit candles, speciality items for the holidays…

  11. I do what Sara does with page numbers too. I also organize my cooking each day by temperature so I can have, let’s say, a kugel and a dessert in at the same time at 350. I also work from coolest to hottest because its easier to heat up than cool down. I include my guests for each meal and write down how many adults & kids I have so I can figure out servings and seating. I think making notes after is a great idea. I forgot to put out separate plates for simanim and everyone got pomegranate juice all over their plates 🙂 so now I’ll know to use salad plates next year. Don’t forget to put challah on your menu so you have enough for each meal!

  12. Great idea! I am beginning a general yontif binder for everything except Pesach. I’ve started Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur & Sukkos with dividers in my binder. I have a big fat binder for all year with sheet protectors; I started it about 10 years ago. I divide it by printing the sections on different colored paper. For instance, all the soups are printed on pink paper, and all the fish recipes are on blue paper. In this binder I have Shabbos and everyday recipes. It’s easy to add or rotate them out as my family’s tastes change. I just recently had to start putting a rubber band around it because it’s getting so worn out–I really use it all the time. For my new yontif binder I’m including menus, notes (on simanim, reminders to find all the machzorim, etc.). I’m also including notes on any new dishes (who liked it, how many servings it really made, etc.) I admire the additional planning you did for each day’s preparations. I’m hopeful you’ll inspire me to do the same!

  13. I have a master Excel spreadsheet on my computer that I use for menu planning all major meals during the year (Shabbos, yontiv, Purim, etc). Each event has it’s own worksheet in the master spreadsheet labeled with the occasion and date. On each tab, I include my menu, my shopping list by store, and my cooking schedule. When I need to start cooking several days in advance, I cook desserts and side dishes first, since they usually can be refrigerated longer, and I cook meats and vegetables closer to the holiday. If there are prep items that must be done on yontiv (e.g. salad prep), I list them on the cooking schedule as well, so that I do not forget them. For erev yontiv and erev Shabbos, I also put times on the schedule so that I make sure that there is enough time to physically get everything done, and so that I keep on schedule. I print out the page with all of the info, and tape it to the inside of my kitchen cabinet. I check off the items as they are cooked, and I update and reprint the page each night, since adjustments to the menu and schedule are inevitable over several days of cooking. When I prepare my menus, I can go back to prior year menus in the spreadsheet back nearly ten years. I don’t like to serve the same exact meal every yontiv, so it helps to be able to see what I made in prior years to change things up. I recently shared my spreadsheet with my daughter-in-law via Google Docs so that she can also use it for generating ideas for menu planning, so it is now a family affair. When my kids and/or frequent guests come home for yontiv, the first place they head to is that kitchen cabinet to see what is on the menu so that they can salivate in anticipation. Since I store all my recipes in a cookbook program on my computer, I print out all recipes that need to be prepared on yontiv and put them in the binder in protective sheets so that I can get to them on yontiv.

    For Pesach, I make my shopping list for the next year when I am packing away my dishes at the end of yontiv. I have a master spreadsheet listing all items that I need for Pesach, including dry goods, meat, dairy, fruits, and vegetables. My shopping list has a column for “quantity needed” and “quantity on hand”, and it calculates “quantity to buy” in another column. I have a notes column for each item on the list so that I can note which brand is preferred, or where I got the best price on that item in the current year. Based on how the holidays fall out, I may adjust quantities needed from year to year. I revisit the shopping list closer to the holiday when I plan my menus and know my meal schedule, but it stays amazingly consistent year-to-year. This helps prevent me from over-buying, while still allowing me to take advantage of the early sales.

    • Wow! Naturally, my first impulse is to ask for your documents in google docs, also. 🙂 (You should charge for such valuable information that is the result of so much hard work, in my opinion.) But I haven’t the slightest hint how to use Excel. 🙁 Keeping track really does help with the issue of over-buying. This is just brilliant!

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