It's the day after Pesach. All the preparation, cleaning, cooking, baking, shopping, and now it's Isru Chag. One week and one day, and it's all behind us. Except it's not. Because preparing for Pesach takes place all year long. The more you do year-round, the easier it will be to deal with Pesach next April. And the more thoughtfully and carefully you put Pesach 2014 to bed, the easier it will be to plan for Pesach 2015.
Believe it or not, I actually take about 3-4 days to switch from my Pesach kitchen to my chametz kitchen. I clear out all of the Pesach stuff right away, but it doesn't get packed into boxes until I finish inventorying stuff, discarding what I don't want, and making copious notes. Every year, taking time to put stuff away the year before pays off the following Pesach.
- Get rid of those kitchen items you don't need or aren't working for you. As you're putting Passover stuff away, take your time and weed out all the items that you have no use for. Is there any reason to have 3 graters, none of which really grate all that well (been there, done that)? Wouldn't it be nice to have a can opener that actually opened cans? How much longer do you want to hold on to that broken mini-food processor? Is that cheap, non-stick extra frying pan that you bought last year peeling and not really usable any more? If you've got kitchen wares you'll never use, throw them out, donate them, freecycle them, bring them to Goodwill, but get rid of them. You'll recover storage space (and a little sanity), and ultimately, disposing of stuff that's not working for you always saves you money in the long run.
- Pack up kitchenwares thoughtfully and keep copious notes on what to look for this year. As you pack up this year's Pesach kitchenwares, go through and take notes on what you need for next year. Did you have enough wine glasses this year? Is your crockpot usable but on its last legs? Would it have been nice to have had a hot water urn for Pesach? How about a new warming tray, or perhaps a second one? Make a wishlist. You now have 11 months to shop. Instead of grabbing the first appliance you see the week before Pesach because you'll need it, you can wait until there's a fantastic sale, and then pounce, buy it, and put it away for next Pesach. Keep that list in your laptop, or in your desk drawer, or coupon folder. (I'd love it if you'd forward that list to me, so I can be on the lookout for things my readers actually need!) Pack up your kitchenwares in a thoughtful way. If you have new items, make sure you label them dairy/meat/pareve, because you won't remember from year to year. If you have new things that you haven't gotten around to using, make sure you write down on the box whether you've toveled it or not.
- Store non-perishable food properly and triage through the stuff that's old. As you're packing away your Pesach pantry, store what you can, but do it properly, and triage through your Passover stockpiles. Check out my reading list for what you can store and stockpile and what you can't, here. If you have a basement or garage freezer, I urge you to store your flour-based or critter-attracting stuff in there (matzoh meal, cake meal, KLP couscous, etc.) and not in a box with your Pesach kitchenware. These items will stay much fresher in a ziplock in the back of your freezer. If you don't have a freezer to store those sorts of things in, make sure to bag them in ziplocks (keeps out air and moisture) and keep them in a cool, dry, clean environment. Coffee that's still sealed can be also be stored in the freezer, but open coffee should be used up with your chametz. Things like teas, spices and salt can be stored safely in boxes and don't need any refrigeration, but make sure to seal them very tightly when you put them away. Don't store anything flour-based that is open (i.e. open boxes of cake meal); instead, incorporate them into your everyday chometz cooking; i.e. I've breaded chicken with Pesach cake meal or potato starch with great results. Although many of you have claimed to have had success in storing cake mixes, I don't recommend it...the mixes get a stale odor that carries through the baking. We have eaten at friends' homes where it's clear that they are serving cakes made with last years' (or older) mixes, and while it won't give you food poisoning, it's unpleasant. Sealed jars and cans can certainly be put away for next year, but as you're packing them up, make sure there are no big dents, cracks, or holes anywhere, as those can make the food inside poisonous over the course of the year. I usually write the year that I've purchased an item on top of any cans or jars that I store, so that I can rotate out the older stuff first, throughout the holiday. My personal rule is anything that's older than three years will not be used and either needs to go into my chametz pantry, get donated to Tomchei Shabbos, be given to a friend or get thrown out. Why, oh, why, did you buy a garlic flavored mashed potato mix? Is this the fourth year you're storing that grape-flavored ko-jel? Triage, triage, triage through your Pesach stockpiles.
- Keep clear notes on your Pesach groceries so you'll know what to shop for over the course of the year and where you got your stuff last year. Make clear and detailed notes on your Pesach master list and create a new list of things you can buy during the year. There's nothing wrong with buying a five-lb. bag of C&H sugar in July for Pesach if it's on sale and you've got a great coupon. We keep an empty box in the basement that's labeled "PESACH" and I fill it up over the course of the year. Extra-virgin olive oil, sugar, Perrier, Pellegrino, foil, plasticware, paper plates, etc. all go in there when I find them on sale with a coupon, etc. Make a separate list of all the stuff that you'll need for next year, take 11 months to shop, and come April, your stress will be minimal.
- Hit the post-Pesach grocery sales. You'll find stuff like matzoh meal, KLP sauces and dressings, etc. on sale for ridiculously low prices. Buy up whatever you are sure you will need, and skip the stuff that's super-cheap but you will have no use for.
- Grab the clearance deals on Hagaddahs, Pesach cookbooks, and hostess gifts. Hit the Jewish bookstores here and here and online vendors as they start to mark down their Passover items.
Finally, while this won't save you money on next year's Pesach shopping, it will help you ease back into your chametz routine: use up your perishables or give them away. Go through the fridge, audit your produce and perishables and make sure nothing goes to waste. As we do every year (will I never learn?), we overbought butter and eggs this year, so I'm going to bring those over to a friend's house this week. My extra potatoes will also get used; before those things start growing eyes and turning yucky, I'm processing all but 6 potatoes and making potato kugels, which will go right into the freezer. If you baked too much don't like to keep fattening sweets around the house, send them to work with you or your spouse. You can freeze extra bricks of cream cheese and margarine. Don't wait until the end of next week to discover wilted produce and spoiled perishables in your fridge.
Ok, readers, balubustas, Pesach Movers and Shakers, any other tips and ideas on saving money and trouble NOW for Pesach next year?