Preparing meals ahead of time

With Tishrei barreling our way (Rosh Hashana is two weeks from today – evening of Sept 4th!), it’s time to think ahead and get ready. I already have some important things from my list done:

  • kids’ clothes and tzitzit shopping
  • buying pjs for everyone (our family tradition)
  • order lulav/etrog
  • checked our sukkah and ordered lights we needed
  • reserved appropriate seats

And I have a few more to go:

  • find something new for me (why is this one always so hard?!)
  • plan Tishrei homeschooling lessons
  • plan menu and simanim

I’m starting to think about meal planning, and I really haven’t done that much for it. It’s just overwhelming! I am living in a temporary rental house with my 4 kids in a different country from my husband and have just a refrigerator and its freezer, so I can’t buy and prep ahead in the same way I’m used to – 5 pans of chicken will basically take over the freezer space! And the place where we are living has amazing family support, but not much kosher food, so items are really, really limited. And I’ve been in pain for a while with a few more weeks to go before I can hope for relief. So thinking about planning all the meals, especially since we won’t be having guests and the kids have a limited repertoire to eat…well, it’s a lot!

But we have to eat. And you do, too. So as I was brainstorming ideas to maximize effect and minimize effort, here’s what I came up with.

  • Make and freeze some items – maybe a few main dishes and/or sides. Bare bones of the meal can be ready. If you have the time and the space, here’s a list of what I have done in the past.
  • Buy some take out or pre-made things. For example, I don’t have a food processor here, so most of my dips will be purchased.
  • Prep brownie mix ahead of time (no, not the kind from a box, but there are many recipes floating around the internet for homemade brownie mix like this one. Add in eggs and oil and it’s ready – and without the chemicals and added expense for boxed brownies! Make several bags at once and you can add in chocolate chips, peanut butter pieces, etc…or top with frosting, marshmallows, etc once baked.) Dessert is a cinch to make then!
  • Repeat items. The kids like chicken nuggets, and so we’ll plan to use them several times (assuming I can get my hands on some). We can have another choice on offer for more adventurous eaters, but won’t have a problem with repetition. You can also prepare a few batches of meatballs and then change up the sauces, or prep several chickens and mix up the marinades or sauces – a more “adult” form of repetition.
  • Keep it simple. Or simple-ish, since there are some things we can’t skip. I can’t buy challah here, so I’ll be making it, the fish head will be done, and we’ll have our regular simanim. But instead of making leek patties, maybe I’ll do a simple leek relish. Or maybe mix most of them together into a simanim soup – broth with the veggie type simanim. You could easily add a gourd, like pumpkin or butternut squash chunks, leeks, and the black eyed peas–and maybe some swiss chard, too! When you are going to make the Yehi ratzon on the food, spoon up a mouthful of that food.
  • Be content with what you have. This is one hard for me because I love to have everything put together and fancied up. But sometimes, it’s just not practical. The person who notices the most is me, so I have to work on being content with what I can reasonably do.

Any other ideas? How’s your prep coming?

About Amital

A die-hard listmaker and observant Jewish mommy of 5, managing the challenges of life bit by bit with the help of a Shalom Bayit book and lists. And chocolate, of course. Lots of chocolate.

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