This is a guest post by Tina Fallstead of TheWayoftheNorthwest.org.
NOTE: This article is also in the November/December 2022 Issue 9 of Torah Sisters Magazine. Get it quick while it’s still available in print!
What is your approach to Sabbath preparations?
Do you begin planning as soon as the Sabbath concludes, carefully scheduling out each task to be done like an experienced project manager? Or do you slide into the Sabbath short of breath like a runner stealing home plate, reheating the cold pizza while wondering if everyone has clean clothes to wear to the congregation the next day? Maybe you are somewhere in the middle.
Ladies, let me tell you, I have driven in both of those lanes!
I’m not sure exactly when or how the idea came about that your home must be spotless, with all the laundry completed (Yes, folded and put away too!), and prepared food that is worthy of a magazine cover for you to ‘enter into the rest of the Sabbath’ but can we be honest with each other for a moment? I find this mindset exhausting and frankly unattainable in my current season of life.
Before you throw a piece of kugel at me, let me explain.
I love the idea of preparing our best as though we were entertaining the Messiah himself. I also know that sometimes the best I have to offer isn’t very impressive by this world’s standards. Am I going to let that make me feel like a failure? No, I’m not. At least, not anymore.
Regardless of the lane your current season has you driving in, the vital thing to remember is this: genuine hospitality is felt. A crabby attitude will quickly dull the sparkle of your perfectly polished crystal, just as a joyful countenance will make your table guests feel like royalty as they sip from paper cups.
Ladies, this applies to your family as much as it does to guests visiting your home.
In this article, I would like to share a couple of tips for those who currently find themselves in the latter category or the first, for that matter. You can do a favor for your future self by taking some simple steps.
When I am pressed for time, which quite frankly is always, I triage the housework. Over the years, I have learned the most important areas to me. Ask yourself, “What tasks are most critical to complete?” In other words, what uncompleted tasks will be joy stealers? Once you have identified those tasks, get to work. Warning: be realistic with your time when doing this, or you will remain frustrated. Remember, the idea isn’t to deep clean the entire house. It is to address the tasks that feel most critical to you.
Didn’t get to finish the laundry? Leave the baskets in the laundry room and close the door.
Didn’t get to dust? Dim the lights and enjoy your evening by candlelight.
Didn’t get to do ANYTHING? Focus on the room where you will spend the bulk of your time. Remove the items that do not belong in the room, i.e., shoes, toys, schoolbooks, etc. Return all items in the room to their proper place, light a scented candle or turn on your oil diffuser to create a cozy feel. I find the scent of baked goods especially lovely. Next, let the rest of it go and relax with your family.
Identify the things that seem to ‘steal’ your joy. Then you can take a practical approach in determining how to head them off at the gate.
For instance, for me, it is a dirty kitchen or, more specifically, dirty dishes stacked up on the counter or, even worse, filling the sink!
Perhaps you would find it helpful to create a menu that allows the dishes to be prepared a day or two in advance and stored in the fridge until it is time to pop them in the oven for reheating. The trick here is to choose vessels that can go from fridge to oven to the table, then back to the fridge for the quick storage of any leftovers.
If you can’t figure out what it is that ‘steals’ your joy, try asking your family. They will very likely have some input.
Do Your Future Self a Favor
When you hear the phrases “batch cooking” or “meal prepping”, what images come to mind? Do you picture loads of groceries with hours of standing in the kitchen until you are so tired that the last thing you want to see on your dinner plate is one of the dishes you just made to freeze? While this can be accurate, it does not have to be.
If you are busy, and I think most of us are and are trying to stay on a budget, then I have a couple of pretty easy ideas that have helped me over the years.
My Quick and Relatively easy Menu ideas
Chicken: Next time you are in a store where you like their rotisserie chickens, grab one or two of them. Let cool in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours before placing in a freezer baggie and placing in the freezer. To reheat one of these beauties, simply remove it from the bag and put it in your crockpot with about half an inch of stock on the bottom to provide a bit of steam while heating. This will help keep the bird moist. If you do this in the morning on the low setting, you should have a thoroughly reheated bird ready for dinner.
Roasted Potatoes: The night before, wash and cut your potatoes for roasting, place them in a storage container or zipper baggie, toss with olive oil and herbs, and store in the refrigerator until ready to cook. Placing a sheet of parchment paper on the bottom of your pan will make cleaning up easier.
If you want to help out your future self, you can partially cook your potatoes (cook them for about half the time you normally would). After they have cooled, place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet before placing them in the freezer. After about an hour, they will be hard enough to put into a freezer baggie and frozen for future use.
I use the above methods using a mixture of potatoes, carrots, celery, and onion. Pro tip: If you are freezing these raw, omit the oil and herbs until cooking them.
Spaghetti in meat sauce
Sauce of your choosing
Meat of your choosing (or not at all)
I have a couple of different approaches to this one depending on the schedule.
- Freeze your fully prepared spaghetti for future use. I like to lay my gallon baggie as flat as possible after filling. It will take less space in the freezer and defrost faster.
- One to two days in advance, cook your noodles, cool, then toss very lightly with oil or a bit of sauce. Store in the refrigerator. Cook and store any meat you plan to use in the sauce and store in the fridge. On Friday you can prepare your sauce.
At this point, you can either pour your hot sauce over the noodles, stir well, and let them sit while the noodles heat. This method works great if you are serving immediately.
If you make it a few hours before your serving time, you can throw it all in a crockpot or into an oven-safe dish. These two methods will dry your sauce out a bit, so I generally add more than it initially appears is needed to accommodate.
Wait! TODAY is Friday?!
Ladies, there is no shame in opening up a box or a can or even calling in for that pizza. Unfortunately, sometimes our days get away from us, and despite our best efforts, we cannot ‘whip up’ some culinary delight. Not to worry, order that pizza if you need to.
When you light those sabbath candles, shutting off the week’s business, allow the Father’s love and peace to wash over you. In turn, you will be equipped to pour that peace out to those gathered around your table. And that, my friends, is the weightier matter.
This article and its recipes are in the current issue of Torah Sisters Magazine. Thank you, Tina!