It's been a number of years since I graduated from putting away all my Passover stuff haphazardly to putting it away purposefully, and I am grateful to see how much easier doing it that way made the following year's preparation.
Of course, I don't want to rush you through enjoying the second half of this wonderful Pesach holiday, but the time to start thinking about you will put everything away is actually now. So just consider it, and then have another piece of chocolate-covered matzoh. Here we go:
GET READY, START CLEAN. Starting with the last day of Chol HaMoed, stop using containers, decanters, tupperware, etc. and store leftovers in ziplocs. Or, store them in containers that you don't mind rotating into your chametz kitchenware. This way, there is never a Pesach container that inadvertently becomes chametz because you forgot to remove the contents, and you are not stuck with washing out tupperware after Pesach. Along the same lines, I always use disposable paper and plastic tableware for our last Pesach lunch. This way, I don't have a huge pile of dishes to attack right after Pesach. There are also a number of things you can probably start setting aside for storage, like your food processor, or crock pot, the seder plate (or anything that you use only for the seders).
Right after Pesach ends, start with a clean kitchen and don't start ripping off foil and shelf liners yet. Wash and dry all the dishes, silverware and pots and pans. Put all the aluminum pans in the recycling bin. Wipe down all of your counters.
TRIAGE, RECORD, DISCARD & STORE NON-PERISHABLES. Then take out all the food from your Pesach pantry and put it all out on the table. Make three piles: 1) save for next year 2) give away or discard 3) use for chametz. Next, you need to store the non-perishable food that you are putting away for next year properly and triage through the stuff that's old. When you are deciding what to save for next year, be brutal. Have you had that can of tomato sauce for more than two or three years? Rotate it into chametz, because you really don't want to be eating old food, and yes, even canned stuff degrades.
Write the year on top of any cans that you bought this year, so that next year, you'll know just how old something has been in your Pesach stash. My personal preference is not to eat anything older than 3 years. Saving open tea (not coffee, which does get stale unless stored in the freezer) and open spices from year to year is fine, as long as they are dry. Do not save open boxes or packets of anything else, whether it's potato starch, matzoh meal, or cake mixes. They will be stale next year and taste old. (I actually don't save even closed boxes of cake mixes, because I think they degrade and get moldy and yucky.) Don't save any cans with dents. Many of us used nut or coconut flours this year; make sure all nut or coconut products are stored in the freezer only! Whether they are opened and you plan to cycle them into chametz, or they are closed and you would like to save them for next year, nut products will spoil and go rancid if not stored in a cold place.
I will save closed boxes of cake meal and matzoh meal, which I store in freezer ziplocs on a special shelf in my garage freezer, year-long. I implore you not to save any cans that came from Israel (like Osem pickles or olives) because the cans from these companies cans start to leak or bulge after a year and that can give you a serious case of food poisoning, so rotate those into your chametz pantry right away. I give away non-gebrokts stuff I won't use to my gluten-free friends, who will make good use of them. Open potato starch can be used in Chinese food recipes (substitute for corn starch). Open matzoh meal and cake meal can be used for breading (mix with panko crumbs) or for making matzoh balls. Never, ever, store oils from year to year, even if not opened (unless you can keep them in a freezer). They can and will go rancid.
If you have concerns about food safety in terms of saving things from year to year, I've compiled a short list of food storage articles that you might find to be very helpful:
- Real Simple article on 77 Surprising Expiration Dates
- StillTasty.com, a website with an extensive "Keep It or Toss It?" database
- Food Safety.gov
- This Harvard Medical School article on Drug Expiration Dates - Do They Mean Anything?
Whatever you're giving away should go in a box and put it in the trunk of your car now. Get it out of the way and out of the house. Wipe down your shelf liners from the pantry and label them on the back (3rd shelf, right side, etc., so that you can use them next year), remove them, and put back in the pantry whatever you're rotating back into chametz.
WRITE IT DOWN! Make copious notes on what worked and what didn't this year, what broke, what you need to buy next year, what you bought too much of, what you should have bought, save recipes that were good, discard recipes that were not. Write down your menus, where you bought things, which store had the best prices on must-have items. Write the notes on your computer, not on paper, and save the file with the name Pesach Notes and then the year. That file is going to be a lifesaver next year. If you've never done this before and don't know where to start, download and print my basic Post-Pesach notes file here to help you get started!
LABEL. As you put away your Pesach kitchenware, make sure everything is labeled for meat, dairy or pareve. Don't trust yourself to remember next year, especially on new things that you purchased this year. We use red, blue and white nail polish to label our kitchenware. If you have stuff that never got toveled or used, label it, so that you know that you need to tovel it next year.
THROW OUT OR GIVE AWAY KITCHEN STUFF YOU DON'T NEED. 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.
STORE SMARTLY. These are non-food items that you should NOT put away for next year (unless you have unlimited storage space): paper/plastic goods like napkins, plates, cups, silverware, foil, plastic wrap, paper towels, sponges, ziplocs. Rotate them into your chametz immediately. Some exceptions: we store coffee filters that we bought for Pesach with our coffee maker (one less thing to worry about next year). We also don't use disposable plastic tablecloths during the year, so I make a note of the quantity that I have left and store them as well. There are lots of disposable things that you might not use during the normal year that you can use for Sukkot (like looks-like-real plastic silverware), so set those aside. If you use a heavy-duty reusable plastic tablecloth, wipe it down perfectly (and then wipe it down again) before you store it, so that crumbs, sticky stains, etc. don't attract critters or bugs. Never store anything dirty, thinking that you'll deal with it next year. Make sure everything you store is dry.
TRIAGE THROUGH PERISHABLES. Use up your perishables, freeze what you can or give them away. Go through the fridge, audit your produce and perishables and make sure nothing goes to waste. Things that typically get overbought: eggs, romaine lettuce, matzoh, milk, potatoes, and onions. If you baked too much and 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.
CREATE A STARTUP BOX. This is something that I've been doing for many years now, and what a lifesaver it has become! Create a Pesach cleaning/cooking startup box. This box or bin should contain everything you need before you even start your Pesach cleaning and kashering. What goes into mine? The sink aerator that we use only on Pesach, the pot I use to kasher the sink, my clean (wiped-down) re-usable shelf and refrigerator/freezer liners, a Pesach only filter for the vent over the stove, the Pesach freezer ice cube bin, 10 pairs of disposable powder-free gloves, disposable plastic tablecloths (these are great for creating temporary chametz-free surfaces before you have finished your Passover cleaning), and a printout of my final Pesach notes, lists and menus. Make sure this startup bin is the last thing that goes into your Pesach storage and the first thing you can access easily, and label it "Pesach Startup Box." You are going to be loving this next year.
Does all this purposeful packing and planning take more time than just stuffing things into boxes? Absolutely. But the extra few hours you spend organizing your Pesach endgame will save you days of Pesach prep and anxiety next year, and is well-worth the small, extra investment of time and effort.
Have you got any must-do Passover pack-up tips that I missed? Tell me about them.