10 Organizing Secrets for a 3-Day Yom Tov by Rivka Slatkin

10 Organizing Secrets for a 3-Day Yom Tov by Rivka Slatkin

A guest-posting by Rivka Slatkin of JewishLifeOrganized.com

At the end of every summer, I find it intensely challenging to transition into Rosh Hashana “prep” mode. I don’t know if it’s the lazy days of summer, or just an initial feeling of overwhelm towards the
tasks that must all get completed before Rosh Hashanah, but as my readers on JewishLifeOrganized.com know, I like to tackle challenges head-first!

I think, most probably, that any feelings of “avoidance” come from
feeling scattered; not really knowing how and where to start a large job or project.

To combat this scattered feeling, I’ve found it very helpful to play
motivational games like sitting down with a pad of paper and a timer to see how many holiday-prep tasks I can list before the timer goes off.

For our purposes, I’d like to make a list of 10 tasks based on the
acronym C.H.A.G.- which I use as a basis for my preparations for all Jewish holidays.

This year, as Rosh Hashanah is a 3-day Yom Tov, there is much food prep that needs to get accomplished. This week is really the final week we have to prepare so roll up your sleeves, take a deep breath, and strut your stuff ladies!

Tip #1- Every night this week, throw a meal into your crockpot and in
the morning, turn the crockpot off. By lunchtime, your food will be
cool enough to freeze. Go online and search for crockpot recipes that
excite you, for instance- chicken with potatoes, pepper steak, beef eggplant and garlic sauce. Most meat dishes do really well in the crockpot as long as you follow the recipe and don’t overcook them. No, they will not come out like cholent!

I love this tip because all of the main dishes will be cooked and
frozen by Shabbos. Label your aluminum tins or freezer bags, and enjoy pulling dishes out of your freezer when Yom Tov comes.

Tip #2- Prep all of your ingredients. Most recipes you prepare will
require onions or possibly carrots or garlic. Cut an entire sack of
onions or potatoes or garlic heads in advance, put them in a bag and
store in the fridge. When you start cooking, you will have minimal
vegetable chopping to do since you’ve “prepped” your veggies already.

Tip #3-Bake for the entire month of Tishrei. Bake in the largest
quantities possible to last the whole month of Tishrei. We bake challah
to last for all Shabbasos and days of Yom Tov so we don’t need to worry about baking for the rest of the month. It’s relatively simple to
double, triple, quadruple challah recipes or baking recipes so think about what your family likes to eat frequently and make it for the
month instead of baking smaller recipes one at a time.

Another item that works well in my house is Gefilte Fish Muffins. Never had a gefilte fish muffin? Simply defrost 10 or more bags of gefilte fish loaves, add onions, celery, whatever vegetable you like and spices and bake in muffin tins. That’s your fish dish for Tishrei!

Tip #4-If you want your baked goods to vary and not be the same for each meal, bake many pans of brownies for instance, and spread
different toppings on them when you are ready to serve. For instance, a brownie spread with caramel and chocolate on top will taste very
different than a brownie with strawberry crumb topping.

I learned this tip after going to an engagement party that appeared to have many, many different trays of cakes and cookie bars, only to have learned from the mother in charge of the baking that they were all Duncan Hines brownies that she topped differently from each other! I never would have known because they all tasted different and looked completely different. You could do this with a basic yellow cake recipe or even a basic cookie dough recipe.

H- Halacha- I call the H in the C.H.A.G acronym “Halacha,” referring to
any of the laws or time-sensitive items you must complete before the holiday.

Tip #5- Make sure you have your Eruv Tavshillin (defined below) prepared so you can cook for Shabbos on Yom Tov. Also make sure you have enough Yarzheit candles, and other items that you will need for Yom Tov. Make decisions about how you will be warming your food up on Yom Tov and Shabbos- whether it’s a burner with a blech, an oven on Shabbos mode, or an electric warming plate. Realize that your home will get warm with too many of these options being used
and you could risk power issues, so plan to discuss this ahead of time with all the parties involved.

Tip #6- Plan ahead for what your days will look like for the children
when you or your husband are in shul. Do you have babysitting arranged in advance? Do you know which neighbors are going out of town and which will be home for the holiday? Perhaps you want to have new board games on hand for the children to play or fun activities for them to be able to do something on their own while you sit down and daven. Snacks? A must. Be prepared to have enough snacks on hand for the kids to munch on during the long days.

A- Aesthetics- I like to think of the aesthetics section as referring
to how you, your spouse, your kids, and your home look.

Tip #7- Do you have enough clothing for all members of your family?
Perhaps you want to make a clothing size chart for everyone- making
sure everyone has polished shoes, clean socks, long enough pants, and dresses for the upcoming holidays. Hair bands and accessories, clean yarmulkes, belts, etc.

Tip #8- As far as your house goes, it can be so much fun to decorate
using the special dishes and items you pull out once a year, such as
the honey dish, the esrog box, the sukkah decorations. I love looking
at websites like Better Homes and Gardens or CreativeJewishMom.com for making more projects with the kids if I have time or even just
interesting table settings or new furniture arrangements.

Tip #9- If you begin working on your house and realize that you could
have started cleaning and organizing earlier and missed the
opportunity, no worries! Simply make a list as you are walking around
the house of all of the things or pockets of clutter that annoy you. If
you write them on paper and get them out of your head, you won’t worry about them constantly because you’ve “assigned” them to a piece of paper.

As a general rule, obnoxious mental clutter impacts your davening, your relationships, and your overall attitude, things you definitely want clean in time for the High Holidays! You will deal with this list after Rosh Hashanah, or even post Simchas Torah.

Tip #10- Having guests can sometimes be a lot of work. Whenever I have guests, especially sleepover guests, and they ask me what they can do or bring, I always say, “Bring whatever you cannot live without.” I’ve learned this from those times when guests requested things that I didn’t have and were completely disappointed by the lack of their favorite items. Of course, there was nothing for me to do since it was either Shabbos or Yom Tov when they were staying with me. They might want, for example, items like Diet Coke, Earl Grey Tea, oatmeal for breakfast. If your guest is used to daily creature comforts, try to encourage him or her to remember what those comfort items are and to please bring them along.

While this list is in no way meant to be a comprehensive master list
(like the one you can get at my website JewishLifeOrganized.com) I hope these ten tips are helpful for you in creating a framework for your Yom Tov preparations.

I know preparing for Rosh Hashana may feel overwhelming, however as Jewish moms we are used to facing and accomplishing amazing feats, and by being organized we will be able to replace the stress and distress of this coming week with calm and even joy.

Chag Sameach!

Rivka Slatkin is the founder of www.Jewish-Life-Organized.com-Creating Confident, Capable, and Happy Jewish Homemakers! Readers of JLO are currently compiling a Master List for Rosh Hashanah which you can contribute ideas to and receive a *free* copy of when you subscribe to our mailing list at jewish-life-organized.com. You will also receive a copy of Shabbos Perfectly Organized, another essential *free* digital downloadable book to assist you with your weekly Shabbos preparations.

Definition of Eruv Tavshilin- In order to cook and prepare food on YomTov for Shabbos, the Rabbis enacted this special measure which should be done on before the beginning of YomTov. It consists of taking a challah or a matzah along with one cooked food (such as fish, meat, or an egg) and saying a special blessing and declaration (as found in most machzorim or siddurim). The eruv tavshilin should be set aside before Yom Tov and eaten on Shabbos.


  1. thanks for the great tips. its very overwhelming to think about a three day yomtov/shabbos and not know where to start. shana tova. rochel.

  2. i just want to point out a possible halachic problem storing peeled onions and garlic overnight in the fridge.

  3. r,
    you can store onions and garlic in the fridge if you keep them coated in oil, but you can ask your own rav.

  4. Love the CHAG acronym! I find acronyms to be SOOOO helpful when planning.

    I also am a big fan of peeling in advance – I can cook far faster when all the veggies are peeled and waiting. I have switched to ONLY buying baby carrots since they don’t need peeling, and I stick to russet potatoes (since they are the largest size potatoes in my part of town = easier to peel more volume).

    For halacha – might also be a good idea to check the times of Shabbos and Yom Tov and mark them down, in addition to reviewing all of the halachos (when is tashlich, when is the fish head out, when the pomegranate, etc.).

    BTW, I learned that for peeled onions and garlic (goes for eggs without the shell too) the problem is only if they are left completely by themselves – add some oil, salt, or leave some peel to avoid the issue.

  5. re tip #10 If we know the guests reasonably well and they offer to bring something, i ask them to bring their own bedding. It’s much easier for them to scoop up duvets and pillows, roll and stuff into black sacks, and I’ll just put sheets on the bed, than for me to make loads of beds and wash linen which has only been slept in for one night! I like the acronym – here in chutz la’aretz, this is only the first of 3 3 day yomtovs, so there’s a lot of organizing to do!

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