The Day is Short, and the Work is Great: Efficient Shabbat Preparations

It seems that just when Shabbat starts to “come in” (as my kids say) at a normal hour, the clocks get switched back. With candlelighting at around 4 PM, I have to be organized. Below I post techniques that I have used.

I prefer not to cook in advance. With certain exceptions, food pulled out of the freezer is not as tasty as fresh, and you can’t refreeze leftovers without sacrificing the quality further. And if I cook on Wednesday or Thursday, I’m loath to serve the leftovers on Sunday or Monday.

  1. Plan menus with an eye toward leftovers. If your side dishes are pareve (neither meat nor dairy), you have more options later. Seasoned potatoes, vegetables, or rice can go in another dish, but not potato kugel. The potatoes or rice are a healthier choice anyway.
  2. Plan which ingredients I need for each recipe–no need to make a mess of onion peels twice. If you plan to cook vegetables, you can prepare extra and freeze them for another time.
  3. When freezing, rotate so as not to make too many items in the same week.
  4. Marinate chicken the night before and refrigerate it, ready to go in the oven on Friday. You can freeze prepared raw chicken and defrost it in the refrigerator over Thursday night. Just don’t refreeze raw meat.
  5. Avoid unnecessary dish-washing. I chop enough garlic for both the chicken and the techina in the food processor. Then I remove what I need for the chicken and continue making the techina.
  6. When I make challah, I roll and fill part of the dough for a yeast cake.
  7. Avoid making a lot of items. Each one must be cooked, stored, served, stored again, the utensils washed, the leftovers used up, and so on. Most people, including guests, prefer fewer items and a less frazzled hostess. One-dish meals work well too, but if they include meat check that your guests aren’t vegetarian. (I’ve found that vegetarians who grew up kosher tend to be stricter about picking vegetables out of meat dishes.)
  8. Consider preparing meal-sized packages of commonly used combinations. For instance, barley, beans, spices, sliced onions and carrots can be combined and divided into a few containers, then frozen. Add potatoes and meat to the contents of one container, and your cholent is ready to go. Cooked noodles for soup can be stored the same way.
  9. Most kitchen work involves preparing vegetables, so I peel, wash and chop the day before. If my kids are around to help, even better. Keep in mind the little-known halacha* that peeled onions and garlic should not be left out overnight. Peeled potatoes can be soaked in water to avoid getting brown but with the shortage you will want to have another use for that water. A more nutritious and economical method is to cook unpeeled potatoes and remove the peel after they cool.
  10. Marinated salads are better cooked in advance, but most undressed cut-up salad vegetables (not tomatoes) can also handle a day or two, or longer, in the refrigerator. I’ve heard that a glass container works better than plastic for this purpose.

*Little-known halacha: A point of Jewish law that I did not know when I got married.

In this post, Trilcat shows how she combines a simple menu with some ready-made items to enjoy a stress-free Friday and a delicious Shabbat.

How do you handle winter Shabbat preparations? Reply in the comments or send me a link to a blog post.


  1. Nice ideas.
    In winter, I tend to plan quicker meals.
    Last Friday I made egg curry for Friday evening with rice. For Saturday lunch time, I made meatballs or rather a garlic and tomato sauce for ready-made frozen meatballs that can be put in the sauce directly from the freezer.
    I also used Leora’s recipe for mandelbrot and found it quick. We ate the biscuits with fruit salad.
    Fish dishes are also quicker than meat dishes.

  2. mother in israel says

    I-D: Those recipes are on your blog, right? Fish cooks quicker but may or may not take longer to prepare; it’s also harder to keep warm. But many Israelis eat fish for Friday night.
    Leora–I love the chocolate dessert idea!

  3. True confessions: the American way to prepare Shabbat…I buy potato kugel, salt and pepper noodle kugel(Classic brand, based in Highland Park) and 70% cocoa bars of chocolate (supposed to be good for you) for dessert.
    I had little time to prepare anything salady this past Friday. But making a salad from ingredients is easy. I added a clementine to the salad this week.
    Glad you enjoyed the mandlebroit, Ilana-Davita!

  4. MiI: No they aren’t, yet. The curry is easy so I’ll try to put it up this week.

  5. Excellent tips and a great post!
    B”N I’ll try and blog about some of the things that work for me.

  6. Great post, right after a shabbat where i hosted sleepover guests and an additional family for lunch.
    I try to avoid kugels like the plague (except for a favorite carrot kugel that never fails me). I’m a big vegetable roaster. I love veggies in the oven at high heat, with a little olive oil and salt. A favorite combo with my family is broccoli, cauliflower, onion, and peppers. I break the cruciferous veggies into florets, and slice the onions and peppers into strips. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and mush around. 30-40 minutes at at least 225 C or even 250. I shake around after 10 minutes and ever 10 minutes after. It’s done when you can stick a fork into the cauliflower and the broccoli is nice and crispy.
    Zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes get the same treatment. What’s is you can serve warm friday night and cold/room temp with a balsamic dressing for lunch as a salad. Or add to a green salad with some shredded chicken for a light summer lunch.
    Very handy!

  7. Got it Hannah!
    RE: “Seasoned potatoes, vegetables, or rice can go in another dish, but not potato kugel. ” When I lived in Florida, many moons ago, Sara’s Pizza made something called Goombay Chips. You cut your cold leftover potato lugel into pices the size of french fried potatoes; deep fry (or otherwise;) serve with applesauce (or ketchup.) New look for old kugel!
    BTW — I cook for our shul, and any leftover rice or vegies (peas, corn, carrots) get mixed with bought salads in jars (like letcho and eggplant saute) the next day, so I can economize on the bought stuff and not waste anything. (Not that it’s wasted anyway. Any leftovers go to the old men at the Sunday morning minyan.)
    And like you, I also prepare my chicken ahead and freeze, defrost Thursday night, and cook Friday.

  8. I can’t believe Shabbat is so early now. I’ve been caught off guard. I’m trying to get back to Thursday night preparations so I can just throw challah back together.
    This week, I saw an East Indian stew in Martha Stewart’s food mag. It was a lot easier than the similiar receipe I made and only requires spices, tomato sauce, and canned chickpeas. Anyways, 20 minutes later, I had a complete dish that everyone enjoyed and we will have it over basmati rice tonight and probably on Wednesday. Yeah!!!

  9. The thing about Shabbat cooking is that saucy things which we can heat up and eat on Friday night, can’t be re-heated on Shabbat for the day’s meal. So, I do end up having to make 2 types of chicken, if the Friday night one has sauce on it.
    All your tips are great, MII, but where does the cleaning come in?
    I can’t do everything in one day…

  10. Can you explain more about this little-known Halacha, which I hadn’t known about? Is this universal or only some people do this? Do you know any background on this — why it should be so?

  11. I heard about it from a kollel person. I think it applies to a cracked egg as well.

  12. mother in israel says

    Thanks Abbi, Leah, Tamiri for the ideas.
    As far as cleaning: don’t leave it all for the last minute, clean as you go, do big cleaning jobs and big cooking jobs on different days, alternate sitting and standing/walking, lay out newspaper before you start, keep clutter picked up, enlist help, and don’t try to be superwoman!

  13. mother in israel says

    Orthonomics: Please post a recipe here or on your blog.
    Mrs. S: Thanks and looking forward to your post.
    Re cleaning, I meant to lay out old newspaper before baking, peeling or other messy jobs, for easy cleanup.
    SP613: I will ask my husband for the source, but I believe it’s an ayin hara kind of thing mentioned in the gemara.
    There are other things that are not supposed to be left uncovered overnight like water and oil (never heard of a cracked egg). I always assumed that was because bugs could fall in, but I’ll try to check that out also.

  14. I found the reason on – with credit given to OU:
    What is the halachic issue of consuming eggs, onions or garlic which were peeled and left overnight?
    by Rabbi Dovid Cohn
    Taste, health and convenience are some of the considerations consumers think about when making decisions regarding foods. Of course, Kosher consumers also consider the Kashrut of products. But one other principle discussed in Cha?zal, chamira sakanta me?isura ? laws regarding danger are more stringent than those regarding prohibition? make food safety a primary consideration.
    Recently, a kosher certified company requested kosher certification for deviled eggs. This prompted the agency certifying the company to review the halachahs of leaving peeled eggs overnight. The Gemara notes that a person who eats shelled eggs, peeled onions or garlic that had been left overnight, endangers his life and will be judged as a person who took his own life.1 The Gemara explains that the danger associated with these foods is ruach ra?ah.
    Does the concern for ruach ra?ah still apply to these foods?
    There is a disagreement among later Poskim about this question and other details of the prohibition. The following is a summary of these views:
    1. Yad Meir and Shevet HaLevi hold that this Halachah is no longer relevant because Tosfot states that certain ruach ra?ah do not descend in ?these countries?. We can infer from Tosfot that we do not have to be concerned for any ruach ra?ah unless we have a mesorah that that specific form is still prevalent. Yad Meir and Shevet HaLevi cite Hago?ot Mordechai as a source for adopting such an approach regarding leaving eggs, onions and garlic overnight. They are supported by the fact that the Shulchan Aruch cites certain dangerous activities listed in the Gemara but not these. Minchat Yitzchok discusses this issue and concludes that there is basis for those who are lenient.
    2. The overwhelming majority of Poskim hold that the Gemara continues to be relevant nowadays. They address, but do not resolve, the fact that Shulchan Aruch doesn?t discuss this danger.
    Republished with permission from

  15. mother in israel says

    Thank you, Leah, for the research.

  16. The minhag is, that if eggs are shelled, then MIXED with something else (i.e. mayo…), not left plain, it’s okay.
    Onions need to have the roots attached in order to be left overnight and then used.

  17. mother in israel says

    Keeping the roots attached helps the onions keep longer!

  18. I didn’t mean “cracked” as in broken shell, I meant opened eggs.
    Thanks for the source.

  19. Maybe that too. I don’t know — My mother-in-law a”h told me it’s from kaballah. Her father a”h was a very big rav in Europe.

  20. Folluw-up halachic question on the onions (and garlic and eggs). What does it mean to leave eggs out? Does that mean you don’t just leave it out on the counter, but you can put half an onion in a bag in the fridge? What if you chop up the onions and put them in a salad or something?
    And regarding the peeled, cooked egg — it’s common to use a hard-boiled egg for Eruv Tavshilim. Does that mean you’re not supposed to peel it until the last minute?

  21. Lion in Zion says

    “I prefer not to cook in advance. With certain exceptions, food pulled out of the freezer is not as tasty as fresh”
    “Does the concern for ruach ra?ah still apply to these foods?”

  22. Lion in Zion says

    “the American way to prepare Shabbat…I buy potato kugel”

  23. mother in israel says

    LOZ, when defrosting bread, wrap it in foil. This keeps the condensation off the bread so the crust will stay crisp. And reuse the foil.
    SP613, I don’t know the answers,although my husband doesn’t object if peeled onions stay in the fridge. As for Eruv Tavshilin, I don’t peel the egg in advance.
    The problem with bought food is that it usually contains undesirable ingredients.
    Leah, I don’t think the fact that the onion keeps longer has anything to do with halacha.

  24. RE:
    Folluw-up halachic question on the onions (and garlic and eggs). What does it mean to leave eggs out? Does that mean you don’t just leave it out on the counter, but you can put half an onion in a bag in the fridge? What if you chop up the onions and put them in a salad or something?
    (Sorry — not “shouting — just caps to differentiate betw. Q & A.
    And regarding the peeled, cooked egg — it’s common to use a hard-boiled egg for Eruv Tavshilim. Does that mean you’re not supposed to peel it until the last minute?
    squarepeg613 | Homepage | 11.24.08 – 10:05 pm | #

  25. Lion in Zion says

    “The problem with bought food is that it usually contains undesirable ingredients.”

  26. Great suggestions! I’m with you, I prefer freshly cooked food, which is why I cook everything Friday morning (I’ve got it down to a science and can make a whole Shabbat meal pretty quickly).
    Shabbat does come early these days! I try to make sure to have as much done as possible on Thursday- house (relatively) clean, shul clothes ready, etc.

  27. I will try to post another time about shabbos preparations although I do cook inadvance to make my life sane. I usually don’t freeze. I do cook very few dishes and I can’t stand making anything that has more than a few step to it. I just don’t have the time.
    About the onions, Leah is correct. It is something kabbalistic. You cannot leave a cut onion in the fridge overnight but you can leave a part that’s connected to the root. Don’t ask me the source. I learned it in seminary and the rav quoted some obscure book that nobody ever heard of. It is for kabbalistic reasons and because of the ruach ra’ah.


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