We’ve all been there. We learn about the Torah and how all of Scripture stills applies. We learn that we need to keep the Sabbath on the seventh day. Then we hear about this thing called Preparation Day. At first glance, and even after trying to keep Shabbat for weeks or months, preparation day can be hugely overwhelming. I recently asked about your prep day struggles on facebook, and your answers ranged from having enough time for everything, to cleaning with messy kids in the house. This post is for you. I’m going to do my best to give you some tips to make prep day not only doable, but enjoyable. Let’s get started.
What are we preparing for?
Preparation Day, for all the potential stress it can cause, is actually not mentioned in Scripture aside from the instructions given to prepare our food ahead in a double portion. The phrase “the day of the preparation” is also occasionally seen in the New Testament. The idea that we are to prepare for the Shabbat is most certainly Biblical, but what it looked like then is often a far cry from the busy hustle often seen on Fridays in Sabbath keeping homes. Let’s remember that prep day is simply to prepare us for Shabbat. We are instructed to make food ahead for Shabbat. We are to do our best to complete our work, or set it aside when Shabbat arrives. Our focus should always be to prepare our family for a day without work, including cooking. It is a day to spend with our Creator, and it is a delight to set aside our common work for this special day.
Sabbath prep and the idol of cleanliness is an excellent blog post from Land of Honey, if we need help keeping our preparations in perspective.
What really matters?
If you really need to cut your to-do list to the bare minimum on Friday, I would focus on the following:
- Simple food for Shabbat, such as sandwiches, finger food, crackers and cheese, fruit, crockpot meals, or gasp, already prepared food from the store like donuts or banana bread.
- Creating an atmosphere of expectation for the specialness of the day, which could include music, candles, and a special blessing at dinnertime.
That’s it! If you can’t get the bathroom clean, don’t sweat it! If the dishes didn’t get washed, put them in a dishpan in the corner. If the house didn’t get vacuumed or swept, wear slippers. If you didn’t make challah bread, (by the way, not a commandment), eat crackers. It is far better to enter Shabbat with a smile and a worshipful attitude in a messy house, than it is to create an immaculate house and five course meal and enter Shabbat exhausted and cranky.
How should my weekly routine look?
Since we are instructed to work six days and rest on the seventh, it only makes sense to spread our Sabbath preparations over the course of the week. This can be as simple or as complicated as you wish, but I would at least avoid putting everything on Friday. If you try to grocery shop, prepare food, and clean the house on Friday, it’s no wonder that preparation day becomes scary. Spread these tasks over at least a couple days to sufficiently pace yourself.
The other important key to making prep day manageable is learning to keep your daily routine up so nothing gets ahead of you. If you finish the dishes everyday, there will only ever be one day’s worth of dishes to take care of. If you tidy the house everyday, even for 5-10 minutes, it won’t be a lengthy task on Friday. If you own a lot of belongings, obviously it will take longer to maintain them and put them away. Yep, that’s why I am actively reducing the number of belongings in our home. The less we own, the less there is to pick up. Such a simple concept, but it does take time to get yourself there. Be patient with yourself, and work on your home some everyday. Then, when Friday comes along, it will feel more like a regular day’s work, rather than a crazy sprint to the finish line.
How can I simplify food prep?
I know it can be exciting to try new recipes and make fancy food, but if you are feeling overwhelmed on Friday, fancy recipes may need to take a backseat for awhile. I strongly recommend keeping a repeat menu on Friday night and Shabbat. When you always make the same food, it offers several benefits.
- If you manage to pick a family favorite, everyone will look forward to Friday night and have pleasant associations with entering Shabbat. (We always have burritos on Friday night.)
- When you make the same thing every week, you can put dinner on auto pilot. For burritos, I use a crockpot to cook the pinto beans, and a rice cooker. Then, I only have a few veggies to chop, and the kids each have certain foods to line up on the counter for burrito assembly. No thinking required!
- If you fix the same thing every week for Shabbat, making food ahead becomes much simpler. I always make chili or soup in the crockpot for Shabbat dinner (Saturday evening.) We have finger foods like cheese and crackers, fruit, etc. for lunch. Occasionally we have sandwiches. Aside from making sure we have the food in the fridge, no prep is required. Breakfast usually consists of things like boiled eggs or, gasp, baked goods from the store. My husband picks up goodies for us at the store as a gift of no prep for me. 🙂
What meals could you repeat each week to enable you to go on autopilot for food prep? If you do wish to change things up, I recommend switching between two menus at the most.
What is most important to clean?
We want to have a joyful, peaceful Shabbat, and relaxing in a clean home really helps. But, should we really try to clean the whole house on Friday? I recommend just focusing on the following:
- Keep the kitchen clean as you go. Use paper products if needed, we do! If you run out of time, throw the remaining dishes in a big dishpan and deal with them later.
- Have your children help you clean just the main living areas. I have my children pick up their age, multiple times if the mess requires it. This means they pick up and put away the same number of items as their age in years. Automatically age appropriate!
- Give the bathrooms a quick clean for everyone’s comfort.
- That’s it! If you have time and desire for more, great! If not, you’ll have a pleasant kitchen to eat in, and a comfy living room for reading Scripture together, etc.
What tips do you have for making prep day easier? Please share them in the comments! If you would like to learn more about preparing for and keeping Shabbat, consider taking my Shabbat email course for free! You can sign up below.