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Preparing your house for Passover is no easy feat.
- … Kashering the kitchen (and getting rid of Chametz) …
- … Getting your family & friends a lovely Passover gift …
- … Preparing an awesome Passover Seder …
Obviously, to host a Passover Seder (let alone survive the 8 days of Pesach) – you first need to get right Passover food & groceries.
Today, we’ll do just that… or to put it differently: we’ll take the whole Passover shopping off our (Seder) plate 🙂
But be careful…
Just because it’s Passover, doesn’t mean you have to get carried away and spend money like you’re in Congress.
You don’t have to buy every item on the Passover shopping list. In fact, you shouldn’t buy every item on the list. Doing so might lead us to the untold “11th plague of Egypt” – bankruptcy.
How about we avoid that, m’kay?
Remember: Buy what you need, NOT what you can.
OK… now that we’ve set some ground rules, let’s go shopping!
- Read the label. Most Passover groceries (with a few exceptions) require a special “Kosher for Passover” Hechsher/certification (i.e OU-P, KFP, KP). Make sure to read the label before you put anything in that shopping cart!
- Some groceries contain Kitniyot – which most Orthodox Ashkenazi Jews consider prohibited on Passover. If you don’t eat Kitniyot on Pesach – double check to make sure what you’re buying doesn’t contain Kitniyot.
- When in doubt – ask your Rabbi. Different Rabbis may hold different views on what’s allowed and what’s not… So, if you’re uncertain whether something is prohibited or not in your community – ask thy Rabbi
Table of Contents
Passover Seder Groceries & Supplies
Certain Passover supplies are essential. Without them, you don’t have a Seder (you have a “Balagan”).
Not all Passover products are equally important, though.
How do you know which ones are essential?
Way ahead of you. I bolded the essential Passover items for you, so you can easily separate the “must-haves” from the “nice-to-haves”.
That being said, if you’re hosting a big Seder this year, I do suggest getting a few “nice-to-haves” to give your Seder table a little bit of color.
The Seder plate is the cornerstone of the Passover Seder. It’s where we place the 6 symbolic Passover food items (coming up next)
Seder plate items
There are six traditional Seder plate items:
- Charoset: A brown spread made of nuts, grated apples, cinnamon and red wine. It’s a symbol for the brick & mortar the Jews were forced put together to build the Egyptian buildings and pyramids.
- Maror – Bitter herbs (horseradish or romaine lettuce): A symbol of the bitterness of slavery the Jews suffered from in Egypt. Maror comes from the Hebrew word “Mar” – which literally means “bitter”.
- Shank bone – Zeroah: Symbolizes the Passover sacrifice (Korban Pesach) the Jews used to perform in the Jewish temple.
- Egg – Beitzah: Represents the special Pesach festival sacrifice the Jews used to perform in the Jewish temple during the Passover Seder.
- Karpas (parsley or celery): A symbol for hope and renewal. During the Seder – we dip the Karpas in saltwater – a symbol of the tears and pain the Jews endured as slaves.
- Chazeret (romaine lettuce or endive): A second type of Maror – bitter herbs. During the Seder, we make a “Chazeret” sandwich with two Matzot – known as “Korech Sandwich”.
Matzo (or Matzah) is the unleavened bread we eat during the 8 days of Passover to commemorate our Jewish ancestor’s exodus from Egypt.
Wait, but Why?
The common answer is that the Israelites had to leave Egypt in such a haste that they couldn’t wait for the bread dough to rise. This is also known as the “Matzah of Freedom”.
But there’s a second reason not many people know about, or mention: we eat Matzo on Passover, because that’s the food the Jews were fed as slaves. We call that the “Matzah of Affliction”.
At first glance, these two reasons seem paradoxical.
But when you add the two puzzle pieces together – you can suddenly realize the full picture: we eat Matzo to celebrate our escape from “Matzah of Affliction” (a symbol of pain, poverty and slavery) → to “Matzah of Freedom” (a symbol of hope, richness and redemption).
Shmura Matzah isn’t the same as the Matzah you dip in Charoset for breakfast. They’re special handmade Matzot that are guarded (“Shmura” = guarded in Hebrew) against leavening (Chametz) from the moment they’re being harvested from the crops… as opposed to “regular” Matzot that are only guarded from the point the wheat is ground into flour.
As you might expect, this extra level of supervision makes these round-shaped Matzot more expensive than your average Matzo.
The Passover Haggadah is where the Seder is “at”. Each Passover guests has his own copy of a Haggadah to follow along, sing along and perform the Passover customs.
“Wine gladdens the heart of man” – Psalm 104:15
Wine holds a special place in Judaism. We drink it during Shabbat, weddings, festivals, holidays…you name it.
Passover is different. We don’t just drink wine on Passover. We drink A LOT of wine on Passover!
What’s a lot? We drink 4 cups of wine during the Passover Seder alone (not including the glasses of wine we drink during the meal).
Did You Know?
Technically, we pour 5 cups of wine during the Seder, but we only drink 4. What’s with the 5th cup? More on that later…
Obviously – every time we read a religious Jewish text (in this case, the Haggadah), Jews are required to wear a Kippah.
Wearing a Matzah-shaped Kippah is just a bonus 🙂
Remember the 5th cup of wine I mentioned earlier? This is it…
The Elijah cup is the 5th traditional cup of wine we pour (but don’t drink) to honor Elijah the prophet.
Wait, but why?
Why pour a 5th cup that no one drinks?
There was an old debate (Machloket) in the Talmud about whether we should pour 4 or 5 cups of wine during the Passover Seder.
No agreement was reached… so it was settled with a compromise (that happens a lot in Judaism): pour a fifth cup, but do not drink it.
During a “normal” Kiddush – we cover the Challah bread until we recite the Hamotzi blessing. This is a symbolic act for not “embarassing” the Challah while we recite the wine blessing.
On Passover, we replace the Challah with a Matzah… and just as we cover the Challah with a Challah cover – we cover the Matzah with a Matzah cover.
We use the Afikoman cover to hide the Afikoman during the Passover Seder meal… we later “reveal” it and eat it for desert.
Note: It’s a common tradition for the Seder host to hide the Afikoman for the kids to find… and whoever finds it, gets a prize! (parents – this is not a replacement for a Passover gift. Don’t be mean)
Like any Jewish holiday – we light candles and recite a special blessing to welcome the holiday.
What dishes do you use for the Passover Seder?
Typically, you’ve got two options:
Kashering is obviously the cost-effective choice, but it requires a lot more time and hassle. On the other hand, if you’re hosting the Passover Seder every year, perhaps it would be a good idea to get a special set just for Passover.
There’s also a third choice…
You can always go with disposable Passover paper plates.
On the one hand – they’re much easier to clean… on the other hand – they’re not exactly the fanciest option. So keep that in mind…
You can do the same with wine cups. Each and every guest will drink at least 4 cups of Kiddush wine during the Seder. They can either drink it with a regular Kiddush cup or wine glass, or with a disposable one… up to you.
The Pesach tablecloth is ground zero: without it – you don’t really have a table to decorate to begin with.
Following Elijah’s footsteps… A fairly new Passover tradition has emerged in recent decades to honor Miriam (Moses’s Sister): leaving a cup filled with water next to Elijah’s cup.
While this isn’t exactly a Halachic requirement – this tradition is becoming more and popular – mainly thanks to the egalitarian “shift” in the world
As part of the Passover Seder, we get up to wash our hands several times (during Urchatz and Rachtzah). Instead of forcing everyone to wait for the towel, you can provide each of your guests with their very own towel.
Napkins are necessary. Matzo napkins are optional… but they’re cute 🙂
Matzo napkin rings, to cover the Matzo napkins, that cover the Matzo. Confused? I don’t blame you…
Not necessary by any means… only if you want your guests to be super-comfortable and “survive the Seder” without letting their behinds go numb (remember, the average Seder lasts for a good couple of hours)
Passover Decorations & Toys
You’d be surprised what a few thoughtful Passover decorations and favors can do…
They can transform the Passover Seder into an interactive, engaging and entertaining experience the kids (and the adults) will LOVE!
You only need a handful of Seder decorations (you can find all of the decorations I mentioned here + many others in this link) to officially enter the “Passover Hostess Hall of Fame”… So much so, that your guests will BEG you to host the Passover Seder every year (and hopefully invite them again)!
Flowers aren’t just a cool gift for the Seder hostess – they’re also a lovely centerpiece for the Seder table.
Want to guests to feel like they’re having a meal at a 5-star restaurant? Give each of your guests a personal place cards… I bet that’ll get the 5-star reviews going!
You can take it an extra step further – and print a Matzo shaped menu for your guests! It’s too bad you can’t accept tips on Passover, huh?
Not enough Matzos on your table yet? Add a bunch of Matzo coasters… that’ll do the trick.
Passover wine labels
Here’s my thought on this: if you’re having expensive wine for Passover – leave the label on so your guests can appreciate the quality.
If you’re having not-so-good wine – Passover wine labels, baby!
Passover wine glass decor
Decorating your wine glasses with Passover plagues is cool (and quite funny), no matter how cheap or expensive the wine is.
Speaking of plagues – you can sprinkle a bunch of these green fellas around the Seder table for same extra amusement.
If you’re really determined to get your family into the Passover spirit – all you need to do is invite Moses and Pharaoh… I bet that’ll liven things up.
What if you don’t know these folks personally?
Well, you (and your kids) can dress up as tiny Moseses and Pharaohs!
If wearing an entire costume is too much, you can take “baby steps” and only wear these cute plague masks during the Seder to keep the kids busy.
These are great to entertain toddlers at the Seder table and distract them from the horrible taste of the Maror.
How do you nurture your child’s inner Stephen King, instill confidence in them AND teach them about Passover all at the same time?
Well, you could always call up Stephen King and ask for private tutoring lessons… Or you could go the cheaper route and start with baby steps using these unique Passover Seder story stones.
It’s so easy to obsess about decorating the Pesach Seder table, that we can easily forget to decorate around the table…
Tip: Check out all of these Passover decorations and many others here.
Passover Cleaning Supplies
Most people would argue that cleaning your house for Passover is the least exciting task imaginable (I actually quite like it… it’s therapeutic).
It’s especially daunting if you don’t have the right supplies at your disposal…
Thankfully, you only need a few key ingredients to turn the Pesach cleaning into a breeze.
Note: I’ll skip the obvious items (soap, vacuum cleaner etc’).
Here they are:
Passover labels (to label cabinets, closets etc’)
Oven cleaning spray
Cream cleaner with bleach
Mold and mildew remover
Fruits & Vegetables
People often set New Year’s resolutions to lose weight. Unfortunately, 80% of those resolutions fail by February.
Well, guess what? If you’re Jewish, you’ve got a second chance to reignite those New Year’s resolution this Passover.
Confused? Let me explain…
Instead of looking for those “OU-P, KP, KLP” labels on every product imaginable, you can take the easier route and base your Passover diet mostly on fruits and vegetables (the key word here is mostly… you can still have Matzos and a potato latke or two)
That way, you don’t have to worry about eating Chametz, Kitniyot or anything of the sort…Plus, odds are you’ll lose a little weight! And then you can use that momentum to keep you on track after Passover over!
OK… enough diet-talk. Let’s look at the fruit & vegetables that are a good fit for Passover.
Horseradish (or Romaine Lettuce)
Meat & Fish
You can’t mention traditional Passover food, let alone cook it, without meat & fish.
Jewish cuisine is famous for it’s endless amount of meat & fish recipes. And Passover is, without a doubt, THE best time to turn those recipes from words on a page → into delicious Passover food.
Bottom line is: get ready to stock up on a bunch of fish and meat products… the kitchen is your oyster (oy vey! oysters aren’t Kosher)!
Dairy, Cheese & Eggs
Everyone is so cought up on cooking for the Seder, that we forget that Passover lasts for 8 whole days. And in those 8 days, we’ve got other meals called breakfast and lunch that I’d consider pretty important.
And I don’t know about you, I don’t particularly like eating Matzo balls or other meaty food for breakfast. I’d much rather have eggs, (Matzo) cheese sandwich and a hot cup of coffee.
Here are just a couple of groceries that are staples in my kitchen on Passover…
Snacks & Desserts
“Damnit! None of my favorite snacks are Kosher for Passover!”
Such rubbish! It’s time we burst that myth once and for all.
While it’s true that many snacks are Chametz, there are a TON of delicious Kosher for Passover options we can munch into that are 100% Kosher for Passover.
Kosher for Passover Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, mixed nuts, Macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, Pine nuts)
Drinks & Beverages
Wine is the star of the Seder (we fill 4 cups of wine during the Haggadah reading alone). We all know that…
But I don’t think drinking wine all day, every day, for 8 days… is such a good idea. We need other options, too (preferably ones that don’t get us drunk).
Here are a few popular Passover drinks you’ll find in Jewish households during Passover.
Tip: As always, look carefully for the “Kosher for Passover” label before you buy beverages. I even included “Kosher for Passover” before every alcoholic drink just in case, because in my experience people tend to overlook those.
Kosher for Passover Wine (LOTs of it)
Kosher for Passover Vodka
Kosher for Passover brandy
Kosher for Passover Arak (hello Sephardim!)
Kosher for Passover gin
Kosher for Passover tequila
Cooking & Baking Staples
Wheat, oats (yes, oatmeal too), barley – all Chametz.
OMG! What should we do?!
Relax! for every Chametz ingredient, there’s an equal Kosher for Passover alternative! And believe it or not – they taste pretty good.
I don’t know what you’re cooking this Passover… but odds are you’ll need one (or several) of these ingredients at some point…
Spices & Herbs
Good news: herbs are Kosher for Passover.
Slightly less good news: Not all spices are Kosher for Passover, and others contain Kitniyot (sorry, fellow Ashkenazi readers). Therefore, you need to look out for the “Kosher for Passover” certification.
Alas, here’s a list of popular herbs and spices you can get on Passover.
Sweeteners & Sweat Spreads
“Maror… yuck! Gimme something sweet to get rid of that awful taste, please!”
That’s what everyone secretly thinks the moment their tongue touches those bitter herbs. Luckily, Passover can reward us with sweet treats to override that awful taste.
These sweet Passover groceries will do the trick.
Tip: Reminding everyone again – check for the “Kosher for Passover” label!
Confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
Sauces & Pantry Products
Sauce & pantry require a Kosher for Passover Hechcher… Don’t be fooled by the innocent look of the bottled sauce.
“But it’s ketchup… isn’t it just tomatoes?”
If only the world was that simple, Bubbeleh…
Truth is – more often than not, these innocent-looking products contain Chametz (or at least come in contact with Chametz at some point during production).
Legumes (rice, lentils, beans, peanuts, chickpeas/Hummus, corn, sesame) [Kitniyot]
What about our pets? Aren’t they human beings? Don’t they serve a Passover feast of their own?
Of course they do. They’re part of the family!
And whether they know it or not – their family is Jewish. That means… no Chametz! (though according to Star-K, you are allowed to feed them Kitniyot)
👨: “Under my roof, you’re going to follow my rules… got it, Rexie?”
🐶: “Woof Woof!”
👨: “Good boy!”
Purina Alpo Chop House – Filet Mignon and Bacon flavors
Blue Freedom Grain Free – Natural Adult Dry Dog Food
Hills Ideal Balance Grain Free Dog Food – Chicken & Potato
Purina Mighty Dog – No Gravy
Hill’s Science Diet – Adult Sensitive Stomach
Wellness Core Grain Free – Chicken
Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain Free – Salmon
Wellness Core Grain Free – Chicken & Turkey
Fish food is trickier. Odds are they’ll contain Chametz leftovers… so using those to feed your fish on Passover is problematic.
The solution is to either use an automatic fish feeder or buy a clean feeding block you’ll use just on Passover.
Once you do that, you can feed your cute fish with the following:
Tetra Brine Shrimp – Goldfish and tropical fish only (if they don’t contain fillers)
You can use the following bird food to feed Parrots, Parakeets, Cockatiels, and Macaws.
Tip: If you have small birds – make sure to crush the food beforehand to make it digestable
Millet and sorghum (as the main diet)
Peanuts, sunflower seeds, safflower seeds
Oyster shells or mineral block
“Everything in moderation, including moderation” – Oscar Wilde
There you have it – the only Passover shopping list you’ll EVER need.
Now…remember what I said in the beginning: Buy what you need, not what you can.
For some odd reason, people feel the need to go overboard in their Passover shopping. I get it… we all want to be an awesome Seder host, and help our family “survive” Passover without starving.
That can easily lead to us buying everything under the sun (at least the things that are Kosher for Passover), only to see most of it go to waste after Pesach.
So don’t do that… Sababa?
Now… what are you still doing here? It’s time to go shopping!
Or for the Israelis in the crowd: Pesach Sameach 🙂