Stay cool under pressure. A customizable spreadsheet can help make prepping for Yom Tov easy. Free download!
Excel (or Google Spreadsheets, to be more accurate) is the tool that makes my life work.
I plan my weekly menus and shopping lists on spreadsheets and I organize my task lists on spreadsheets. All my projects, from Whisk’s weekly content to the Breadberry newsletters to the recipe list for the book I’m currently working on…it’s all organized and planned on a spreadsheet. Before each Pesach and fall season, my children’s new clothing needs, along with budgets for each category and matching accessories, are also organized on a spreadsheet.
On the Between Carpools team, I’m in charge of managing our editorial calendar. It maps out which posts appear when, who is writing them, what stage they’re in, and what images will accompany them. And yes, I do that on a spreadsheet.
And a spreadsheet is also what I use to make preparing for Yom Tov or any simcha completely manageable and not overwhelming.
We’ve provided my spreadsheet (it’s pre-filled with a mock menu just to show you how it’s done, but replace with your own dishes and steps), but here’s a quick guide on how to use it to make your life easier.
The Spreadsheet Menu Organizing Method
Status Column: Here’s where you mark if something is done! It feels so good to insert those “X’s!”
Menu Item Column: Here’s where you list your dishes, meal by meal (or category by category if you’re planning a simcha).
Days of the Week Columns: Each of these columns are devoted to one day. I like spreading out the tasks over a two week period so there’s not a ton to do everyday. Slot the tasks needed to complete each dish into a day. Some dishes can be completed in one day (i.e. baking and freezing a complete dessert). Others should be broken down into different days (i.e. if I’m preparing a salad, one day, earlier in the week, I might devote to making all the salad dressings for all the salads. I might as well once I have all those ingredients out! The day before might be the day I choose to chop all my vegetables). Spread out the tasks; don’t overload your days. Finish a task and delete it! Clear up those cells!
You’ll see, when tasks are broken down, you’ll have a small and manageable list to accomplish each day. You won’t be overwhelmed by the huge list of things you need to do. Rather, you’ll feel empowered because the rest of your upcoming to-do list doesn’t matter. All that matters is what you need to do TODAY.
Yom Tov Day Columns: Specify what needs to be done when serving each dish, i.e. “Bake,” “Rewarm,” “Toss.” Having this list will keep you more composed when it’s time to serve that meal.
Shopping List Columns: You can’t get your “to-dos” done if the right ingredients aren’t in your house. If you need to visit (or place orders) in multiple stores to get all your ingredients in house, avoid multiple visits by organizing your complete shopping list here. Now that you know what you’re cooking each day, you know what you need and when. Keep a separate produce list for each week, as those items should be fresh. As far as non-perishables, if you need a few items from store #A during week one, and a couple more from store #A during week 2, make sure you get them the first time around!
Include other non-food related errands here as well so all your Yom Tov prep tasks are focused in one place.
Note: I prefer using Google spreadsheets over Excel, as my revisions (along with my revision history) are always automatically saved and I can access an up-to-date spreadsheet from my phone or anywhere. To open this with Google spreadsheet, simply email it to your gmail account and download to Google drive.