Your Ultimate Passover Checklist
Everything you need to buy for Passover, and where to find it!
by Rivi Rotenberg
Nothing stirs our nostalgia quite like the holidays. We know that special seasons awaken sentimentality, but there is something unique about Passover.
Passover is the Jewish holiday that celebrates family. Its core message is one of connection to our heritage and the link between generations. Come Passover, and Jews worldwide cling to tradition and seek to replicate the Seders of yesteryear.
Shopping for Passover food products is where it all begins. And we’re here to help you with that endeavor. We want to simplify the process of shopping for Passover without compromising on its authenticity.
If you are like me, and you’re living outside a kosher metropolis, local options are more limited. Two years ago, I moved from the heartland of kosher civilization (I♥NY) to cowboy country, Texas.
You know the saying, ‘sometimes less is more’? Well, when I first moved here, I thought that ‘less’ is certainly not ‘more’. In fact, it is very much ‘less’.
Fast forward 2 years later, and I’m not so sure about that anymore. ‘Less’ has a lot of benefits. But that’s for another time. For the purpose of this article, I’ll stick with what's relevant. So here goes.
With the right resources and tips, shopping for Passover is not that big of a deal. Really. You just need to break it down. There are things you’ll need to get locally and things that you just can’t. There are things you’ll need to buy fresh and things that need to be ordered in advance. There are things that you’ll need to buy only once and things that you’ll need annually.
We’re going to divide all that stuff up. In bite size pieces. With lists and bullets and time tables and all that good stuff. So it’s manageable. Let’s get to it.
Passover Food Shopping List
Before we get to the groceries and dry goods, let's talk about the essentials:
Matzo and Wine.
These are specialty items. You’ll want to order both these items in advance.
Matzah can be made by machine or by hand. Either one can be referred to as regular matzah or shmurah (supervised) matzah. Shmurah matzah is made from grain that has been under special supervision from the time it was harvested.
Hand made matzah is the round, traditional-looking matzah that you see in storybook illustrations. According to many halachic (Jewish law) opinions, these are preferable for the Seder. I would also add that they are superior in texture and taste. Ironically, the Haggadah refers to matzah as Lechem Oni (poor man’s bread), but in actuality hand-made matzah is quite expensive, typically $20-$30 a box. You can order some hand-made matza on Passover.com here.
In many cases, purchasing matzah for Passover requires in-advance planning and custom orders. While machine matzah is sold in some kosher supermarkets around Passover time, hand made matzah usually cannot be purchased locally. Hand-made Shmurah matzah is also included in the Passover Seder Essentials Kit from Passover.com.
We are also offering a high-value, hassle-free special. Every purchase of over $100 will include a free 5lb box of machine matzah. Combining your annual matzah order with your grocery shopping, at no extra cost, is a no-brainer.
In addition to kosher certification, wine requires a Kosher for Passover certification. Since you will be drinking a lot of it during the Seder, make sure to order an alcohol content that you can tolerate well. Don’t forget to order grape juice for children, pregnant women or anyone else who will not be drinking alcohol.
Shelf Stable Passover Shopping List
Before creating your grocery list, here are two things to consider:
- Restocking is difficult if you don’t live in a very ‘kosher’ locale. Even if you are not cooking in advance, it makes sense to order the essentials directly.
You should try making a basic menu draft before creating a shopping list.
Some people like to create a menu before they shop. Other people don’t want to deal with that so far in advance. In either case, I’d advise you to have a general idea of what your holiday staples are before creating a shopping list.
The Essentials of a Passover Shopping List:
- Matzah meal (ground matzah) used for stuffing, dredging, making Passover cakes/rolls
- Spices (salt, pepper, garlic, onion powder, paprika…)
- White horseradish (goes very well with fish)
- Baking Ingredients:
- Potato Starch and/or almond flour (replaces flour for baking or for thickening sauces when cooking)
- White sugar, brown sugar, and confectioners sugar. (Silan/date syrup is also a great sweetener in many recipes, and vanilla sugar is great for baking desserts.)
- Oil (olive oil, grapeseed oil, cottonseed oil)
- Cocoa (for brownies)
- Ground nuts
- Dark Chocolate and/or chocolate chips
- Vanilla extract
- Baking Powder, Baking Soda
- Cake Mixes
- Chocolate. Chocolate. Chocolate.
- Potato Chips
- Marble Mandel Cuts
- Dried fruit
- Beverages (other than wine)
Most of the protein, dairy, and produce shopping for Passover can be done locally.
Meat, Poultry and Fish
If you can get your fish and meats locally, then that’s a great way to ensure freshness while supporting local businesses.
In many locales, you cannot create a custom menu and then just go shopping based on your preferences. You have to work with what’s available to buy locally. That’s ok. If you have all the other basics prepped and ready, it’s easier to be spontaneous with your protein dishes.
- If you want to serve traditional Jewish foods you can always buy ready made jarred gefilte fish as a hassle free appetizer.
- Remember to buy and prepare a chicken wing or shankbone for the zroah (shankbone), an item on the Seder plate.
Due to the food restrictions on Passover, many children (and adults) eat a lot more dairy than usual. It’s important to keep this in mind when stocking up before the holidays.
I try to stock up on:
- Cream cheese
- Whipped cream
For many families, your produce shopping won’t look that different than they do all year round.
Some products that are important to consider for Passover specifically are:
- Lettuce for Maror (bitter herbs served at the Seder).
- Apples to make Charoset (a sweet relish served at the Seder)
- Horseradish for Chazeret (one of the items on the Seder plate)
- Potatoes, radishes or celery for Karpas (one of the items on the Seder plate)
The Pre-Passover Shopping To-do List
There are a couple of things you’ll need to do before creating a Passover shopping list. It’s going to vary based on whether you’re new to the scene or a seasoned Passover “balabusta” (Jewish homemaker).
For the Passover Newbie
If this is your first time celebrating Passover in your own home, there are a couple of items that you will need. You might be fortunate enough to have inherited family pieces or heirlooms that will grace your table. Passover is a holiday steeped in tradition, and the special pieces on display will be woven into your own families’ holiday memories. While you don’t need to spend a lot to get items that you love, choose them with care. They are a big part of the experience.
For the Passover Veterans:
Even if you have made Passover in your home before, it is always a good idea to assess and review the annual items checklist. Families grow, guests join and things get misplaced. You want to be certain that you have enough haggadot, kosot, and place setting materials for all those participating.
Annual items for the Passover Seder
Every participant at the Seder will need their own Haggadah (the text recited at the Passover Seder) to follow along with the Seder sequence. Many Haggadot are illustrated and annotated with insights and explanations. There are Haggadot for adults and children, beginners and pros, so you can search for the perfect Haggadot for your needs.
The Seder plate or ke’arah is the focal point of the Seder. It includes six unique items that symbolize different aspects of the Seder story.
There are three whole matzahs that are placed underneath the Seder plate in the Matzah holder.
This is any bag designated to hold the Afikomen (dessert matzah).
Having a readily available basin and cup keeps the ritual hand washing process smooth and efficient.
Many Jews have the tradition to manifest royalty by reclining and leaning on pillows during the Seder. This is symbolic of the holiday of freedom when the Jews were liberated from slavery.
Each family member and guest at the Seder should have their own Kiddush cup for the four ritual cups of wine. (If you're traveling and don't want to bring your silver along, try these disposable Kiddush Cups.)
Holiday candle lighting is similar to Shabbat lighting. A special blessing in honor of Passover is recited with an additional Shehecheyanu Bracha (Prayer of gratitude).
The cup of Elijah has a prominent place at the center of the Seder table. Traditionally it is a wine filled goblet that remains untouched and designated for Elijah the Prophet.
A kittel is a white linen or cotton robe traditionally worn by religious Jews when leading the Passover Seder.
One great way to simplify this process is by ordering a Passover Seder Essentials Kit. The Seder includes a lot of paraphernalia, so this is affordable and easy. You’ll know that it is done and done right.
Passover Supplies and Cookware
Once you have all the annual Seder pieces covered, it is now time to focus on the supplies and non perishables.
Among the basic mitzvot (Torah Commandments) of the chag (holiday) is the purging of one’s home and possessions of chametz (leaven or food mixed with leaven). In order to use kitchen equipment, utensils and surfaces that are used all year-round, they must first undergo a preparation process known as kashering (literally meaning ‘to make kosher’). This process is rather intricate and therefore many people opt to have separate supplies for Passover.
Passover Supplies Checklist:
- Counter covers
- Sink inserts
- Fridge liners and oven liners.
- Cooking basics: knives, peelers, pots, pans, cutting boards.
- Hand mixer
- Tableware, table cloths, dishes and flatware.
Many people will choose to buy disposables for Passover. If you have limited storage space, or want to simplify the cleaning process, this is an excellent option. Disposables can be beautiful, festive and stress-free.
For the Passover Veterans
- Take stock of what you have first.
If you’re doing this for a while, you probably have some sort of pantry area where you store your Passover supplies. A year is a long time. Don’t go shopping before taking note of what you already have. I like to take a picture of my inventory before I start shopping.
For the Passover Newbie
- If you are new to this, you DO NOT need EVERYTHING. You can absolutely buy the bare minimum and build a repertoire over the years. For example:
- It is entirely possible to cook for Passover with a deep sauté pan that can double as a frying pan. (I have fried schnitzel, boiled soup and matzah balls, and made killer potatoes all from the same deep pan. It’s not ideal but it totally works.)
- You can mix cakes by hand in aluminum pans. (Brownie mix for the win!)
- You can chop onions on a plastic plate if you don’t have a cutting board.
- It is important to remember that like all year round shopping, shopping for Passover is very individual. Some people cannot live without their Keurig, and will have a separate one for Passover. Other people will make it through the week. These decisions are personal, so don’t get overwhelmed.
Once you have tackled the shopping lists, you are halfway there. I promise. Passover is the festival of freedom. Draw inspiration from that and don’t let yourself get bogged down.
Whether you are a novice or an old-timer, the advent of kosher e-commerce is a game changer in convenience, easy-access, and affordability. Preparing for Passover is that much more enjoyable when you know exactly what you need and where to find it.
Wishing you and your families a joyous and peaceful Passover experience!