Updated Simple Shabbat prep list (working parent edition)

One the things I was dreading the most about returning to work after 10 months on mat leave (thank you Canada!), was the prospect of rushed, half-baked Friday nights and Shabbat meals. The system I described in my original Simple Shabbat prep list is not very compatible with working full-time and a two+ hour commute (round trip, but still), so I’ve had to tweak it. I can only assume it will keep evolving, but I think this is a good starting point for working parents :

The basic principles are :

  • Simplify your recipes and prepare things that can easily be turned into delicious cold sandwiches, or salads the next day. If all else fails, embrace the French meal “sur le pouce” (baguette, cheese or cold cuts, salad stuff and a glass of wine)
  • Buy your challah. I used to get the frozen ones and take them out to rise on Thursday evening, to bake them on Friday. Now Adam just picks one up from Bread and Sons Bakery close to his work. As far as I know, it’s not strictly Kosher in the commonly accepted sense of the term, but neither are we, and it is just too delicious to pass up. They bake a fresh batch every Friday, and they go fast!
  • Try to build in some flexibility. When I came back from my first mat leave, I negotiated with my employer to work from home on Fridays. I prepared my case and presented it in a way that took into account my superiors’ concerns, and lucky me, they were receptive. If, unlike translation, your work is not very VPN friendly, it may be worth negotiating a reduction in the number of hours you work. (More on that later).

My new routine:

Thursday night

  • Set out candles
  • Set dinner table

Friday during translation down times

  • Change linens (bed sheets, bath towels and hand towels in the kitchen, change rolls of toilet paper, refill soap dispensers)
  • Prepare simple meal or, if work is too busy, whip up a frozen pizza/salad dinner.
  • Program coffee machine for the morning.

Friday evening

  • Tidy up kitchen, so that clean up time from dinner is minimal – this does not always happen…
  • Turn off computer, cell phone and appliances
  • Put on different music
  • Bathe children, shower
  • Tzedakah, candles, blessings, songs, stories, and usually a few jokes from Sam.

Friday after the meal

  • Set up breakfast table, just because.



My simple shabbat prep list

My Shabbat prep list isn’t too long, although I do put work into it. The hardest part was committing to it, but once the weekly ritual became a habit, it did become a very special time for us, and now for the kids. We started very simply, with lighting the candles, buying challah and saying the blessings. Over time our practice has grown into what it is today, and we will keep adding to it as we grow, too.

Currently, I am at home with Julian, so I have a lot of flexibility when it comes to organizing my shabbat preparations. I can do a lot of it on Fridays for example. That is a luxury I will soon lose, when I go back to work in mid-April (I timed it so it would be after the Passover seders, at least!)

My current routine:

Thursday night

  • Take challah out of the freezer and set it out to rise (I buy them frozen at the College Square Loblaws, which has a well stocked kosher section)

Friday morning

  • Change linens (bed sheets, bath towels and hand towels in the kitchen)
  • 1 load of laundry

Friday during the kids’ nap

  • Prepare meal and put in the oven on “keep warm” setting, so it’s ready when we are.
  • Prepare one other easy dish in slow cooker, for lunch the next day.
  • Program coffee machine for the morning. (I wish someone invented a safe programmable toaster…)

Friday evening

  • Set table (including kiddush cups, siddurim and special blessings). I try to get Sam to help with that one, but it’s hit and miss.
  • Set out candles, tzedakah box, kippot
  • Tidy up kitchen, so that clean up time from dinner is minimal
  • Turn off computer and cell phone

I know I will have to change and adapt it soon to accommodate a full time work shedule… Working moms out there, how do do it?