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How Does a Busy Woman Prepare for Shabbat?

How Does a Busy Woman Prepare for Shabbat?



I need help. My family has always enjoyed Shabbat meals, and I light the Shabbat candles. Now we have decided to become totally Shabbat observant. Problem is, I am a professional. I work a lot. Quitting is not an option, and I leave work on Fridays barely in time to arrive home by sundown.

How can I possibly prepare Shabbat? Can we ever have anyone over? Frankly, worrying about Shabbat all week is stressing me out, and it seems to be contrary to the entire Shabbat spirit.

I would really appreciate practical tips from women who have actually had to deal with these issues.


It’s great that you have made the decision to be Shabbat-observant; Shabbat is such a blessing, if it didn’t exist it would have to be invented! I realize it is hard, but know that you are not alone; there are many Jewish women in your position who are able to juggle both. Here are some suggestions; let me know if they work for you or not!

  • Prepare for Shabbat during the week. If you bake challah, bake it on Sunday. Make the chicken or meat on a weeknight, and freeze it. Chicken soup (without the veggies) freezes excellently. Even potato kugel freezes well. All you have to do on Friday afternoon, then, is get it all warmed up.
  • Get a crockpot (there are many on the market available at quite reasonable prices), and put in the chicken/meat and potatoes or rice in the morning. By the time you come home, you will have a piping hot Shabbat meal ready and waiting. Fish takes only a few minutes to prepare, and if you eat gefilte fish, you can buy jars of it ready made to save more time.
  • Set the Shabbat table on Thursday night, so that the candles and all you need will be ready when you get home—one less thing to do when you’re rushing before Shabbat.
  • About guests: you don’t have to have a five-course meal in order to have guests. Try inviting one or two people over, and see how it goes. I’m sure you and your family will enjoy having guests over.
  • Finally, many women and men who are Shabbat-observant are able to compromise with their workplaces in the following manner: during winter months, when Shabbat comes in so early, they either come in earlier on Friday, stay later on other days, or work a bit on Sunday to make up for the extra couple of hours they take off in order to be home at a decent time before sundown. Perhaps see if you can work something out with your office along those lines.

I know you can do it!

Chani Benjaminson, for

Chani Benjaminson is co-director of Chabad of the South Coast, coordinator of Chabad’s Ask the Rabbi and Feedback departments, and is a member of the editorial staff of
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Dina November 1, 2017

1. Make simple meals.
2. Everyday make one meal and freeze it, label it so you know what it is.
3. Dont leave any cooking for Friday except fresh salads that can be made after candles are lit.
4. Clean home Thur. night and leave Shabbat table/candles, plata and water urn ready with water.
5. I buy my challah/dessert - only make it if I have time.
6. My hubby takes care of wine, grape juice, water, drinks.
7. Use disposable dishes, cups, etc.
8. Serve cold sephardic salads, they are healthy, fast and easy to make and filling. You can also buy most of them. They are cheap. Buy hummus and babaganoush and matbucha. Have it on the table ready to eat with the challah.
9. Sat: cold salads: tuna fish, egg salad, tomato/cucumber salad, and a heavy stew such as cholent or chili, etc. Pita bread instead of challah.
10. Guests: I invite one couple Fri or Sat but not on both days.
11. Some Shabbats we dont invite ppl. Its just us. We study during the meal from our book collection. We bond. Reply

Anonymous July 12, 2013

The oldest daughter Can the oldest daughter help in this situation? Help with everything?
In many ways, in many situations it alreaddy happens.
Is there any problem? Reply

Margo Grace Carr Ridgecrest June 21, 2013

Yes I know there is often the feeling that we women HAVE to do all the preparation for Shabbat, but if you are already a working woman, than you are already in a "non-traditional" role. You say that "we" decided to become totally Shabbat Observant, to me that means that WE have to work together to prepare for the Shabbat. Each member of the family can contribute what they can to the preparation. In my opinion this makes the whole experience more meaningful for the whole family. Reply

Scott Haifa June 19, 2013

I cook and...oh yeah...we moved to Israel. My wife and I are truly busy people. We know we want to honor the Shabbat with a clean house, clean clothes and delightful food-for us and our infant.

How does she do it. She asks me for help. I cook the meal. I do the shopping. She does the detail cleaning and sets up the baby supplies. We straighten together. I set up the candles and the challah and she lights 'em and then it;s shabbat.

The biggest help...we picked up and moved to Israel. If you're having trouble making Shabbat work with your career schedule, I'd suggest aliyah. Free plane tickets for your family, some cash to get you on your feet, language training, business loans and consulting and other stuff...and oh get to live in Israel. You know where it's illegal to require a Jew to work on Shabbat. Most professional Jews..and most observant Jews have Friday off completely. Makes Shabbat pretty easy. Reply

Lisa Miami June 18, 2013

Healthy is quicker I've found that some of the traditional shabbos dishes (like kugels) take a lot of time and aren't really so healthy. Roasted veggies of any kind are quick and easy. Just prep veggies (some examples: broccoli & cauliflower, cubed butternut squash, green beans, sliced summer squashes) and place on a cookie sheet. Spray with olive oil and season with your favorite flavorings. Roast for 25-30 minutes. That's all. Easy and healthy! And they are a beautiful and colorful addition to your shabbos table. Reply

Grace South Africa, Pretoria June 18, 2013

We are also Shabbat Observers, and my husband helps out alot. I am also a working mom, luckily for me on fridays we knock off at 3. On Thurdays i will do the washing and prepare everything that i will take with me to the Temple.
We are having Shabbat lunch at the Temple after Shabbat. So in Friday i will iron our clothes for Shabbat, and do everything before 6 o'clock.

It really is great to be a Shabbat Obeserver. Reply

Leah Simferopol June 18, 2013

More ideas Make one dish each evening and keep in the fridge or freezer, as appropriate. As was mentioned, setting the table Thursday night works for many people.

I loved the idea of a meal manager each week. You can also assign each child 1-2 dishes which they are in charge of. Sometimes an older child can take over as coordinator and make sure each person is doing his job and everything is getting done.

PS: Google "time saving recipes" and even "time saving shabbos recipes!"

Invite your guests, and enjoy Shabbos! Reply

Leah Simferopol June 18, 2013

A few more suggestions I see lots of great suggestions, some of which I use, and I will add a few more.

If you want home-baked challah, once a month, on a Sunday, prepare for the month, using 1 1/2 times the yeast called for. You can freeze the raw dough, but shaping the challah and immediately freezing it works best. Each Friday, defrost the challah, let it rise, egg, and bake. There are also recipes that can rise overnight in the fridge and ba baked in the morning, or started in the morning before work and finished last minute.

Beans and barley can be pre-cooked for cholent and frozen weeks in advance, though you can also use canned beans -- regular or baked beans. I also cut up meat for the cholent in advance, so each Friday I remove from the freezer a package each of beans, barley, meat, and kneidlach. The potatoes can be peeled and cut on Thursday evening, and kept overnight in a covered pot of cold water.

ost kugels freeze well, and some even stay in the fridge -- I always at least double the potato or noodle kugel and leave it in the fridge for the next week.

Speaking of kugels -- they and many other dishes freeze great, and you can freeze throughout the summer for yomtov!

Soup freezes well and could be made in advance and frozen. Buy fish loaves, cover with tomato sauce (you can vary the seasonings or add vegies,) and simply bake it. There are marinated salads that stay well for weeks in the fridge. Enhance the fish course with ready made pickles, olives, salads and dips, and learn how to make your own simple dips in a blender.

Research easy recipes online. A deli salad at lunch can be put together quickly, as can wraps -- both ideas from one of my daughters. Another one put four pots on the stove (soup, fish, cholent, something else) and added in turn the required amount to each, of salt, pepper, etc.... Reply

Kathy Akron June 17, 2013

Quick and special I have prepared for Shabbat eve in many ways - from full-tilt gourmet meals with homemade everything to quick and easy. The following tactics will make your Shabbat fit for a king no matter how short on time you are.

- Make things special by making them pretty. A bouquet of beautiful flowers on a tablecloth with the nice china is fast and will "Shabbatize" the most plain of dinners.

About those dinners: Remember, garnishes are your friend.Add parsley to a plate, nuts to the veggies or salad, a sprinkle of paprika to the potatoes, etc.

- Serve something special for dessert on a doily covered tray - anything from store bought cakes to fine chocolates to out of season fancy fruit. End with a beautiful assortment of teas, served in pretty cups.

Make sure the environment is warm and friendly! Reply

Lisa Miami, FL June 17, 2013

Challah help Since you need to use a minimum amount of flour to get the mitzvah of separating challah, use a challah recipe which calls for a 5 lb bag of flour. It makes 8 loaves of challah, so you'll only have to make challah once a month! Bake and let challahs cool slightly, then wrap each loaf in aluminum foil, followed by clear plastic wrap. Place loaves in a ziploc freezer bag and freeze. On Friday morning, defrost two loaves. When you get home from work, take off plastic wrap but not the foil. Put the foil wrapped loaves in the oven after you've turned it off (or in the warming drawer, if you have one) until it's time to sit down. By the time you make Hamotzi, I PROMISE you will feel like you have fresh baked challah at your table. The recipe: 6 packs Fleishmans Rapid Rise yeast dissolved in 3/4 cup water, proofed till foamy; add to 5 lb bag of flour, 6 eggs, 2 cups sugar, 1 cup oil, 2 tbs salt. Add 2-3 cups of water as needed. You know the rest. Good luck!! Reply

Zahava ma June 17, 2013

Grew Up With A Working Mom My mother worked full time (an hour commute each way) since I was three years old -- I am the oldest of 5. We ate really simple meals all week, but for Shabbos my mother went all out. She and my father cooked the Shabbos food together Wednesday and Thursday nights -- Wednesday night she always made the chicken soup, Thursday night fish, chicken, cake and side dishes. My father made the cholent. Challah was usually bought. It worked out pretty well. Reply

Marcey S. Toronto, ON May 13, 2013

Lists, Calendars and Self reminders Hello! As a working mom (and returnee to Jewish observance) who does a lot of driving to get to and from work, and the kids, and back home, I totally understand with the above issue.

The only thing that works for me is literally writing it down in three columns (and i do this in Excel): Column 1 - The Dish "Israeli Salad" Column 2 - The ingredient needed "Tomatoes etc" and Column 3 - Date to make it/Complete. I check things off as i go, and also get my husband to pitch in, even just to chop veggies/ clean as i go, and since he can see what i need done, he will cross it off too.

With work, when i got back from maternity leave, I negotiated leaving early on Fridays during the winter and come in an extra half hour each day to make up the time. No one had an issue with it as long as all deadlines were meant.

Good Luck, and make sure to reward yourself for a week well done. A bottle of wine or chocolate - whatever works :) Reply

Lisa Providence, RI May 4, 2013

How Does a Busy Working Woman Prepare For Shabbat? Did you tell your boss you're a Sabbath Observer, and need to get home earlier to observe Shabbat? Hopefully, your boss will understand. If not, you'll have to look for another job.

It's never easy combining marriage, parenthood and working. If you're organized, do you shop on Thursdays to have more time to prepare? Do your husband and children help out? They should, since Shabbat is a FAMILY occasion. Reply

Phyllis Miami, FL February 14, 2013

working all week increases the joy of Shabbat I used to make challah each week. Now I buy BJ's kosher challah on Sunday for Friday. (It's a two pack and delicious, albeit a bit sweet). Likewise, I cook on Sunday for entire week so husband has dinner (breakfast and lunch are on his own). I usually arrive home closer to 9 pm than earlier. I have recently been reduced to 40 hours per week. Now, depending on the previous week, I am finished by Wednesday or Thursday. B'H Shabbat is truly coming back to my life.
While grateful for the opportunity to fully observe, I am unhappy at the lack of needed income which my incredible hours provided.
I hope everyone enjoys MY MOST favorite holiday of Purim. i love adopting a new personna for a night. I always arrive in costume. (which brings us to thoughts of the the hidden God-if your thoughts go there).

Anonymous February 13, 2013

Many people use frozen challah dough which is already shaped. You let it rise until doubled and brush it with egg yolk (or not) and bake. I freeze challahs and the results are fine for us.

Vegetables can be cut up on Wednesday evening. You will quickly learn each week which recipes don't work for you.

Many families buy the whole works all prepared at the kosher grocery store if you have one. Dessert can be cookies or a cake PURCHASED. Everything does not have to homemade.

I serve leftover cold chicken and a salad on Shabbos day, with hot cholent. And I buy cookies. So far everyone has been happy with cookies and challah bought from the store. Good luck and enjoy Shabbos! Reply

Anshel February 13, 2013

Do not stress out I love how your problem all of a sudden became non-problem. Person is asking for advise how to do it right, not the comments how it is not a big deal. I think the original advice is simply the best – prepare everything ahead. With todays’ refrigeration even if you make soup on Sunday it will be absolutely perfect next Friday. Same with chicken, a side dish too, if it is a kugel. If you want some hot vegies or mashed potato they may need to be done right before Shabbos to taste the best. Salad can be made after candle lighting, if your husband goes to shul or davens at home. Cholent in a crock pot can be prepared in the morning, I know it will take extra 20 minutes, but then all you have to do is to plug in right before Shabbos.
Important thing do not stress out. I do not know how do busy working women do it, but as a very busy working man, I have learn that I can completely prepare the whole Shabbos meal, from scratch in one hour. And you will too, just give it some time; nobody is expecting you to be perfectly frum woman overnight. Reply

Mrs. Chana Benjaminson via February 13, 2013

Re Shabbat day For Shabbat day main dish I make a cholent, a type of stew which cooks all night, the traditional version is made with chicken or meat and potatoes and barley or beans. You can easily sub with brown rice and beans for a vegeterian version, add whole eggs for a Libyan twist, the eggs will become brown and taste delicious. The stew will need to be cooked before Shabbat starts and can be left on the crock pot or blech, see this link for instructions on how to do that in accordance with Jewish

Aside from that I'll serve the fish from friday night, chop up a veggie salad, hard boiled egg salad, and an avocado dip, all salads which take minutes to prepare. Another option for the main dish is cold cuts and rice or pasta salad. Enjoy! Reply

Netta February 13, 2013

more advice Please if you could advice for the menu on Shabbat day too? (and preparation leading up plan?) thanks Reply

Anonymous stamford hill February 9, 2013

things to say to the@ vegetarian Help person.i ve made a list of all vegan (we ve got a vegan)salats and soups receipes,before adding mayonaise etc i make an extra portion for the veganworld,it doesnt take me long to find out how special my vegan is and thankful as well.thank you chana benjaminson for the timemanagement tips. Reply

JP South Africa February 9, 2013

The problem you're facing, is not the problem. Well, it's actually whom do you put your trust? If you are in a situation that is difficult, it's because Hashem put you there. The things we label in life as "problems", do you realize how minuscule they are in the eyes of Hashem? At the end of the day it's about understanding that everything is from Hashem, good or bad, and even the bad that is from Him, is good. If you can understand this, and it does take a while to get your head around it, you won't see life's problems anymore, but rather opportunities to do mitzvot and consequently draw closer to Hashem. It's not about the problem you face, because in fact, there is no such thing, it's about your attitude towards your problem. This mindset will change your life. Reply

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