Here is what I learned from this year:
A. Buy supplies the week after Tu B'Shvat, including:
- paper plates (to make hamentaschen mishloach manot)
- funky candies (so that the kids are giving something they would like to get)
- popcorn kernels ('cause everyone loves popcorn and it's a great filler)
- fruit (to pretend that we are giving something healthy)
- plastic bags & ribbon (if necessary -- these are supplies we usually have on hand)
C. On Ta'anit Esther, make a list of to whom we want to deliver mishloach manot and figure out the delivery route.
D. Either print out or have kids make cards saying "Purim Sameach from _______" on Ta'anit Esther. NOTE: DO NOT pre-address the mishloach manot! Since all the mishloach manot are the same, it just makes it complicated to keep track of which mishloach manot goes to whom.
E. Make popcorn, and bag, it on Ta'nit Esther or, latest, on Purim.
F. Prepare the mishloach manot on Purim. (prepare at least 5-10 extras)
G. When possible, do tag-team deliveries. This year, we dropped off each kid at a different house, then picked them up in reverse order on the way back. This method only works when you have several deliveries in close proximaty, and have to return from the same direction as you came. Still, it definitely saves some time.
Every year, I think how cool it would be to give something thematic or practical. I would love to be put together enough to distribute fresh salad and mini-lasagnas.
Who knows, perhaps if I manage to follow these guidelines, and prepare in advance, I will substitute healthy, nutricious ingredients on my pre-Purim shopping list. Though I suspect that my kids will still want to deliver "fun" (read: unhealthy) mishloach manot to their friends. After all, as I noted above, they only want to give what they would be happy to get!
Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.
With love and optimism,