I love cooking for my family, I love serving real foods three meals a day (plus endless snacks!), and I love having a shiny sink, clear counters, and rows of clean dishes in my cupboards. Like a lot of people who love to cook, cleaning doesn’t naturally come to me. The following are what this messy cook has found helps lead to plenty of homemade nourishing food for the family and a clean kitchen at the end of the day.
Clean as you go
This is the biggest timesaver that I use. It’s so much easier to rinse tomato sauce off a bowl right after eating than it is to soak and scrub and scrape one that’s been sitting on the counter for an hour. A rule of thumb I learned from a neat friend is if it takes less than 10 minutes, I do it right away. Washing the lunch dishes takes less than 10 minutes even if you don’t have a dishwasher and prevents the dishes from piling up.Have a spare minute while you’re waiting for cookies to bake, butter to melt, or onions to caramelize? Use that time to empty the dishwasher, wipe off the stove, or wash out the bowl you just used.
Put away ingredients as you go. I like to get everything out as I start to bake, then put it away right after I use it. This prevents me from forgetting ingredients in my recipe, and ensures that the counters are clear when I’m done.
Use dishes twice
A quick look at your menu plan will often see things that can use the same pan or bowl. If we’re eating eggs and sausage and waffles, I will mix my scrambled eggs in the same bowl that I later mix waffle batter in. Sausage gets cooked in the skillet, then eggs go next, no need to wash because the taste goes together just fine. While the eggs cook the sausage can go on a serving plate (or if I’m really wanting to save, I just use my husband’s plate and dish everyone else’s off of that) in the oven on low to stay warm as the eggs and waffles cook. Savings: 1 large skillet, one bowl, perhaps a serving plate.
Confine dishes to one side of the sink
My husband, naturally an organized person, taught me this while I was ‘on maternity leave’ for the week after my son was born (he took that week off work). He would keep one side of the sink completely clear. It’s nice to be able to fill up the coffee pot or a glass of water! If you’re doing dishes every time they threaten to spill out of their designated area, the job never takes that long.
I learned this from Flylady when I first got married. If I set the timer and commit to only working for 10 minutes, it’s amazing what I can accomplish! Often inertia will take over and I’ll easily have the motivation to spend 5 more minutes and finish the task. My kids are generally happy to play for 10 minute increments if I put some effort beforehand into starting them on a task or with a toy they haven’t played with in a while.
Having a day of bulk cooking once a week or once a month to do all of my baking-related cooking helps with dishes the rest of the month. It’s granted that day that there will be a flurry of kitchen cleanup happening at the end, and my floor will need to be mopped, but it saves on dishes for the rest of the month and my mop can be pulled out on a once a week schedule rather than daily. For instance, a huge batch of meatballs takes the same amount of dishes as a smaller one, so rather than dirty the same dishes 4 times, I quadruple my meatball recipe and do it once. Katie does the same thing in her Kitchen Aid mixer, and baking day with soaking bunches of nuts for crispy nuts, re-using the food processor, and making double batches of tortillas.
Use what’s easy to clean in the dishwasher
This is almost embarrassing to admit, but I make it a priority to use the dishes that I know my finicky dishwasher will clean well. For us, that’s the smaller salad plates vs big dinner plates, and wide mouth mason jars vs narrow mouth ones.
Cook dinner in the morning
My kids are always in good moods in the morning, and I have energy then too. For me, this is more predictable than their nap time, so I use this time to do dinner or whatever cooking is necessary for the day. I’ve learned that if I start dinner in the morning (it’s not uncommon for me to be cooking dinner at 9:00) then it’s easily all cleaned up by the time hubby comes home. If I wait and start cooking during their nap/quiet time, then it’s all too common for meltdowns to occur or a friend to drop by, and all of a sudden it’s 7:00 at night and all the dishes from making dinner are still dirty.
Have a day for everything:
What your grandmother did works now too. Thankfully we have things like washing machines, water heaters, and electric mixers now, but I find it still helps to concentrate all my efforts in one location for the day or designated time period. This fits in with my bulk cooking (above) but I find that if I concentrate on one area, say, kitchen or sewing or laundry, it actually gets finished rather than having a bunch of half finished areas.
Take cleanup time into account:
When I think of making a batch of cookies, pot of soup, or bread, I try to break out of the habit of thinking of the time only in terms of how long it takes to get the cookies in the oven (10-15 minutes) but also to take into account the time it takes to put the pans in and out of the oven and clean up. All in all, the cookies aren’t actually all going to be cleaned up for a good 45 minutes or longer, which is fine, but if I’m more realistic about how much time things take I’m less likely to get our more than I can easily clean up.
Water and a little soap is enough
I don’t find that I need any special cleaners to clean my kitchen and dishes. I use some natural dish soap and vinegar and that’s plenty. Using a small amount of cleaners keeps it simple and less overwhelming.
What do you do to keep a clean kitchen? (hint: take-out pizza doesn’t count. ~grin~)
Check out Amy’s Finer Things for more Finer Things Friday.