Clean Up Meals Fast

supper fast

For years after dinner clean-up took me longer then I’d like to admit. I’d either take an embarrassingly long time cleaning every night or quick pile the food covered dishes by the sink and

face the crusted over chaos the next day…or 3 days later.

After watching more experienced mothers, reading blogs, and figuring out a couple things on my own, meal clean up has gotten a lot faster – and much more consistent.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Make 3 piles before you leave the table.

  • Refrigerated

I put this pile away first in case I get called away. That way at least the food is safely being refrigerated if I don’t make it back to my clean-up for a while.

If you have a hard time organizing, don’t organize the food twice!!!

To keep food from having to be relocated to the kitchen, organized, and then loaded into containers, I dispose of the relocation and organizations steps and put the food into containers right at the table. The majority of my bakeware is multi-purpose. It has glass lids for baking as well as plastic lids for storing. If I cooked with a stove-top pan, I grab a  container from the kitchen and scoop the food in at the table.

  • Throw-Away 

Again, don’t relocate garbage to the kitchen. Position a trash can between the dining room and kitchen and get rid of it right away.

  • To Be Washed

Pile up dishes with silverware all on top and drop them all into the sink. Even if you don’t have time to wash the food off right away, getting water on them will stop time consuming crusting.

2. Cut Down on Condiment Clean-up

  • Keep them in an easy-to transport tray

Consider an easy-to-wipe box or tray in your frig or with common condiments. Grab the box before meals. Put it back when you’re done. 6 items moved in the time it takes to move one.

  • Keep them at the table

Salt and Pepper, Butter, and many other condiments could be kept in a tray in the center of the table.

  • Make sure you only bring what you need

My kids love ketchup. They also love ranch dressing. (IE: They are normal kids). I am also one of those soft parents who will give them 1/4 cup of a condiment on top of their 6 green beans to help them eat the food they don’t like.

I only get those condiments if one of them is struggling to eat the food, and then I only bring one. Why make more mess then necessary?

3. Limit items at table

  • Silverware

Not rocket science, but it only dawned on me this past year of marriage that if we’re just having soup – just give everyone spoons. No reason to deal with other utensils.

It gets back to priorities. There is a place and time to be proper and use perfect ettiquette, but for us, if we’re not having a formal dinner, less utensils means less stress, less mess, and more time.

  • Serving Dishes

I’ve gotten really into using one skillet or casserole dish if possible.

For Skillet: Cook meat first. Set aside. Cook the rest. Add meat back in. Mixed or in separate piles, you can then just bring one serving dish to the table.

For Casserole: Layer food in casserole dish. (Because I cook most of my meals one day a week, I like having one dish per meal to layer the meat and sides in.)

Mexican: Layers of beans, corn, cheese, made-ahead hamburger, and then topped with either cornbread (and then cooked for 30minutes), or after cooking – chips or lettuce.

Chinese: Layers of rice topped with any vegetables and meat.

Mashed potatoes topped with meat and gravy.

Noodles topped or mixed with anything.


4. Consider Paper PlatesThis summer we are preparing to move and doing multiple house projects. I felt guilty, but I bought a massive pack of styrofoam plates, and it does seem to cut down the clean-up significantly!!

I keep a garbage can next to our dining room table, stack the plates and any throw-away food bits and napkins, and throw them away without ever having to carry them anywhere. :-)

I was so inspired that I bought a package of bowls to use for the plethora of cereals we’re using up before the move. Though breakfast still requires several dishes, breakfast clean-up is taking me about 2 minutes. :-)

5. Everybody takes just one dish into the kitchen

We have a 3 year old, a 2 year old, and a 1 year old, but if they are just responsible for taking their dish and cup into the kitchen, it does help cut down time.

So Those are the tips that have cut my meal clean-up down to about 10%. Do you have any other tips?

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