Simple, easy, and delicious and three words I live by; and this recipe for Orange Balsamic Chicken Stir-Fry is no exception. The only thing better than simple and delicious is doing the least amount of dishes and cleanup afterwards, because I am not a fan of cleaning. If I had my way, I would make a mess and then walk away only to come back 30 minutes later to see that the cleaning fairies had successfully done their duty. I can only dream, because I don’t think cleaning fairies will be coming into my kitchen or house for that matter any time soon. I do however, have some strategies that will help you to use less dishes, keep a clean kitchen, and make less of a mess that can be cleaned up in no time.
2. Schedule and set aside 5-15 minutes each week to straighten and organize your kitchen. You could also clean and organize everyday or every 2-3 days a week. It all depends upon your schedule and how much you need to clean. It is much easier to clean a small mess, than one large one. This leads me to my next point. . .
3. Keep your kitchen clean and free of clutter, this makes it easier to clean when a mess is made and to cook or bake without a bunch of things getting in your way.
4. If you don’t have a lot of counter top space, try to keep as much as you can off of the counters. Clutter and unorganized spaces can be a recipe for unwanted stress.
5. Read the recipe all the way through and become familiar with it and to forecast which utensils and tools you will need.
6. Become a fan of one pot dishes and recipes including those made in the slow cooker and instant pot. Search online for recipes or challenge yourself to use the least amount of dishes as possible.
7. Use pots and pans that can do double or triple duty in a recipe. Cast iron pans or large oven safe pans are great for this (cook on stove top then finish in the oven), or even cooking the whole meal in a single pan.
8. Be strategic when measuring ingredients. Use measuring spoons that will be able to measure multiple ingredients in a recipe. For example, use a 1/4 tsp to measure out the 1/4 tsp cloves, then 1/2 tsp salt, and then 1 tsp cinnamon.
9. Going along the lines of strategic measuring: measure dry ingredients before wet ingredients if possible when using measuring cups. You can also have two sets of measuring cups, one for dry and one for wet. One last tip is to measure the least sticky ingredients first.
10. Get creative with your measuring tools. For example, applesauce cups are 1/2 c. each, so if a recipe calls for apple sauce and 1/2 or 1 cup of another wet ingredient, the applesauce cup can be used to measure that ingredient.
11. Serve from the dishes and pans you cooked in instead of transferring to another bowl. Stick a hot pan on the counter and place the hot pot on top and call it good.
12. When cutting up produce and meat/fish for a meal use the same cutting board. Isn’t that unsafe? Won’t I cross contaminate and possibly get a food borne illness? Let’s take a step back and let me explain. Cut up the produce first and then set aside or use in cooking, then after all the produce has been prepared cut up your meat or fish products. After cutting up meat items immediately rinse and wash with soap or put into the dishwasher.
13. After you make a meal or dirty dishes clean them up. Don’t let the dishes pile up for days on end. Letting them stack up may make them seem overwhelming to clean or make cleaning more of a drudgery.
14. Let the dishes air dry if you washed by hand. If you don’t want water spots (on glassware, etc.) then only wipe those items.
15. If you have a dishwasher, then use it! It is there for a reason, and is much better at sanitizing (because of high temperature) than sink water.
16. If you have two sinks side by side use them. Before washing I move all my dishes to the counter. When using two sinks I fill one with soapy water and the other I use for drying. I wash the knives first and put them into a cup. Then I take silverware and smaller items and wash them, but leave them in the soapy water. When my sink is full of dishes I rinse them all in one fellow swoop, so I am not constantly turning the water on and off.
17. Soak your pans right way or as soon as possible if the pans have food stuck on them or are endangered of food drying and sticking on them. Be careful not to put water into a hot pan, this will warp the pan over time. Soaking pans makes it easier to clean them later.
18. Meal prep is king, especially when it comes to making lunches for to take for work, school, or dinner. Make one big mess compared to many potentially big or medium messes made throughout the week.
19. You don’t always have to use soap. Many items only need rinsing or a quick wiping, like cutting boards where vegetables were cut. If you live alone and don’t have to worry about getting sick from another person simply rinse cups if you only used them once.
20. Enlist the help of others to help you clean up and to keep a clean kitchen. Ask those around you including family, kids, spouses, boyfriend or girlfriend, or friends (if you cooked for them) to lend a helping hand. If they don’t know where items go, ask them to do and dry the dishes.
21. Make an agreement. “If I cook then you do the dishes” or “If I wash, then you dry and put them away” or “I do the dishes; then you clean the stove, wipe down counters, and sweep” and vise versa.
22. If you have kids and are old enough, give them cleanup related jobs each night like sweeping, wiping counter tops, loading the dishwasher, or taking out the garbage or scraps to a compost pile.
23. After you use something put it away where you found it and don’t just shove it into the first available free space of cupboard you see and hope it fits.
24. Keep spices and cooking utensils within arms reach or a step or two within the area you are cooking for easy access.
25. Use kosher salt and a paper tower to clean up a cast iron skillet or pan with stuck on food. Place the salt in the bottom of the pan and rub with paper towel. What also works great is a chain mail scrubber.
26. For really stuck on food in other pans (not cast iron), place warm water and soap in the bottom of a pan along with a dryer sheet or two and wait an hour. The food will come off minimal effort.
27. If you don’t have much room in your sink use a scrubber and soap dispenser combo to clean your dishes. The handle and inside of the scrubber stores soap which comes out as you run the water in your sink to wash dishes.
28. Get rid of tools, utensils, pans, and electronics that you don’t use, are outdated, or damaged. These items are taking up valuable space in your kitchen. If you haven’t used it within the past year or two, chances are you won’t in the next twenty. If you do need it once in the next twenty years, borrow it from someone else. Donate them to someone who might actually use it.
29. Keep plates and dishes near the sink or wash machine so the clean dishes can be easily put away.
30. Use a paper towel, plastic wrap, plastic bags, produce bags, waxed paper, aluminum foil, or packaging of a product used during cooking/baking to place dirty spoons or food waste on. For example, when I peel rutabaga I peel it onto the produce bag I purchased them in and then simply toss the whole bag with all the peelings on it. When I cook or bake I like to place dirty spoons and utensils on piece of paper towel or even a cutting board for easy transfer and cleanup.
There you have it folks, 30 strategic ways to keep a clean kitchen, minimize a mess, and clean it up in no time. I use many of these strategies in my own small kitchen and have witnessed a positive impact on my clean up routine. I hope these kitchen hacks send you on your way to kitchen success allowing you more time out of the kitchen and in the places it matters most. Where you can do the things you love and not the dreaded dishes.