My boyfriend and I have had a deal: I cook the dinner and he cleans it up.
There are days, though, that I have too much going on and he does the cooking and the cleaning up. And vice versa. When I am cooking AND cleaning up, I am always amazed at the workload difference between cleaning up while you cook and waiting to clean until after you eat.
I have discovered a few tricks over the years on organizing your meal preparation for minimal clean up.
Crock pots—or slow cookers—are one of my preferred methods of cooking dinner during the workweek. There are thousands of delicious and healthy meals posted online (see: http://www.crockingirls.com) where all that is required of you is to cut a few vegetables, throw in some spices and water, set your slow cooker, and come home to a delicious meal. Cleaning out one pot plus a few dishes is extremely preferable to the usual mess I make during dinner prep.
My mother used to make big salads as our entrée when I was a child. Sometimes she would add meat, sometimes beans, and other times it was just a lot of delicious vegetables. Side dishes can become one-dish full meals, if your family is willing to try it.
There are books, blogs, and people out there that make an entire month’s worth of dinners in one day and then freeze them until ready to use. I got tired just writing that. Except there are a lot of days that pulling out a ready-made (and homemade) meal to throw in the oven sounds absolutely dreamy. Check out websites like http://onceamonthmom.com/ for more ideas.
Garbage at the Ready
I have noticed that some cooking show hosts use bowls for their waste and clean up. To me, that is one more bowl to clean up. Keep your garbage can (or a garbage sac) close to your workstation and immediately throw any of the waste away.
Consider, also, buying pre-sliced fruits and vegetables. My neighborhood grocery store even offers fresh vegetable mixes for many recipes; one such option has potatoes, carrots, onions and rosemary all ready to be placed in your slow cooker with a roast.
Line your baking pans with tinfoil. Throw it away when the cooking is done and cut down on all of that wicked scrubbing.
Water You Thinking?
For I don’t know how long, I have thought that I needed to soak all of my pans, cookie batter bowls, and pots… usually for hours, until I remembered that there were dirty dishes in the sink. This would use a lot of water to fill up some of these bowls and pots. Recently, when I was trying to have a more minimal clean up, I washed my bowls immediately after using them, and was a bit surprised at how easily they cleaned out. The amount of water I used was significantly less, as well.
Some pans will require a soak, but the sooner you wash your pans after use, the easier the clean up.
Set Up Your Kitchen for Success
My final tip is to set up your kitchen in a way that makes sense for you. If you don’t use seasoned salt, then don’t put it on the most easily accessible shelf. Just because your mother put her silverware in the drawer near the sink doesn’t make it right for you. Maybe you like to store them in the drawer right under the plates that are closest to the dishwasher. Organize your kitchen in a way that works and makes sense to YOU.
What are your tips and tricks for organizing meal preparation? How do you master minimal clean up? Do you typically make dinner, clean up, or both?