A long while ago I read a post by Aimee at Simple Bites about keeping the kitchen clean as you cook. I tried to find the post and could not. I am sorry. There is, however, a version of the post in the ebook One Bite At A Time which has 52 great ideas for simplifying. Though I do things slightly differently, she is the one that inspired me. I knew immediately that this was something I needed to make a habit of. I have memories of my dad telling me when I was young that if only I would clean as I went, there would not be such a disaster in the kitchen. Apparently, I am a slow learner.
My kitchen can look like a war zone after preparing dinner. In fact, I think I would have no trouble at all using every single spoon I own for one dinner prep. I used to dread cleaning and washing dishes after dinner. I hated it, in fact.
Another problem I have is that I have very little energy in the evening. Being a mom all day wears me out. By the time I sit down for dinner, the last thing I want to do is to tackle the horrible mess I have left. We do not have a dishwasher, so the kitchen carnage feels even more enormous. I have told you before that one of the habits we do to make life easier is to never go to bed with a messy kitchen. Cleaning the kitchen as I go is what makes this more doable.
Now, some of you are reading this and thinking, “I always do that, what is her problem?” Way to go you, and the rest of us will still like you. We promise. I had to train myself, because my mess happened without my knowing it.
Tips for Cleaning As You Go
Start with a clean kitchen
It will be difficult to keep the kitchen clean if you have not started with a clean kitchen. Before I start preparing dinner, I wash up any dishes that might be in the sink and wipe down all the counters. This gives me adequate work space and ensures that my counters are clean before preparing food on it. The clean kitchen also gives me motivation to keep it clean.
Reuse spoons and bowls
If a spoon or bowl has touched anything I hate for it to be used for anything else. (Do not even get me started on the sour cream bowl with the obvious remnants of a salsa spoon being dipped in it.) I think this is one of the reasons I end up with a mess. Everything I do gets a new spoon or bowl.
While I still do not like cross-contamination, I have made it a habit to reuse what I have out. If I need a spoon, rather than go to the drawer and get another one out, I check my sink for one. Spending the extra thirty seconds to wash it and use it again helps keep a check on the number of dishes used. Since I have been doing this I have found that I need fewer items in my kitchen and have definitely simplified things.
Wash and put things away as you use them
This seems obvious, but it bears mentioning. Pull out the olive oil, use it, put it back. Pour the sauce into the serving dish and quickly wash the pan. It is always easier to do the job right away than to put it off for later. Nothing is stuck on the pan so it will only take a few seconds. Leave it until later and you will need to scrub. If something spills, quickly wipe it up. No single job is very difficult. It is in accumulating those little jobs that the mess and work builds.
One tip that Aimee gave in that post is something she learned when she was a chef in a restaurant. Have a jar of warm water to put your spoon in for stirring. I use this tip especially when I am cooking soups or sauces that I come back occasionally to stir. No more mess on my stove, and it does not dry on the spoon because it is in warm water. Brilliant! Why did I not think of that? Maybe because I have never been a chef in a restaurant?
I have mentioned before that our family usually does a quick five minute clean up before dinner. Typically while Brian and the kids run through the house picking up toys and random objects lying around, I use that time to focus on the kitchen. I wash up any of the remaining pans and utensils, wipe down the counters, and make sure the kitchen is back the way I started with it.
I am not exaggerating when I say that making this a habit has changed my life. (Okay, maybe that is a little exaggerated.) Sitting down to dinner knowing that everything is clean except for the dishes we are using, and the pans that are still holding food is such a great feeling. It allows us to sit and linger over dinner, talking as a family, because I know there is not a huge mess to clean up. Within a few minutes I can wash up the dishes, put away any leftover food, and do a final wipe down of the kitchen. Brian often mentions that this has been one of the most helpful habits I have implemented.
If you do not do this already, I highly encourage you to make this a habit. It takes awhile to get used to it. I had to write myself notes actually. (Yes, I am that forgetful). The payoff has been significant. As I have gotten used to it, I have become more aware of my messes, and cleaning as I go has become almost second nature to me.
Do you clean as you go while cooking? What are your favorite tips?
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