7 Things to Cut Your After-Thanksgiving Cleanup in Half

published Nov 22, 2016
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(Image credit: Shereen Zangana)

Everyone adores getting together with family and friends over Thanksgiving to enjoy gorging on good food and great company, but cleanup is another story altogether. You almost need a holiday after the holiday to recover from the exhaustive process of returning things to their pre-Turkey Day state at home.

First of all, remember you’re not alone. No, really… there will be people loitering all over your kitchen. Put them to work! In all seriousness, though, here are a few helpful hacks for cutting your holiday cleanup in half.

1. Pre-Clean

Pretty much anywhere you host people during the holidays will wind up a wreck. If you do a deep clean prior to anyone’s arrival, though, it will minimize the amount you have to do on the backend. In the kitchen, make sure you empty your fridge ahead of the festivities and clear out space for leftovers.

(Image credit: Joe Tighe)

Even if you’d like everything to be “perfect,” you really only need to tackle a few issues to make your home welcoming and inviting.

2. Triple Bag the Trashcan

This little trick will save you time and energy. Before the cooking begins, line your garbage can with not one but three (or more, if you can swing it) trash bags. Holiday cooking and eating produces copious amounts of trash, right? With this system, you can quickly take out a full bag and already have a fresh, empty one waiting and ready for the next round of trash.

3. Clean As You Go

Similar to pre-cleaning, cleaning as you go ensures you’re not starting at ground zero when all the food and guests are gone. Once you are ready to put sides in the oven, start soaking and washing any bowls or measuring cups you used in food prep. Once those sides come out of the oven, pour them into the serving dish (if they weren’t cooked in the actual serving dish) and wash the original while you wait for the turkey to finish cooking. To keep your sink free for any necessary prep work, you can fill a small bin or trash can with soap water to act as a soaking reservoir.

(Image credit: Sandra Rojo)

4. Repurpose When Possible

If you cook brussels sprouts in a casserole dish but intend to serve them in something more decorative, switch gears and use the casserole dish to cook another veggie or—you guessed it—one of your casseroles. Likewise, look to pans you prepare your meat dishes in to cook other proteins, as long as it doesn’t interfere with anyone’s diet.

How to Host an Allergy-Friendly (or Allergy-Free) Holiday Meal

5. Consider Disposable Dishes

When the food is good, no one really notices what it’s being served on. If your family and friends are laid-back and you don’t mind dropping the airs, you might want to look into disposable dishes—opt for something recycled/recyclable to keep it environmentally friendly. Since everything gets wiped down and tossed in the recycling bin once dinner is done, you’ll only have to worry about cleaning your baking dishes. Which brings us to our next point…

6. Line Dishes and Pans

Some of us have a serious aversion to dish-washing, which makes this hack a real winner. All you have to do is line dishes with parchment paper and pans with aluminum foil prior to cooking. When the timer goes off and the food is ready to go, you just take out the parchment or foil and throw it away. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

7. Don’t Stack Dirty Dishes

But, but, but… we all do this, right? Well, we shouldn’t. We’re only creating more work for ourselves. It makes a lot of sense when you think about it — stacking a dirty dish on top of another dirty dish means that you get the bottom dirty in addition to the already dirty top. Not only do you fall short of your goal of cutting your cleanup in half by doing this—you actually double it.