Plan out your dinners for the week and focus on those one-dish meal recipes that don't require multiple steps that will dirty up a lot of bowls and pans.
Karen Hamilton, blogger of the The High Heeled Homemaker, says this technique does require some planning, but it has been a huge success for her. "When I begin planning for a meal (especially on the busy weekday evenings), I think about how many pans and dishes are required to make the meal and I steer away from recipes that make a big mess," she says. "I prepare a lot of casseroles and other one or two pan meals. It makes clean-up a snap and we have more time for family fun before bed. More complicated meals are saved for weekends when there is more time to clean up."
Many people find that the majority of their clean-up time is spent scraping dried-on and cooked-on food from plates, pans and dishes. Plan ahead to prevent stuck-on gunk and you will save a lot of time in the post-dinner clean-up.
Denise Winston, a money and time saving expert, says to save yourself the hassle of cleaning the crock pot by using liners or oven bake bags. She also recommends using one pan from start to finish. "Purchase a good quality large non-stick skillet that can go from stove top to oven -- then virtually wipe clean," she says.
To prevent stuck-on gunk on pans and cutting boards, Judy Woodward Bates, also known as The Bargainomics Lady, says to use aluminum foil to cover the cookie sheet pans when making biscuits or rolls. "Discard the foil and put the pan away when it cools," she says. You can use this same technique in casserole dishes using oven-safe liners. How easy is that?
Cleaning up as you prepare dinner is not only efficient, but it allows you to relax and enjoy dinner instead of thinking of your large task ahead.
"A loaded sink is more difficult to deal with than an empty one, so clean as you go," says writer Antoinette Kuritz, who says she learned this from her mother-in-law. "It makes sitting down to dinner more relaxing, it is far more efficient [as the] food is not dried on to the preparation dishes, pots, utensils, and the sink is empty to receive dinner dishes."
Leanne Ely of The Dinner Diva lets dishes soak until it is time to put them in the dishwasher. "Run a sink of hot soapy water and throw everything (except sharp knives) as you go," she says. "You'll keep your countertops clean and after you're all done, just rinse and throw in the dishwasher."
Getting the kids involved in kitchen clean-up is a great way to teach responsibility, while also helping you cut your dinner clean-up time in half.
Mom of three Michelle Morton says she assigns tasks for each child. "The boys can help set the table and they each clear their own plates and put in dishwasher while I am working on putting away leftovers," she says.
Suzie Kane of Family Meal Planning says her family developed Team Tidy to tackle the kitchen right after dinner. "We tackle all tasks immediately following dinner: en masse we clear the table, then head to the kitchen. One person is at the sink, one loading the dishwasher, two are packaging leftovers (portion into lunch containers/baggies for school the next day!) and one person is putting fridge items away," she says. "With a get-it-done team mentality, in 10 minutes we are able to do the job with no one left feeling like they were 'stuck with the dishes.'"
A trick that has worked for Maureen Smith of Homemade Mothering is that she saves herself multiple trips from the dining room to the kitchen by stacking all the dirty dishes in one spot. "I put all dirty dishes and silverware onto my son's high chair tray," she says. "I make sure the dishwasher has room for all the dinner dishes before we sit down to eat. This means I can put everything directly from the high chair tray into the dishwasher."
Don't have a high chair? Use a small rolling cart or tub to carry dishes in one trip.