Tips on an Easy Thanksgiving Clean Up

On Thanksgiving, family and friends gather to enjoy a special meal, share memories and enjoy the company of one another. If you're the host, though, you probably feel stressed out at the thought of cleaning a huge heap of dishes. Fortunately, you don't need to let the fear of a mess ruin the day. A bit of advance planning will help you cut back on cleanup time so you can relax with your loved ones.

Pre-Thanksgiving Cleaning

If your home is a mess before Thanksgiving arrives, cleaning up after the holiday becomes even harder. Get a head start by emptying your refrigerator and pantry of expired or unwanted food. Clear out an entire shelf in the refrigerator for Thanksgiving leftovers; you'll likely need at least that much room or maybe more. Some refrigerators have adjustable-temperature and humidity drawers for produce and dairy. These are ideal places to keep groceries fresh until you start cooking. If your refrigerator has removable drawers, arrange them so you have enough room to fit a large turkey inside.

A few refrigerators feature a Wi-Fi® enabled touchscreen built into the door. If yours has one, you can use it to look up recipes and post digital notes to family members. This helps you cut down on kitchen clutter, including your cookbook library and paper memos.

If you use your kitchen table and counters as storage space for things that shouldn't go there, such as mail and loose change, find every item a new home at least a day before Thanksgiving. You probably don't want to worry about tidying up hours before guests arrive.

Disposable Dishes

You may dream about serving Thanksgiving dinner on your finest china or crystal plates, but that dream turns into a nightmare once you're faced with towering stack of dishes to wash. If you prioritize easy cleanup and don't mind sacrificing a bit of elegance, opt for disposable dishes instead. Paper plates and plastic flatware get tossed when guests have finished eating, leaving no dishes for you to do. Swap your cloth napkins with nice paper napkins to lighten your laundry load.

To avoid cleaning pans, line them with aluminum foil before adding food. Once you've cooked the food, take out the foil and throw it away. Try cooking the turkey in a large foil bag for even easier cleanup.

Washing Tips

Disposable place settings help ease your post-Thanksgiving cleaning duty, but you can't avoid washing dishes completely. To prevent food from sticking to pots like glue, soak the dishes in hot, soapy water as soon as possible after cooking. A small trashcan filled with soapy water makes an ideal soaking tub if you need to keep your sink clean while cooking.

Most plates and flatware can go in the dishwasher. Some high-capacity machines can wash place settings for up to 15 people. Avoid putting pots, pans, wood, cast iron, silver, gold or pewter items in the dishwasher; doing so may damage them. If your dishwasher has a china or crystal cycle, it's fine to wash delicate plates this way. Many dishwashers have a heavy-cycle setting that's designed to tackle stubborn food debris.

When you're washing dishes, mix a few spoonfuls of white vinegar into the rinse water to help cut grease. Rub wooden cutting boards with a lemon slice to absorb stubborn odors. To get cheese out of a grater, rub a cut potato over the grater holes.

Other Tips

Layer your garbage can with three or more trash bags before you start cooking. You and your guests will throw away lots of plates and food scraps, so layering trash bags makes taking out the garbage less of a chore. Once a bag is full, take it out, and you'll have another bag in the can that's ready to use.

Cook your food in the same containers you'll serve it in. You won't dirty a separate serving container, so you have fewer dishes to clean. Keep pots and pans clean by cooking food in the microwave. Your microwave is ideal for preparing side dishes while your stove and oven handle the bigger jobs. Some microwaves are even large enough to cook a whole turkey. Yours most likely has adjustable power settings, a timer and a defrost option, so it's useful for a variety of kitchen tasks.

Don't stack dirty dishes on top of one another. This dirties both sides of a dish, so you'll need to work twice as hard to clean it.

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