Ah, washing dishes. The never-ending kitchen nightmare—you finally finish one load and another is already waiting in line. The piles are stacked high, food dries on, and you just don’t have enough time to get caught up! Even a dishwasher doesn’t do it all for you—you still have to rinse, dry, load, and unload. So what’s a person to do? Switch to all paper dishes? Um, no. Let the dog lick the dishes clean each night? Um, most definitely no.
Unfortunately there really is no escaping from doing the dishes, but there are practices you can adopt to better organize the way you approach this task. I’m going to outline eight things you can start doing right now that will save you time in the kitchen when it comes to washing dishes. And what’s more, hopefully you’ll be able to look upon your piles of plates with a little less disdain the next time you have to wash.
1. Clean as you cook
If you only adopt one of the eight practices I’m going to talk about today, then pick THIS ONE. I can’t stress enough how much time you will save if you clean as you cook. Let me explain. As you are preparing a meal, there will undoubtedly be moments when you are waiting for something to finish simmering or sautéing, or perhaps you might even find yourself with a large chunk of time as your casserole or lasagna is baking in the oven. Use this time to your advantage!
Any moment you aren’t doing something to prepare the meal, head on over to the sink and wash some dishes. Maybe you’ll only have time to wash one item, but if you do it during every spare moment, you’ll have everything washed by the time you’re finished cooking. Then all that remains for after-dinner washing will be the dishes you actually used to eat with. Resist the urge to just wait and thus create a large messy pile of dishes to do at the very end of the meal. Chip away at it little by little and not only will you save time, but you won’t have to tackle a huge project at the end of the night when all you want to do is sit on the couch and relax.
2. Serve food in the dish you cooked it in
I can think of two reasons why you would want to use separate serving dishes when it actually comes time to eat the meal. First, you might be having a special dinner party where nice serving dishes are a must. Second, you may be hosting a large family reunion meal where passing food around the table in serving bowls is more efficient. Fine, use the extra dishes in these situations.
But for normal daily meals, is it really necessary to scoop the food out of the dish you cooked it in to put it in a second dish that you will use to serve it in? Don’t bother doubling your work by using separate dishes to serve food when it really doesn’t matter. It’s much simpler to just keep the beans in the sauce pan or the pasta in the pot. Put a hot pad on the table or keep all the food on the stove and use a buffet style of serving. Either way, you’ll be saving yourself time by not having to wash unnecessary dishes.
3. Organize your dishes & space
After the meal, prepare for washing by quickly organizing all the dishes and clearing the space you need to get the job done. Stack plates, separate utensils from everything else, etc. to better streamline your washing process. The easier it is to grab, the faster you’ll be able to wash it.
4. Soak dishes
In certain cases (see the next point) soaking can be a real time saver. If you just emptied a glass baking dish of crusty breaded chicken and are now going to attempt to wash it, consider whether soaking it now and leaving it for later might actually save you time. You aren’t procrastinating, you’re just using your time more efficiently. Why? It might take you 10 minutes now to scrape all that crusty stuck-on food off the dish, but if you soak it for a few hours in nice hot, soapy water first, it might only take you one minute to finish the job later.
5. Don’t soak dishes
While there is a time to soak dishes (see above), there’s also a time NOT to soak dishes. Soaking can be a real temptation—why wash now what you can wash later, right? When soaking isn’t necessary to remove stuck-on food, then just wash those dishes right away! You don’t want to have to come back to your kitchen later in the day forgetting how you procrastinated earlier and be disappointed that you have a bunch of dishes to wash.
6. Wash as a team
When my family does dishes while we’re having a reunion at my parent’s lake home, we always wash as a team to make it go faster. Why stick one person on the job when using two or three will get the task done in half the time? We have one person wash, one person dry, and one person put the dishes away. At home, this is a great task for kids.
7. Load the dishwasher efficiently
If you have a dishwasher, then there’s something to be said about loading it efficiently. Don’t overload (because then some dishes will not get properly clean), but be careful not to waste space. Running a load uses water, energy, and time so it’s important to make the most of it all.
8. Air dry dishes
To save not only time but also money, consider just letting your dishes air dry. Whether you use a dishwasher or you hand-wash dishes, allowing them to dry on their own can save you time because you will avoid meticulously drying each dish separately with a towel. For dishwasher users, simply turn off your unit’s official energy-using ‘drying’ cycle and just open the door—after the dishes have had time to air dry, you can put them away without spending any unnecessary time (or money).
Have you found any creative time-saving solutions when it comes to washing dishes? Please share!