Will you survive the Turkeypocalypse or will you give thanks for Thanksgiving? Here are some tips gleaned from around the internet to help make the post-Thanksgiving cleanup easier for you, so you might actually get to enjoy the day.

Plan a Potluck

Ask guests to share the work and bring a dish. If you have an especially large gathering planned or a big family, you might offer an alternative – bring a dish or with help with clean up. This way you don’t have too many side dishes or too many people in your way causing confusion during clean up. I lost a silver serving spoon that way – I think it was thrown away during clean up. Which leads me to my next point …

Count Your Silver Beforehand

When you are preparing for the big day, count your silver so you will know immediately if anything is missing and you won’t have to go digging in the garbage for it, or someone doesn’t accidentally take it home with their stuff.

Plan and Prepare Ahead

Plan your menu ahead of time and then plan what serving dishes each menu item will be served in and what utensils it will be served with. This will help give you an idea of what you can cook ahead, what to store it in, where to store it before the big day, and what to serve it in. You will also not be scrambling for serving spoons and utensils when you are ready to place the dishes on the table.

Don’t Overdo the Side Dishes

This point is especially important if you are new to hosting Thanksgiving and goes along with planning and preparing ahead. Keep it simple with just a few side dishes and you won’t have an overwhelming amount to clean up.

Try to Make Use of “Triple-Duty” Cookware

Look for cookware that can go from cooking to the table and then to leftover storage. What a miracle!

Empty Your Fridge

In preparation for the big day make room in your refrigerator for all the special food that will need to be held there. Move unnecessary condiments and other fridge denizens to a spare refrigerator, if you are lucky enough to have one, or to a cooler with ice in an out of the way place.

Wash and Clean-Up as You Cook

Use the few minutes you have while the potatoes boil to clear the sink into the dishwasher and clean a few pots or bowls. Run the dishwasher with pots and bowls while dinner is being served so there will be fewer dirty dishes to deal with once dinner is over.

Purchase Some Items Ready-Made

Not just the desserts but maybe a dish or two or, heck, maybe even the whole meal! Grocery stores are getting into the prepared Thanksgiving meals game and this might just be the thing for you if it is an especially busy time of year or you truly have no desire to cook a Thanksgiving dinner.

Ask Guests to Bring Pot Luck in Disposable Dishes

This makes clean up so easy you can’t argue with it. Having food in disposable dishes and utensils also solves the problem of what dish belongs to whom at the end of the evening, especially if someone forgets to bring home their dish.

Make Use of Edible Serving Dishes

The first time I saw pumpkin soup served in a real pumpkin I was impressed! Or, serve an appetizer in a bread bowl. Acorn squashes also make useful and interesting containers for food.

Prep Your Roasting Pans and Dishes

If you are not using disposable cookware like foil pans, use cooking liner bags, nonstick foil, and cooking spray to make sure there is as little baked on food as possible in your cookware to clean up at the end of the meal. Also, don’t forget to line the bottom of your oven with foil to catch overflowing juices or pie filling.

Bring in Extra Trash Cans

Trash cans fill up quickly during after dinner clean-up, so bring in some extra. Make sure to throw some additional trash can liners in the bottom before you line them, and it might help to label them for recycling if that is an option.

Set Up a Soaking Station

Purchase large commercial dish pans and fill them with soapy water so you’re ready when the after-dinner dishes start rolling in. You might as well go all the way and purchase a rolling cart, too so you can fill the bins from the dining table and roll them into the kitchen!

Provide Guests with Inexpensive Plastic Storage Containers

Plan for those leftovers and have cheap storage containers ready for your guests to fill and take home. Maybe even have some cute bags with your guests’ names on them to carry the leftovers away in.

Have a Clean-Up System

One idea is to remove all the food first, box everything up and put it away, then start on the dishes and utensils.

No Dessert Until the First Round of Dishes Are Cleaned Up

This one is self-explanatory!

Roll the Tablecloth

Instead of just pulling the tablecloth off the table, roll it to catch all the crumbs and food, then shake it outside before washing it.


Additional Resources


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