Cook Dinner Quickly Without Leaving a Messy Kitchen

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Cooking at home is a great way to save money and eat well, but what about all the time you spend and that messy kitchen?! Consider these tips to make it quick and tidy.

How to Cook Dinner Quickly Without Leaving a Messy Kitchen

Have you ever hosted a dinner party where you cooked for days and then seemingly took just as long to clean up the mess? Have you sat at Thanksgiving Dinner watching your guests gobble down in minutes the meal you spent hours preparing, while the piles of dishes taunted you from the sidelines? Have you dreamt of making supper and the mess magically whisking itself away?

Cooking great meals does not come without kitchen duty; it’s part of the deal.

My guess is that cleaning up the aftermath is one of the things that deters folks from cooking at home; money savings be damned. “Let’s go get burgers,” they say, “so we won’t have a mess to clean up.”

I just might be guilty of that myself. Ahem.

Over the last year I’ve been working to streamline my time at meal prep so I don’t end up with a messy kitchen. I want us to eat well and inexpensively and not leave a lot of work for whoever is on KP that night. Who knew that quick prep recipes would also be easy to clean up? I didn’t, but now that I think of it, it’s a great fringe benefit of the quick fix meal.

How to Cook Dinner Quickly Without Leaving a Messy Kitchen

Here are 7 strategies that work together to help you save money without the mess.

1. Buy cheeses already shredded and sliced.

You’ll save time as well as effort, and there’ll be no knives, box grater, or cutting board to clean.

2. Lean on one-dish dinners.

Casseroles, sautés, stews, and even salads lend themselves to one-container cooking. One pan to cook or mix in means one pan to clean.

Bowl Rice and Beans Salad

Rice and Black Bean Salad

3. Prep vegetables before meats.

In order to avoid cross-contamination via cutting boards and knives, chop the clean vegetables first, then follow with the meats. Wash the cutting board once.

4. Better yet, chop enough vegetables for several days’ dinners.

This one-stop chop session will save you time in meal prep as well as clean up throughout the week.

5. Do like the French and mix the salad dressing in the same bowl that you’ll serve it in.

Just add the greens and toppings and mix as usual. There will be no jar or extra dish to wash.

melon on cutting board placed in rimmed baking sheet

6. Catch drips from your cutting board with a rimmed baking sheet.

Before you start cutting on that board so that the juices creep all over your counter tops, set the board inside a rimmed baking sheet. The mess will be contained and easy to clean to clean up.

7. Use a stick, or immersion blender to smooth sauces and soups.

Not only will it be quicker than transferring hot liquids to a blender or food processor, but you’ll also have fewer dishes to wash.

8. Clean as you go.

It’s true that the old stand-by still holds true. If you wash the pot as soon as you’re done with it, the kitchen won’t be a mess when the meal is finished.

The beauty of the quick fix meal is that it’s simple and delicious. Sauces cook in the same pan as the meat. One-dish dinners incorporate vegetables, proteins, and grains. Wraps hold easy-to-stir-up fillings. All these methods lend themselves to easier clean up so that you’ll only be in the kitchen because you want to be, not because you have to be. Let this be the year of no messy kitchen!

Quick dinners aren’t tough to make. They can be just as delicious as that long-prepped meal. But, there will be fewer dishes to wash.

What’s your favorite strategy for making meals quickly without a messy kitchen in your wake?

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Karen says

    I like to prep ahead whatever I can and clean as I go. On busy cooking days like Thanksgiving, I plan my cooking in the whole week. Anything that can be made ahead, one or two days, or prepped ahead, the night before, is done before the big day. Weeknights are just my husband and I, but I still prep ahead whenever possible. Even if it’s just filling the pasta pot with water before heading to work! When I get home, my pasta is waiting next to the stove, and I can just flip the water on to boil then concentrate on the rest of the meal. Before I leave for work, I like to know what I’m cooking that night for dinner. It’s a small thing, but it keeps me sane!

    • How do you store Thanksgiving Dinner? I’m not sure I could do that these days. Our fridge is always packed.

  2. I’m a fan of prepping ahead and one-pot dishes. I don’t clean up as I go, though, because I prefer to do my cleanup in just one go.

  3. Samantha says

    My strategy is having my husband in the kitchen with me, as a sous chef (okay, jar opener) and dishwasher. Basically he is cleaning as I’m making a mess, which means when everything is done, the kitchen isn’t a mess. Call it cheating – but it’s wonderful.

  4. Ellen says

    I’m not a fan of buying shredded cheese. Our solution is to buy a 2# block of cheese at Costco and shred it, either 1# or the whole 2#’s at a time, depending on our plans for the week. If I have to shred cheese, I’m all in and doing the block. We’ll use it soon enough.

  5. Janet says

    While it is not very frugal, I keep a stash of paper plates, bowls and plastic cups on hand. When I am very tired or very short on time, I pull them out to make short work of clean-up time. $5 for paper supplies for a 1/2 dozen meals or $50 to eat out? Pretty easy math 😉

  6. Christine says

    I just bought a sous vide for my boyfriend for his birthday. Best invention ever (unfortunately for him it was really a gift for me – guess I owe home one). No it’s not cheap – about a $75 investment- but I am in LOVE both from a clean up and taste perspective. There is zero smell and zero mess. I frequently do marinated meats and then he just finishes it on the grill. I always marinate overnight so not much to do on “cooking night” except prepare any easy side that hopefully doesn’t require splattering the stove. (BTW if I do have to splatter the stove, I thoroughly coat it with tinfoil before.)

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