The best part of cooking homemade meals is, of course, getting to eat the fruits of your labor! But clean up can be such a bother, sometimes its just easier to go for the pre-made meals or, worse, fast food. By planning your cooking to minimize time, mess, and hassle you can make eating healthy so much easier! I’ll guide you through how to clean as you cook, so you can have delicious, healthy meals without a big mess at the end.

Read your recipe ahead of time and prepare what you can. Often, vegetables can be chopped up to a few days before cooking. Some ingredients, such as spices, herbs, flour, can be measured out beforehand and combined.  Look for ways to combine as many ingredients as possible in as few bowls as possible. For instance, vegetables that are to be cooked together for the same amount of time can be added to the same bowl.

Be sure to start with a clean, well-organized kitchen and an empty dishwasher. Keep your frequently used ingredients and dishware in easily accessible places. Also remember to occasionally clean out your cupboards, drawers, freezer, and refrigerator so you don’t have to dig around, emptying out entire shelves looking for what you need. Also keep the amount of clutter on your counter to a minimum to optimize counter space and prevent things from getting food splatter on them.

As you wait for your oven to warm up or water to boil, finish prepping as much as possible. Set up a wash-chop-cook chain that reduces the amount of area covered. This reduces drips as you carry food over the least amount of space. Also keep a plastic bag just for scraps and trash on the counter so you don’t have to carry waste clear across the kitchen to the trashcan. Wipe up spills as they happen to keep the kitchen clean and safe, preventing slips and falls.

Keep mess to a minimum by using as few dishes as possible. Combine ingredients and use the same bowl for cleaned vegetables. Remember food safety practices, however; keep uncooked meats separate from vegetables. Use liners like tin foil or parchment paper – clean up is simply a matter of tossing the liner out!

Retain as much space as possible by stacking dirty dishes. This helps to maintain a clean and uncontaminated workspace. While you are waiting for your meal to cook, use that time to clean up as much as possible. That way you don’t have an entire kitchen to clean after eating when you’re full and happy. If you don’t have enough time to actually wash dishes, at least rinse them to prevent food from drying, making them more difficult to clean. By doing as much as you can beforehand and cleaning as you go, you can keep your mess to a minimum and actually enjoy your healthy, homemade meal!

About Alexandra Axel

Alexandra Axel was the first founding staff member at The Caregiver Space. As a New York native, Allie grew up people-watching and story-collecting, eventually pursuing her undergraduate degree from The College of New Jersey in sociology and creative writing. At The Caregiver Space, she worked with social media, graphic design, blogging, and program development to brand and grow an online community composed of, and focused on, caregivers. From the seedlings of an idea to the thriving community that it is today, Allie was there from the beginning to support the evolution of The Caregiver Space.

Allie enjoys writing poetry and short fiction, devouring books, biking, crafting, urban agriculture and imperfectly cooking. She currently resides in Brooklyn with her pup, Hen.