Grandma’s Tricks for Less Mess After Thanksgiving Dinner

Grandma’s Tricks for Less Mess After Thanksgiving Dinner

Save yourself time with grandmotherly advice for minimizing cleanup after holiday meals.

By Laura Wallis

My least favorite thing about Thanksgiving, hands down, has always been the mountain of dishes in the kitchen afterward. I come from a family that followed the old-fashioned approach to holiday meals — everyone comes to the elaborately laid table and chows down, then the men retire to the sofa for a nap and football while the women wash and dry. And wash and dry.

It’s not the 1950s anymore, and in my own daily life I’ve adopted a “whoever doesn’t cook, cleans up” policy that works fairly well. For major holiday meals, though, I like to borrow some of my grandmother’s tried-and-true strategies for limiting post-dinner mess. I find they help to keep the peace (and keep me sane), while getting everyone to their naps, or games, or strolls around the neighborhood as soon as possible. Here are a few tactics to try:

Wash as you go. My grandmother never cooked a big meal without a sink full of hot, sudsy water at the ready. After a dish or pot was used it was dropped in to soak. Then, in between tasks, she would give it a quick scrub, rinse, and dry, and put it away. This way, a lot of the big mess is gone before the meal is even served.

More from P&G everyday: 5 Things I’d Rather Be Doing Than Cleaning the Thanksgiving Mess

Limit unnecessary mess. When my husband cooks, he takes a maximum-possible-mess approach. He never uses just one bowl if he can use seven instead. I like to go the opposite way. Mise en place, in my grandma’s house, took place on the cutting board. All those tiny bowls aren’t necessary to hold your ingredients for stuffing, and they make for a lot of fussy washing after. Same for garlic presses (just use a knife) and potato ricers (nice texture, but ridiculous to clean — I prefer my basic masher).

Cook foods together. My grandma never met a turkey she didn’t stuff. OK, this is a contentious subject and there are a lot of good reasons not to stuff your bird. But even if you don’t, you can roast sweet potatoes on the same big sheet pan as your Brussels sprouts. Or even more delicious, scatter vegetables to roast in the bottom of the turkey’s roasting pan. Any combinations mean fewer pans to wash later.


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Make ahead when you can. In my grandmother’s house, dinner rolls were never prepared the same day as a big meal. She made them ahead, then par-baked and froze them. So they only needed to be tossed in the oven to finish after the turkey came out. All the bowls and baking pans were clean long before the big day.

How do you limit the post-Thanksgiving mess at your house?

Laura Wallis is a freelance writer and editor specializing in all things family, home, food, and health. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children, and dog.

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Those are all great ideas! I should definitely try the rolls in the freezer

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