I love to cook, but I also love to have a home in which to live, so my husband does the vast majority of the cooking around here. He’s an amazing cook with considerable skill in the kitchen (and he looks good doing it…my talented eye candy) but the mess he makes while cooking gives me serious anxiety. Of course, I’m a borderline OCD neat freak in that I cannot stand mess for even one second (and I have four kids, go figure). I can’t leave the house if things are not perfect. I can’t go to bed at night unless I can see the lines from the vacuum in the carpet and the shine of perfectly clean furniture. Nothing can be out of place unless the kids are playing with it – and then I feel the overwhelming need to put it away the second they don’t want it anymore (I have issues, I know). So for someone like me with such overwhelming neat freak tendencies, learning some amazing cleaning hacks in the kitchen has been a life-saver. This is especially true with four kids and an amazing husband who keeps us healthy and fed – in the midst of a mess.
Keep Lemons on Hand
Lemons are good for everything. They can make your garbage disposal smell amazing and give it a nice clean, and they’re great for wooden cutting boards. Simply cut a lemon in half, pour a generous amount of salt on the cutting board and scrub it with the lemon. It will remove grime and build-up in a matter of seconds, and it will save you the deep cleaning in the sink that isn’t quite so effective.
Keep Vinegar on Hand
Another great item to have on hand in the kitchen is vinegar. It works well to clean many things, but especially your coffee pot. Once a week or so, run a cycle through the coffee pot using vinegar instead of water to clean hard to reach stains and build-up. Just remember to run a pot of just water afterward before you make coffee. You’ll be glad you did. You can also use a little bowl of vinegar if you find fruit flies in the kitchen to attract them and trap them.
Use a Baby Wipe Container for Bags
I saw this on Pinterest and it made me a better person. I hate the look and lack of efficiency of grocery bags shoved inside one another and placed on a shelf in the pantry. It’s so ugly. But if you put them in a wipe container, you can pull one out at a time and keep your house looking neat and clean – major win.
Keep Counters Clutter Free
We once had a small kitchen and I refused to keep anything on the counters because it looked cluttered. Now we have a very large kitchen and I’ve learned I simply hate things on the counter – except the Keurig. My husband hates that I insist on putting things like the toaster in the pantry and removing it when we need it. HATES it. So now that we are in the beginning stages of a kitchen remodel, we are adding a corner cabinet on the granite that will house these things, complete with a hidden plug so that they’re on the counter but not visible until it’s opened.
Defrost on a Cookie Sheet
Most people take their meat out of freezer and put it immediately in the fridge, and then they have a mess. The simplest way to prevent a nasty, potentially contaminated mess in the fridge is to put packages of meat on a cookie sheet so that you can simply pop it in the dishwasher afterward with no mess in the fridge.
Slow Cooker Liners – Buy them, Love them, Use Them
If there is one thing that I hate doing more than anything, it’s cleaning the slow cooker. Sure, it saves so much time cooking, but it also makes cleaning the longest process ever. Get the liners and love them. I promise you this will change your life.
Clean as you Go
The simplest and most effective way to keep a clean kitchen is to clean as you go. The mess of dinner is minimal when you do this, and it’s something that will really make you feel relaxed. Just last night I exercised my ability to cook the one meal I do well (pasta) and when dinner was over and there was nothing to clean up, I was happy. This means emptying the dishwasher before we start cooking and adding dishes to it every time we finish with them. When I drain the pasta in the strainer, I put the strainer in the dishwasher immediately afterward to ward off a sink full of dishes and the look of serious mess.
Line your Pans with Foil
When someone recently asked me why I took the time to place a piece of foil on the bottom of a pan before I roasted broccoli, I was a little taken aback. Why wouldn’t it? It prevents my food from sticking to the pan and it makes the cleaning process a breeze. Throw the foil away, stick the pan in the dishwasher and never worry about tough stains.
Store Trash Bags in the Trash
My husband recently began doing this, and it makes life so easy. Tie up the used bag, remove it, grab a new bag from the bottom of the trash can and affix it to the can. It takes half the time than searching for a trash bag wherever you keep it, and it’s one of the easiest kitchen hacks around.
Put Oil Containers in Cupcake Fillers
We have a lovely decorative olive oil jar, we have regular oil and we have things like vanilla. All these things end up greasy and messy and they get the cabinets and pantry all dirty. So we put them in cupcake liners so that they get those dirty, and they only require replacement rather than cleaning.
Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for The New York Culinary Experience