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How To Make Thanksgiving Clean up Easier

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Table set with dishes of food

Make Thanksgiving clean-up easier with these tips for both the cooking and the cleaning.

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Cook Ahead for Thanksgiving

Cooking ahead of any big meal is one great way to have less clean up, on the day of the event especially Thanksgiving Day.

Many side dishes and desserts can be made ahead. Some can be frozen, others can only be made ahead by one or two days.

Thanksgiving food you can make ahead

Deviled Eggs. Make one or two days before and keep in the refrigerator. Tip. Use cooking spray on the plastic wrap side which touches the deviled eggs before covering for the fridge.

Potato salad. Make the day before and store in the refrigerator.

Chicken stock. Here’s how to make your own chicken broth. Use it for Southern Cornbread Dressing and simmering vegetables for side dishes.

Most vegetable casseroles can be made a day or two in advance and reheated on the big day. Casserole dishes can be served in the same pan they were cooked in usually.

Green beans cooking on the stove

Vegetable Time Saver Trick

Cook canned or frozen green beans, or butter beans instead of fresh. It’s quicker but use my trick for making them taste fresh.

Drain the juice in the can and replace it with your fresh chicken broth. Use your homemade chicken broth to cook frozen vegetables too. Great made-from-scratch flavor.

Use baking dishes that are also serving dishes like these Pyrex glass baking dishes with lids for storage.

Make ahead and freeze desserts for Thanksgiving meal

Watergate salad is one of the most popular desserts served on Thanksgiving Day.

Cakes. Most cake layers can be frozen which means you can bake the layers weeks in advance. Thaw and frost a day or two ahead and store in the refrigerator until the day before Thanksgiving when you can frost your cake.

Pies. Many pies freeze quite well. Have you seen the frozen pies at the grocery store? Check your recipes to see if the pies on your list freeze well so you can bake pies a couple of weeks in advance.

See my Classic Pumpkin Pie easy recipe

Also see:

How to Plan Enough Time for Holiday Baking By Organizing Your Kitchen

How To Freeze & Thaw Baked Goods

How to Pick the Perfect Recipes for Your Holiday Baking

Use Disposable liners for cooking and baking

My favorite Crockpot tip is to use these Slow Cooker Liners. Toss in the trash when done and no scrubbing is required of your crock.

Tip. Make your homemade mashed potatoes and then dump them all into a lined slow cooker on the lowest temp to keep them warm on Thanksgiving Day.

Line your baking pans with Parchment paper for easier baking clean up.

Disposable Containers

Disposable Roasting Pans are ideal for cooking and serving then tossing without having to wash them. Thanksgiving dinner clean up will go much smoother when you use as many of these as possible, especially the turkey roasting pan.

Require your guests to bring their own take-out containers. No prep for you.

full refrigerator

Refrigerator Prep

It is a good idea to clean out and organize the refrigerator at least a week before the cooking begins. The last thing you need on the big day is no space in the refrigerator.

If you have a second refrigerator in the garage or laundry room, don’t forget to prepare that second one also.

Trash Can Tips

The trash cans might be one area of Thanksgiving Day that could slip your mind but it’s super important. That trash can in the kitchen is going to be one of the busiest spots in your house on Thanksgiving Day.

Assign one person, preferably one of the kids to trash can duty.

Be sure you have plenty of extra trash bags on hand. Add those to your grocery shopping list well before the big day.

Store a few extra trash bags in the bottom of the trash can. So, when a garbage bag is removed to go out, there is a refill bag handy right there. This is a trick professional house cleaners use.

Be sure you have cleaned out the refrigerator before your trash pick-up day the week before Thanksgiving. You don’t want the curbside garbage bin to be full on the big day.

Aluminum Foil is your friend

Stock up on heavy-duty aluminum foil prior to Thanksgiving Day. You will pat yourself on the back when you ball it up and toss it into the trash knowing those pans will not require soaking.

Non-Stick Aluminum foiluse for baking cookies and any dish you are baking that might stick to the pan.

paper plates

Best Paper Plates

Some families enjoy bringing out the fine china and best dishes and setting a pretty table for Thanksgiving dinner. That is super nice and makes everyone feel special. If you have a small crowd, do it. I love that! If you are hosting more than 6 or 8 folks, buy disposable plates. The good ones, not the cheap ones.

These are my go-to disposable plates for big family gatherings like Thanksgiving.

Oven Care

Avoid the need to clean your oven right after Thanksgiving by preparing for those spills and boil-overs to happen.

Line the very bottom of your oven with heavy-duty aluminum foil. After the big day, remove and toss it into the trash and no oven cleaning is required!

Dirty Dishes

Lots of dirty dishes to be washed for the Thanksgiving meal.

a loaded dishwasher

Loading the Dishwasher

Is there a dishwasher loading guru in your family who can get more stuff in the dishwasher than anyone could ever imagine? That is your person for loading the dishwasher. Bribe them with a piece of chocolate cake you hid just for them if you have to.

Remove the silverware basket, most come out of the dishwasher and sit it on the counter near the sink. Prior to saying the Blessing over the meal, make an announcement that everyone is expected to place their dirty silverware into that basket at the end of the meal.

Thanksgiving dishes. turkey. green beans. mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie

Thanksgiving Day Clean up Tips

Make sure the dishwasher is empty before the guests begin to arrive.

Place a plastic tub in one side of the sink and fill with hot soapy water as a soaking station.

Set a big trash bowl on the counter for food scraps to go into. Add scraps to your compost bin. You wouldn’t want anyone to stop up your garbage disposal by putting the wrong food in it.

Have your guests bring their own storage containers for taking home leftovers.

After the meal, clear the dining room table of the serving bowls, and serving platters and place them in a designated To-go area on the counter. Have everyone fill their to-go containers before the dish washing begins.

After to-go containers are filled, it is time to begin the real clean up. Remove anything left on the tables. Carefully roll up the table cloths and shake the crumbs outside.

Keep a container of Lysol wipes handy on the counter. No need to dirty up multiple dishcloths wiping counters.

See our tip for How To Keep Your Dishcloth Stink and Stain Free.

Don’t forget the paper towels. Be sure to have plenty on hand for spills which are bound to happen.

Set of 6 free printable sheets to keep you organized this Thanksgiving. If you are hosting a crowd, you know how much work goes into the planning! #Thanksgiving
a dinner table with thanksgiving food

Post-Thanksgiving cleaning plans will keep stress levels more manageable on the big day. Do you have a good tip we need to know? Leave it in the comments.

Get a head start by cooking ahead as many dishes and desserts as you can.

Provide disposable dishes for guests to clean up behind themselves and it will make thanksgiving cleanup easier on you.

I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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