The opportunity to provide guests with good food, a warm home, and refreshing spirits for a holiday gathering will make the fall and winter seasons even more special.
While hosting an intimate celebration with friends and family can be really fun and memorable, it also poses a tremendous challenge.
Before setting a date for a holiday event, one must consider the heavy workload required to put the whole event together.
Aside from expenses, one of the most overlooked aspects of throwing a party is the work required before, during, and afterwards.
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So much time and effort go into shopping for ingredients, preparing the dishes, and organizing the house. And once the house is set, the food is cooked, the candles are lit, and that first of many drinks has been poured, the work is done…
Wrong! There is still the impending responsibility of having to clean all the dishes.
Holiday meals tend to generate numerous plates, cookware, utensils, and more that will leave the host toiling forever in the kitchen, long after the guests have left and gone home.
Doesn’t seem fair, does it?
After putting forth all that hard work and expense, the host reaps the rewards of wrinkled, cracked hands and tired feet.
Luckily, the good news is that there are a few tips to minimize dish duty for your next holiday gathering!
Before you begrudgingly put on those gigantic rubber gloves, take a look below at our advice:
Tips to Minimize holiday Dish Cleaning
1. Strategize Fewer Cookware
One significant method to reduce your time spent washing dishes is to cook with fewer pots and pans.
Serving multiple side dishes can be the main culprit that leads to a mountain of dirty cookware to wash.
We all love the classic lineup of holiday side dishes, but you’ll be relieved even if you slightly minimize the selection.
Decrease the variety of offerings at your party, or consider cooking a greater quantity of a few items that you are certain everyone favors instead.
Another acceptable measure to minimize cleaning cookware is to outsource some of your meal items.
A few weeks prior to your scheduled event, discuss the menu with your guests. If anyone is interested in offering culinary help, delegate who will bring certain side dishes, appetizers, or desserts – and if they’ll be bringing their own dirty dish back home afterwards.
And – contrary to what your guilt might be telling you – there is absolutely nothing wrong with relying on a few store-bought items to reduce the stress of cooking and cleaning!
Research what grocery stores, cafes, and restaurants in your area are offering Thanksgiving catering, and purchase a few items that you can validate the benefits of not cooking them at home.
2. Consider Disposable Cookware
Staying on the topic of cookware, cleaning plates and cups is much easier than tackling heavy-duty cookware items like pots and pans.
Most plates require just a simple rinse before being placed in the dishwasher. But there are many types of cookware that are not dishwasher safe, and require a lot of manual soaking and scrubbing.
One way to rid yourself of having to spend time and effort cleaning larger items is by opting for disposable pans, such as aluminum roasting pans.
Keeping the cookware cleaning to a minimum will reduce the energy necessary to thoroughly wash, clean, and dry larger items.
Large aluminum roasting pans are great for preparing turkey, roasts, casseroles, and side dishes.
Are you serving a big crowd of hungry friends, children, nieces, nephews, second cousins, and everyone in between? Opt for the heavy-duty, full-size aluminum pans. The Stock Your Home Store offers 21-by-13-inch pans, available now from Amazon.
If you value maintaining a sustainable household, be sure to check what materials your city accepts for recycling. Though many cities do recycle aluminum, some may not take this particular kind of material in a pan format.
For some reassurance, aluminum pans that have the lids included with the purchase double as excellent storage containers once the party is over – so you’ll still be able to get multiple uses out of them!
And for all your pies, choose to use recyclable paper baking pans. You can buy If You Care’s 4-pack of TCF paper cake and pie pans directly from Amazon.
And keep your ceramic pie pans sparkling clean!
3. Depend on Disposable Dinnerware
When you’re stressed out even by the thought of filling your dishwasher with dinnerware like dirty plates, bowls, cups, and flatware, there’s a simple solution for all of that nonsense, too!
Just like with your cookware, use disposable, recyclable, or compostable products to temporarily replace all of your dinnerware, flatware, and drinkware for one evening.
With so many different options, you can easily keep your carbon footprint light by buying from eco-friendly manufacturers, and recycling or composting these items whenever possible.
For example, Ecovita sells a 100% compostable plant-based cutlery combo set with forks, knives, and spoons. Available from Amazon, you can purchase this set in two different colors depending on your event color scheme: a lovely and bright ivory white color or a sleek and dark black color.
And this 3-compartment biodegradable bamboo dinner plate from Earth’s Natural Alternative will help you guests stay organized – and green! – while perusing the brunch table. Buy a set of 100 now from Wayfair.
Searching for a full collection? If you’d rather not buy individual items, Birchio offers a 50-set compostable plant-based dinnerware collection, complete with flatware, cups, and two different sizes of plates. Find it now on Amazon.
4. Enlist a Cleaning Crew
Hosting a holiday party doesn’t mean all the work should fall on your shoulders, and your shoulders alone!
Never fear asking family and friends to help just a little with the final cleanup – and hopefully, you have a good group of pals who decide to willingly volunteer!
A small assembly line will help streamline the process: one person can scrape off extra food from the plates, another can rinse away or wash anything remaining, and another can organize the dishwasher or dry clean dishes by hand.
Create a fun environment in the dish pit that’s just as entertaining as the dining room by playing upbeat holiday music, pouring a round of after-dinner drinks, and setting out a few cookies or snacks for nibbling on in between scrubbing a few dishes.
If the budget allows, you can even buy your “Cleaning Crew” matching aprons – themed aprons will be a humorous nod to the holidays, and help to maintain a lighthearted spirit while completing the final task of the night.
How could you not smile and giggle as you’re wearing this Santa Claus apron from Sur La Table?
And don’t forget to thank everyone who helped. Send them home with a few tokens of your gratitude, like any unopened bottles of wine or beer, or to-go containers filled with extra slices of pie.
And they can keep their aprons, too!
5. Plan a Progressive Dinner Party
Think outside of traditional hosting customs this year by expanding the holiday party to multiple homes.
A progressive dinner party is a style of event where each course of a multi-course dinner is prepared and served at a different household throughout the span of the evening.
For example, to start the evening of a three-course dinner event, diners will first enjoy appetizers and drinks at one home for a certain amount of time, then travel to the second location for dinner, then travel the third and final location for dessert and digestifs.
The host of each household is only responsible for the planning, preparation, and cleaning of just one course, minimizing the overall cleanup.
This is a smart holiday party option for friends and family that live close together to keep the commute practical for one evening.
Ideally, a progressive dinner party would work to absolute perfection if your group lives in the same neighborhood, and you could walk from one location to the next.
Less Dishes, More Free Time
These are just a few simple tips to lighten your dish load and stress level.
With all of these helpful suggestions in mind, the most important piece of advice is to never turn down anyone’s offer to assist you.
From assigning recipes for the party to co-hosting a progressive dinner party to tag-teaming washing the final rounds of dirty plates, you’ll definitely appreciate a helping hand!
A little can go a long way, cutting kitchen time in half, and creating a great venue to catch up on some good conversation with friends and family.
What’s your favorite trick for speeding up the holiday cleaning? Let us know in the comments.
And for more tips to achieve and maintain a spic-and-span kitchen, bookmark these other helpful articles:
- How to Organize Kitchen Chaos 15 Minutes at a Time
- Top Techniques to Clean Large Kitchen Appliances
- Keep Your Kitchen Countertops Sparkling with These Tips
© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on November 10, 2013 by Lynne Jaques. Uncredited photos via Shutterstock. Product photos via Amazon, Wayfair, and Sur La Table. Last updated on October 31, 2023.
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is an ACS Certified Cheese Professional and cheesemonger living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.