Kitchen hacks to make Thanksgiving cleanup easy

Stephanie Faris

Everyone knows the best part of Thanksgiving is all the leftovers so be sure to have a plan in place for packing and storing them.

Thanksgiving revolves around food. You start preparing the turkey and sides hours, if not days, in advance. After you've spent the morning cooking, you probably would rather not dedicate the afternoon to cleaning up.

On the plus side, it's never been easier to cut down on your time in the kitchen. There are now plenty of disposable items to allow you to have your dishes in the dishwasher and your counters clean in no time. You'll be able to return to relaxing with your family and truly enjoying the holiday.

Line Your Cookware

Even the best dishwashers can have a tough time with baked-on dressing and turkey droppings. Where possible, line your pots and pans with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Better yet, invest in disposable pans that you can throw away once the cooking is done. If you have an electric coil stove rather than a flat-top one, you can also buy stove liners to protect against drips from your burners.

Have Containers Ready

The best part of Thanksgiving dinner is having plenty left over for later. Have reusable containers ready in a variety of sizes for storing any turkey and side items you have remaining. Instead of spending half the afternoon trying to figure out what to do with all that food, you'll be able to put everything in the fridge and move on. If you have a houseful of people, you may also consider investing in dissolvable food labels. You can mark the type of food in each container to help your guests easily spot the items they want.

Buy a Food Saver

Food containers can be handy, but they also take up valuable refrigerator space. A food saver will not only store far more easily, but it also provides airtight sealing. So your Thanksgiving leftovers will be fresh far longer than if you'd put it all in containers. The FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer 4800 even has a dishwasher-safe drip tray to keep your countertops clean while you're sealing.

Buy Premade Items

The turkey is the centerpiece of Thanksgiving dinner, but all those side items are important, too. Your family probably looks forward to your dressing and gravy, but you don't need to home-make every item. Grocery store delis usually provide sides like cranberry salad, mashed potatoes, green beans, and rolls. You can even pick up fresh-baked pumpkin pie and carrot cake. These items are provided in disposable dishes you can just toss after you empty the leftovers into containers.

Use Disposable Utensils and Plates

Paper plates and utensils may seem more like something you'd do at a picnic than Thanksgiving dinner, but disposable items have gotten far fancier in recent years. Premium disposable plastic plates are available in packs of 50, 120, or 240 and can be washed or tossed in the trash when you're finished. You can also buy a premium silver-colored cutlery set that includes knives, forks, and spoons. Tossing all of your dishes and cutlery in the trash after dinner can cut your cleanup time significantly.

Purchase a Scrap Trap

Scraping food off of plates is time-consuming, especially if your garbage can isn't located near the dishwasher and sink. A scrap trap is designed to hang on drawers and doors to keep your counters clean. You simply open the cabinet drawer, if that's where you hang it, and scrape your plates as people bring them to you. When you're finished, you can dump the entire contents in the garbage and put the scrap trap in the dishwasher with all your dishes.

Cover Your Table

Chances are, you toss a tablecloth over your table before Thanksgiving dinner. At minimum, you have placemats to protect your table. Instead of pulling out cloth versions that must be washed, a plastic tablecloth can be tossed in the trash after dinner. Whether you use a plastic tablecloth or one you already have, though, paper or plastic placemats can fast-track your clean up, plus you can buy extras to use for the meals your guests enjoy throughout the weekend. You can even find tablecloths and placemats with festive designs.

Use Spray Cleaners and Paper Towels

You may normally use dishcloths and towels for cleanup. It's more environmentally-friendly and less expensive. But to free up time for just this one day, consider using spray cleaners and paper towels for wiping down surfaces like countertops. Astonish Oven & Cookware Cleaner can help with scrubbing all those pots and pans and Lysol All-Purpose Cleaning Spray can easily wipe down those counters. Once all your dishes are loaded, dish tabs will help you start your dishwasher quicker than liquid-based detergents would.


Stephanie Faris is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.