3 Things that Work in the Kitchen – Hand Washing Dishes Tips and Tricks

3 Things that work in the kitchen

It’s been a while since I’ve done a 3 Things post.  We’ve been deep in the slower summer pace around here and I’ve let a few routines languish.  But let’s get back to it (or at least pretend to) and talk about some things that are working in the kitchen.

Specifically, let’s talk about washing dishes.  Our dishwasher had a terrible leak.  Actually, we think it had two different leaks based on the damage that was done.  You may remember that I thought I’d fixed it.  I was wrong.  So, so wrong.

Several weeks ago we noticed that the cabinet next to the dishwasher had some water damage.  It had been soaking up all the water that had been leaking, keeping us from realizing just how bad the leak was.  Let’s just say that water logged particle board will really smell after a while.  Yuck!

Once I realized how bad it was, I wanted that cabinet and dishwasher out fast!  Isaac was home that day, so he helped me get them both out.  Here’s what I mean by help – I told him which screws to unscrew to loosen the cabinet from the wall and he contorted his 17 year old body under the cabinet to do it.  We worked together to figure out how to unhook the dishwasher from the plumbing by sending text pictures back and forth to my dad.

The floor underneath the cabinet and dishwasher was nasty!  I cleaned it and then Jim bleached it that evening.  Here’s what we were left with:

Kitchen without dishwasher and cabinet

We still need to cut and patch the side of the sink cabinet.  It was also water damaged.  As I write this post, the kitchen still looks like this.  Three weeks and counting.  The weird thing is, it hasn’t really bothered me.

I unloaded the cabinet and put all of those dishes/serving trays in the dining room.  The silverware is in the tray on top of the counter, covered with a dish towel to keep it clean.  I’m sure that one of these days I’ll reach the point where I can’t take it anymore.  Hopefully, the new cabinet will be in before that happens.

For now, we’re hand washing the dishes.  I’m not sure when we’ll decide to replace the dishwasher.  Surprisingly, I don’t really miss the dishwasher.  The kitchen stays cleaner than it did when we had the dishwasher.  Everyone pitches in to help clean.  Overall, hand washing is working for us.  Here are three reasons why:

1.  A decent sized dish drainer

We’d been using a drying mat for the few hand washed things we did while using the dishwasher.  A drying mat doesn’t cut it when you’re hand washing everything though.  I bought the largest sized dish drainer I could find.  The store I shopped didn’t have a great selection though, but this one works.  I think dish drainers used to be designed better years ago.

dish drainer

I also prefer the kind with the drain board on the long side.  Those fit the space better I think.

2.  Dishwashing wand

Dawn dishwashing wand

Everyone has been helping out with the dishes, largely because of this tool.  It’s easy for the kids to wash a plate and glass after a snack.  They’ll even wash their own plates after dinner.  That helps keep the dish duty to a reasonable level.

There are a number of brands that make a dishwashing tool like this.  I chose this because I liked the sponge on the end.  Some have scrubbies, but I didn’t want anything that rough.  I’m also a huge fan of Dawn dishwashing detergent.  The stuff just works better than anything else I’ve tried.  This isn’t sponsored at all, I just really like Dawn.

3.  Plenty of dishtowels and dish rags

I’ve always been in the habit of getting a clean towel and dish rag (or dishcloth for those who grew up more refined 😉  ) every morning, so I had a lot of them.  But hand washing sometimes requires more than one a day.

I haven’t found the perfect dish rag yet.  I do like microfiber, because it dries out quickly.  That keeps them from smelling bad.  As for towels, anything that’s 100% cotton is absorbent and works well.

How do you feel about hand washing dishes?  Are you devoted to a dishwasher or do you prefer hand washing?

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24 Ways to Make Dinner Cleanup Better – From the Practical to the Sublime

24 Ways to Make Dinner Cleanup Better from the Practical to the Sublime

Dinner dishes are a fact of life. And since it comes at the end of a busy day, pretty much no one looks forward to it. At least I don’t look forward to it.

Here are some ways to make the process easier and more enjoyable. The practical and the sublime. I’ll let you decide which is which.

1.  Work with your spouse.

Tag teaming dish duty not only makes it faster, but gives you a chance to catch up with each other.  Kids tend to clear out when it’s clean up time, leaving you to have nearly uninterrupted conversation.

2. Make the kids do it.

Then go read a book or watch a favorite show.

3. Try to start dinner with an empty dishwasher.

Easier said than done sometimes, but having the dishwasher ready to load is a huge help.

4. Wash as you cook.

Start dinner prep by running a sink of hot, soapy water.  Then quickly wash things as you go.

5. Use all cotton towels for drying dishes.

They absorb better than other materials.

6. Knit your own dishcloths.

Patterns can be found on MomAdvice.  Or buy some pretty ones off Etsy.

7. Get a good scrubby.

My favorite is this yellow smiley face scrubby from Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Make Dinner Cleanup Easier

8. Buy a pot scraper.

Pampered Chef sells these little gems, but you can also get them on Amazon.

9. Consider using a crockpot liner.

Scrub free slow cooking is pretty nice.

10. Buy nice smelling dish soap.

I love Mrs. Meyers for scent.

11.  Use hard working dish soap.

But you can’t beat the way Dawn works.

12. Put on some happy music.

If you don’t own much music, try Pandora or Spotify.

13. Listen to a podcast.

My current favorites:
The Art of Simple Podcast
How They Blog Podcast

14. Listen to an audiobook.

15. Call a friend.

Use a headset with your phone or some other kind of hands-free device.

16. Buy a cushioned mat for in front of your sink.

This one’s nice.

17. Use a nice smelling counter spray to finish up.

Mrs. Meyer’s in Lemon Verbena is my favorite. It makes the counters shine and smell good too.

18. Enjoy the process.

This might sound a bit crazy, but when I stop and think about what I’m doing and take time to enjoy the warm water and good smelling suds, the dishes aren’t so bad.

19. Relish the quiet time.

Think over your day. Ponder at least three things you’re grateful for today.  Think of things you’re looking forward to tomorrow.

How to Make Dinner Dishes Easier Work

20. Pray

As you clean up and load the dishwasher, pray for each person who ate at the table that night.  I do this with laundry sometimes, praying for each family member as I fold their clothes.

21. Rinse dishes with hot water, but rinse the suds down the sink with cold water.

A hot water rinse will help your dishes dry better, whether you towel dry or air dry.

But when you’re all done and trying to rinse the suds down the drain, switch to cold water.  Detergents are designed to suds up in hot water, so cold will help them deflate and rinse away.

22. Find a dish drainer or drying mat you like.

Whether it’s a dish drainer that sits on the counter next to the sink, a small one that sits in the sink or a cloth drying mat, make some kind of place to put the dishes after you wash and rinse them.  As much as we’d like for everything to go in the dishwasher, the reality is that some things have to be hand washed.

Currently, we use a dish drying mat that hangs on a hook under the sink when not in use.

23. Store silverware, plates and glasses near the dishwasher and sink.

This makes putting away clean dishes much easier.

24.  Keep your counters clear.

Counter top triage is a constant in our house and we have one spot that seems to catch everything. But try keeping the counters clear of small appliances, pretty decor and other things.  You’ll have more work space.  And it’s a lot easier to clean when you don’t have to clean around things.


What’s your favorite way to make dinner cleanup easier?

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My New Pantry – Inside, Outside, Resources and more

pantry front

This is probably going to be the longest, photo-heaviest post I’ve ever written.  But I’m absolutely in love with the pantry my dad built for us and I can’t wait to show it to you!

We started with this:   [Read more…]

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The Secret of an Organized Kitchen and Meal Planning

Give me 5 minutes and I’ll tell you the secret to having a perfectly organized kitchen and functioning meal plan.

Actually, I don’t even need 5 minutes to tell you this secret.

The secret is that….

There is no secret.

There’s no one fix that will solve your messy container cabinet problem or disorganized pantry.

There’s not a magic solution to getting dinner on the table every night.

There’s not a new technique that will cause things to be permanently organized, once and for all. Oh, how I wish there was!


There are a few tips and resources that will help you wrestle chaos into some semblance of organization.

First, you have to come to terms with the fact that this is an ongoing process.  You organize it now, but it isn’t going to stay that way forever.  Things change.  Routines change.  The needs of your family will change.

All of that has an impact on how your kitchen and meal plans function.

That said, I do have some helpful ideas for you.  Just remember to take what will work, and leave the rest.  Choose a solution that will work for your family right now.

Menu Planning

If you like to do your own menu planning, but you’d like some tips on the process I have a fantastic ebook to recommend.

Crystal from Crystal & Co. has a sale on her popular How to Meal Plan ebook right now.  Use the code mealplan2013 to get it for the sale price.

If you’d rather not do your own meal planning (or you’d like a break from it occasionally), check out my new Weekly Menu Plan Service.

At just $4 per month, it’s affordable and a huge time saver when it comes to deciding dinner.  You’ll get 2 menu plans by email each week – a Traditional Menu and an All Slow Cooker Menu.

Kitchen Organizing

Kitchens can get very cluttered with unused appliances and utensils or worn out plastic storage containers.  My friend, Dana from A Slob Comes Clean has a new ebook out about decluttering (not just for kitchens).

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the amount of clutter in your house, her book is for you.   You can get Dana’s ebook for just $4 right now.  Dana also has another ebook called  28 Days to Hope for Your Home (Not for the Mildly Disorganized).  You can get the 2 book set for just $6 through January.

And because we can always use a few tips to spur us on, here are a couple of posts I’ve written on the subject of cleaning and organizing in the kitchen:

10 Kitchen Cleaning Tips

A Quick Fix for Wire Pantry Shelves

How I organize my spices

This post contains affiliate links.

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How to Meal Plan

If you hang out here for any length of time, you know that meal planning is important to eating at home.  It’s possible to wing dinner, but it won’t take long before that starts to wear on you.  The best way to eat at home is to have a plan.

You can find 3 full years worth of meal plans with the grocery lists to go with each here on my site.  But I know that many people prefer doing their own plans.

Want to learn how to do it efficiently and quickly?  This ebook from my friend Crystal is what you need. Her book is organized and easy to use.  She teaches you how to quickly get a rotating menu together and gives ideas for putting together the grocery list.  She even includes a section on displaying your menu.

Of course, her book includes easy recipes and a list of websites to find new family favorites.  (Eat at Home is one of the sites listed!  Thanks, Crystal!)

If you use the code eatathome, you can get $1 off How to Meal Plan.  The code only lasts until December 8, so don’t wait!

This post contains affiliate links.

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How Do You Use Technology in the Kitchen? (Plus – Setting Up Eat at Home as an App on Your Smart Phone)

How’s that for a long post title?

I’ve had several readers mention to me that they would love to see a smart phone app for Eat at Home, specifically for the menus.  I looked into having an app developed and found that it would cost $5K-$30K!  Yikes!  That’s not in the budget at all.

Thankfully, there are a few ways that you can still use Eat at Home on your smart phone. [Read more…]

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Resolutionize Your Kitchen and Cooking: Organize Your Kitchen Storage

Resolutionize: verb Enacting a mini revolution on your New Year’s Resolution. Small action with big impact.

That’s my pantry after I spent some time organizing it yesterday.  It looks so much better (especially the floor) that every time the kids open it they comment on how neat it is now.

Here’s what it looked like before: [Read more…]

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Resolutionize Your Kitchen and Cooking: 10 Kitchen Cleaning Tips

Resolutionize: verb Enacting a mini revolution on your New Year’s Resolution. Small action with big impact.

Last week we talked about making fast food in your kitchen.  I shared a list of 25 Meals in 20 Minutes or Less.  This week we’re tackling kitchen cleaning.

My mom reads my blog everyday, and I know that as soon as she read the words “cleaning tips” she started laughing. (Hi Mom!)

I’m not known for being a clean freak.  I strive for “live-able”.  There are just a few things that really bug me.  I can’t take sticky floors or crumby counters, but I don’t aim for spotless in my cleaning routine.  In fact, I’m not sure I can really say I have a routine.

This is my list of simple tasks and tools that will have a big impact on your kitchen. [Read more…]

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Stay Sharp! – How to Keep Your Knife Honed (and Rada Cutlery Winner)

It was so fun to read about your knives in the comments for the Rada Cutlery giveaway.  I was a little surprised at how many of you lack sharp knives.   Some of you are carving turkeys with steak knives!

Sharp knives are essential for making dinner quickly, so I thought I’d share some tips for keeping your cutlery sharp.  I’m no expert.  These are ideas I’ve picked up over the years.

1. Start with a good knife – If you don’t have one then get thee to the Rada Kitchen Store.  I recommend the Cook’s Knife.  It’s only $9.20.  That’s less money than it takes to feed your family one meal at a fast food restaurant.  And having a sharp knife will speed your cooking so you’ll be less inclined to grab something quick on busy nights.

You will not regret buying this knife.  It’s so affordable, there’s no reason to keep using your dull knives.

For the record, Rada Cutlery doesn’t know I’m sending all of you over to their site.  I’m not making a commission or earning anything and they didn’t pay me to do this post.  I just want you all to have the joy of cooking with a sharp knife that is affordable!

2. Use a cutting board that won’t dull your knife. Wood, bamboo and plastic are all reliable choices.  [Read more…]

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Kitchens Are For More Than Cooking

kitchen table

I’ve already shown you around my kitchen, but cooking isn’t all that goes on in a kitchen.  I spend most of my time at home in the this room.  I feel comfortable in here.  When I have guests over, we usually sit at the table to talk.  Later, I’ll realize I should have invited them to sit in the living room where the furniture is more comfortable.  I just don’t think about it though, because I’m so comfortable in the kitchen.  Even in the homes of my friends, I’d rather be in the kitchen.

[Read more…]

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