Clean As You Go

My father died too young.  I was pregnant with my third (of five) child.  My mother was not yet 60 years old and still had a lot of life and spunk in her.  Once she got over the initial devastating loss of her best friend of 36 years, she found she enjoyed traveling.  One yearly destination was our home, in Illinois, 1000 miles from her Texas home.

It was lively at our house.  Sports, friends, church, school.  And lots of mouths to feed. Getting three meals and plenty of nutritious snacks on the table daily took up a lot of my time.  When my mother visited, she washed a lot of dishes!

Two passing comments made by my mother in my kitchen changed the way I did things and saved me much time and money.

The first, money-saving comment was when my mother casually mentioned we threw a lot of milk down the drain.  I was, by necessity, a penny-pincher, so that comment initially rankled my feathers a bit.  However, when I stepped back and began to notice how often one of our kids poured themselves a full glass of milk and didn’t finish drinking it and then poured it out, I realized what we were wasting.   Then, there was more milk poured on their cereal than they ended up using.  A wise insight my mother had.

There is no telling how much money my mother’s observation saved us over the years.  We all learned to pour what we needed and to use what we poured.

The time saver was one day when my mother said, “Debbie.  You are a good cook, but you sure make a mess.”  Hmmm.  (And ouch.)  But, this was my mother who cleaned up behind me for two weeks at a time during her annual visit.  Maybe she had a point.

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Probably, I became especially conscientious about cleaning as I went after she headed to her home in Texas that visit.  But it has become a habit.  I love to serve a meal when the kitchen is neat and tidy after me.  It isn’t difficult.  There is always time while the onions saute to discard ends and skins.  While the rice simmers, the counter can be cleared and cleaned.  After the rolls are in the oven, there is time to return the flour to the pantry and to wipe up all the dusty remains of kneading.

Clean as you go.

Admittedly, my first response, inwardly at least, was most likely not one of embracing what felt like criticism at the time.  I have thanked her, though.  For both insights.  She doesn’t remember them, of course.   But they were profound little comments to me.

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3 Comments

  1. Agreed! As one who does “clean up as I go” in the kitchen and also the same person that has to clean up after my better half has cooked a delicious meal, I would like to add another suggestion to the list:

    -Choose the right sized container. For example when choosing a mixing bowl or baking dish. Estimate what you need and possibly overestimate. I have washed many a dish that only held ingredients momentarily until the cook realized the container was going to be too small and dumped everything into a larger dish.

    (Names have been omitted to protect the “innocent.”)

  2. I’ve been thinking of you and this post over the past few weeks. I’ve been valiantly attempting to “clean as I go,” and I must agree that it takes only a little bit more effort, and the results are far more satisfying. Thanks for the simple yet effective reminder.

    But I will add that this only works if one begins cooking with a clean kitchen in the first place. *wink*

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