How a Clean Kitchen Saves Your Family Money

Have you ever considered that a dirty kitchen could be making you spend more money? Well, I’m here to tell you it’s true, it happens. Just ask the folks featured on the hoarding shows!

How to clean the kitchen

Want to know how to save money just by keeping your kitchen tidy? Read on.

Dirty Dishes Cause Debt

Piles of dirty dishes are disgusting. They can get gross and smelly, and most people want to avoid dealing with them. And what are you tempted to do when the dishes have piled up? Eat out, right?

Eating out is a huge expense. In 2009 when Matt and I committed to becoming debt free, we looked closely at how much we were spending. Eating out was costing us around $6,000 per year!!! Ouch. We realized we had to eliminate some of the excuses we were using to go to restaurants.

If dishes are washed and the sink is empty, you’ll feel more like you have time and space to cook.

Get those dirty dishes out of the sink!

The key is to have a system for clearing dishes before they get piled too high. Consider implementing one of the following systems in your kitchen:

  • Fill one side of the sink with sudsy water and throw dirty dishes in while cooking. Finish washing after the meal.
  • Solicit a prep cook/dishwasher to help you while you cook. Kids love to be kitchen assistants and can wash a few dishes during meal prep so the job isn’t so overwhelming after the meal.
  • Utilize your dishwasher if you have one. Make an announcement to family members that the sink is off limits for dirty dishes. (Because as you know, an empty sink always tempts someone to dump a mound of dirty dishes and then vanish.) Always unload the dishwasher before beginning a new cooking project so you have the dishes you need for cooking, and an empty washer ready to be re-filled.
  • Assign family members to dish duty on a rotating schedule so nobody is stuck with this task all the time.
  • Offer an incentive to the first family member to volunteer for dish duty.

How to clean the kitchen 1

Cluttered countertops discourage kitchen work

I know this sounds obvious, but I’m always amazed at how much stuff people keep out on countertops.

I’ll break it down for you; when your kitchen looks inviting, you’ll naturally want to spend more time in it. And what’s more inviting than clean, cleared countertops? (Well, a pan of fresh-from-the-oven brownies sitting on the countertop might be more inviting, but let’s not get sidetracked.)

Get those countertops cleared!

Remove as many things from countertops as possible. Keep in mind that countertop clutter can affect efficiency in the kitchen.

Of course, start with those pesky dirty dishes. Get them washed or at least loaded into the dishwasher. Once dishes are out of the way, take a look at your kitchen as if you have never seen it before. This will allow you to really SEE what is on your countertops. Do you like what you see? If not, take notice of items that are causing the clutter.

Keep in mind that toasters, coffee makers, and other small appliances can be stashed in other places, especially if you’re not using them everyday. Having well-organized cupboards will allow you to move things off countertops and into a place where they are easily accessible, but aren’t in plain sight. Use that precious countertop space wisely!

Starting DIY projects is easier when countertops are open.

I have to address this point, because most DIY projects are going to save you money. But where will you do all those projects if your kitchen is a nightmare to work in? Most of my DIY projects have to be done in the kitchen where I can easily measure, pour, and have an occasional spill — all on a large flat surface.  So I’ll reiterate…get those countertops cleared! You’re more likely to delve into new DIY projects that can potentially save hundreds of dollars in your budget over the long run.

A dirty refrigerator means money down the drain

The refrigerator is a major source of wasted money in some households. If you can stay on top of eating food before it spoils and keeping the fridge organized, you’ll keep more money in your pocket.

Cure Refrigerator Blindness!

When your refrigerator is cluttered, packed, and unorganized, it leads to a disorder I like to call “Refrigerator Blindness.” I accuse Matt of having this horrible disorder. I tell him it prevents him from seeing all the things that need to be eaten up. He’ll open the fridge, overlook about 75% of its contents, close the fridge, and announce “there’s nothing to eat.”

To help cure loved ones from this unfortunate disorder, move leftovers to the front of the fridge. I keep a roll of painter’s tape and a permanent marker by the fridge so I can label things I think will go unnoticed. This encourages family members to use things up before spoiling occurs.

Cluttered fridge + spoiled food = wasted $

Make sure everything has its place in the refrigerator. This decreases the likelihood of random items being hidden in the back and forgotten about. Forgotten items inevitably spoil. And as the above equation indicates, your hard-earned money is wasted every time something spoils in the fridge.

To avoid having food rotting in all the far-reaching corners of your fridge, do a refrigerator clean out once a week. We do this every week before garbage is collected so questionable items can be discarded. It allows us to keep up on cleaning the fridge, and the rotten food ends up curb-side instead of stinking up the kitchen for several days.

What have we learned here?

If you’re trying to save money, live a more sustainable lifestyle, and be a DIY rockstar…you gotta keep that kitchen clean! Wash those dishes, clean off those countertops, and take charge of the mess in your fridge.

Having a clean, uncluttered kitchen will encourage more home-cooked meals and DIY projects, resulting in lots of saved money!

Are you already doing these things? Share your tips for keeping a clutter-free, clean kitchen with the community!

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Comments

  1. The points you have made in this article are completely true. My family and I live on a farm so we don’t have the opportunity to eat out. But having a clutter free counter top and an empty sink always encourages us to create mouth watering dishes together and I tend to bake a lot more. The same goes for putting left overs at the front of the fridge. I have four kids of which 3 are always hungry boys. There’s always something in the fridge for them to eat if it is visible.

  2. Simple, common sense, but much-needed reminders. Leftovers are a battle in my home b/c for all the trouble of cooking, I like the IDEA of 2-3 meals for the work of 1, but yet, nobody (including me) is crazy about leftovers. I find that reheating on the stove w/ a little water makes leftovers ‘fresher’ tasting than microwaving (read, rubbery food). DH doesn’t eat w/ us, so when he IS ready to eat, the prospect of taking dishes out of the fridge, plating the food and heating it is just too much work and he’ll either eat the whole bag of tortilla chips that was intended for the nachos, or he’ll make a fast food run. RRRG!

    • Great point about sprucing up the leftovers Joleigh! We like the water trick too…rehydrating leftover dishes always makes them taste better. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Totally agree! Need the reminder every now and then though. So, thanks.
    But a question: what do you keep on the counter? My dilemna is this: even though I don’t use the juicer daily, I know that if it’s tucked away in the cupboard somewhere I’ll never use it. Everyone’s water bottles, utensils jar, fruit bowl…AACK! I need some fresh ideas!
    Miss you guys.

    • Miss y’all too! I bet it’s a lot harder with a large family to keep those countertops cleared because you’re using so many of your kitchen tools all day long. We only recently started keeping the coffee maker out (I used to put it away after every use), and we also have a pot of utensils, bowl with vitamins/supplements (so we don’t forget to take them), toaster oven, and a small tray with salt/pepper/olive oil/butter crock. On one side of the sink I have a drying rack for dishes that are done by hand. Everything else gets stashed out of sight…but you’re right about forgetting to use certain things. :) The trick I use is just to contain things in bowls, baskets, or on trays, so it looks organized and appealing instead of cluttered. I love the idea of tiered dessert trays to store things on vertically so it looks pretty and doesn’t take up so much space.

  4. Lol!! This is so true! How many DIY projects did i put off because my kitchen was a mess?!
    Lots. I work 40 plus hours a week and planning is everything to me. In addition I have a very small kitchen so it gets dirty quick. The fact that I’m saving $$ and I know what’s in my food is a great incentive to keep my kitchen clean and uncluttered. The DIY lifestyle is a process and the more I delve into it the better it gets. Thanks for a great and timely post. :)

    • We’re in the same boat with a small kitchen right now. I can’t possibly start another project until one is cleaned up, or there is just no place to work. So glad you’re enjoying your DIY journey!

  5. I think all of your tips are true, but I found myself giggling. When I was working full-time and the kitchen was finally spotless, I would tend to suggest eating out(usually on a Sunday night) just to keep my kitchen clean.

    • Oh, I’ve been there Sherry! Seems like it’s always time to mess the kitchen up right after you finish cleaning it, right? Sometimes I’ll shut off the kitchen light and announce “the kitchen is CLOSED!” so that I can enjoy it just for a little while. :)

  6. I’ve known this for years, but just couldn’t/wouldn’t follow through with it. Just last night, I sat down with my husband to plan out meals for the next week. Even though it’s putting the cart before the horse, it’s giving me the motivation to clean out the refrigerator.
    Thank you for the reminders and very good recommendations for living peacefully and joyfully.

  7. I think of my kitchen as my “lab/create” space. By constantly cleaning during and after cooking or preparing DIY cleaning products or gardening projects my space is always ready for something new.
    It’s also a great way to be centered and focused as I approach whatever I’m working on. I think of it as kitchen zen.

    Marilyn

    • Thanks for sharing Marilyn! It’s so true…I just can’t focus or create in a space that is dirty or cluttered. Time in my kitchen is often therapeutic, and the chaos in the form of clutter doesn’t fit into that equation. :)

  8. I love to rearrange the fridge and cupboards! I’ve actually made a list of all the herbs and spices that I have because I tend to forget and end up having three bottles of the same thing! This list was actually made yesterday. For leftovers, I use them to pack my husbands lunch or think ahead and make them part of the next days dinner. Saves me time in cooking too, especially when it’s to hot…less oven time.

  9. Great reminders. I usually clean out my fridge every couple of weeks, but I never thought to do it on garbage day. Especially with summer coming it makes more sense. The “bad food” doesn’t get a chance to get very smelly. Good thinking! Thanks!

    • I only wish I could find a 3-tiered fruit basket that didn’t cost a small fortune. I bought a hanging basket @ BB&Beyond for $12, but I don’t have a place to hang it, so the hook hangs on one of my cabinet hinges, which means the cupbard door doesn’t close properly. And I STILL use my trifle dish for apples! Need to tackle that little storage fiasco.

      • I almost purchased a 3-tiered countertop basket/tray recently at an antique shop. It was beautiful for vertical storage on the countertop, but it was a little too tall to fit under my cupboards. Keep your eye out in some of the other stores you may walk into for something similar.

        • Same issue here, too tall to fit under the cupboard. I may have to commission my GF’s honey to DIY this for me. I don’t own the right equipment and the hubs isn’t a handyman :P Could probably find something on pinterest.

  10. Monday is my kitchen cleaning day too, because the trash is picked up very early Tuesday morning. My kitchen is huge – but that gives everyone the idea they can dump. To solve the challenge of keeping a very large home clean I breakdown everything into zones, with Monday for kitchen.

    I thoroughly scrub (with SOS pad) one section of the oven every week. For example, today I did the interior door and window. Next week it will be one of the oven walls. One of the oven racks goes into the dishwasher. I also take one component of the refrigerator out for complete cleaning. If it’s bad weather – I clean out a cabinet – for nice weather – I clean a window. The rugs go into the washing machine, and the floor is scrubbed. This whole procedure takes an hour – but my house is very old and large. The kitchen alone has ten windows. By cleaning it this way – the house looks good all the time, and I am not overwhelmed. When my kids were all living at home though it was easier because of division of labor!

    Another thing I began doing years ago, when in the thick of home schooling – was the every Monday “clean out the refrigerator soup.” Any leftovers – any meat,(ham, turkey, chicken, etc. . .even taco meat) veggies, any small amounts of potatoes or rice, even stale cheese, usually a can of black beans, went into the crock pot, with broth, water, garlic, onions and seasonings. With fresh home made bread – everyone loved this mystery soup, and it was different every time. Nothing ever goes to waste here. And I mean nothing. :D

  11. I deal with this constantly, too. Eating out too much. I working on now on the older kids helping out with washing the dishes more. It does put less stress on the one that’s cooking.

    I do hope to get a new dishwasher soon…..which would help.

    Great Post it hit really on money.

  12. This article is so true. I’ve lately found myself slacking, and it definitely leads to wanting to go out to eat. Thanks for the reminder!

    btw…The new website design looks great!

  13. But what about those of us who have SMALL spaces??? I keep out my coffee maker, blender, mixer (HEAVY) steamer/ricecooker and food processor. It’s all out PLUS my washer and dryer are in my kitchen and it’s tiny. I get very overwhealmed and frustrated b/c we live a whole food life style so it’s not the eating out that kills me it my fridge going from empty to PACKED and having no where to work, my dinning table is where my kids do school and well there is no extra space in my kitchen or dinning room I WANT a clean kitchen WANT I run my dishwasher at least twice to three times a day ACK. So what have you go for me!!!

    • I totally understand. We currently have a very small kitchen. We’ve purged anything that’s not a necessity in our kitchen so we have space to store the important things. I used to have a shoe shelf on top of my refrigerator that served as an extra storage shelf. I dry herbs in a closet. I store jars of dry beans and other things on top of the cabinets. I hang small things on hooks on the inner sides of cabinets. We bought a magnetic strip to hang our knives on so we don’t have to have a knife block on the counter. We bought a small bar with hanging containers to keep other small things on. If you look at an IKEA catalog you may get some other good ideas! Hope that helps. :)

  14. This is SO true! I’m slowly working on getting my counters uncluttered. Being the pack rat that I am, it’s been quite a journey. After being in my house almost 8 years, I’m finding things I forgot I had! lol Thanks for the “smack upside the head”, so to speak. Sometimes it’s hard to see what needs doing even though it’s right in front of you every day.

    • Well if you saw my countertops today you wouldn’t believe I wrote this article. LOL! I just have too many projects going at once. :)

  15. Definitely agree with your point on keeping a cleared sink – I can’t tell you how many times my wife and I opted to go out to a restaurant instead of staying in to cook due to the sink being piled high with dirty dishes!