Since my last trip to Ohio to visit my parents (in November), I've been copying my mom's dirty dishes stacking trick.
A stacking system for dirty dishes? Sounds a little OCD but honestly, for me it's all about reining in the dirty dishes piles while still only doing dishes once a day (after dinner). :)
My system (we have 2 sinks):
Stack bowls, small plates, and silverware neatly in one side of the sink.
Set glasses, containers, etc. on the counter beside the sink. (This means I still have one side of the sink free for washing produce, etc.)
This usually keeps things tidy until dinner, when I actually cook and make a big mess in the kitchen. After dinner is when I load the dishwasher and clean everything up. Since I hand-wash the pans, strainers, large bowls, etc. I can get away with running the dishwasher once a day, after dinner. This allows plenty of time for the dishes to air dry overnight, and one of the kids unloads and puts everything away the next morning.
The good part: With a stacking system, the kids can clear their own dishes after breakfast and lunch without filling up my counter with miscellaneous stacks... and it's a lot faster to load the dishwasher in the evening, too!
Notice all my small plates in use? Some months ago I discovered two things:
Small plates are often sufficient for breakfast or lunch, and any time for little kids or weight-losing individuals (me).
Small plates also fit 3-wide in the bottom of my dishwasher. This is one of the ways I am able to still run the dishwasher only once a day with 7 people in our family: We only use big plates at dinner. :) Granted, this may change as my children get older (our oldest is 8), but overall small plates help reduce portion size (the kids can always get seconds!) and mess. :)
If you have a difficult-to-efficiently-load dishwasher like mine, take note... :)
I don't have any tips on conserving silverware use. We go gung-ho and fill that silverware basket to the max. I bought spoons for 20 cents each at GoodWill, picking out the nicest-feeling ones, and while they sure don't match my set, we never run out of spoons anymore! :)
I also watch for Corelle plates and bowls at GoodWill and have been able to supplement my set more affordably that way. :)
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