Ever since school was out in early March, our kitchens have become an all-day diner, serving breakfast, lunch, and supper. We are not even mentioning the snacking and the going in and out of the fridge throughout the day, only to find the same staples we saw just an hour before. What we do know is that our kitchens are taking a real beating and it’s becoming more challenging by the day to keep them clean and in order.
Parents are not used to feeding kids three meals a day, and often rely on school lunches to satiate their children during the day. In New York City, public school children get breakfast, lunch, and afterschool meals which relieve parents from meal preparation and the financial burden of providing daily meals. The switch to having their children home is a big change for these parents. If social distancing will be in place for the 90-day period, it will mean that parents will need to provide their children with 270 meals. That’s a pretty big feat for anyone. Good thing is that many counties are providing these meals on delivery or at safe pickup locations, as the coronavirus lockdown goes on.
Besides for the meal preparation, there is the meal cleanup that is left for yours truly. Dirty dishes, ketchup spills, orange juice splattered on the walls, and everyone seems to think that it’s all going to just disappear. True, we try to train our youth to pitch in with a helping hand, but how much can we demand of them during these trying times? What is most important is our children’s emotional wellbeing. Regarding keeping kitchens clean during COVID-19, we as moms are going to have to get a bit savvy to handle these 270 meals and cleanup.
Try and limit kitchen traffic to mealtimes only
I know it may sound like boot camp, but we need to adopt the European practice of eating during meals only. I had a great aunt in Switzerland, where family mealtime was the only time they ate. There was no snacking throughout the day and if you missed lunch, there was nothing served until dinner. Breakfast was not just a bowl of cheerios and lunch was not a slice of frozen pizza, both meals included a protein and vegetables. In fact, by the time dinner came around the family wasn’t really that hungry for a heavy meal. Dinners were lighter and free from chicken and meat. This made it easier to fall asleep and help maintain a healthy weight regiment.
As Americans, we are not going to be able to change our meals, but we could make them more filling and limit eating to mealtime only. Set a time for breakfast, lunch, and supper, and post the times on the kitchen refrigerator. If your son or daughter misses the meal, have some healthy options lying around, like bananas, yogurts, and string cheese. The idea is to have something which will fill their stomachs, not potato chips and crackers. After a few days, the household will get used to the new meal schedule and they will make it their business to be on time to the meals.
Stock up on plastic essentials
There is going to be lots of traffic and your basic dinnerware stockpile will quickly deplete. Plastic cups, forks, spoons, and plates will be something you want to stock up on. If you're so brave and want to use dishes, glasses, and utensils, your kitchen sink will quickly mount up. Best option would be to use the dishwasher or get some plasticware. With the use of lots of plasticware you will need an ample supply of high-quality trash bags. At the same time you need to make sure you’re using the maximum space in your trash receptacle by getting the correct garbage bag size. Not having the kitchen trash bin spilling over can save you from cleaning up an extra mess.
“When is lunch?” “Can I have another snack?”
This is the common song moms are hearing these days and it’s hard to tell a kid to wait until mealtime. Someone sent me a message about having your kids packing up their lunch boxes like they would for school. Therefore, they have the security that lunch and snack are prepared without having to crash the cabinets. Best of all, you just knocked out one of the meals, leaving with you 90 less meals to prepare. If you want to do this for seven days a week, fantastic, but four or five days a week, will be quite helpful too.
Declutter kitchen counter tops at least twice a day
When everyone is home due to the coronavirus, the kitchen counter tops tend to become a makeshift loading dock for the family’s “stuff”. Some of this stuff may include papers, pens, books, toys, cereal boxes, peanut butter jars, and many other items. Our family’s countertop favorite are the 16.9 oz spring water bottles. We got a little savvy and made each kid mark the bottle cap with their initials, as not to waste ones that are half empty. Whatever is lying on your kitchen countertops needs to be uncluttered at least twice a day, perhaps even three.
Clean out your fridge once a week
Due to the high volume of traffic at the home cafeteria, the refrigerator will be accessed many times throughout the day. This can increase the number of spills in the refrigerator, which makes it sticky and smelly. Therefore, one must make sure to do a thorough cleaning of the refrigerator at least once a week. During the cleaning, you will need to go through all the food and produce and start throwing things in the garbage. It may be hard for you at first to dispose of lasagna three days old, but “just do it” and you will get used to it rather quickly. As you clean the fridge make sure to use high quality kitchen trash bags. The stuff you're going to throw out is going to be messy and heavy and the last thing you want is your garbage bag to rip.
Keep only appliance essentials on your countertops
In our family, it seems like everyone has their own favorite appliance. To our older daughter, it’s the cappuccino machine, to our son it’s the toaster, and to our younger daughter it’s the waffle maker. That’s a lot of extra appliances, decorating your kitchen countertops. The rule of thumb should be that only appliance essentials should be on the counter tops. What are appliance essentials? That’s something that you as lead kitchen general will have to determine.
Don't ever go to bed with a dirty kitchen
One of the worst ways to start off your day, is to come down in the morning to a dirty kitchen. It just seems like everything thereafter doesn’t go right. The coffee comes out wrong, the milk is spoiled, kids are fighting, and you find yourself reading last week's newspaper. It’s important to go to sleep with a clean kitchen and it’s a great way to start the next day. Did you ever hear the saying “A productive day starts the night before”? Cleaning your kitchen, the night before will enable you to start off with a peaceful mindset the next day. It might be hard to give the kitchen one last scrub, but you will appreciate it in the morning. Keep in mind that decluttering the countertops throughout the day will make your nighttime cleanup a bit easier.
Give yourself a pat on the back and try and breed positivity amongst the family
As a mother and cafeteria manager, you are doing an impossible task. Keeping the kids physically and emotionally healthy is the most important task and everything else is secondary. But you’ve got to know that you deserve a gold medal for what you’re doing. At the same time, the other family members, which include your husband and children, need commending for how they are handling the situation. Here is what will happen. By creating a positive environment, you will be on the receiving end of their compliments. Unfortunately, there is so much negativity out there and creating a positive atmosphere, will not only benefit your family, but you will benefit as well.
Keeping your kitchen clean during coronavirus quarantine may just be the secret ingredient to keeping your sanity. Besides for the psychological benefit, your countertops will be free of germs, bacteria, and COVID-19. It’s a difficult time and keeping your kitchen in order can be quite a feat. If at any time you find yourself becoming more frustrated, leave it and tend to your own and your family’s emotional health. More than anything else, this is first and foremost. Once we get past this, we will grow not only as an individual but as a family as well. I have already heard many stories of family members who have not spoken before, finally picking up the phone and making amends with each other. Though distant socially, as a nation we will become closer than ever.