Delete Your Dishes

I Can’t Unsee This TikTok Mom’s Viral Hack For Reducing Dirty Dishes

Happy summer break to everyone except moms!

Written by Elizabeth Narins
A woman shows how she uses paper liners and plastic trays to cut back on dishes.

Everyone deserves a summer break, and by “everyone,” I (obviously) mean moms. While you might not get the eight weeks paid vacation you deserve for doing all the things for all the people all year, you can still count your tiny blessings thanks to TikTok mom Hadlee Daines’ viral hack: It promises to cut back on both dirty dishes and waste — no pricy paper plates needed, thank you very much.

The trick is to replace your kids’ typical fine china (lolol nope) with reusable food baskets ($1.25 for a pack of four at Dollar Tree). Top them with parchment paper sheets ($17.99 for 240 on Amazon) and proceed with serving your regularly scheduled meal right on top. No matter how greasy, cheesy, or saucy your menu is, you can rest assured that the protective paper can be crumbled up and tossed, no sink needed. Even better? Kids of almost any age can do the “heavy” lifting, and even stack their baskets when they’re done since they shouldn’t need a rinse. Check it out:

In just a few weeks, Daines’ video has racked up more than 2.2 million likes for good reason: It’s simple, cheap, and genius (although, to be fair, the hack has been around for a hot sec — she’s not the first on TikTok to suggest it). Also, h/t restaurants: They wouldn’t serve food this way if it wasn’t cost- and labor-efficient, amirite?

While haters say the hack is wasteful (paper’s still going in the garbage, after all), you can’t put a price on time savings and the joy your kids will feel when you use the props to turn your kitchen into a make-believe burger joint.

Of course, this isn’t the only way to cut back on kitchen work this summer. Here are some more ways to reduce dirty dishes (without buying all the paper plates) so you have more time to... scroll TikTok for more hacks!

6 Smart Ways to Reduce Dirty Dishes Without Starving Your Kids

Use toothpicks instead of forks.

Kids love the opportunity to use small, sharp utensils. Well-adjusted kids will enjoy stabbing something that won’t cry — like fruit or cheese chunks. (Talk about a cheap thrill.)

Upgrade to sporks.

I love my mom to pieces but can’t explain why she used to set a fork, spoon, and knife (a knife?!) at my dinner place setting every night of my childhood. My take: Go sparse, people. Sporks reduce said table settings by two-thirds. One utensil can do it all!

Or hell, just delete utensils altogether.

While fingers might not belong in plates at a 5-star restaurant, serving finger foods at home means few forks, spoons, and knives filling up your sink. It’s why I serve my kids toast for (almost) every meal, don’t @ me.

String non-finger foods on skewers.

Sure it takes an extra second to prep meals on a stick, but I’d rather string chicken chunks on an XXL toothpick than roll up my sleeves to scour dishes and, inevitably, ruin my summer manicure. You?

Take it easy with the Tupperware.

IDK about you, but my dishwasher’s top rack is always full of little containers and tops (few of which match, to add insult to injury). To reduce the clutter, I’ve begun using an extra bento box for prepping food and storing the perfectly good bell pepper slice my kid left on his plate. Using compartments instead of individual Tupperware means there’s way less to clean, you’re welcome. I use a clear box ($9.97 on, which makes it easy peasy to take a quick inventory before mealtimes.

Adopt a one-plate per person policy.

Is it me, or does TikTok have all the answers? This TikTok mom purchased one color-coded dinnerware set a piece for her kids — an excellent idea for anyone who doesn’t want to wash 42 cups a day yet wants to know exactly which of her offspring is to blame for any rogue dish found around the house. Commence finger-pointing... then, for god’s sake, put your feet up!