9 Cooking Hacks for People With Chronic Illness
Chronic illness brings a wide variety of challenges — anything from difficulty in walking to maybe even sitting. Some people may even develop issues with their speech and vision over time. For some of us, stamina decreases and in other cases, we see a decline in the ability to complete daily activities, such as washing hair, bathing or going to the grocery store. Even cooking and feeding one’s self may become more labored.
And although some of us experience these changes and face all sorts of challenges, we learn to adapt and adjust, as well as figure out ways to do things in a way that exerts less energy and makes life easier.
Prior to life with more advanced chronic illnesses, I loved to cook and bake almost daily. So much so, I would have Sunday dinners at my house for my friends or even host parties for the Super Bowl, birthdays, engagements and whatever else you could imagine. But as my health declined and my energy left my body, I found myself cooking less.
Things got even worse when I began to lose function in my hands. It was beyond painful to cut, mix and and do what needed to be done to cook these wonderful meals. I also found myself in so much pain and with such little energy to cook that my diet shifted to peanut butter and jelly, oatmeal and applesauce because I didn’t need much energy for any of that.
Needless to say and obviously so, that was not the most nutritious way to go. So one day, I searched Pinterest for easy recipes for chronic illness. Little did I know what doors I would open.
Now, Pinterest itself did not necessarily give me these hacks, but it did help me figure out ways to make cooking easier for me! So here are some things I have learned:
1. Keep a stool in your kitchen.
When my legs are hurting, I pull my stool up to my counter, which makes it easier on my body. I sit while I cut and I also use less energy.
2. Get a set of Pyrex baking dishes with tops!
These are great because after you cook, you can just put the lid on and put it in the fridge. No need to switch into another Tupperware container.
3. While we are on cookware, the 9″ x 13″ baking dish is my friend.
My philosophy now is that if I can’t make it in that dish, I don’t need to cook it! While there are a million other cooking options, hear me out on this. You can roast and cook just about anything in this dish!!
I love baked/roasted veggies for my meals. So to save time and dishes, you can put whatever veggies you like in this dish and then some chicken or other protein of your choice. Put it in the oven on 375 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes (depending on your oven), and you have a one dish wonder!
Some of my go-to combos are broccoli, onions, peppers, cranberries and sweet potatoes topped with chicken and then a little hummus. Another combo I love is sweet potatoes, kale, onions and black beans. I could go on forever but you get it. Cook what veggies you love!
4. If you don’t have one already, buy a slow cooker!
After the 9″ x 13″ pan, this is a lifesaver and my second most used kitchen appliance! I love throwing stuff in and coming home to a soup or an entire meal. You can make just about anything in a slow cooker, which is why it is great.
5. Frozen veggies make life great.
I love fresh veggies and use them as much as possible. But some days, I don’t have enough strength to chop all the veggies, so frozen is a godsend for cooking.
Many are low in fat and sodium, which is great for sticking to autoimmune protocol (AIP) and mediterranean diets.
6. While we’re discussing prepping veggies, get a food processor with attachments.
This has been a lifesaver as well. The different attachments can dice, slice, shred, spiral and whatever else. This not only makes clean up easy but makes prep really simple too!
7. Speaking of clean up, that can be worse and more taxing than the actual cooking.
One thing I have found is that Clorox wipes make clean up a bit easier. I try to clean up as I go but the wipes are great to quickly wipe counters down in between the big clean ups.
8. Think of dishes that share ingredients and try to prep them together.
I have learned that if I don’t meal prep something each week, I don’t follow my protocols and meal plans like I should. So I try to pick things that share ingredients to make it easier on me. When I do this, I have food in the fridge, not just ingredients.
This is also great because you don’t have to worry about having to prep and cook all week.
9. If you can afford it, try a meal service.
These are all the rage now and vary in contents, structure, recipe and cost. Some are targeted toward vegetarian/vegan, some are more for families and some actually give you a wide variety of ingredients for many different meals so you can produce three meals a day. It just depends on what you want.
Grocery stores are now even providing meal services where you can pick a protein and sides while you are getting other items. It comes with instructions as well.
Lastly, I have seen companies that will cook the meals for you and deliver them to you prepared. This last option is a bit more expensive but for some, it is an only option because of health status or even not being able to stand and cook. Whatever the case or circumstances, it is great to have so many options!
As you can see, there are several things that can make meals and life much easier. And there are more tips out there but I decided to just highlight the biggies that can make your day-to-day even easier! So happy cooking!