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9 Spoonie Cooking Hacks to Save Time and Energy in the Kitchen

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Since being able to cook again for the past couple of years, I’ve been learning how to navigate the kitchen as someone with a chronic illness that causes limited strength and energy. It’s been a trial-and-error process, but I’d like to share some things that have made my life easier. This advice is for any spoonies out there or anyone who wants to save time and work when cooking.

1. Keep cooking with a chronic illness simple.

Look for recipes with few ingredients, as long ingredient lists are hard to source, and many elements take time to prepare. Read the method in advance, check that there are not too many labor-intensive stages, and/or look for ways you can cut corners. Also, you don’t always need to cook a gourmet meal to make it healthy. Sometimes a simple baked potato or a bowl of soup will do the trick. Healthy Living James shares a lot of great tasty and accessible recipes on his Instagram page and in his new cookbook.

2. Cook using packet mixes and meal kits.

If I’m not up to cooking something from scratch, I have some packet mixes in the cupboard for making free from bakes, pancakes, veggie burgers, nut roasts + falafel. Some of my favorite U.K. brands are Free and Easy Foods and Artisan Grains. I’ve also found meal kits delivered to your door like Hello Fresh and Gousto Box make your life easier by providing all the ingredients already measured out. Spice mixes are also a great way to add some flavor to any dish and try out a new cuisine from home. You can be transported to the Mediterranean, Morocco, or India!

3. Use kitchen gadgets to make cooking with chronic illness easier.

I use a kitchen stool to conserve my energy, a microwave, dishwasher, food processor, a powerful Nutribullet blender, and a handheld mixer that I’d like to replace with the Ninja Kitchen chopper that Deliciously Ella uses for chopping and making dips. On my wish list is a slow cooker, which you can leave all day to do its magic. The Magimix Cook Expert available in the U.K. sounds pretty awesome too. When baking, I’ve found an ice cream scoop useful for measuring out the mixture for healthy muffins and cookies. And get a digital scale – just in case you happen to have the old-fashioned kind with weights, don’t do it to yourself!

4. One pot cooking can help reduce chronic illness fatigue.

This is so much easier than having a lot of different elements on the go. I use a large, shallow casserole dish on the hob or make a whole meal in a roasting tin (check out The Roasting Tin cookbooks by Rukmini Iyer for ideas).

5. Batch cook so you don’t have to prepare meals as often.

If you can, always make extra so you can have the leftovers for lunch/dinner the next day or freeze portions for days you aren’t up to cooking. My favorite batch breakfast is overnight oats which keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.

6. Buy frozen fruit and vegetables to save time and energy.

This is so useful as you can chuck a handful of broccoli florets in your stir fry and save yourself lots of chopping up, or frozen raspberries to your oatmeal, smoothies, and juices (I’ve been using a green smoothie mix lately too). Tinned or jarred fruit and vegetables or freeze-dried fruit are good backups in case you are ever stuck for anything fresh.

7. Buy sharp knives and lightweight cooking implements.

Be careful, but these can save work by making chopping and peeling much easier. Lightweight pans and mixing bowls, etc. are also much easier to lift.

Try to reuse bowls, chopping boards, and implements if you can to minimize washing up!

8. Minimize distractions while cooking with chronic illness.

Brain fog can make it difficult to concentrate, so make sure you have the kitchen to yourself and don’t try to multitask (maybe leave your phone in the other room) while following a recipe. I love singing along to music as I cook, but I tend to save this for recipes I know by heart.

9. Lastly, learn from your mistakes.

Mine was attempting to cut through a turnip, never again! And have fun! I find frying onions and melting chocolate very therapeutic!

Check out my Instagram page Healing Simone for healthy, clean recipes.

Getty image by Prostock-Studio.

Originally published: June 20, 2022
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