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21 Hacks That Can Make Cooking With Chronic Pain Easier

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It’s always nice to eat a fresh, healthy, homemade meal – but cooking can be exhausting, time-consuming and hard on your body, especially for those with chronic pain. Between chopping vegetables, carrying heavy pots and pans, and standing in front of the stove, cooking can easily exacerbate your pain, and on days when you’re flaring, a big home-cooked meal just isn’t always going to happen. For these days, microwaving frozen meals or ordering delivery are great options (let’s be real: my freezer is full of microwaveable lasagna). But if you enjoy cooking or want something healthier to eat, knowing a few tricks or shortcuts can help make that possible.

So, we asked our Mighty community to share their “hacks” for making cooking with chronic pain easier. Maybe some of the following ideas can help make your time in the kitchen a little more comfortable and still allow you to eat delicious, homecooked meals.

Here’s what the community shared with us:

1. “When I’m having a good pain day I try to meal prep for several days so all I have to do is heat and eat.”

2. “Try to use the least amount of dishes possible while cooking. Casseroles, grilling or one-pot meals make cleaning much easier.”

3. “Frozen food. I hire a cook that comes and cooks several dishes for up to two weeks. Well worth it. I also do not go to the stores anymore. [I] have everything delivered and buy mostly online.”

4. “A foam comfy mat at my stove to stand on. They make a wonderful difference.”

5. “Plan B meals. Whenever I make any food that can be frozen, i.e. stocks, baked goods, casseroles, soups, etc., I split the meal in half so I can freeze half in a disposable dish and have the other for dinner. Prior to freezing it I jot down instructions on a piece of paper and place it on top so we know what it is we are eating and the temperature to cook it at. On high pain or just out of the hospital days, my husband or I can just pop one in the oven and have a home-cooked meal that much faster.”

6. “I had a tall stool in the kitchen so I could sit at the stove. Not having to stand meant I could take my time, meaning less exertion.”

7. “When I couldn’t do it anymore by myself, [my husband] started to help me! First, he brought a chair from the dining room into the kitchen and asked, ‘What do I need to make and how do I it?’ I told him what he needed and he got everything out and I gave him instructions on how to make it and he learned by doing. Now when I want to make a meal, I just ask for help and he knows the steps and the ingredients and we’re a great team. Anything I can’t lift, or that’s too much ‘work’ for me, he does, and I do the rest. But he lifts it all into and out of the oven, or deals with cleaning the Crockpot for cleaning. I can’t even try to lift that thing!”

8. “I have a large ‘spider web’ (used in Asian cooking – wire web-like scoop) that I used instead of a collander – keeps me from having to lift a large pot of boiling water to the sink for pasta, eggs, etc.”

9. “I plan and pace… So I’ll prep some of the ingredients, and then go lie down/rest. Go back and prep some more, and then go lie down/rest again. Continue to rinse/repeat until I’ve finished my meal.”

10. “Semi-homemade cooking is your friend. Buy the chopped veggies if you don’t have a chopper helper at home. Even though my husband helps with chopping I still buy the bagged cauliflower rice and such. Any shortcut like that can save the hands, back and shoulders pain.”

11. “Crockpot freezer meals! Google is full of links to ‘Make Eight Freezer Meals in Two Hours!’ It takes time to prep (which, for a lot of us, means a day of rest and recovering afterwards). But then you have X amount of meals ready to throw in the crockpot on bad pain/fatigue days! And buy those disposable crockpot bags. Some might say it’s lazy or expensive, but not having to scrub out a Crockpot is worth it!”

12. “Don’t get too hung up on leaving dishes in the sink. Sometimes cooking takes so much energy and I just can’t deal with the dishes right away. I give myself permission to do them the next morning when I will have more energy.”

13. “I get everything I need for that meal out on the counter in front of me so I don’t have to go back and forth to the fridge and cabinets and I bring our bar stool over to where I’m cutting and prepping so I can sit down as much as I can. Listening to music and singing helps me keep my mind off the pain I’m in and makes the time go a little faster!”

14. “I don’t know if you have access to this where you live, but I do ‘click and collect’ at the large store. That means I buy online and they load up my car. I don’t even have to exit the vehicle. For other items, or one-offs, I tend to frequent local shops which are smaller and tend to be quite accommodating. When they get to know you they will generally go the extra mile to help you shop.”

15. “I use my husband’s office chair and sit while I cook. It also has wheels so I can just push myself around the tile floor in the kitchen.”

16. “Meal planning: On Sundays, I try to plan out menus for the week, based on what I have on hand. From that, I can make a short grocery list and minimize my time and energy there.”

17. “First, I buy my groceries to be delivered – skips one of the hardest steps in food prep! Then, I try to purchase things I can either heat quickly or ones that can be put in the oven for a long time. I can’t babysit the stove/oven so anything complicated or high maintenance is out. But, between that and my weekly produce delivery I can feed myself in a pretty healthy and low-maintenance way.”

18. “Prepping my food at a table where I can sit down. I’m able to chop, peel, etc. without being in pain.”

19. “Meal delivery services have changed my life for the better. You don’t have to go to the grocery store because the ingredients are shipped directly to your door. This is really helps me get through the week.”

20. “If I need help during meal prep or cooking, I ask for it and feel no guilt. I struggled with that for a while because cooking has always been primarily my responsibility, but I can no longer do it all by myself whether because my hands are too swollen and achy or my feet hurt so bad I can’t stand on them.”

21. “Accept degrees of your ability. Cook days you’re able to, make extra to have leftovers available (frozen and refrigerated). Also have easy-to-heat-up options, and if all else fails, have peanut butter and bread or crackers on hand.”

Originally published: August 18, 2017
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