Chronic pain suffers and lovers of cooking discussion

This is something I’ve been wanting to do ever since I found the cooking section in the old craftster site, but always gave up half ways writing it out. So, this time, I’m going to change tactics, and let this be open for discussion (which after thinking about it, that would be very prudent).

First off, each person’s situation is going to be different, so I can’t possibly give help to everyone. Which is why, I hope, other sufferers will tell what they do in order to make living easier.

  1. Support (This is something I don’t really have, so everything passed this I’m on my own). If you live with other family members have them help out as much as their willing. If even the smallest of things are cleaned, that goes a long long way.
  2. Cleanliness is impossible. Don’t fret over trying to relive your glory days. They are gone. The best thing to do is keep the most important things/areas cleaned.
  3. You never know if your body is going to allow you to stay upright for long, so prepare your meals well in advance. Most likely you have a regime that you follow for cooking, so prepare what you can far far in advance.

Example
Right now I have about 3lbs of cubed fried chicken in the freezer, along with several batches of noodles, and frozen vegetables. So the only things I have to do is combine the ingredients, and peel the potatoes and voila, I have a meal set.
In the fridge, are butter, milk, and two blocks of aged Asiago and mozzarella ready for making alfredo sauces which I can use the cubed chicken with, as well.
As much as I like having fresh veggies, I do have dried, and canned veggies for when the pains are too great. Garlic powder, dried onions, onion powder, dried parsley are some of the nonfresh things I always keep on hand.

  1. Baking bread, making noodles, learn to use a machine. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts here. If you’re like me and hate using machines, just let it go. It took me years to finally give up, and believe me, a machine kneaded bread is still far far better than store bought. Also, learn to make no-knead breads. There’s actually quite a few breads you can make that don’t need kneading, and if you learn enough of them, you can still make the breads you like by using different kinds of pans to keep them close to form.
  2. Hamburger helpers can be made from scratch, and are much better than boxed. Plus, they’re not that hard. (Mental note to self; Start an easy recipe post and put up some of my easy recipes that help to save time and strength).
  3. Always have some processed foods on hand for bad days.

Helpful Solutions / Utensils

  1. Move to wooded utensils, glass dishes, and metal mixing bowls. Wooden utensils help with cleaning by keeping pans from being overly scratched up and food sticking to them. Glass is easy as pie to clean, even cheese comes off easily enough. Metal mixing bowls are light…Like, really really light compared to glass bowls.
  2. Wash wooden utensils and cutting boards first. If you’re like me and have to wash dishes by hand, make sure these get washed first, as there’s no telling if you’ll be able to stay standing long enough to finish them. If you can’t get to them, don’t fret. You can boil the utensils in a pan on the stove, and if you have at least two cutting boards, you have four surfaces to work with. So you can alternate sides and boards to keep things as clean as possible. Plus, if you have fairly thick wooden utensils, you can sand them down a bit.
  3. Clean slowly. If you’re passing by the kitchen, clean what you can. Even if it’s only two dishes, that’s still two dishes less. Every little bit helps, and you definitely don’t want to leave a sink full of dishes for too long.
  4. Be prepared to replace dishes. You have a favorite plate/cup? Use it as rarely as possible, because you are going to break it or damage it in some weird way that you can’t explain.
  5. Have a chair and a stool in the kitchen. Stool so you can sit a bit when it’s ok, and a chair for when the pain is too great.
  6. Get a claw/grabber that’s just a hair longer than your reach. This makes picking things you drop a lot easier. The reason for it being too long is so you can stay in one place while grabbing many things. And instead of taking the things directly from the claw, use it to place them on higher surfaces or directly in the trashcan. This will save a lot in effort and energy.
  7. Kitchen shears. (For me, I tore up my left arm in 2002 and even opening the simplest of bags hurts like mad. So scissors are a very useful tool).

Specialized Cookware

  1. Crock pot / Slow cooker with stoneware insert. The stoneware, even though heavier, is still much easier to clean and manage even if forgotten for lengthy periods of time.
  2. Griddle. Can cook far more at a time (less standing) and are usually no worse than cleaning a large pan.
  3. Bread machine or noodle machine. A bread machine would be useful for both making bread and noodles. A noodle machine is too small for bread making, but still, homemade noodles/breads are still far far far far tastier, heh.
  4. Ice cream buckets for flours, sugar, etc. The plastic ice cream buckets are extremely nice in that they have handles, large openings, and since they’ve started making square ones are really easy for organization. Plus, one can use those plastic mesh thingies (don’t know the word for them) to make fancy coverings so they look prettier and go with your kitchen decor.

Food Prep

  1. Yukon Gold and Russet potatoes are just fine with most the skins on. So you can save time and energy by cutting off only the eyes and bad spots. Plus the skins are soft enough for soups, stews, and mashed potatoes. (Note: I have used small purple potatoes and those are fine, too. However, I’ve never used them any larger than about 2 inches, so I don’t know what they’re skins are like).
  2. When freezing cubed vegetables and meats, be sure to shake the bag or bowl about every hour to keep them from sticking together. As per Magpie’s tip, use a baking sheet to put the cubed/chopped stuff on in the freezer to keep them from sticking together, and if your freezer is not as cleaned as you’d like, just cover it with parchment paper or paper towels to keep the odors from contaminating the food.

Other

  1. Spinach : I just learned this recently. Frozen fresh spinach shatters like glass. That makes it sooooo muuuuch easier than cutting it.
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Here’s one thing I found made by Ball that are great to keep broth from turkeys and hams. Plus they’re lightweight so easy to clean, as well as the perfect size for the meals I make.

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In terms of easy recipes and also for cooking tips in general, Low Spoons Gourmet is a good resource. Your cleaning tips are really helpful and include some I hadn’t considered before.

This line is hilarious and relatable:

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Oh, agreed about the dishes! 2-4 are easy, washing as you go is quick and painless. The whole counter after a marathon of food prep? Sigh, no thank you. This is when that chair or stool to sit down comes in handy.

We have a bunch of food sensitivities here so we keep some fast and easy snacks on hand that prevent the eating of forbidden items because one has gotten to hungry to resist. I do a lot of big batch cooking, freeze the extra, and have figured out how to combine a lot of the same things in different ways for interest.

Here is a tip of my own about freezing, I do it in a single layer on a baking sheet and once frozen put the items into a zipper baggie or container, that way they don’t stick together.

Also, I have a philosophy gained from the wise and beautiful @Edel who taught me that if you love something the best and it’s your favourite, you should use that thing! Don’t leave it waiting for the right time, life is short! Enjoy every moment that comes to you knocking on your door with an invitation.
If something breaks, the thrift store is full of amazing new treasures available for next to nothing :slightly_smiling_face:

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I’m generally physically functional, but most of this applies to depression and mental health crap, too. Single dish meals are huge-- we do “Pasta and” which is pasta of choice with a protein and a frozen veg, plus whatever you want to season with (which can be plain yogurt or oil & vinegar, something from a bottle, or as fancy as you want.) Takes 20 minutes, can encompass whatever you have in the kitchen, minimal clean-up. Anything that you can easily double & have a meal’s worth of leftovers is good, too.

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Painless being a relative term here, heh, but man, it takes me a while to get a holiday meal cleaned up…Quite a while, heh.

Since my kids have moved out it’s just me and the wife, so I don’t have to have entire meals made up. Thus I just make my “ingredients” easier. Soups, stews, some Italian cooking, etc can be made relatively quick, so just have everything ready to go.

Oh my gosh, that’s a good idea. I’ll add this to the list above…Though, I’ll add covering them up with some parchment paper or something else (sigh, even my freezer and fridge need a good cleaning. IT’S ON MY TODO LIST, DADGUMMIT).

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You can freeze things in a single layer inside the zipper bag too, I’ve done that. Then they are relatively flat so take up less room standing side by side in a row of flat frozen packets. I do this with soup and sauces, also cooked ground meat. If I ever need just half the amount, it’s usually thin enough to cut off just the right sized piece.

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I’m following this! I don’t have chronic pain but I do have a chronic disease that limits my energy. When I’m not working I divide cooking and cleaning in many tiny tasks over the course of a day but it’s an issue when I’m working. I can’t afford not to work. My partner works in the hospitality business and works evening shifts that include dinner, which means I normally eat alone. I have a few go-to quick recipes, or I batch cook during the weekend (which isn’t always possible because I also need energy for other things). When I’m really trying to save energy I get microwave meals. These days those are low salt and full of veggies so they’re not an unhealthy choice, but they are rather bland + no fun, I love cooking.

One of my go-to quick dinners is noodles. I get a bag of precut veggies and straight to wok udon noodles and a protein. I stir fry the protein and the veggies and at the same time I make a sauce of a few tablespoons of peanutbutter, a little bit of soy sauce and fish sauce + a bit of water. Then I add the noodles and the sauce to the protein and veggies. All in all this takes less than 15 minutes and doesn’t require lots of cleaning and you still get the satisfaction of preparing your own meal.

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Ooh, I need to find out where to get udon around here!

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I need to reorganize the first post. :cold_sweat:

Anyhoo, here’s something I just thought of and will add when I feel better and am sitting at my computer (using my phone right at the moment to get used to the mobile version, heh).

Washing dishes by hand

  1. Use a tote or a large basin that can sit on a counter to wash very heavy items. I’ve noticed it’s been getting harder and harder to wash the few cast iron things I use.
  2. Use a light weight folding table if you can’t keep up with the cleaning to use for a temporary surface. Try with all your might to train yourself to put it away so you will have it whenever you need it. (I have a 6 ft by 2 foot folding table that can be set to three heights so I can sit or stand in front of it. Though it’s too darn big. The manufacturers need to make a 3 foot one, heh)
  3. Keep things out of the sink. If you cannot keep up with the dishes, the best way to deal with the bacteria growth in the sink is to keep things dry. Though, be mindful of dishes with hard stuck on food residue.
  4. Things you may want to have as tools to help clean dishes, are a toothbrush, a bristly brush, a dull knife (bent if you need to get into odd angles), a scouring pad, and vinigar. Unfortunately, I haven’t found an easy and pan safe way to remove a lot of stuck on food. Vinigar works the best, but every so often I have to resort to using something harder as my arms just don’t have the strength.
  5. I really don’t think I have to mention this, buuuuut, don’t wash things that don’t need it. Coffee pots, tea kettles, and the cup your drinking out of at this moment can be used more than once. Just note, vinigar is a chronic sufferer’s friend. An example of all this, I bought a cast iron tea kettle years ago and have only rinsed it out after every use, and I haven’t noticed any off tastes to the teas I make. My tea kettle that I use on the stove is only for boiling water, so a soaking with vinigar once a week is fine, and my pour over, coffee cup, and French press only get rinsed out at the end of the day (though, I do drink really really strong coffee. As my wife says “I see you’re drinking a little water with your coffee”).
  6. If you can afford it, get a pull down faucet. I had bought one just for doing large dishes, but for my pains when they got worse, it has been nothing but awesome. It’s so nice having the faucet out of my way.

Welp, my brain has had enough thinking right now. Heh!

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Today I will start to work again. I expect the first day to be quite exhausting so I’ve bought a microwave meal. I have however meal prepped breakfast today - there are breakfast burritos for the whole week in the freezer. I’ve made a sandwich for lunch and I normally make a thermos of coffee in the morning. Unfortunately there’s only 1 vending machine at work (that only sells candybars) and there are no shops close to my workplace at all. That means meal prep or go hungry. In a previous job we had a pretty good affordable restaurant so when I was really tired I’d grab lunch there.

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Today I used the last of my chicken and noodles I made about two weeks ago.

Since this is something I can do without thinking, I can make this in about 30 to 40 minutes with very little effort. I had already cubed carrots, mushrooms, celery, and the noodles and grilled chicken in the freezer, and I had frozen peas, greenbeans, and I forgot the corn (EEEK). In the fridge, I have this stuff called Better than Bouillon roasted chicken, a jar of chopped garlic, and a sweet onion that I’ve been using.

First I chopped up a potato and boiled that with the vegetables, chicken, salt, and pepper, and a smidgin of sage and celery seed. Then I added a small amount of milk and about a tablespoon of white wine. Then brought it back to a boil, then added the frozen noodles using a spoon to flip them over and a fork to break them apart once they began thawing.
After that, I scooped it over some Idahoan mashed red potatoes in the bowls.
Quick (enough) and painless (sort of).

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I’ve got RA so have pain + exhaustion. Fun! :roll_eyes:
We do have a dishwasher so after I run it I have my boyfriend unload it. I actually like unloading it but I don’t like how he loads it so I’d rather load. I have 4 steps to cleaning my kitchen (assuming the dishwasher is empty and ready to be loaded).

  1. Throw away garbage on the counters and put everything away that should be in a different spot or in a cupboard. ie, throw away empty wrappers, hang up the potholders, and put the oil back in the cupboard.
  2. Rinse dishes and load dishwasher, run if full
  3. Hand wash pots, pans, whatever is left
  4. Wipe down counters

Even when I really don’t want to/feel horrible I make myself do 1step. 1 step, it’s so small, Iknow I can do 1 step! And maybe I need to take breaks in between doing part of that step. And maybe I sit on the couch for an hour in between steps. But eventually it’s done or I’ve at least made a dent that will lighten the load for my boyfriend to finish or myself to finish the next day.

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So much this. A wet smelly pile of dishes is so much harder to deal with, especially if you have to move some back out of the sink to have space to wash things. :tired_face:

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Dinner Friday and Monday:

Same basic recipe as described in my earlier post, takes about 10 minutes to make, good thing Mr. Imma doesn’t eat at home a lot because he is tired of it.

Today and tomorrow I will have social engagements that include food so no cooking for me!

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Great tips and ideas, especially 1 step at a time. Those steps don’t need to be more than baby steps. They are still progress.

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Yesterday I made Surinamese style chana masala with roti. On Sundays I make some time to meal prep and I still had enough breakfast burritos.

The recipe is simple: lots of veggies, chop them up, add spices, stew, serve. There’s enough food for the next few days, 250 gr veggies per serving and it only has to be reheated when I get home from work.

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I may have been a bit wrong in thinking owning an electric griddle was dumb. I caved and bought one a few days ago just for certain non-meat foods and it has been great. much less time having to stand, and oddly enough, cleaning it off is way easier than my cast iron flat pan.
Now, granted, I could have always purchased a regular pan for my stove, but thinking about it and having used it, it is much nicer on my knees and back. The cooking is far more controlled, and I can cook far more than one or two things at a time. So it has already saved me a lot of trouble. Plus, thanks to my faucet being so high above the sink, it’s no more difficult to clean than any other pan. It’s bloody light. WOOOT!

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Great thread.
I have multiple issues with cooking. I actually used to enjoy doing it, but these days, nah.
I have had back issues for decades and now have OA and other, related, autoimmune disorders, along with depression, all of which make cooking harder, as you know.
The biggest thing for me though is that several years ago (12 or 13 I think) I went from enjoying cooking to panicking about it in about 5 seconds. Haven’t worked that one out yet.
I am slowly improving, and twice recently have helped my boys make marshmallow crispie cakes. Usually I chase them out the kitchen when I’m cooking (increases triggers having them there, for some reason), so this really was a big win for all of us :+1::smiley::smiley:
I nearly always sit down to wash up - I have a perching stool my ex left when he moved out, it’s now invaluable - and often do when cooking too.
My boys have the opportunity for a hot meal at school so 4 nights they get their own tea, 1 night we usually go to a friend, so that’s only 2 hot meals I need to worry about most weeks.
These are usually really simple - really just heating stuff up rather than ‘cooking’ but I do pasta with a homemade sauce quite often (that’s a recent improvement from pasta with a jar of sauce).

I agree with getting family to help, when they will, with jobs around the house - not just in the kitchen. Those baby steps to doing things can be so useful, works on me with jobs and even works on boys when they don’t want to go to school! Lol, no way I’m letting them stay at home all day, they stop me doing stuff (like watching decent telly while I’m crocheting, serious stuff man.)
Yes, a sink full of dishes can make starting the washing up harder, but soaking pans, and crockery if it’s been sat dirty for a bit, makes them so much easier to wash.
I still have plastic stuff from when boys were little, which I keep thinking of getting rid of. Then I have a wobble, don’t keep up with washing up and they make a useful emergency backup. I also have paper plates for when things get really bad.
Still trying to teach boys how to clean up when they make a mess, it’s getting better but slow going.
I have issues with my hands and wrists (that’s the OA) and I use gadgets when I can to make life less painful - electric can opener, things to help open jars, larger grip utensils, veg masher with a horizontal handle rather than a vertical one, seemingly little things, but each makes a difference.

Just realised, how much I’ve written, sorry :wink: hope something is of use to someone.