Words: Laura Jean from https://ralifehacks.com/
When you are in pain or your energy is limited, oftentimes the last thing you feel like doing is cooking a meal. However, eating healthy home-cooked meals is an important investment in your health.
How can you save time and energy in the kitchen when you aren’t feeling well and still eat healthy? Set yourself up for success with the following five tips.
- Plan out your meals for the week
By planning ahead and not leaving meals to the last minute, you can avoid decision fatigue as well as last-minute trips to the grocery store to get an item that you don’t have on hand.
Meal planning can be accomplished in a variety of ways. In its simplest form, you can have “theme nights” for each day of the week to indicate what you will be eating. Think “Meatless Monday” and “Taco Tuesday”.
Weekly meal planning can also take the form of taking one day a week to plan out a new menu for each week. You can use a printable or digital planner (such as my printable meal planner) to record your meal plan, and you can form your grocery shopping list for the week based on the plan. This is a great way to be able to take advantage of grocery store sales for the week or foods that you might have an excess of in your pantry or refrigerator. You can then go to the grocery store (or order online and have it delivered to save even more energy) to ensure you have all the ingredients for the week.
Rotation meal planning is when you have a few weeks of weekly meal plans that you rotate through. This takes a considerable amount of time to set up originally, but once it is done it can be a simple way to have a variety in your meals with minimal effort once the plan is set up.
2) Double it up!
When you are having a good energy/ low pain day and can cook a meal, double the recipe and freeze the other portion to save for a day when you aren’t feeling up to cooking.
By doing so you can avoid the temptation to get unhealthy take-out or some processed food that won’t be very nutritious when you need the nutrients the most.
I love the product Souper Cubes which allows you to freeze the extra food in portion-controlled sizes for easy grab-and-go solutions.
You might also consider swapping a frozen meal with a friend. This will give you more variety in your menu but doesn’t require any additional preparation time on your part. Besides, food always tastes better when someone else makes it, right?
3) Have the right energy-saving tools for the job
You wouldn’t expect a mechanic to fix a car without his tools. Similarly, you must have the right tools for the kitchen to reduce the energy required to perform the tasks.
What tools should you have? Depending on what you struggle with in terms of pain or lack of energy, you might want want to consider investing in some of the following easy-to-use kitchen aids:
- Electric Can Opener (I love the Kitchen Mama hands free can opener for fuss-free opening)
- Jar opener (for easy jar opening despite weakness or hand pain)
- Wide handled peeler (a wider grip reduces the strain on the small joints in your hands/fingers)
- NutriBullet (easy chopping and blending of fruits or vegetables without a large mess to clean up. This is also perfect for making healthy smoothies.)
- Instant pot (perfect for one-pot meals and for days when you forget to take the meat out of the freezer since you can easily cook meat directly from frozen)
- Air Fryer (perfect for quick and easy cooking with minimal mess to clean up)
4) Use pre-cut or frozen foods
There is no shame in using shortcuts in the kitchen when you need to. Buying pre-cut fruit and veggies, already shredded cheese or sliced meat may cost a little more initially, but it’s still cheaper than eating take-out, makes it easier for you to prepare your meals and conserve your energy, and you can consider it an investment in your health.
Frozen foods are very handy to have on hand since they last so long in the freezer, so they can be cost-effective since you will rarely throw out freezer food due to it going bad, but with fresh food, it’s easy to waste some of it because it ripens too quickly.
There are a lot more frozen foods available than just peas and corn; you can get a variety of fruits and vegetables, already sliced and ready to go for easy handing.
Some of my favourite healthy frozen foods are:
- Cauliflower rice
5) Set up the kitchen to be chronic-illness-friendly
Aside from having the right tools to use in the kitchen, the kitchen layout itself can do wonders for contributing to a successful environment.
- Organize your cupboards to save your hands from having to lift, move, and rummage through multiple items to find what you want
- Use lazy Susans in the cupboard to have easy access to the items placed deeper in the cupboards
- Have a stool to sit on or an anti-fatigue mat to stand on to reduce the strain on your legs and feet while cooking
- Have a good supply of parchment paper on hand. This dramatically reduces the cleanup time when used for cooking or baking
- Use lightweight dishes, pots, and pans to reduce the effort required to handle everything
- Limit the number of hand-wash items in your kitchen, use the dishwasher to its full capacity and save your hands the work!
- Have a supply of disposal dishes (paper plates etc) for the really bad flare days so that no clean up is required afterwards
- Leave your most-used appliances on the countertop so you don’t have to lift the items out of the cupboard each time you use them. (I have my juicer and my air fryer out all the time because I use these daily. If I had to dig them out each time I used them I might just skip it altogether on a bad pain day, but because they are easily accessible it’s easy for me to use)
- Have a timer so you don’t rely on your memory and forget what’s cooking (hello brain fog!)
With a little planning and some forethought, you can greatly reduce the strain and stress of cooking and can enjoy the benefits of healthy home-cooked meals with minimal effort required.
About the Author
Laura Jean ~ RaLifeHacks com. Laura Jean is a Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior, chronic tea drinker, and Arctic islander. She is passionate about sharing simple solutions that make a big difference in managing life with a chronic illness. Through her blog and the Instagram page (Ra Life Hacks) she provides help and hope to those coping with the challenges of chronic pain.