You’re injured, possibly recovering from surgery, and your only job now is to rest and recover. Your days are filled with elevating your leg, propping up your arm on pillows, staying on top of your pain medications, having friends and family wait on you, etc. Then life calls you back to reality. One of the most pressing get-back-to-life activities is to cook for you and/or your family. But there are challenges to cooking and baking while recovering from an orthopedic event. I’ve assembled 15 helpful tips about cooking while wearing a boot, cast, sling or being on crutches. Sift through all the tips to help you with your condition. Hint: my most important tip is the last one and applies to everyone. Read on kitchen warrior…
Tip #1 Accept Your Limitations
Go easy on yourself. Recognize it won’t be easy and expect everything you do to take longer than normal. Giving yourself more time will prevent rushing which produces anxiety, mistakes and possible new injuries!
Tip #2 Minimize Movement
Use an apron with pockets to hold your most essential cooking items (less movement = less chance of new injury). Slide pots, pans and dishes along the counter instead of lifting.
Tip #3 Use a Stool
Sit on a high stool (preferably with a back) while fixing meals.
Tip #4 Put Cooking Tools Within Reach
Ask someone to move pots, pans, dishes, and cooking utensils onto the countertop within easy reach.
Tip #5 Open Cans and Jars More Effectively
Don’t have an electric can opener? Shop for pull-top cans instead of standard cans. Another option is to ask a family member (or a friend to stop by) to open jar lids and lightly close them. Better yet, have them install an under cabinet jar/can opener!
Tip #6 Use Easy-To-Handle Bakeware
Use silicone bakeware – lightweight and flexible means it isn’t taxing on your hands and back.
Tip #7 Cut Smarter Not Harder
Use a cutting board that is on or made of a non-slip surface. This will make it easier for you to cut veggies and other items. You don’t need your hard work flying across the kitchen! If you prefer to cut your own vegetables use a food processor or mini-chopper.
Tip #8 Purchase Pre-Cut Veggies
Next to sliced bread, this is a gift to the injured and the rushed! Pre-cut veggies can be found in the produce section of most grocery stores. They may cost a bit more, but are well worth it when cooking one-handed.
Tip #9 Mix Ingredients with Ease
Use a stand-alone mixer allows you to add ingredients to the mixing bowl while the mixer does all of the stirring. But, don’t let the bowl get too heavy with ingredients – the point is to make it easier for you, not harder!
Tip #10 Maximize Your Microwave
It can be used for defrosting, cooking, even steaming of many items. Most microwaves have pre-set options for different types of food, which makes it easier to free your time to do other things. Also, look for recipes that encourage the use of a microwave in the meal preparation.
Tip #11 Purchase Items in Smaller Containers
Costco isn’t going to like this: Purchase smaller quantity containers, such as ¼ gallon milk cartons vs. gallon size. Lifting anything heavy with one arm, while on your crutches, in a sling or wearing an arm cast or brace can you make you lose balance and may put a strain on the injured area or on the compensating arm/leg. Too heavy includes pots and pans, kitty litter or detergent boxes, etc.
Tip #12 Use Small Kitchen Appliances
Using small kitchen appliance staples like a pressure cooker and slow-cooker to make side dishes is a snap! You probably know the versatility and convenience of convection ovens and slow-cookers, but did you know you can steam artichokes in a pressure cooker in just 11 minutes? How about making chocolate cake made in a pressure cooker? It’s yummy! You can find great pressure cooker recipes here.
Tip #13 Wear the Right Support Equipment
If you’re in a boot, you know you walk like a penguin (an uneven waddle). Overtime this may cause pain in your hips, back and other knee, especially if you’re an adult. And if you’re in the kitchen, chances are you’re on your feet. Check out our Even-Up. It’s our low-cost solution to preventing hip, back and knee pain! While working in the kitchen, it will make staying balanced on your feet much easier.
Tip #14 Place Your Crutches Upside Down
If you are using crutches and set them against a wall or a counter, you’ve probably experienced them creating a raucous noise when crashing down (possibly breaking/spilling something in the process). To avoid this, stand your crutches upside down on the flat top of your crutches vs. the tip. This works especially well in restaurants or in the classroom/office where there are lots of people mulling around. Stand your crutches upside-down if you have pets or small children, too.
Tip #15 My Best Tip!
Cook with “1-finger and a smile.” Point to where things are and ask for help! You’re in a vulnerable position where you are subject to injuring yourself further. If you’re used to being the solo chef, then use this opportunity to invite family and friends in your castle to teach them how to cook, just like you.
To truly enjoy yourself, you must surrender to their creations. Don’t worry how it looks or tastes. You are compromised and are in a special situation; this too shall pass. Be thankful you were helped and think of the memories you’ll create. You, your friends, and family will remember how they helped you and what you created together vs. the alternative (hearing your grunting, groaning and occasional expletives). But, if you’re like me – I cook to live vs. I live to cook – then odds are they’re already in the kitchen helping you. If not…ask for help!
Feel Better, Heal Better
Do you have a tip or two to share to help someone in the kitchen? Please share your family friendly idea, below!