Cooking at home can save money and help you take control of your own diet. While pre-packaged foods and fast foods are convenient, they can also contain a lot of fat, sugar and salt. Some packaged foods are also not as nutritious as fresh food. Even if you don’t have the energy to cook every day, knowing the basics can help you add variety and good nutrition to your diet. Cooking is also a great hobby and creative outlet if you like tweaking and coming up with your own recipes.
Every person with disabilities is different, so the lifestyle adaptations you make to cook will also be different. But here is a list of general guidelines to help make home cooking easier with your existing abilities.
Using the right tools
Finding the right tools for your situation will help you prepare food properly and keep you safe. Some suggestions for adaptive tools include:
- repurposing existing tools. For example, if you have difficulty holding a knife, you might find a pizza slicer or pastry cutter works better for you.
- pans and cooking utensils with thick, non-slip handles. Weighted handles might help if you have tremors in your hands. Taping rubber foam around existing handles will also be helpful.
- tools in bright colours to help you tell them apart. Cutting boards in different colours can be helpful to keep meat and vegetables separate. Coloured measuring cups can also help when measuring dry or wet ingredients
- tongs in place of spatulas to help place and flip food in a pan
- oven gloves to protect from burns
- can or jar openers
- cutting boards with suction cups to avoid slipping, or spikes that hold food in place on the board
- pivot knives that fix to a cutting board and make it easier to cut things
- disposable gloves, if you are handling a wheelchair at the same time as your food
- non-slip mats to place under cutting boards, bowls or pans
- air fryers, microwaves or toaster ovens in place of stoves
Store tools and equipment in a way that’s easy to access. Place frequently used things out in the open. Less frequently-used items can go on open shelves or in drawers. If you rarely use it, you can store it in a cupboard.
For safety, it’s always best to know what you can and can’t do within your limits. You can adjust your behaviour to account for these limitations. Even if you do something differently from others, if the task is completed, there’s no wrong way to do it!
- If you have a weak grip or hand tremors, it may help to cut slowly and deliberately, with the point of the knife never leaving your cutting surface. You can also try warming up your cutting motions before cutting the food.
- if you get tired easily, it’s all right to take breaks. Factor in that time while you’re cooking (and try not to leave things on an open flame while you’re resting)
- If you have sensory disabilities, use your other senses to tell you how your food is cooking. See how your food smells, looks or sounds to decide when to proceed to the next step.
- If you have visual disabilities, place pots and pans on the burner before turning the heat on. Turn burners off before removing pots and pans. This lowers the risk of burns and keeps you safe.
Prepping the kitchen
Your workspace is also important while you’re cooking. While a full kitchen renovation may be beyond many of us, a safe and usable kitchen starts with the following:
- Make sure your kitchen is well-lit. Avoid shiny surfaces that can cause glare, especially if you have visual disabilities.
- Your working surface should match your height, to reduce any extra strain on your body. This applies if you prefer working sitting or standing up.
- To store and reach cooking items more easily, try racks on wheels, sliding cabinet doors, drawers and pull-out shelves.
- Keep the kitchen well-ventilated, especially if you’re cooking anything smoky or spicy.
Work with the ingredients that make it easy for you to cook and prepare food. This can include choosing foods that are
- pre-washed or pre-cleaned
When buying packed or tinned foods, be mindful of the fat, salt or sugar content, especially if you are on a diet that restricts certain components.
You can also
- buy spice mixes or food mixes instead of preparing things from scratch
- use online shopping if shopping in-person is difficult or not possible
- ask for help to cut, prepare or marinate raw ingredients if you shop at a supermarket. The staff who prepare meat and fish will be happy to help.
- store ingredients where they are easy to reach while still at a safe temperature
- store dry ingredients in containers with wide mouths that are easy to scoop from
Staying on recipe
Recipes can help you understand how to prepare food step by step with accurate measurements. However, even local favourites can be complex! When you’re actively cooking, keep the following in mind
- use notes or reminders to stay on track with each step
- set a timer for certain steps if you need one
- do all the ingredient preparation such as washing, peeling and cutting so you can move easily from step to step.
- allow yourself more time to cook and don’t rush.
- plan ahead and write up your daily meals in advance, so you know what ingredients to get or what you have to prepare in advance.
- bulk recipes like curry, soup and sambal are great to make in advance, store and reheat. However, they do require time, energy and storage space. Choose to make those on days when you have the energy or help you need. Cooking small batches daily is also fine.
- take breaks when you need to take breaks. Fatigue can also cause kitchen accidents.
These tips should help make it easier to cook at home. You can use as many or as few of these tips as you need to take the stress out of making and planning your own meals. If you still need assistance, reach out to others in your community for help and advice. Happy cooking and eating!
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