These are tips I’ve compiled by trial and error over the last 10 years. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and Secondary Fibromyalgia, but these are also useful for people with Primary Fibromyalgia, MS, Lupus, and other types of Arthritis.
1. There’s no shame in going with partially-prepared items. If you love homemade lasagne but can’t manage the whole recipe, it’s fine to buy jarred spaghetti sauce and pre-shredded mozarella cheese. While pre-sliced cheeses tend to be slightly drier than the blocks you grate at home, it’s better to have a close approximation of the meal you love than to go without.
2. Plan ahead–Make ahead. Certain parts of any meal can be made ahead of time. If you’re living with a chronic pain ailment you are probably already realising that you need to sprinkle more rest times throughout your day. The same goes with food prep.
3. Plan slicing, peeling, chopping tasks for mid-day if possible. The work that is hardest on your joints is best saved for the middle of the day when your joints are going to be the least inflamed and painful. Early in the morning and late at night are not good times for intensive hand work.
4. Peel potatoes at room temperature. Cold is crippling for arthritic joints and there is nothing colder than a spud fresh from the refrigerator. If you store your potatoes and sweet potatoes in the crisper drawer, set them out a few hours before you need to peel them. It’s even fine to leave them out all day, if you still work outside the home.
5. Pre-assemble all of your ingredients ahead of time. This is one tip that most professional cooks rely upon, and it’s a really great one when Arthritis meets the Kitchen. It costs fewer trips to the fridge and pantry, is less stressful and saves you from getting halfway through cooking a dish before realising that the Fibro Fog caused you to forget to buy eggs at the store.
6. Invest in Memory Foam slippers to wear in the kitchen. The stress on knees and ankles is an often-overlooked hiccup for those suffering from arthritis. Standing on a hard floor over cookpots can leave you sore and tired for days. Floor mats and throw rugs can be both decorative and protective, but they don’t cover the whole floor. Trips to fridge, sink and cupboards are much easier when the padding is in your shoes and not left on the floor.
7. Believe in Aids For about $10 you can find entire sets of opening-aids at most stores and online. Cans, jars, even soda bottles are much easier to deal with when you have a few handy pieces of plastic.
8. Handwash your flatware Knives, forks and spoons are pretty sturdy stuff and don’t tend to break when dropped. (And if you have arthritis, chances are there are a few dropped things in your past.) The hot dishwater is a very good therapy for your sore hands and keeps the inflammation down after cooking. You can still use your automatic dishwasher if you like; you’ll undoubtedly need it for glassware, plates and heavy pans. But the few minutes it takes to wash a few dishes can mean the difference between a painful evening and a restful one.
9. Always keep a bag of rice and a bag of frozen peas on hand. Literally. Your joints may prefer hot therapy or they may do better with cold therapy. If the cooking has left you cramped, you can either reach for the frozen peas OR zap the rice in the microwave for 2 minutes on medium power. (Empty the rice to a microwave safe dish or a fabric bag first. Sew old dishtowels together for a cute Rice Compress.) You’ll feel blessed relief. When you’re done, just put the peas back in the freezer and stash the rice in a drawer for next time.
Those are some of my better tips. If you have any to add, please feel free!