Cooking With Arthritis

I am nearly 65 years old and have a lot of arthritis throughout my body. I have a very hard time bending down or lifting anything that is even slightly heavy. My question is: Does anyone have any suggestions as to how I can better organize my kitchen in order to lessen the amount of bending and lifting I do? I really love to cook, but it has become a real chore,

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Thanks,
Judy from Birmingham, AL

July 6, 20060 found this helpful

First of all, you need to make a list of the things you use most frequently. Chances are, it is a few pots/pans, utensils, and dishes/glasses. Look at the storage space you have. How can you put these things so they'll be most accessible for you? Don't be hesitant to be unconventional.

For instance, my dishes are in a bottom cupboard. My reason for that was that I wanted my children to set the table and unload the dishwasher; and putting the dishes down below made it easier for them to do these tasks independently. Think "outside the box", as they say.

It might be easier for you to keep the saucepans you use most on the first shelf at eye level. (Or even leave them on the stove.) Keep the cooking utensils in a drawer close to the stove. Put seldom used items above and below (or better yet, put them in a box and store them--the less clutter, the easier to maintain organization.) You don't have to get rid of them, but if you're only using things once or twice a year, you don't need them in the kitchen.

As much as possible, use lightweight items--especially the cooking pans, etc. Put the cast iron away for when you have helpers around. It is easier to use several smaller, lighter baking dishes than one great big one.

If you have a utility cart, use it to carry things for you! If you don't have one, watch the garage sales or thrift stores for one. Use it to move groceries to the pantry, casseroles to the table, etc. (It is also good for things like carrying laundry baskets, cleaning supplies, etc.)

Here is something that has always amazed me that people have to be told....but....sit to work whenever possible! If you are peeling potatoes or slicing vegetables, sit at the table. Bring a tall stool into the kitchen and use it whenever possible! (Like sitting at the stove, or the sink.) Move baking operations to the table, as well.

Keep a good pair of kitchen shears handy. Use them to open bags and boxes and to cut chicken apart, etc.

Use labor-saving appliances if you have them! Put them on the counter where they will be easily accessible.

Keep a dishpan of soapy water in your sink when you are cooking. Use it to immediately wash things like knives, whisks, graters, measuring cups and so on before the food dries on them--you will lighten your load later.

If you have a pantry; put the heavy stuff on shelves that allow you to do very little lifting to get them onto your utility cart. While it isn't as thrifty, buy things in smaller containers, or get someone to help you bring in the bigger containers of ingredients, then transfer them to smaller containers for storage.

Plan your cooking sessions. Look at how you do things. Just because you have always done things in a certain order, doesn't mean it is the only right way to do them. If you take medication for your arthritis, plan your heaviest chores for when the medicine is at its most effective.

Call your local agency that helps the aging, and ask them if they have publications that may be helpful to you. They may even have someone to come out to your home to help you reorganize. I am an occupational therapist; and this is one of the things we look at in helping people stay as independent as possible.

If you have specific problem areas, please post--this forum is a great way to get ideas that might work for you!

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July 6, 20060 found this helpful

On thing I forgot! Do try to get yourself a reacher, or ask for one for the next gift-giving occasion. They are available in several styles, and at places like Walmart. They can be invaluable for picking things up that you've dropped, or lightweight items on low shelves; as well as bringing things down from higher shelves.

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July 6, 20060 found this helpful

I feel your pain! I found myself choosing not to use favorite cookware in my lower cabinets or even food items in my refrigerator because it hurt too much to bend over to retrieve the item. I finally had a lightbulb moment and made some changes that have helped me immensely. I got out the yardstick and started measuring the door opening widths of my lower cabinets and how deep the cabinets were. Then I headed to the dollar store (Dollar General, Family Dollar, Dollar Tree)with my tape measure in my pocket and started looking at their assortment of plastic storage baskets, bins, boxes, and dishpans. I figured out which ones would work together to fit on the shelves in my lower cabinets. I did move a few of my seldom used items to a shelf in my garage. The rest I grouped together according to use or type and set it in a plastic basket. One basket has cake pans and pie pans of various sizes: another has all the lids to my saucepans, another has my plastic storage containers etc. etc. These "filled" baskets all fit into my lower cabinets, some in front of the others. I took a wooden dowel rod and cut it to the length that is the same as the depth of my cabinets, 24 inches. I screwed a L shaped hook into one end of the dowel rod and I use this to "hook" any of the baskets or containers and pull it forward. It is much easier to pick up a basket and choose what you want out of it than it is to kneel and grope around in the cabinet while your knees and back are screaming! If the item you want is in the basket at the back of the cabinet it's very easy to just pull out the front baskets and set them aside for a moment. I keep my "hook" in the cabinet where I use it. My very favorite storage "baskets" turned out to be the regular sized cat litter pans from Dollar General! (Only $2.00!) They fit my cabinets well and had straight sides (Wal Mart's are slanted) so things stack and store in them better. (Make sure the baskets you choose will slide out the cabinet door easily. Ones that are too wide will defeat the purpose.) Best of all........the cat litter pans fit perfectly.....side by side...on the lower shelves of my REFRIGERATOR! No more stray items disappearing for months in the lower back of my refrigerator! I can just pull out the whole pan and choose what I want and slide the whole thing back in the refrigerator quickly! This has made cooking so much easier for me......it is actually fun again and not a dreaded chore. I also love the grabber/gripper things. The ones I have are called Gopher. They are worth every cent of the $10.00 they cost! I have one in my basement laundry room..........GREAT for pulling the dry clothes out of the dryer! I have one in my kitchen........great for retrieving papers or items that fall under the table or behind the couch.........or at the back corner of your closet or under your bed! I have one in my car. It's a "Grandma car" with a big trunk. Sometimes things slide out of my reach in the trunk........or in the back seat too......and I can get the item with my Gopher. Perhaps you can adapt some of my ideas to your cirumstances and make your life easier. I think it would be a nice gift from a son or daughter.......to help your mother "redo" her cabinets in some way to make her life easier. It wasn't much fun when I pulled everything out of my cabinets and rearranged them. I was wishing I didn't have this "independent" streak a mile wide.....and had asked my daughter to come help me! I did get it done though and it has made things so much easier for me.

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July 7, 20060 found this helpful

Thank you so much, Grandma Margie and Jilson for your wonderful ideas to help me live with arthritis. I kept thinking "why didn't I think of that" LOL!! I do have a grabber but don't use it nearly as much as I should. I keep thinking I should figure out a way to make a "holster" for it, so I have it with me at all times. As for anyone else with ideas, keep them coming. Thank you so much. Judy

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July 11, 20060 found this helpful

My sister has RA and osteoarthritis as well. She keeps just about everything at waist level in her kitchen. She bought a shelving unit made for shoes and put it on the kitchen counter. This adds extra storage at waist level. It has been such a good idea that I think I might buy her another one.

Also, I wanted to mention that I've considered using some of the shelves in my linen closet to store canned goods. I cant bend down low to get the ones I want any more. Maybe this is an idea you can adapt or use..

Best of luck.

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July 11, 20060 found this helpful

ALONG WITH THE SUGGESTIONS YOU ALREADY HAVE, YOU MIGHT CONSIDER BOXING UP (HOPEFULLY WITH HELP) ALL THE DISHES, PANS AND UTENSILS YOU DON'T THINK YOU'LL USE. STORE THEM UNDER A BED OR IN A GARAGE FOR A COUPLE OF MONTHS TO MAKE SURE YOU HAVEN'T PUT AWAY SOMETHING YOU REALLY NEED. AFTER THE TIME HAS PASSED EITHER PASS ON THE BOX(ES) TO FAMILY MEMBERS JUST SETTING UP HOUSEKEEPING OR DONATE TO CHARITY. MY MOTHER LOST HER HOUSE IN A FIRE AND SHE WAS THRILLED TO GET A BOX OF KITCHEN UTENSILS FROM A FRIEND.

NOW YOU HAVE LOTS OF ROOM TO STORE THE NEEDED THINGS WHERE YOU CAN REACH THEM.

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July 11, 20060 found this helpful

Make sure your larger cooking pans have helper handles (handles on both sides) so you can get a more solid grip.

Also, how are you about reaching? A pot and pan holder suspended from the ceiling might help.

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July 11, 20060 found this helpful

I have arthritis in my neck and shoulders and have been operated on three times. I purchased an inexpensive white wide storage cabinet. and put my dishes, pans etc where it was easy for me to reach. I gave away my heavy stuff and use only light weight items. If you are alone, just use the same ones over and over and keeping them where it's convenient for you. To do dishes, I put a tall wide bottomed pan upside down in the sink and place the dish pan on that so no bending into the sink. I leave my most frequently used pots or pans on the stove all the time. I purchased from Pampered Chef two round utinsel holders, one for plastic and one for others and leave them on the counter. I also purchased a wire divider and keep my silverware in it on the counter top. Another one holds paper plates, plastic utensils etc. When I need a full pot of water, I use pitchers to fill it up. And to empty it afterwards. I purchased a spaghetti cooking pan so I don't have to carry it to the sink to get the pasta out or else I use a wire strainer of appropriate size to scoop out the pasta. I always use reachers.. having several around the house as I find it annoying to have to look for one. In my higher kitchen cabinets, I use the reachers to put away light items and use the bottom shelf for heavier things. I keep all my spices and small things like that in a light-weight rubber coated wire rack with three shelves in it on my kitchen wall at waist level. I also purchased at a tag sale (where I got a lot of the items mentioned) a plastic coated wire light-weight unit to keep other kitchen pantry items on and are easy to reach. In my fridge I have two large white plastic lazy susan type round things which turn at the touch of a finger and make me reach much less. I also had to purchase a refrigerator with a freezer on the bottom as my neck couldn't take the bending into the fridge. Hope you can use some of these ideas. And I empathize with how tough Mr. Arthur Itis makes our lives, but we can simplify it quite a bit by making adjustments. I'm an optomist and see opportunities in every challenge. Make sure you keep as limber as you can for as long as you can. Do gentle exercises recommended by professionals and even use pools for exercising.

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July 11, 20060 found this helpful

What about a rolling cart. Make sure it has a wheel lock you can press with your foot. But maybe that can help?

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July 13, 20060 found this helpful

I have given away all of my cast iron pots and pans; well seasoned and a trademark of my cookery, they were greeted with joy. In their place, I've hung lightweight and inexpensive sautee and frying pans and saucepans against the wall of my kitchen in a pleasing and easy to reach pattern. One burner of my stove, (which is next to my sink) holds a nested arrangement of large pots. When one is needed, I use the burner in front of the nest and fill it by using the spray hose from the sink. To empty the pot, I use a smaller pot or four cup measure to dip out the liquid until it is nearly empty and easy to lift. I have a counter built at the correct height for me ( I am very tall) to avoid stooping and tiring. My cups are hung from hooks and dishes stored above the sink. My foodstuffs in cans are also in the dish cabinets, making retrieving a large can from the bottom shelf much easier than stooping and rising with it. I rely more on using some prepared foods (jams, syrups, biscuit mixes) than I once did. My heavy items (blender, coffee maker, kniferack, are permanently on a counter, although they occupy a lot of space in my small kitchen. (Hence the building of another, higher counter) A footpedalled trashcan is helpful. An electric can opener is a must. Some type of lid-gripper is useful. Frozen, fresh, and boxed foods are more frequent in my kitchen than canned goods. A good friend shops for me bi-weekly. In return, I make large pots of soups for her family, and cut coupons for her shopping.

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April 25, 20100 found this helpful

Thanks ladies for all your good advice and words of wisdom. It's much appreciated.

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