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Cooking With Arthritis

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Arthritis can make many everyday jobs more difficult and painful. A few helpful tips or strategies may help. This is a guide about cooking with arthritis.
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July 6, 2006

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,

Thanks,
Judy from Birmingham, AL

Answers

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.

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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.)

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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.

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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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