Convenience and Safety at Mealtimes.
When one has problems with vision, mobility, or coordination, working in the kitchen can become hazardous. Instead of giving up cooking for yourself and others, plan ahead to overcome those inconveniences and obstacles in the kitchen. Bring back the happiness found in making cookies with grandkids or hosting a meal for extended family members by following a few tips for safety and convenience in your kitchen.
1. Use the microwave instead of the stovetop. For folks in a wheelchair, reaching the stovetop and moving pots around on the burners can be hazardous because wheelchair users often sit at a lower level than the stovetop. So, learn all the things your microwave can do, and use it as much as possible. You can boil an egg in the microwave! Protect your hands and arms around ovens, stoves and microwaves by using extra-long padded oven gloves, like the ones used for barbecuing or grilling. Use microwave-safe containers that are the size and weight that you can handle easily.
2. Limit the use of knives. As someone who has often nicked my fingers with a knife while cutting vegetables, I look for ways to limit my use of knives. Use your food processor or chopper to chop the vegetables instead. Buy packaged salad vegetables which are already pared, shredded and chopped. Buy frozen vegetables that are already sliced. This saves time and might help you to eat more salads and vegetables. Instead of peeling and slicing potatoes for mashed potatoes, use boxed flake potatoes for mashed potatoes.
3. Have trouble with a manual can opener? Have trouble using an electric can opener as well? Try out models of electric can openers at the store to see how much pushing, turning, and pressure is needed to operate them. More and more cans have pull-tops, and those might be a good choice for you.
If you find that you still have difficulty opening cans, then replace many of those canned foods with frozen foods in bags. If you have some favorite food that just does not come frozen, like Ranch Style Beans, then recruit a kitchen helper to open the cans you might use in the next two days. Pour the contents into a re-closeable plastic zipper bag or a plastic storage container with a lid, and put the bag in the refrigerator. You can use the amount you wish to cook at one time, then put the bag back in the fridge. This is also helpful if you cook for just one or two people, because it eliminates food waste.
4. Eliminate bending and reaching. Move fridge items you use frequently, like the milk bottle, to upper shelves and door shelves of your refrigerator. Locate the dishes, pots and pans, and serving bowls in places where you don’t have to reach or bend over to get them. Use a reacher in the kitchen to reach and lift items. Move the racks in your oven so you don’t have to bend over so far to reach them. Metal safety bars are not just for bathrooms. Install a safety bar on a wall wherever you need help in standing up, like near shelves or cabinets where you bend over frequently.
5. See measurements clearly. Mark your plastic measuring cups and the handles of your measuring spoons boldly with permanent marker on the outside, so you can see the measurement clearly.
6. Reduce clean-up. Do all you can so you won’t have to wash lots of dishes, pots and pans. Line pans with foil. Use crock-pot liners. I have recently discovered crock-pot liners and found that they make the use of crock-pots even more convenient. And, when you are entertaining a large group, what’s wrong with paper plates and beverages in plastic bottles? Keep spills wiped up by keeping a cotton cloth mop or sponge mop handy.
7. Reduce obstacles and clutter in your kitchen. Step-stools and rugs have to go. These can cause falls in the kitchen. Clear the clutter on the countertops, the tables, the top of the fridge and the top of the microwave. Keep pets out of the kitchen during meal preparation. They can come in and beg for table scraps after everyone is seated and has eaten!
8. Use a rolling cart to move items from kitchen to dining room, or from stove to table for serving. You could use a small rolling microwave table as your cart. This will help you save steps when moving around the kitchen or the kitchen and dining room. You will be less likely to spill or drop the glasses and plates when using the cart for a load. Load it with ingredients from the pantry or cabinets, then roll over to your work space when preparing a recipe. After meals, load the cart and roll it up to the sink or the dishwasher.
Ask an occupational therapist for more ideas and for help in rearranging things in your kitchen. Making mealtimes more enjoyable, convenient and safer is worthwhile.
Or maybe you have a good tip of your own. I’d love to hear it.