Preparing and cooking a meal from start to finish can be a very exhausting exercise if you are not up to it. So consider asking for help from family members, carers, friends, council help (depending on eligibility), or pay for private domestic services.
When you are well enough to work in the kitchen, begin with an easy task first, such as making a cup of drink. Stay with easy tasks for a while before upgrading to more taxing tasks. Always progress slowly and test yourself out, rather than pushing yourself too quickly. There may be times when you will not feel as well, and not be able to perform certain tasks; then you may need to go back to a less taxing level for a while. Do not give up, as one day you may find the energy to go back to where you left off and continue to progress beyond that!
Performing some household tasks allows you to exercise your body and limbs, and help to prevent further physical de-conditioning. If you are experiencing pain in your muscles and joints, then consult your practitioner before working in the kitchen. When you are ready to take on some kitchen tasks, the following hints may be helpful.
Always plan ahead as part of your kitchen management strategy.
Try to build up a supply of frozen meals/food in the freezer ready to heat and eat in an emergency, or on those occasions when you are too exhausted to cook or have run out of time.
If you are too ill to cook, then ask for help from family/carers/council or private helpers, or arrange meals to be delivered. See Resources Guide.
Simplify every task you perform in the kitchen to reduce unnecessary work.
Instead of preparing a meal from start to finish, try breaking down the tasks into small chunks to be performed throughout the day.
An easier way to prepare meals is to cook all ingredients in one saucepan. Include any combination of meat, fish, beans, lentils, grains, vegetables, pasta, rice, and cover with stock or water, season to taste. If you would like to have it as soup, increase the amount of stock or water. Any leftovers can be frozen for another meal or eaten later, and means there is only one saucepan to wash.
Vegetables can all be steamed in one saucepan. Steaming inserts can be purchased from some supermarkets and department stores. They unfold to fit inside most medium size saucepans, to cook enough for one or more persons. Steaming vegetables retains more nutrients than other cooking methods.
Prepare some vegetables during the day when you feel well enough and store them in containers in the refrigerator for use later.
Buy pre-prepared frozen vegetables from the supermarket for when you run out of fresh vegetables, or when you are too tired.
If chopping vegetables is difficult to manage, then substitute with prepared frozen vegetables to save work.
Get help to organise the above strategy if necessary, so you are always ahead with meal preparation.
Keep an up to date shopping list so you can add to it before ingredients run low. This way you minimise the chances of essential items running out.
The shopping list can be placed on the front of the refrigerator and held there by magnets.
If you are not well enough to go shopping, other options include:
- ask friends, family, or council home carers to shop for you
- order by phone from stores that will home deliver, delivery charges may apply
- shop online from stores that accept orders over the Internet and home deliver, delivery charges usually apply
- catalogue shopping for household and personal items, ordering from the catalogue itself, by phone, or online
If standing is tiring and you are able to sit, a sturdy well balanced stool with lower back support and footrest will enable you to alternate between sitting and standing while working at the kitchen bench, as the task requires. Stools are made at different heights, so ensure you purchase one appropriate to your height. See Resources Guide.
Cooking in the oven is more difficult and requires extra energy unless you have a wall oven situated at waist level, so there is no need to bend down low. Be cautious of the oven heat as you open the door to reach inside, as it may adversely affect you if you are heat intolerant.
Use lightweight saucepans, utensils, and crockery where possible.
Soak dirty dishes, cutlery and saucepans in water if they are not being washed straight away, for easier washing later.
Washing each item as you use it saves dirty dishes piling up into a big wash at the end of the day, when your energy levels may be at their lowest, or use a dishwasher if you have one. Smaller bench top dishwashers are now available and may be an alternative.
Ask family members, carers and visitors to wash their own utensils, which will help them better understand your illness and how to assist you.
Group frequently used items together within easy reach on the kitchen bench at waist height, to avoid constantly reaching up or bending down.
Use a sliding action along the bench top instead of lifting, to help handle heavier items, placing a tea towel or mat underneath the object to avoid marking the bench.
Support yourself by leaning against the edge of the bench when working for extra stability.
Hold on to the edge of the bench for extra support if you need to bend down to pick up items. A long handled pick up stick, or reacher, may be used for light items, if bending is a problem. See Resources Guide.
If you are able to bend without support, the recommended method for bending is with knees bent and back straight. However, this method requires a great deal of muscle strength, joint flexibility, balance, and energy.
Sit on a low stool to reach for items lower down in cupboards, refrigerator, etc.
Consider purchasing any electrical appliance that will save you energy, such as microwave, electric can opener, bench top toaster-oven, small bench top dishwasher, etc.
If saving energy is a top priority, then do whatever works for you. For instance, if you find it easier, eat from a bowl using spoon or fork rather than from a plate using knife and fork. There is no need to apologise or justify your actions if this helps you.
Special dietary needs due to individual sensitivities and intolerances to certain foods may require changes to meal planning. Consult a qualified practitioner before making any changes. See Resources Guide.
Council Home Help
Contact your local council and ask to speak to the Intake Worker for services such as Home Help, Meals-on-Wheels, Personal Carer, etc.
Home Delivered Meal Providers
Choice Meal Service (Middle Brighton)
Phone: (03) 9592 2648
Katrina’s Kitchen (Murrumbeena)
Phone: (03) 9569 0488
Meals in a Moment (Mordialloc)
Phone: (03) 9580 7906
Or check the Yellow Pages Directory under Catering and Food Consultants, or Frozen Foods-Retail.
Recipe Books for people with allergies and food intolerances
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Allergy Unit
Published by Murdoch Books
ISBN 1 74045 179 1
Irresistibles for the Irritable
Published by Shepherd Works Pty Ltd
Independent Living Centre (Brooklyn)
Phone: (03) 9362 6111, Freecall: 1800 686 533 (Victorian Country)
Ask to speak to an Occupational Therapist for assistance and advice.
Victorian Aids and Equipment Program
A Victorian Government Program providing subsidised aids, equipment, and home modifications to support independent living. Brochure is available in a range of languages. Contact Department of Human Services Regional Intake and Response Service:
Freecall: 1800 783 783
Local Community Health Service in your area
Can assist with a range of services including Podiatry, Physiotherapy, Dietitian, Occupational Therapy, Speech Pathology, Counselling and social activities.