Cooking Tips from People with MS: Part I

You can still enjoy your time in the kitchen with some of these tips.

I used to love to cook, but I took a long break from cooking when I started feeling overwhelmed with increased fatigue and cognitive dysfunction a couple of months back.

Now that the weather is a little cooler and my symptoms have lessened a bit, I have been anxious to get back in the kitchen. I'll admit, the first couple of meals were a frantic and frustrating affair. I had to take a deep breath and approach cooking more strategically.

I have put together a list of the tips that have helped me feel more comfortable and happy in the kitchen in the article Cooking with Multiple Sclerosis. Here are some of the cooking tips that people with MS have shared with me over the years:

“If you are temperature-sensitive or movement or standing is an issue: Crockpot and pre-made ingredients. Use frozen meatballs, veggies, and anything the grocery store sells peeled or cleaned.”

“I have cognitive issues and cooking is frustrating for sure. I want to invite friends over for dinner, look forward to my family coming over for dinner and I know my mind goes blank! I go to the grocery store, throw lots of things in my basket and know that once I am home, I’ll look in the fridge and then I can maybe make sense of what I can cook. I no longer stress over not being able to make something from scratch. Now I go to the store, buy something already made and my wee brain can have a break. I always make sure the products “ready made” are the healthiest choice I can make.”

“I use all prepackaged vegetables, frozen vegetables, anything already cut up & cleaned. I have also learned to use the microwave, not for meats, but pretty much everything else. And lets not forget that crockpot! Since it is too heavy for me to wash, I buy those bags; much easier clean up.

"I buy frozen pearl onions or frozen diced onions & use them in place of cutting onions since I only have the use of one hand. Sliced mushrooms from the store can be frozen (single layer till frozen) & then put in baggies. Also, grape tomatoes, baby carrots & peeled garlic all freeze well. If you can freeze it, you can cook with it!”

“I also loved to cook before my MS diagnosis. After MS I started doing things like forgetting how many cups I flour I had put in the batter. I also sometimes need a rest before finishing and if I feel pressure to get a dish cooked in a hurry it can make me even more fuzzy-headed. One thing that helps me a lot is making meals in the slow cooker. This way I can do all the work in the morning when my head is clearer. I don’t have to worry about getting it all done quickly, because dinner is hours away. I try to make really large batches of food so that I can freeze a few portions for days when I am too fatigued to cook at all.”

“I am a big, big fan of my slow cooker. Dump a bunch of stuff in there and let it go. The auto-off feature is a godsend. Take full advantage!”

“I have cooked since I was 12 years old, helping my mother prepare supper (meat, 3 vegetables & dessert) due to her rheumatoid arthritis. I now cook every now and then. When I do cook, I use a crockpot, make a casserole, prepare one-dish meals, or an easy bucket of KFC with microwavable vegetable side dishes. Many times my husband picks up something at a drive-thru on his way home from work. Many times I have to change plans and cancel my plans for preparing a meal or even reschedule a family holiday dinner because I am so fatigued. I accept the times when I don’t feel like cooking, but I try to have in mind a alternate Plan B that works for everyone.”

“I use not only a crockpot, but also a pressure cooker. I cook just about everything in it and quickly. I was a bit intimidated at first but once I got the hang of it, thanks to my hubby, I love it. I cook vegetables, soups, spaghetti sauce, pot roast, etc. I have a Cuisinart CPC-600 1000-Watt 6-Quart Electric Pressure Cooker, granted a bit pricey but it has more than paid for itself in time and energy. Happy Cooking!”

“Being severely disabled by MS, here are a few additional tips I’ve used:

  • I do my grocery shopping at off-peak hours to cut down on the lines in the different departments, (butcher, deli, bakery, salad bar, etc). On days when I’m a little foggy or shopping at a new grocery store, I go to the customer service desk and ask for a map that shows the store layout. The map makes me more efficient and saves me time and energy.
  • If jars are too difficult to open, I ask the clerk at the check out to “break the seal” and then reclose the jar. Just this one little change allows me to open jars independently at home even with my weak hands.
  • I use simple recipes with only a few steps. Nothing is complicated or involved. For example: I don’t/can’t separate eggs or lift a pot that needs to be drained.
  • No need to lift and open heavy cookbooks either. Use the Internet to find recipes for items you already have in your pantry. Or, look for recipes with 3, 4, or 5 ingredients.
  • I cover baking pans with aluminum foil to cut down on clean up.”

“My MS has inspired my (then) teenage daughter to start cooking. That helps. Even though it’s more expensive I do try to buy veggies & fruits that are already sliced and diced from the produce section. And I like salads, casseroles or semi-prepared things.”

Continue to Cooking Tips from People with MS: Part II

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