Are you on Christmas dinner duty this year? It may be a magical time of year for children and families but having to play host and meet expectations with a feast of festive favourites is an intimidating task…and one that’s made even more daunting when you have arthritis.
Lifting heavy pots, chopping veg and prepping turkeys are just a few of the thankless tasks that lay ahead in the next seven days but cooking with arthritis can be made a whole lot more manageable by sticking to a few golden rules.
Here are our 23 tips to help you get your family’s Christmas dinner to the table, specially tailored for people with arthritis:
- Make your Christmas grocery shopping easier by shopping online or taking a friend or family member with you to help with heavy items. Don’t hesitate to ask the assistants for help in the aisles or when packing and loading into the car.
- Buy prewashed potatoes, vegetables and salad ingredients. Alternatively, frozen vegetables and fruits are just as nutritious as fresh ones. *Some vegetable sections may stock chopped vegetables which saves you the hard work.
- For the turkey and ham, ask your butcher to prepare it in the portions that you intend to use. This will save you doing the dirty work.
- When preparing to cook think of all the utensils and equipment you are going to need, take it out and place it near to the workspace so everything is close to hand and easier to use.
- Cooking can be tiring on your legs. Use a perch stool at counter level rather than standing for long periods of time.
- Purchase a rubber mat to stand on when you are cooking at the stove. The padding helps prevent back and leg pain.
- Look for gadgets that can help minimise reaching and stretching.
- Wear comfortable footwear, it can make a big difference.
- If purchasing new saucepans before Christmas choose ones with 2 heatproof handles as they are easier to lift and slide. Also, saucepans with glass lids allow you to monitor the progress of cooking more easily.
- A food mixer on a stand is easier to manage than a hand held one for bigger dishes. Hand blenders can be useful for blending soups and sauces.
- Have several pairs of scissors to hand for opening packets, or cutting food.
- Electric mini choppers or food processors are excellent for chopping onions, herbs and other vegetables.
- Line roasting pans and grills with heavy tin foil for easy cleanup. Instead of scrubbing away at dirty baking dishes, give yourself a head start on cleanup and simply throw away the liner when you are done.
- Slide heavy pots and pans along the countertops rather than lifting carrying them.
- Ergonomic handles, which have a larger and softer gripping surface, allow you to hold kitchen utensils more comfortably and securely. Ergonomic handles are available on a variety of tools, from spoons and knives to peelers and graters. One good product line is OXO Good Grips.
- If you don’t want to buy new kitchen utensils, you can adapt your own by adding rubber tubing to enlarge the handles and make gripping easier. Cylindrical foam is a thick, dense, and water-resistant foam that provides a larger, cushioned grip on utensils. You can also apply a nonslip, self-adhesive material called Dycem to utensil handles to improve grip.
- Some bowls have a rubberised surface on the bottom to help them stay put when you are mixing ingredients. You can also place bowls, plates, or cutting boards on rubber shelf mats to hold them in place. Even a damp washcloth under a bowl or cutting board will help to keep those items still.
- Be realistic with your timeplan to allow yourself more time to prepare the meal i.e. if the recipe says it takes 40 minutes to prepare, allow yourself an hour.
- Not everything can be done in advance but try to have at least 1 or 2 courses which can be prepared the days before and set your table ahead of time. Soup and Christmas pudding are great for this. You can also prep your vegetables for the main course in the days leading up to Christmas Day.
- Alternatively, choose a cold starter like smoked salmon on brown bread which requires little prep time.
- Cook in smaller batches so that your dishes are lighter to transport
- Delegate! Christmas is a time for enjoying your family above all else so get them involved. Husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, they can all do something.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. Pour yourself a glass of mulled wine and have your favourite Christmas songs on in the background.
Finally, from everyone here in Arthritis Ireland we wish you and yours a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!