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24/Jun/2021

Tips for preparing meals with less stress

There are some days when the thought of preparing and cooking a meal is so overwhelming. You’re tired, you’re in pain, and it seems like too much effort. Curling up on the couch and ordering a pizza delivery seems like a much better option! However, one of the best things you can do to look after yourself when you have a chronic condition is to eat healthfully. Sadly (for me at least), that means having the local pizza joint 🍕 on speed dial isn’t ideal.

But there are things you can do to make cooking easier and less hassle when you’re not feeling your best. Here are our top tips:

Plan your weekly meals

It’s not a particularly exciting thing to do, but making a plan for your coming week is really helpful. It ensures that you have all the ingredients you need, and it stops you from wasting money on the things you don’t. And if a case of brain fog hits when you’re standing in front of the fridge, your meal plan will sort you out. Check out The Spruce Eats top meal planning apps for 2021.

Shop online

This pandemic has really made online shopping easier and more efficient (hello new shoes 😊). But as far as groceries go, it’s never been easier to order online and get exactly what you need delivered to your door. Or you can organise to click and collect, without having to leave your car. Perfect on a chilly winter’s day.

Give yourself a break

Not every meal has to be Masterchef worthy, using exotic ingredients and involving many steps. It just has to be tasty and healthy. Have a few recipes up your sleeve that you know you can cook with minimal effort or fuss and with the ingredients you have at home.

Organise your kitchen

Ensure the things you use regularly are within easy reach – that goes for ingredients and cooking utensils. And move the things you only use occasionally out of your way (e.g. lower cabinets, cupboard in the garage, sideboard). Don’t place heavy items on high shelves – it’s very easy to drop these things – especially if you’re tired. Use a kitchen trolley on wheels to move heavy pots from the bench to the cooktop or move meals from the kitchen to the dining area or lounge.

Take a load off

Keep a stool nearby so you can sit while you prepare your meals.

Clean as you go…or get others to do it for you

There’s nothing worse than cooking a lovely meal, relaxing while you eat it, then looking over to see a stack of dishes taunting you. So clean up the bulk of the mess as you go. Load the dishwasher, soak the stubborn pots and pans, and wipe down the benches. Or better still – rope in your partner/kids/housemates to help you. And it’s the perfect opportunity to catch up with each other.

Frozen fruit and vegies are great time savers, packed with nutrients

You can buy them at the supermarket, or prepare your own. Find out how you can freeze fruit, vegies, bread and herbs in this article by Good Food.

Get prepped!

Food prepping has taken over the internet, and there are endless articles, apps, videos and blogs to help you. You can prep your meals days in advance, then all you need to do is pull the pre-chopped, washed and/or cooked ingredients out of the fridge or freezer to throw together a meal in no time. Frugal and Thriving has a great guide to meal prepping.

Batch cook

When you’re feeling inspired and you have the time and energy, put on some music or a podcast, and cook batches of food to freeze. Then it’s just a matter of reheating and eating. Perfect! Check out My Foodbook for some practical tips to help you when it comes to batch cooking.

One pot wonders

Save yourself lots of mess and dirty dishes by cooking your meal in one pot. There are many books and websites with tasty recipes you can try that only require one pot (or pan). Borrow some cookbooks from your local library or fall down the rabbit hole of Pinterest for lots of inspiration. Here’s Taste’s 21 healthier one pot recipes. They all look delicious and very hearty, but I think I’m going to have to try the pumpkin, silverbeet and mushroom bake this weekend! Yum.

Go, go gadget!

Use kitchen gadgets and other aids to save energy, protect your joints and make things much easier when cooking. Things like electric can openers, jar openers, tap turners and thick-handled knives can be lifesavers. We have a small range of products available from our online shop.

Make it a social occasion

Cooking doesn’t have to be a solitary event if you have other people in the house. So get them involved. It’s an excellent way for kids to learn about cooking and becoming self-sufficient. But it’s also an opportunity to spend time together and share the load.

Slow it down with a slow cooker

Prepare your evening meal earlier in the day when you have more energy. Pop all your ingredients in a slow cooker and let it do its thing while you work, rest, read a book or put your feet up. Hours later, you’ll have a flavoursome pot of goodness to enjoy. Check out these slow cooker recipes from The Australian Women’s Weekly.

Take breaks

Sometimes we push ourselves just so we can get a task or chore done, but we can end up pushing ourselves past our limits. Sigh – we’ve all been there and paid the price. So whether you’re making the evening meal or you’re prepping for the week ahead, take a break (or two) to stretch, get some air, drink some water, and just move around. Standing in one place for a long period is not conducive to happy, pain-free joints. So take a break.

Drink water

When we’re in the middle of a task and focused, we often forget to drink enough water. Don’t allow yourself to become dehydrated – have a glass of water nearby and drink regularly.

Cleaning up

We’ve already mentioned cleaning as you go and using only one pot, but there are other things you can do to make cleaning easier, such as:

  • use non-stick foil or baking paper to line your trays, as well as roasting bags; they’ll lessen the mess on your trays – which means less scrubbing
  • if you have a dishwasher, load it as you finish with dishes and cooking utensils
  • soak dirty pots and pans before you start scrubbing to loosen any baked-on gunk
  • clean up spills immediately
  • put ingredients away as soon as you’re done with them
  • keep a bowl nearby for scraps and rubbish, or bring the kitchen bin closer to where you’re working.

Call the pizza joint 🍕

Sometimes take away food is the option that’s best for you. And there’s nothing wrong with that, just as long as it isn’t a regular thing. Takeaway foods are generally high in salt, sugar and/or fats and don’t give us all the nutrients we need in a balanced diet. Read the Dietitians Association of Australia’s takeaway food tips for more info.

Contact our free national Help Line

If you have questions about managing your pain, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, mental health issues, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

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27/Aug/2020

Have you noticed that the mornings are becoming lighter earlier? The weather’s improving and there’s the smell of spring blossoms in the air. It’s lovely. Take a moment to breathe it in – you’ll definitely feel a lift in your mood (unless you have allergies – sorry about that).

But with the change in the season, the extra light and the warmer weather, we often use this time to do a spring clean. Of our home, office, garden, garage. Many of us have been tackling some of these jobs while we’ve been in iso. But as we’re staying at home more than ever before, it seems that some jobs continue to pile up – there are kids toys and clutter everywhere, the home office/dining table has become a mess, the pets are shedding on EVERYTHING, and why are there so many pairs of shoes heaped near the front door?!?! It’s definitely time to do a spring clean.

But cleaning and re-organising can take a toll on you when you live with a musculoskeletal condition and chronic pain and fatigue. So we’ve put together some tips and hacks to help you with Spring Clean 2020.

General tips

  • Planning, prioritising and pacing. First, make a plan. You can’t do everything at once. So write down all of the things you want to do. Now prioritise the jobs. What’s most important? And when you consider this, remember your home doesn’t need to be a home magazine or Pinterest version of ‘perfect’. That takes a lot of styling and constant effort. It just needs to be your version of ‘perfect’ – comfortable and cosy for you and whoever you live with. Now on to pacing. Take your time when you tackle your cleaning. Break it into smaller tasks. For example don’t decide you need to organise and clean your entire bedroom cupboard in one go. Break it up. Just deal with your shoes today. Tomorrow you can focus on the things stored on shelves. Make it achievable and realistic for you and how you’re feeling at this moment.
  • Take breaks. Often the temptation is to get as much done as you can while you’re feeling good or you’re feeling motivated. But you need to take breaks so that you don’t overdo it. Otherwise before you know it your back’s sore, you can’t move your neck and exhaustion hits you like a sledgehammer. To prevent this happening, and the potential of having a flare because you’ve done too much, set an alarm. Give yourself a specific amount of time to work and when the alarm goes off, take a break. Do some stretches, drink some water, go outside for some air and vitamin D and if you’re hungry, have a healthy snack. Do this regularly throughout the day and you’ll feel much better by the time you finish than if you’d pushed through.
  • Get the right tools for the jobs. Use light-weight brooms, mops and vacuums. Many people swear by the robotic vacuums because they don’t require you to bend over a vacuum or drag it throughout the house. Just be aware of where they are so you don’t trip on them. Use long-handled dusters so you don’t have to stretch or reach your arms above your head if you find that painful. If you don’t have one you can secure your duster to a ruler or even the empty roll from some wrapping paper to give you the extra length.
  • Choose your battles. If you need to vacuum, but you’re not feeling up to doing your entire home, don’t. Just do the high traffic areas. Or a high traffic area. If your bathroom needs cleaning, do the high use areas. Your shower screen doesn’t need to sparkle, but you do need clean towels and a clean sink.
  • Let the cleaning products do the hard work. How often do you read the instructions on your cleaning products? Or do you just spray and wipe away? I know I’m guilty of that! But many cleaning products need time to work on the grunge and grime. Then you can wipe it and the dirt away, with far less effort.
  • Beware of dust and toxic smells. Many people with musculoskeletal and other chronic conditions are sensitive to chemicals, strong smells and/or dust. Some alternatives to the usual cleaning products include bicarb soda, vinegar, tea tree oil, lemon juice and water. There are many websites that provide details for making your own cleaning products. You can also buy a large range of more natural and plant-based cleaning products online and from the supermarket. As far as dust goes, dusters can just move it from your surfaces to the air around you. Use a slightly damp cloth over surfaces to remove dust completely, and clean it regularly.
  • Use your dishwasher for more than dishes. Did you know you can clean plastic toys, exhaust covers, scrubbing brushes, oven racks and dog toys in your dishwasher? Check out this article: Can you wash it in the dishwasher? The big list of things you can and can’t wash in the dishwasher from Choice for more info.
  • Consider reorganising your pantry, laundry or kitchen. These are the areas we use a lot. And they often have heavy things we use regularly – e.g. heavy packets of rice, canned goods, pots and pans, detergents and cleaning products. Put these items at waist level (if you have the space) so you aren’t constantly bending or stretching to access them.
  • Get some wheels. A basket of wet washing and buckets full of water and detergent are really heavy. Instead use a laundry trolley and a mop bucket with wheels.
  • Repackage it. We often buy cleaning products in bulk as it tends to be cheaper that way. But that can end up being several kilos or litres. So when you buy the big box or big bottle of cleaning products, put a quantity into smaller, easier to use containers. You can top them up when you need to. And make sure you label the new containers clearly.
  • Alternate your cleaning activities. If you’ve spent some time doing physically tiring cleaning, take a break and do something more passive, like sitting at your desk and cleaning out your email inbox, or going through receipts for your tax return. Or take a break and read a book or do some guided imagery. Then when/if you feel up to more physical work you can go back to it. But you’ve given your body a chance to rest.
  • Get the family involved. This is an obvious one, but often such a drama many people just do the chores themselves. But that’s not sustainable. Also, as everyone contributes to the mess, everyone needs to contribute to the cleaning. Make a game of it if you can. Check out this article: 15 cleaning games that make even the most boring chores fun from Mumtastic for some suggestions.
  • De-clutter. When we have a build-up of clutter and just everyday things invading our space, they become a trip hazard. And when you have lots of stuff around you, you may feel disorganised and out of control. While not everyone will feel this way, here are some ways to tackle the clutter.
    • Make a plan and start small. Don’t tackle a big job, especially if you’re not feeling your best, or you can easily become overwhelmed.
    • Organise the clutter. Put like things together so you can see what you have and what’s been hiding at the back of cupboards and drawers. That’s when you realise you’ve got 5 staplers and 6 vegetable peelers.
    • Decide what you want to keep, and what’s just taking up valuable space. Then you need to decide what to do with the things you no longer want. So donate, give away, sell, repurpose or throw away (only if it’s damaged/worn out/soiled/beyond repair – let’s not add to landfill if we can help it).
    • Now put away the things you’ve decided to keep. Everything should have its own place.
  • Hire someone. This isn’t an option for everyone, or not for every time, but there might be occasions you decide it’s worth the cost. Consider hiring a local handy person/business to help you deal with your lawns/gardening, or cleaning your carpets, curtains or blinds.
  • Distract yourself with music, podcasts and audio books. This can make the cleaning more enjoyable, just don’t become so distracted you overdo things.
  • Give your medicine cabinet a spring clean too. Get rid of out of date or unnecessary items. But don’t throw medications in the bin – take them to your local pharmacy for disposal.
  • Things don’t have to be perfect. So give yourself a break. This is one thing that as a clean freak I’ve struggled with. Listening to your body and doing things that are realistic for you is more important than some idea of perfection that’s unsustainable (or unattainable). Accept that and just enjoy being in your home.

Hacks

  • Save your hands. Use cleaning mitts instead of cleaning cloths. There are a lot available – for dusting, cleaning the shower, kitchen and the car. Or you can use odd socks – we all have plenty of those. Wear the mitts or the socks on your hands as you clean, rather than clutching a cloth. It’s much easier on the joints in your hands.
  • Add soft grips to the handles of brooms/mops if you find them painful to grip. An easy hack is to use pipe insulation foam. This is just a tube shaped foam. You can pick it up at the hardware store, cut it to size and slide it onto your broom or mop handle.
  • For easy cleaning of louvre or Venetian style blinds, put a couple of old socks on a pair of kitchen tongs and secure them in place with elastic bands. You can then run them over each of the slats of the blinds to remove dust.
  • Remove dust and pet fur from lamp shades with a lint roller.
  • Store your sheet sets in the matching pillow case. This keeps them together as a set, keeps your closet tidy and you know you have all the pieces when you make your bed.
  • Rubber gloves are great for removing pet fur from fabric furniture. Just put them on and slide your hand over the fabric. You can then peel the fur off the gloves and throw it in the bin.
  • Dirty microwave? No problems. Put some water in a cup or bowl and microwave it until the water boils. You can also add some white vinegar for a better clean. Carefully remove the water and clean the steam from the inside surfaces of the microwave. Any grunge should come away at the same time, without scrubbing. If you want you can add some lemon juice to the water before you microwave it for a fresh smell.
  • Smelly bin? Empty it and clean the inside with a damp cloth and some bicarb soda. Rinse it out. When it’s dry, add a little bicarb and paper towel to the bottom of your bin to keep it smelling fresh and to sop up any liquids. Bicarb is also good if your fridge is a bit on the nose. Clear your fridge out, getting rid of anything out of date, clean the inside properly, then add an open box of bicarb to the back of your fridge. It’ll absorb odours. Don’t forget to change it regularly.

Got some tips or hacks to share? We’d love to hear them.

Call our Help Line

If you have questions about things like managing your pain, COVID-19, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, telehealth, or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

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Musculoskeletal Australia (or MSK) is the consumer organisation working with, and advocating on behalf of, people with arthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, gout and over 150 other musculoskeletal conditions.

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