a scrap jar, aluminum foil, and a list

Spondylitis Cooking 101: Getting Started

I’m not the only one struggling to keep up with cooking and cleaning. My food allergy diet is an important part of my spondylitis self-care, but this doesn't make it easy to do. Avoiding gluten and most grains helps me feel better, but it also requires lots of cooking. Shopping to cook, putting away the food, cooking, and then cleaning up burns up lots of energy, energy that takes a long time to get back.

The Kitchn’s Our Readers’ 8 Best Tips for Cooking Without Making a Huge Mess is packed full of Spoonie-friendly tips.

Cooking tips that work for you

Here are a few practices that work well for me:

  • Start with a clear plan of action. For me, this includes writing down what I'm going to make and what order. This allows you to reuse bowls and utensils as appropriate. A plan prevents me feeling too overwhelmed because the end is in sight and gives me a place to stop if I really need to.
  • Have at least one natural stopping point built in to rest or quit for the day if your energy starts running out before things are done.
  • Start with an empty dish drainer, clean counter, and storage containers ready to go. This makes it easier to clean as you go and keep momentum.
  • I keep a little container for scraps on the counter. I make sure it’s always lined with a bag with a piece of junk mail on the bottom to keep things tidy.

Team Meal Prep for the win!

Team Meal Prep is built upon the principle that planning ahead tips the scale in favor of whatever you want to achieve. If you want to eat more vegetables, have them ready to use. If you're worried they'll go bad get frozen or canned.

  • Prepare some ingredients a day or two in advance. I do this with sweet potatoes, peppers, onions, cabbage, greens, and sauces. Blanched or cooked veggies can go right into the freezer.
  • Consider having a big cook of proteins, veggies, or grains several. This works well for me. Here's how to do it: Braise or poach chicken in pieces, in a covered pot. The cooled and skimmed liquid makes a great stock or base for soups and sauces. Cook several pounds of defrosted ground turkey at once. Plain is fine, but sometimes it's fun to add a taco packet. That way, I know for that Taco Night is coming. No matter that protein you use, cool according to CDC guidelines and pack up to freeze.
  • Roasted vegetables are easy to make and they last several days in the fridge. I usually make and freeze (in batches) one big pot of rice every month or so. It's great to able to pull cooked rice out of the freezer, add some protein and veggies, and have dinner ready in under 20 minutes.A tray of roasted vegetables with spices on them

Make your life easier

  • Take whatever food safe shortcuts you are comfortable with. Canned foods, sauces, or frozen meals are valid ways to meet your needs. I buy canned pumpkin, tomatoes, green beans, salsa, boxed gluten-free mac'n cheese, and ready-to-cook turkey burgers. Ready-to-eat slaw and bagged or frozen greens have seen me through some very hard times. When I'm feeling better I add them to fresh cabbage or other vegetables I've cut myself, but for me, making dinner is a win no matter how I do it.
  • Foil and parchment paper are my friends. I can’t do dishes the way I used to. I need to use my energy on other things. Anything that makes this go quicker is on my squad.

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