Slow cookers – a game-changer for cooking with a disability

Cooking dinner has been a nightmare for me while managing my illness. When I arrive home from uni, all I want to do is put my feet up and relax. But far from being relaxed, in an attempt to prepare a nutritious meal I would find myself at 6pm hovering over a hot stove, sweat beading on my forehead, frantically stirring ingredients in the wok while worried about another pan boiling over, and running around removing forgotten ingredients from the pantry. Some nights I would find myself staring at the fridge unsure of what to make and too tired to problem solve effectively.

Cooking is an essential every day task, but it can be mentally and physically draining to prepare a healthy, balanced meal after a busy day.

Why?

The kitchen is sensory overload. Stoves emanating heat, timers beeping, water bubbling. Meal preparation involves a lot of mentally demanding tasks such as time management, food inventory, keeping in mind food hygiene rules, following recipes, and locating appropriate cooking utensils. Then you have to make things taste good on top of all that?!

Eating healthily is vital to building the physical resilience to support mental health. Yet the pressures of cooking meant I often was making unhealthy or expensive choices like grabbing convenience foods on the way home or ordering takeout.

An absolute game-changer in the way that I prepare meals has been the slow cooker and slow cooker recipe book I recently purchased. The slow cooker is an incredibly versatile appliance that can help take some of the complexity and pressure out of cooking and adapt this into a more enjoyable occupation.

Saved Mental Energy:

– Simple meal preparation. All I have to do is chop up the ingredients in the morning (or the night before and put them in the fridge overnight if I have to dash off), turn the slow cooker on low and when I get home at the end of the day hey presto dinner is ready! Although some slow cooker recipes require a little extra prep, like browning meat, I choose the recipes where you simply prep and then dump all the ingredients in the cooker together and then you’re done.

– It leaves me free to do other things. Once the ingredients are in the slow cooker, I don’t need to worry about standing over a stove stirring or watching the timer. There is very little culinary attention required once they’re all in the cooker. There is a lot less time management involved as everything is cooking at the same consistent heat.

– I’m preparing dinner when I’m fresh in the morning rather than tired after a busy day. Rather than racking my brains to think of what to cook when I arrive home, when I’m fresh in the morning I’ve prepped everything in the cooker, and when I walk in the door I’m already greeted with the delicious aromas of my meal.

– Leftovers! Slow cookers recipes often prepare larger batches of food, so you can divide leftovers into freezer bags or containers in single portion servings. This makes meal planning for the rest of the week easier.

Physical Energy Saved:

Clean up after using a slow cooker is a dream, particularly if you use slow cooker liners. Rather than using miscellaneous pots, pans and woks to prepare my meal, everything is being prepared in the one slow cooker pot, which means less energy needs to be expended in washing and drying dishes after dinner.

Other Benefits:

– Social interactions: Since the slow cooker doesn’t require constant attention, I can turn my attention onto enjoying other people’s company or simply relaxing.

– Deliciousness of meals: The longer food is left to simmer, the more complex and delicious the mix of flavours that result. Also, even tough cuts of meat tenderise due to the slow cooking process.

– Energy efficiency: The average slow cooker tends to use less energy than an oven.

FAQ & Tips

Is it safe from a food hygiene point of view?

Yes, it cooks at a heat that still kills bacteria, just make sure that you thaw meat thoroughly before placing in the cooker.

Will my vegies come out limp and soggy?

It is best to put fresh vegies rather than frozen vegies into the slow cooker, as frozen vegies can make the mixture become watery. For more delicate vegies, I simply put them in towards the end of the cooking time and stir until the vegies are softened.

Can the slow cooker only be used for stews and soups?

No! I have used my cooker to make gooey brownies, a simple lasagne and oatmeal.

OT principles applied: Adapting the occupation, assistive technology, energy conservation

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