I try to keep things positive here. I try to leave everyone with a sense that they can do anything and everything they want to, it just may take longer or, you might have to become creative. Chronic Illness, whatever it might be you are struggling with, doesn’t take a break, doesn’t go on vacation and it doesn’t bargain with us. But life continues to tick onward and we can’t stop our lives because of chronic illness. I am hoping that some of these little hacks might help you suceed in your day to day lives so you can live it as much as possible and not feel so trapped by your illness and even your limitations.
• Make a Menu: This takes time but it will help you in the long run. Not only will it save you money but it will save time in the grocery store wandering around and tiring yourself out when you could be getting back home. Also, this helps with my next step, cooking in batches because you can figure out what days might work best for you.
• Cook in Batches: You know yourself better than I do; is there a time when you feel better or worse? When you plan your menu, which can also be altered depending how you feel, you can figure out the days you are going to double recipes or precook some items you might need. You can pop in two chickens or even more and spend the day cooking if you feel up to it and then like magic, you have a couple pounds of roasted chicken to work with the rest of the week. If you can’t manage roasting, throw some chicken in the crock pot and cook it for 6-7 hrs and then you are done. The same with ground beef. If you know a couple of menu items need ground beef just cook it all a head of time. A lovely little hack I learned if you have hand or wrist issues like me, use your food processor to ground the meat.
• I think ground beef and chicken are the easier to cook ahead, in batches and in large quantities but you can do this with stew meat or pot roast or even a brisket.
• You will need a few kitchen helper gadgets. A food processor can help with just about every cooking need. A crock pot is essential.
• Strategic development of meal plans. I cannot say how important menu planning is, even if you can’t predict how you are going to feel, having a menu allows you to play the swap game with meals as long as you shop for or make sure you have ingredients on hand.
• Freezer meals are an excellent way to give yourself a little break. You can take them out of the freezer and defrost it a little and toss it in the crock pot. Let it go and rest or take a hot bath or whatever else you enjoy until you are ready to eat.
• Double recipes and freeze half. That way you always have something on hand for those days where you really can’t even get up and cook, all you have to do is reheat.
• Grocery shopping wipes me out. I don’t suggest you grocery shop and cook on the same day unless you have extra help in the house with you. To make grocery shopping easier, make sure you are armed with a list and have already searched out coupons if you use them. That way you are not shopping and then looking for coupons. I organize my list according to sections of the grocery store so I am not buzzing around for hours, because I move slow, and I can really go into the grocery store like a well trained soldier and just grab everything I need. If you can grocery shop in half the time, I think it’s worth it. I also try and shop for two weeks. I shop for the first week all ingredients and produce and for the second week, I shop for all the non-perishable’s I might need so when I go back to the store I am only getting fruits and veggies and things like that. It really helps.
• I would also suggest in your menu planning that you have a combination of crock pot meals/freezer meals, a meal that you double, a casserole dish that’s like dump and go, toss in the oven and a couple of easier meals for days you don’t feel as bad and then, rotate them for the next week, maybe swap out one or two for something new, but the idea is not having to go out and get a bunch of things, because you already have the majority of ingredients on hand.
• If you can, keep your gadgets that you use, like crock pot and food processor on the counter. It might not look pretty or it might clutter things up but it’s really helpful, especially if you live by yourself and may have trouble reaching down to drag out appliances.
• Bite-size pieces. Ever hear the expression “biting off more than you can chew?” Well, that is exactly what I don’t what you to do. It’s very easy to try to do everything in one day when you are feeling pretty good, but as you know, it only leads to a world of hurt later. You may say well, at least I got it all done, but it’s far kinder to your body and your mind to parcel out chores.
• There is no such thing as perfection when you struggle with chronic illness, and that is okay. Shoot for doing your best, and forgive yourself if things aren’t tidy as your mind might like.
• If you have kids, it is never too young to start doing chores and even a small child aged 3 or 4 can start to learn to pick up after themselves. It will save you a lot of irritation and grief if you can get all your kids, no matter their age to help you out.
• A light-weight vacuum cleaner is a great investment. If you have a two story house, buying a second hand one to keep up stairs would be helpful too. These are also good for quick passes in the kitchen to help tidy up the floor, or even wood flooring if the model has that setting for bare floors. You can also get a long handled dustpan, the kind they use in stores for cleaning up. It saves you from needing to bend down. Also, a bag-less vacuum to help reduce allergens and pet dander. It also makes easier and faster clean-up.
• Make your own cleaning products. It may sound like a real pain, but in the long run it helps keep you healthier by not breathing in the chemicals from manufactured products. I have done this in the past and will be picking it up again so stay tuned for some actual recipes on DIY cleaning products. I use vinegar as a base, but you can infuse them with lemon peels and orange peels to cut the vinegar scent (which is still better than bleach scent) and will leave your house smelling lovely. They are just as good, they are chemical free and cheaper than buying store bought products. Win Win.
• Go minimalist. You can use this rule: If you don’t love it, if you haven’t used it in six months, worn it in six months, give it away. Reducing clutter not only makes your life easier, it streamlines your actual space so you have to clean less and it has an effect on our psyche and makes us feel better.
• No shoes in the house and make sure to have a good floor mat. No shoes means less tracking of dirt into the home and less to clean. Floor mats mean that guests can also clean their shoes before even getting into the house which means you don’t have to clean that area.
• Line the oven with tin foil to protect it from possible spillage when cooking. It makes for easier clean-up and fewer times you have to grab that spray and clean it.
• Microwave clean-up can be easier if you slide a mug in there with water and microwave it for a few minutes. Top two-minutes. This creates steam and helps get stuck on stuff off. If that doesn’t work, try spraying the inside with vinegar/or your cleaning product and let it sit. Then wipe it away. The goal for us is always to work smarter not harder.
• It may seem backwards, or even perhaps cruel, but wake up as early as you can to give yourself enough time to actually get out of bed. I generally wake up sometimes between 6-6:30am so that by 7-7:30 I can roll out of bed and start to move around.
• Comfy clothes are a must. Whether you buy LuLaRoe or some other brand, it is essential to be draped in softness. I just feel fabrics and now I know instinctively what to get. Leggings and tunic blouses are my thing.
• Music therapy. This is no joke. I actually have a play list for high pain days. It helps to be distracted and there is a lot of scientific data that suggests music can alleviate pain.
• Heating pads, mattress toppers, jackets and even heated shirts and car seats. Heat is sometimes your best friend and if it can help, I would keep it close by.
• Sometimes family and friends need a little help when it comes to things we can do, so we can still be a part of their lives. I think it is helpful to send out a kind of memo to friends and family with those activities that you can do and would like to do with them, based on pain levels. Ex: When my pain is at a 5 on the pain scale (1-10, ten being the worst) I can still go to the movies, as long as I don’t have to climb too many stairs to find a seat. OR When my pain is at a 7 on the pain scale, you could come over and we could watch Netflix and binge on chips or popcorn. You come up with activities that you can do when you have less or more pain.
• A Spoonie Kit: This is where all your immediate needs stuff goes. You can make it as an elaborate a box you want, or not, and just use a plastic container from Target. Keep things like prescription meds, Advil/Tylenol, ice pack, essential oils and fuzzy, warm socks.
• Showers: This is rough for a lot of us. Some have a worst time of it than others, but I think it is something we all have issues with. Here are a few tips on how to deal with it and make it easier.
• Use your time efficiently, getting as much done in as little time as possible.
• Install a shower bar if you have balance issues or might become dizzy or faint in the steam. You can even get one with suction cups so it’s no effort to place in your shower. If you can’t fit one, chances are you can fit a stool. Same idea.
• 2 in 1 shampoo/conditioner. This saves the extra time for those of us with long hair that need conditioner. If you can get away without it, go for it! One less step.
• Keep everything close by. A shower caddy that you don’t have to reach to get everything you need or, use a cleaning caddy that some might use for cleaning supplies, to tote your shampoo and soap. Keep it right by the shower where you can access it easily or even in the shower.
• Transfer your shampoo’s and conditioner’s into pump bottles that makes it easier to use for those with joint issues. This is one I am going to do ASAP because it’s genius.
• Terry cloth bathrobe to dry off is also genius. Getting out of the shower can be hard enough, drying off exhausting, so just throw on a robe and wrap up your hair in a towel and just dry off comfy on the bed.
• The biggest hack I will leave you with: Not showering everyday. They also make a dry powder that you can use to refresh yourself with those days you just can’t. Or just doing spot cleaning is okay too. You are the best judge of how you feel and what you can do on any given day. Don’t get pressured and wipe yourself out because you think you should shower everyday.
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