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Meals when cooking is out of the question

Discussion in 'Lifestyle Management' started by Robin, Feb 6, 2010.

  1. Robin

    Robin Guest

    There's a thread here about cooking, but, I've been coping with more severe illness lately so I wanted to talk about how to try to eat well when you can't do much in the way of preparation.

    I was moderately ill for a long time and able to shop and cook a few meals a week with no problems. But last summer my health took a turn for the worse and I lost my appetite for a few months, and could barely walk to the bathroom much less prepare food. I ate whatever didn't turn my stomach which was usually bland and had little nutritional value.

    Thankfully my appetite is back but my energy lags behind; I'm still struggling with what to eat. I miss cooking so much! A friend who had gone through a severe ME/CFS period of many years suggested hiring someone to cook, but, I'm not even sure how to go about finding someone. My pantry is stocked right now with canned and dehydrated soups, and I have a lot of frozen meals. Amy's is a good brand that has decent ingredients. These alternate with takeout or takeout leftovers, and are supplemented with fruit, green salads (when I can make them), and sometimes deli salads. Instead of three meals, I have two and one filling snack. It usually involves nuts or nut butter, or hummus, and fresh or dried fruit and pretzels, olives, nothing I have to cut or heat. Thankfully I have help with shopping, otherwise I would use

    Lately I've been able to make simple concotions in stages: I made egg salad by boiling the eggs one day, making the salad the next, and rinsing the dishes and leaving them for a few hours until I could sort them into the dishwasher. It was tough, though, and doesn't happen often.

    Sometimes though I just do not have the resources to open the fridge and end up eating a luna bar or protein drink as a meal in bed. I don't like it but that's how it goes.

    I know a lot of you are struggling with the same issue. If you don't have someone to cook for you, how do you manage your meals?
  2. Kati

    Kati Patient in training

    Robin this is the third time I am trying to put this e-nail together as I try to look for links... Keep losing this info... But I am a stubborn girl and trying again...

    Meals on wheels provide hot meals for elderly, not totally sure if it works for sick people, but worth a try.

    this is for Colorado people :

    Gourmet meals shipped to your door:

    It could also be asking your housekeeper if she'd cook you a meal or 2 (for a price) or asking a volunteer center-

    In term of food selection, I really like the all cooked BBQ chicken you buy hot at the deli counter. Great leftover to to in a salad or use as a chicken sandwich-

    Frozen fruits and yogurt for a fruit shake. ( especially if you have a handheld blender.

    Cold cereals are great pantry items and not only meant for breakfast... Just add milk and perhaps half a banana.

    Finding someone to cook: try craigslist, or google your city and personal chef, Also sometimes some young moms at home would be happy to have a supplementary income.

    Just some idea, hope it helps. Kati

    I found this that maybe of help for someone that needs coordination between family or friends that want to help:
  3. FernRhizome

    FernRhizome Senior Member

    During my bedridden years I had a once a week state funded helper (for independent living) and I had her cook me meals that could then be frozen in portions so I could just take something out and heat it up. I have to be on a gastropareses diet which is high protein, low fat, low fiber and so I created recipes I could eat and that's what my helper would make. I am also on a lot of liquid nutrition, high protein boost. If you are not getting enough calories make sure and supplement with liquid nutrition!!!! ~FernRhizome
  4. Robin

    Robin Guest

    Thanks Kati. I'll look into some of those meal sites and think about Craigslist. My friend used some type of service to find a cook but I don't have the equivalent where I live.

    I don't have a housekeeper or helper -- I make a few bucks over maximum for Medicaid so I don't qualify for that type of help -- I'd have to pay for it myself and it's expensive. I'm a vegetarian so Meals on Wheels is not going work! I already looked into it - they don't do special diets.

    Fern, glad you had somebody that helped!
  5. Hysterical Woman

    Hysterical Woman Senior Member

    East Coast
    Hi Guys,

    Not a new suggestion, of course, but on days when I am half way decent I try to make very large pots of stuff and freeze half or so of it. I have gotten fairly good at getting veggies at store, tossing them into food processor to chop and dumping into a pot with spices and water or chicken broth for soup. The veggies come out different sizes which would have bothered me in my pre CFS life, but at least it is fresh at that point and freezes well.

    Good Luck,

  6. joyscobby

    joyscobby Senior Member

    Stick it in the Oven.

    :sofa:Easy cooking depends on the diet in question of course but as has been suggested batches and freezing portions is a good way. My main way of easy cooking is in the oven. No standing there over a hot stove. Put it in, put the timer on and leave and ding dinner is ready. There are a whole range of things that can be cooked in this way. The freezer is my best friend. Things like frozen vegtable, although better fresh, they are better than cans and better than no vegetables at all.

    Some foods are also naturaly convenient like eggs. A lot of quick protien there. Salad no cooking.

    I used to cook, realy cook everything from scratch. I miss it so much but make do in many way's.

  7. Esther12

    Esther12 Senior Member

    I expect my tips will be of limited use to those with different levels of energy, but I may as well share what I've learnt.

    I try to do big stews or curries, then freeze lots for emergencies (a big stew is not mcuh more work than a small one if you get your butcher to chop the meat up).

    Baked potatoes rule.

    Baked Beans on toast (I think UK beans are different to US).

    Try to keep some dips arround (humous) for when you're too tired to cook, so you can eat something before resting up.

    Peanut butter - makes toast a bit more substantial.

    Fruit: I'm really picky - darn it - but having fruit arround is a great easy snack.

    I tend to spend most of my energy on food. I find cooking inevitably uses quite a lot of energy, and for me, it makes sense to put in a bit extra and eat something really good. It get me down if I put lots of energy into cooking a mediocre meal. It can be hard to do a variety of enjoyable things with CFS, and food can bring a lot of different enjoyable sensations to you.

    Thai, Indian and Italian food is really good for relatively low effort, but good results - although you might need to get some specialist ingredients in.

    If I know I've got other things to do that week, I'll get some ready meals in.

    I tend not to have any normal snack food (crisps - chocolate - rubbish etc) but I'm not sure about this. I've dramatically cut down my sugar intake (to almost zero) but not found any improvement in my health, I've actually gotten worse in the last three years. I find it hard to get enough to eat (I eat a lot, but I'm a skinny high metabolism sort) and wonder if I should be having some more cheap callories arround? I really should eat more actually - what a, I doing writing tips for others, while my stomach grumbles? - off to get some food now.
  8. CJB

    CJB Senior Member

    Sounds lke you're doing very well.

    The only other thing I can think of is cooking oatmeal overnight in the oven or crockpot. And, of course, the crockpot. They fit very well with the cook/rest regimen. They do beans very well. Amy's frozen food has gotten me through some of the bad times. Love Amy.

    When I know I'm not eating the best for my body, I try to remember to bless the food and image it healing and nourishing my body.

    You reminded me I've got some kale in the frig I've got to do something with today. Fresh vegetables are tricky -- I agree with joy - frozen veggies give you so much more latitude.
  9. I'm a poor cook at the best of times but here are some things that work for me:

    Main meals
    • Tinned/bagged bean chili (ok it's pretty standard, you may be sick of this already)
    • Sweet potato baked in the microwave with cream cheese or curd cheese for an ultra-low fat option (nom nom nom! sooo delicious) and a bit of pre-washed/bagged salad on the side
    • Uncle Ben's microwave risotto (tear packet, add water and ready in 2 mins!)

    • Edamame beans (ultra-healthy)
    • Pre-marinated tofu
    • Bell pepper (rinse and crunch right into it like an apple... mmm)
    • Vegetarian/Quorn frankfurters (for when you're really hungry and need an instant filling hit)
    • I also recommend nature's very own health bar, avocadoes. I once heard that they contain almost all the vitamins and minerals a person would need to survive as well as a mixture of protein, fat and carbohydrate. The only problem is cutting one in half and then whacking the stone with a knife and twisting it to pull it out. But if you can't do that, you can always pick the skin off bit by bit and eat it with a teaspoon as you go, like a boiled egg.

    • I don't know if it's available in the US, but I loooooove date porridge. Mix with a bit of milk, bung in the microwave, ready in 3-4 mins. Very filling and sweet while still being healthy.
    • My favouritest thing of all is one which can be prepared sitting down with minimal washing up. It's low-fat and has got all sorts of vitamins in it.
      Take a small tub of 0% fat greek yoghurt. Sprinkle in a few spoons of walnut pieces, 1 or 2 spoons of raisins/currants and lots of chopped banana pieces (if you have minimal energy, just break the banana bits off with your bare hands and mash as you eat).
      Fill your face!
      (For an extra boost for wobbly digestive system, sprinkle with linseeds and drink plenty of water afterwards.)

    Looking at your post again, you probably don't have the energy to make many of those as it is. But the Quorn frankfurters ROCK.

    Rachel xx
  10. Robin

    Robin Guest

    I love Amy too!!! I would be lost without her!

    Oven and crockpot were my go-to kinds of cooking when I was feeling better, but, it's just not something I can really do right now. I can manage a simple soup (rinsed beans, stock, spice, go) or salad every so often but it's very hard. If I was 10% better I could probably do more crockpot/oven + freeze type stuff in stages but the thought of making a casserole, even an easy one, is overwhelming right now!

    I made some meusli the other day in the fridge overnight -- that was pretty simple and healthy. And, inspired by this thread, I found a local caterer that has a huge homemade frozen entree menu! Hurray!

    @esther: nuts and dried fruit: healthy and caloric. I tried the high protein/low carb/no refined sugar diet several times in my meat eating days and didn't benefit at all. The effect isn't universal unfortunately. :(
  11. brenda

    brenda Senior Member


    If you can invest in one of these

    you can have smoothies made from rice milk, banana, berries and rice protein powder for a nutiritious meal and you can just throw some veggies in and they will heat up to produce a soup (some blenders). If you look at raw vegan products you can get crackers and powders etc that will really boost you intake of nutrients, and there are plenty of raw foods that will fill you up like avocado, banana and coconuts and help build your health while you cannot cook rather than deplete your energy store further by eating low nutrient foods like canned and dried things. If you can stand at a wok for a few minutes, you can throw in a few veggies, canned coconut milk, a Thai curry dry mix, and have a meal in a few minutes to have with rice put in a pan earlier or rice noodles. Maybe you can buy the veggies ie peppers, pumpkin, onion and broccoli already chopped or get someone to do it for you and keep them in a bag in the fridge for 3 or 4 days or you can get bags that keep veggies fresh for ages.
  12. Esther12

    Esther12 Senior Member

    Thanks Robin. I did used to eat a lot of almonds - but they're so hard that crunching through them made my jaw feel odd.

    I should get some of those fruit and nut combos - surely better than being hungry. I think my standards are a bit high with food, and I can resent eating for sustanance rather than pleasure. Maybe not the most sensible approach when resources are limited.
  13. Robin

    Robin Guest

    @ brenda and Rachel, thanks for the ideas! Some of them are a little too beyond me but some of them are very helpful. Thanks so much. I bookmarked this thread so I can come back later when I feel a little better. :)

    @ Rachel, I went to the Quorn site and it says that their products are in my supermarket (but I don't recall seeing them...but then I haven't been in a while!) I'll try the frankfurter if it's available.
  14. Lily

    Lily *Believe*

    Luckily, Safeway stores provide a delivery service here. I really don't know what I'll do if they ever stop. Safeway charges either $7, $10 or $13 depending on delivery times you choose. I always choose the $7 times and order only twice per month.

    I cannot stand long enough to actually cook, unless maybe I do something like an omelet. However cooking usually also involves cleaning up, so that requires addtional energy bugeting. I have made chicken salad or egg salad as you've described Robin, but for me it doesn't happen often either. I bring the vegetables and a cutting board to the bedroom and use a towel or a bathmat to protect the bed. But again, this would be something I'd do on a GOOD day.

    I've become quite accustomed to shopping online, as it's so much easier to read all of the ingredients and nutritional value when choosing something new. There are many higher fiber choices made with olive oil and nuts these days.

    I'm not a vegetarian and so have a broader range of choices. Last fall Healthy Choice introduced a new line of entrees, and at the moment I can't remember the name....Naturally something (sorry). A few of those were vegetarian and were quite good. Unfortunately, I guess they didn't go over very well, because although they are still available, the choices are very limited. Lean Cuisine has a Spa line as well that offers twice the amount of serving of vegetables. There is also a line of Healthy Choice microwave pasta dishes that are not frozen, but you add water and microwave.

    I eat raw vegetables, fruit and nuts. Avocados and nuts are a nice treat. I microwave bran cereal and add nuts and chopped apples - it takes 3 minutes to cook. I've also made oatmeal using steel cut oats in the crock pot. You can make enough for a week and it keeps nicely, then just warm it up in the microwave.

    Eating has been quite challenging, because I go through periods where nothing tastes good and I just have to force myself to eat. I don't even get hungry. Then out of the blue, for no reason things taste good for a while.

    But cooking is just out of the question most of the time. When the groceries are delivered I throw everything in the fridge and then it takes a few days to put the rest of the items away. I usually have to rearrange the stuff in the fridge because I throw it in there every which way just to get it done. But it works!:victory:

    Oh, I order several food items from Amazon now and then - like dried apricots, prunes, cranberries, etc. Much cheaper than buying at the store and usually tastier. :Retro wink:
  15. Lelvina


    Do you live near any colleges/ Universities? You (or someone on this thread) mentioned Craigslist - college students might be interested in a job cooking once a week. And some of them have online messageboards or noticeboards you could post on. Someone might be interested in cooking in exchange for food -- a nice vegetarian stuck in the dorms perhaps. Or they could cook in exchange for part of the meals, or laundry priviledges, if you've got a washer/drier.
  16. Sunday

    Sunday Senior Member

    Yes, I had the same experience with the high protein/low carb/no refined sugar diet, it didn't seem to make much difference. Different diets work for different people.

    Well, I've gotten a lot of good tips on this thread! I know some of these things will be repeating what's gone before, but I confess I don't have the brainpower to remember which of them. When I'm really crashy, I rely on:

    dried refried beans - available in health food stores in boxes and in bulk, sometimes organic. It's dried pinto or black bean powder, plus spices. Just add boiling water and let it sit for a few minutes. You can eat it as is, or use it as a dip for chips or crackers or spread for bread or so on to get perfect veg protein. (I was almost all veg for decades, but now I've read Freddd's thread on B12 deficiency, I'm not sure that was such a great idea.)

    There's also instant hummus and felafel mix, same deal. And dried veg, such as onions and spinach flakes, mushrooms and sweet peppers, so you can mix and match. The dried stuff is excellent because you make only what you need and the rest doesn't go bad.

    dried cereal - a decent organic whole-grain cereal with organic milk is reasonably nourishing. I like Wheatabix and Oatibix, puffed grains, stuff like that. I avoid stuff with lots of sweeteners (unfortunately true for even the "healthy" kinds).

    manna bread - made of sprouted grains, moist and a bit messy to eat, but delicious and nutritious. Several flavors. In the refrigerated section of health food stores.

    yogurt and stuff - Last summer I got bulk organic walnuts and raisins and goji berries, threw them on top of yogurt, added a little agave syrup. Granola can kind of act as a prepared version of this: most granola is too sweet for me, but put it on top of yogurt and you've got a meal. Muesli the same. The yogurt moistens the tough bits if you let it sit for a minute.

    oatmeal - is better and easier if you cook it this way: put the oatmeal in boiling water, let it boil for like a minute, then turn off and cover. You can lie down for 5 minutes while it sets up. This way, it's not gluey and you don't have to stand up for long.

    nourishing easy drinks - I got kefir grains and kefir is great food for me, just by itself. Also milk (always organic, preferably unhomogenized, even more preferably raw). I don't know if you do well with dairy, but if you do, it's a very nourishing food. If you can't do dairy or get tired of it, those aseptic-package nut milks are an excellent easy, quick good-tasting fix. Dried green foods (barley, wheat, & so on; there are some with carrots and other veg in them now) taste pretty much like bogwater, but if you just need some nourishment a spoonful or two in water can keep you going.

    miso soup: if you have the energy to pluck a few veg leaves off of what's around, or can sit down and cut up a few pieces of something, you can just throw it in a pot on low simmer. Lie down for ten or 15 or 20 minutes while it cooks (doesn't usually take more than 10 but I get distracted; just make sure it doesn't boil away). Then pour everything into a bowl which has a small spoonful of miso at the bottom. South River miso, traditionally made, is well worth the extra price and a jar lasts a long time. I like dandelion leek for soup especially.

    I've also made many a meal this way: throw on the rice (I used brown basmati or basmati for extra nutrition and flavor). Lie down. When it's simmering, cover the pot, then lie down until it's maybe 5 or 10 minutes from being cooked. Throw on frozen veg (fresh are preferable, but you have to prepare them. Frozen you can just dump out of the bag). Cover. Go lie down for five minutes. Get up, turn off the heat, put on cheese and/or nuts. (There are pre-shredded organic kinds if you can't stand up and cut it. Also soft cheese can just be spooned out.) Put the cover back on if you need the cheese to melt. You can eat it any time after the cheese has melted, since the heat's off it doesn't matter if it's a while before you can get up again. You can also add meat or fish to the dish (after the rice, before the veg).

    I rely on eggs a lot and throw them raw into a smoothie when I don't have the energy to cook them. My acupuncturist dr. said to put ginger in the smoothies because I needed warming stuff and smoothies are cooling. It also helps nausea. So I do that, plus a pinch of cinnamon (reduces/regularizes blood sugar, and another nausea remedy), a bit of salt (for taste and my adrenals, I use that wonderful Himalayan stuff), a squirt of agave syrup. I've tried d-ribose but it doesn't seem to do much for me. I use almond milk, soy milk, dairy milk, yogurt, or kefir, depending what's handy. Generally I use bananas as a base, and add other fruit. Frozen fruit's very handy for this. I put all this stuff in a group on the counter next to the blender, so it's easier to assemble.

    don't know if you're lucky enough to have a health food store with a deli section, as we are, but they have a prepared-dish bar where you can buy food by weight, organic and nice varieties.

    Thanks for all the useful tips, everybody! I'm doing better with the cooking thing at the moment, but sometimes it gets to be too much. Always useful to have more suggestions.
  17. Carrigon

    Carrigon Senior Member

    PA, USA
    Cooking for me is hell. It's so hard. I usually get weak and lightheaded when I'm trying to cook or trying to clean up the dishes.

    I try to make one pan, one pot meals and hopefully make enough to last a few meals. My diet is usually tacos, burger helper, pasta, rice and whatever fruits or veggies. I don't eat enough veggies.

    When I can't cook, it's canned, frozen. Usually microwaved, which I think only makes us worse, but I end up doing it anyway.
  18. Carrigon

    Carrigon Senior Member

    PA, USA
    This is my life right there. Everything with me is, I have to sit. Have to rest. Have to lay down. Like I just changed the cat's food and water, but I couldn't do her litter box yet because I have to rest up for it. Happens to me with the cooking, too. Have to sit in between making stuff.
  19. Hope123

    Hope123 Senior Member

    When I was healthy I loved to cook; now I can't do much like many of you but my cooking skills come in handy in that I know what ingridients combine well and some cooking shortcuts.

    1. I agree with the poster who said the freezer is your friend. Aside from frozen veggies,you can also buy frozen fruits for smoothies and to put in oatmeal. Already sliced sandwich breads and bagels can freeze - heat them back up in the oven without need to thaw or thaw overnight in the fridge. When you buy meats, some butchers will cut them for you at your request if you buy a certain amount - ask them to package it for you in serving portion and freeze what you don't use. Take the portion you want to use and thaw overnight in the fridge.

    2. Soymilk in cartons will store in a pantry for a long time in case you are too tired to go to the store.

    3. Oatmeal - I make a large amount at one time - add frozen fruits/ bananas for flavor. Put leftovers in the fridge and heat and eat in AM over several days.

    4. While cooking pasta, throw in frozen veggies. Heat up bit of tomatoe sauce in the microwave, stirring once in the middle of cooking. Pour over pasta/veggies (drained), add grated parmesan cheese.

    5. Put tomatoe sauce on bread, add cheese, add veggies/ slices of pepperoni, etc. on top. Bake and eat.

    6. If you have a rice cooker, wash a few eggs and put them on top of the rice directly. Turn on the rice cooker. When the rice is done, so are the eggs. Take them out, soak the eggs in cold water for like 10 mins. The shell weill come off easier.

    7. For those in the US and have a Costco or Trader Joes's nearby, you can get healthy meals that you just heat and eat. I am lucky to have family who go there to pick things up for me.

    8. For veggies, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, celery sticks already cut up. Bagged salads.

    10. Don't discount sandwiches. Switch around the meats/ cheeses you use. Use good quality condiments.

    11. This is a pricier option but probably less than some meals services out there and less than if you hire someone. Super Suppers and Dream Dinners are caterers throughout the US (google it) that prepare frozen dinners from fresh ingridients. Some places you need to have someone pick up; others, someone will deliver them to you.

    Also, get a bar chair that swivels for the kitchen: you can sit and cut at the counter or sit and cook at the stove. I try to sit when I can or do what I need to to in intervals.
  20. BEG

    BEG Senior Member

    Southeast US
    Robin, thanks for bringing up a subject that is all too common when we are severely incapacitated and without help. I'm so sorry for your circumstances. Fortunately, I have a husband who will bring in the take-out during those times, and then all I have to do is make it to the table. But there are also times when he isn't around. My staple then is cold cereal if I can get out of bed and if I can lift the milk from the refrig. Sometimes it's impossible and I go hungry and even thirsty. Maybe we need to keep an emergency food stash near our beds with a variety of wrapped items and include a couple bottles of unopened water. It isn't fun to be miserably sick, incapacitated, hungry and thirsty, too. I hope you find some solutions from the very good ideas posted by everyone here. Good luck. OOOXXX

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