Cooking: some love it, some don't. Or in some cases, you may have physical challenges or scheduling constraints that make cooking a harder task. This can especially be true for people living with kidney disease or kidney failure. After a long day receiving dialysis treatment, you may not have the energy or motivation to cook – even though maintaining a kidney-friendly food and fluid plan is an important part of managing your disease. So, for those of us who cannot afford a personal chef or takeout every night, what can we do to make cooking less of a chore?
Fortunately, I have some tips to help you cut down the time you spend creating those tasty meals.
Do some meal planning and prep
How many times has mealtime come around and you find yourself standing in front of the refrigerator trying to figure out what to cook? Meal planning and prep can go a long way toward eliminating this problem and can help you cut down on your cooking time. Here are some tips for time-saving meal prep:
- When preparing meals, go ahead and make extra or a double batch. You will then have meals on hand for those days when you are busy, tired or just can't make the effort to cook. You can also make a lot of one ingredient at a time, like chicken breast, that you can then use for other meals throughout the week. If you do not eat all your leftovers, freeze them and you will have a ready-made meal for a later date.
- Keep all frequently used tools, spices, and other ingredients at or near your prep counter.
- Shave off some of that cooking time by simply cutting your meats and vegetables into smaller pieces; they will cook much faster.
- Purchase pre-cut fresh vegetables so you don't have to do that work. Many frozen or canned foods are already pre-cut. Just be sure to check the labels as they may have added salt/sodium. You should also drain and rinse canned vegetables or beans before you use them to get rid of a large amount of added salt.
- If you are purchasing meats, ask the butcher to cut it so you won't have to do it later. Pick out that cheaper slab of meat and tell them how you need it cut (strips, cubed, etc.). Be sure to also ask them to trim excess fat from steaks and remove the skin from your bone-in chicken.
- If you still have ingredients to peel or cut for your meal, you may wish to do it when you are spending time watching TV. It may sound silly, but many people like to do this kind of prep while enjoying their favorite show.
- Opt for meals that are cooked in the oven when you can. This keeps you out of the kitchen instead of standing at the stove.
Use your kitchen gadgets
We all do it. We buy the latest and greatest new appliance, maybe use it once and then it sits on the shelf untouched for weeks or months, right? Now is the time to dust those kitchen gadgets off and make space on your counter. Some gadgets I would recommend using include:
- Food processors: They make cutting up those veggies a quick and easy process. Not to mention, you won't get any hand cramps from holding the knife.
- Blenders and immersion (stick) blenders: They make pureeing a breeze.
- Pressure cookers: Pressure cookers are amazing! With a pressure cooker, what used to be hours of long, braise cooking can be done in a very short time. The meat is tenderized and full of flavor. You also have the bonus of that flavorful liquid to use as a sauce or make into gravy. This wonder also cooks up your rice or beans in a snap.
- Slow cookers: These cookers allow you to quickly and easily toss your ingredients in and let the gadget do the work.
While all these tips can help, if you still struggle in the kitchen, reach out to friends or family to ask them to help you prep ingredients for the week.
Until we win that lottery and can hire that personal chef, we do what we must! Even if it means peeling potatoes while watching a movie.