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Mar 22, 2011 07:45 AM

Preparing Foods w/Arthritic Hands

I have some physical limitations (alright, I'm getting OLD and I have arthritis in my hands..) so I'm careful in food preparation. Well, our local market had huge bags of string beans marked down to $1, and I couldn't resist buying a couple of bags.

I prepared one bag yesterday, and by the evening I couldn't even open my right (I'm a righty) hand. Sigh... still have another bag I don't want to go to waste.

So my question is - if any Chowhound has some good, handy items to help in the kitchen with physical limitations like this (especially w/chores like cutting), could you share it? I usually use scissors in the kitchen, even for cutting chicken breasts - I alternated between using my kitchen shears, cutting the ends off with a knife, and just using my hands like my mom used to do - but by the evening I couldn't even open my hands due to the pain.

Typing w/fingertips takes too long, so I'll wait to respond tomorrow, most likely, so I can rest my poor sore hand.

Thanks ahead of time!

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  1. I'm sorry about your hand and I can sympathize. I don't have arthritis but my right hand is very stiff and clumsy because of M.S. I don't have any great advice but I wouldn't snap the ends off a whole bag of string beans by hand. Too time-consuming. I would line the beans up a few at a time and chop the ends off.

    3 Replies
    1. re: NYCkaren

      I'm back. Actually, I've had a few days of bad pain all around, not just my hands, so I couldn't even read the replies until now. Too bad to see so many people suffer fr the same.

      I don't have M.S. - my heart goes out to you. I have both arthritis & fibromyalgia (which, my dr believes is in the autoimmune category. There are times I'm also clumsy, so I can sympathize, too. Tried lining the beans up, but that was time consuming, too - I'm tempted to just cook the rest as is!

      1. re: NYCkaren

        That's what I do. I have arthritis in my hands but not as bad as the OP.

        1. re: NYCkaren

          I can't snap beans by hand, either. I have arthritis as well, in my case caused by hypermobile joints that dislocate extremely easily, which results in bone-on-bone action.

          I use a knife to chop off the ends. It's the only way it'll work for me.

        2. I have similar issues. Like you, I use scissors for lots of things. I also use lots of the OXO tools with the big, soft handles. And my big Victorinox chef's knife, because it's not a really heavy knife, and the handle is bigger and more comfortable to grip than many. I also line the beans up in batches for one chop.

          2 Replies
          1. re: arashall

            I have an OXO can opener that I now love. I say now because I didn't know how to use it for the longest time & it just sat in the drawer, unused. (Me? Read directions? Ha!) One day, when I couldn't find my other one, I suddenly realized one is supposed to use the little tip on the side to take the top of the can off - and voila! It's my favorite now. I'm going to look into other kitchen items now that the arthritis has gotten worse for me.

            I also need a decent size cutting board (Ikea has one I like), and a decent sized chef's knife (I have a gi-normous one I can't even use!) I forget the brand, but it's the standard, restaurant variety that I got at a restaurant supply store awhile ago - only got the wrong size. I'm thinking it might be Victorinox also, but I'm not sure.

            Obviously, I don't have the best kitchen equipment - had the teeniest kitchen before so I didn't bother, but I moved to a decent apt recently & I have room to store my stuff now. :D

            1. re: threedogs

              The video here helped me alot, specifically the pinch technique. I've got the knife doing more of the work for my weak hand. Give it a try and good luck.


          2. I'm another with arthritic hands, I de-stemmed a whole load of strawberries saturday night and made jam and was sorry afterwards although the jam was terrific.
            I have problems opening cans unless the can opener has a large twisty area so I can get a good grip. I tap jars hard before opening to release the vacuum and also use scissors on stiff plastic packaging because I can't peal the tabs back.

            1 Reply
            1. re: smartie

              I think those of us with hand-pain live on the idea that the results of our kitchen actions need to equal or exceed our pain in preparing them! I'd say that fresh strawberry jam DEF fits that category!! Mmm.. I bet even the aroma made it worthwhile! (hope you've recovered by now)

              For opening jars I use one of those little flexable, pebbly, plastic gripper jar opener (mine is round). I've had sort of a collection (always was free fr various places) that I never needed to use until recently. That seems to work most of the time. For plastic packaging, I also usually end up cutting the bag (along w/adding a few colorful words towards the manufacturers, haha). My worse beef is when my adult son KEEPS on tying plastic bags w/out a twisty tie (so I end up having to cut the bag), or if he DOES use the twisty, he'll tie it so tight I still have to cut the bag. Arrggh!!

            2. My arthritis isn't that bad, but I do keep a small pair of needle nose pliers in a kitchen drawer. Those foil tops on pills, and packaging are really hard to pull off. It works well to pull small bones from fish fillets, too. Also, a frend showed me a way to open vacuum packed glass jars...tap the lid well, and then insert the tip of a butter knife between the lid and jar. Twist the blade of the knife, and it will often break the suction, making the jar easier to open.

              5 Replies
              1. re: critter101

                LOVE the idea of the needle nose pliers - I'm going to get one just for the kitchen drawer (btw, my moniker is due to the three dogs in our household - until my oldest passed last fall :( , now in honor of him along w/my two other sweeties. I hope you don't actually *have* 101 critters in your household, lol!)

                1. re: threedogs

                  ditto--mine have the teeth on the inner edges so they reallllly grip well. Great for those tabs on foil-sealed bottles and jars and pill bottles. Even on milk jugs when the plastic tab breaks off , leaving nothing to pull.

                  Great tip, critter101 about the BUTTER knife. Do not use a good paring knife, like someone who's name...I won't mention.

                    1. re: Jeri L

                      the same person who used mine....:-)

                2. re: critter101

                  Even better is a needle nose(ish) Vice Grip:

                  Not good for fish bones, but instead of needing to apply the gripping power yourself, you turn a screw and clamp it to whatever needs pulling or extracting.

                  I use both pliers and vice grips.

                3. Hi all,

                  Gosh, threedogs, I sure do hear you! I have one pretty darn dismal hand. It's my left and I'm a lefty. Of course... :)

                  A couple of tips...

                  Don't do anything requiring heavy use of your hands until you've been up for a while and they are 'warmed up' and supple.

                  Pace your work. For example, with the beans, prep a small amount at a time. Give your hands a break between sessions.

                  And, as another poster commented, the OXO utensils with large soft grips are a blessing. Those and (if you can find one...) an old-style Swing-A-Way can opener. The whole thing is longer and the turning handle is bigger. More leverage.

                  Speaking of knives, I use my 6" Calphalon chef's knife instead of the longer ones. Lighter in weight and the handle seems to be better for me. It wasn't expensive. As I recall, it was less than $15 at Tuesday Morning.


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: I used to know how to cook...

                    I can hardly open my hands first thing in the morning (that's the time of day when I actually FEEL my age, lol). I stumble around a bit until I can move better. Somehow, the fact that I have to take my dogs out first thing has, I think, been good for me. My natural inclination is to get a cup of coffee and that would be it! Pacing my work - ah, wise words & I did try that w/the beans. Except I ended up doing half of what I bought - which was a LOT. Pacing is something new for me, haha. I'm doing much better - for most things...

                    I'm due to get some decent knives. What I have isn't great, and I chose the wrong size when I bought them (also have some really crappy knives that I've been using instead, because they are a better size. Go figure..)

                    Ah, Tuesday Morning! :( They've closed the ones around me. Still have T.J. Maxx, Marshalls - and sometimes my fav New England store, The Christmas Tree Shop has some great kitchen items. I probably could buy them online, but I really prefer to at least first try them in my hands first.

                    I was searching awhile ago & found a knife brand made just for people w/hand pain. But the price was way beyond what I can afford (forgot the name, of course).