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Jun 7, 2014 05:02 PM

Post shoulder surgery meals

In another thread I mentioned that in a couple of weeks I'll be having arthroscopic rotator cuff (including biceps tendon and labrum repair) surgery. I live alone and with the exception of the first couple of days, I'll be on my own for sustenance during my recovery. I'd welcome suggestions from anyone with experience with cooking one-armed with the free arm being the non-dominate one. I have a well-equipped kitchen to work with which is good. No dishwasher though so I'm going to be using a lot of disposable plates, cups, and such.

Trader Joe's is about a mile away, and I'm thinking of stocking up ahead of time on some freezer things and visits there on the way back from my PT appts. Home food delivery is out as I can't really afford that. Looking for some good creative ideas. Thanks!

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  1. PT and home cook at your service, here.

    My vote is for prepped meals that you can put into the microwave or oven.
    If you are able to make meals ahead now, do so.

    You will be in a sling and have very limited use of your surgical arm for the near future.

    Buy decent weight paper plates that can be lifted with one hand, and make sure they have a lip- you might be chasing your food around for a while.

    Buy a nice big Tervis tumbler with lid, and use straws. This will allow you to eat and drink with one hand.

    A mezzaluna rocking knife will come in handy too.

    Good luck!

    7 Replies
    1. re: monavano

      Good idea about the mezzaluna. I've never used one but see the Wustof one that comes with the curved cutting board. I wonder if that would be helpful.

      Keep the ideas coming... I'm making notes!

      ETA: What about putting things in vacuum sealer bags? From your experience, will they be a challenge to cut open?

      1. re: Leepa

        Opening a sealed bag should be just fine.
        You can position your surgical hand (in sling) so that it stabilizes the bag while your non-dominant hand cuts the bag.
        Imagine placing the bag on your counter while doing this.

        What you won't be allowed, or really able to do (sorry, it's a bit painful!), is lift and do things that take your upper arm/elbow away from your body.

        You'll get a good idea of how to negotiate things from your PT.

        Also, think about getting some relatively baggy, front- button down/snap shirts ;-)

        1. re: monavano

          Yup. That's the plan for the clothing. For the last several months, I've been realizing how painful it can be to do a lot of things with my arm away from my body or extended. And I'm sure that's only a tip of what it will be like. I've been practicing using one arm for the last week or so. Not so easy.

          I wonder if one of those razor letter opener things would be good for the thick vacuum bags. I have one at the office that I think I'll try...

            1. re: monavano

              Those Fiskars are money, used to use them to do a lot of trimming back in the day, they are quite durable.

              1. re: monavano

                I have a couple of pair of Fiskars kitchen shears that should do then. I was thinking of something along the lines of this letter opener. I have a bunch of them at work that we've accumulated over the years and was thinking it might zip the bag open pretty easily.

                1. re: Leepa

                  Gotcha- that should be fine.
                  I was picturing something else.

      2. If you've got a couple of weeks then you have tons of time to cook and freeze in meal or two sized portions. Things like lasagna portion out quite nicely. Quiche, frittatas, etc. Ground meat for burgers, fish fillets.

        12 Replies
        1. re: c oliver

          casseroles, stews, etc do too. or buy frozen meals, etc. about a year ago i had a broken elbow, dominant arm, and it was tough! i did have assistance for some of it, but when on my own...honestly, a lot of cheese/bread/cold cut plates (lame, but i often used pre-sliced sandwich cheese, or similar), fresh raw fruits and veggies, dried fruits, nuts, hummus with pita to dip. supermarket rotisserie chickens. also good are frozen pre-formed burger patties of any kind. my rice cooker saw a lot of use. frozen veggies, frozen burger patty microwaved, bowl of rice, top with veggies/burger, microwave topped with cheese was a standby. trader joe's also sells excellent frozen chicken strips, etc that would be good for this.

          1. re: chartreauxx

            Yup. I think it's important to remind OP and others that we're not talking about a permanent lifestyle change. It's temporary. Go for any and everything that's easy and pain free (or almost).

            1. re: c oliver

              absolutely. in contrast to a lot of conversations on chowhound, this is really a case of food as fuel - something to consume to power recovery. and it'll require compromises to maximally benefit OP's health without pain and/or possible damage to the surgery site. it's really just a few weeks. and things like easy assembly sandwiches (think basic meat+cheese+spread(s) or PBJ), frozen pre-formed/sliced items, plates of pre-sliced meats and cheeses with crackers/bread/toast/pita etc, premade dips (hummus, salsa, etc), frozen pre-portioned items (homemade or store-bought - lasagne, chili, burger patties), things you can portion with one hand out of a box or bag (chips, crackers, nuts, dried fruit, baby carrots, pre-sliced peppers, popcorn either pre-popped or microwaved), salad meals made out of the supermarket salad bar, bottled smoothies or supplement drinks like ensure, bars (i like clif and power bar protein plus, for granola nature valley and kind...), rice cookers, and other "cheater" meals are really the best way to ensure your health and recovery. if paying for single-portion milk really offends you, my advice is to buy a gallon (or whatever size you prefer) and a big set of smallish mason jars. pour the milk (or juice, or seltzer, what have you) into mason jars right before the surgery. all you have to do is unscrew and drink up :)

              1. re: chartreauxx

                or buy parmalat - the milk in a box. it comes in a 3-pack of 8 oz boxes, and in resealable quarts.

            2. re: chartreauxx

              This evening I've been making a list of make ahead things that I can freeze that don't also need to be cut up. Turns out most of the things on my list are comfort food things that my mom would have made growing up. Chicken casserole, meatloaf, and such. The idea of comfort food sounds... well, comforting!

              I plan to do the rice cooker a lot, too, with fish and or veg in the steamer basket. I also have a Nutribullet that I can use to make healthy smoothies. From what I hear, fiber will be my friend.

              1. re: Leepa

                yes, general anesthesia and opiate pain killers have a common side effect of slowing smooth muscle movement in the gut...which is a nice way of saying *ahem* you're going to be less than regular. yogurt also highly recommended.

                1. re: chartreauxx

                  Yes, after the recent hip replacement the hospital gave me a "brown bomber" to deal with the after affects. I had a ruptured Achilles two years ago, lots of sandwiches and pancakes and bacon for hot food, cooking in a chair. Crutches for 6 weeks suck. The hip was ok, I used a walker. Knee replacement coming soon. Advice to OP, you will adapt and it will all be over before you know it, at least you can walk.

                2. re: Leepa

                  I also love breakfast for dinner. Eggs any way you like and whatever meat you like. Or none at all.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    add toast and juice or milk to really round out your food groups. protein is key, and starches prevent your healing protein from getting poached by the body for basic energy.

                  2. re: Leepa

                    So, if you are a cereal eater, that will solve a lot of small summertime meal problems as no cooking is necessary. And it sounds as if All-Bran might be a good idea. Get some nice berries to go on it.

                    1. re: Querencia

                      I'm not big on cereal usually, but I do have a recipe for All-Bran muffins that is really good. I used to make them for my dad when he was on chemo. Bless his generous heart, he always shared them with his visiting friends. I told him he might want to warn them. LOL

                      My plan is to make a dozen or so of those for the freezer, too.

              2. I went through the same thing a few years back (arthroscopic shoulder reconstruction on dominant side) and learned a few things. As far as food goes, food on a fork is easier to maneuver than a thin liquid on a spoon. If you want soup, get a big mug with a big handle that you can put your whole hand through to drink. It's surprisingly difficult to eat with the non-dominant hand- very wobbly at first. If you get stuff from TJ's, open a couple and transfer to microwaveable containers that you can open with one hand- for the first week or two, multi- layered packaging is hard. Pre-chop anything you think you might need for the first few weeks.

                Other non-food things to think about: putting on socks is difficult- low cut socks are easier. Tying shoelaces is almost impossible, make sure you have slip on shoes and get some "elastic laces" for athletic shoes so you can slip them on. If you're a woman, have some front-hook bras- I had a front zip sports bra that was great. Also hair washing, blow drying, and brushing were... interesting. It took me 3 weeks to figure out how to put my hair in a ponytail- I mostly used headbands to keep my hair out of my face.

                The recovery is really not that bad- I was feeling pretty good within 4 or 5 days and was back at the gym within a week or so (elliptical or recumbent bike). The sling was annoying at first but I was able to use my hand a bit (rotating wrist and elbow only) after a week or so. And I also discovered that could stash snacks in my sling, which was pretty awesome.

                3 Replies
                1. re: chococat

                  Thanks. It's a good thing I have short hair and it's even shorter as of a couple of days ago - the old wash and wear haircut. Most of the clothing things I'm working on having read a few blogs out there with suggestions, but I appreciate the ideas. If I'm not out in the world, I'll be wearing my short sleeve zip front bathrobe (just bought a spare!)

                  Good to hear about the recovery. I really am hoping I do as well as that. Having made it to 61 without any major injuries or surgery, I'm just a bit freaked out about it all.

                  1. re: chococat

                    I've had two sprained shoulders I'm recovering from for the last half year - left arm is nearly to normal mobility, right one is not. I still can't do up a bra, front or back. I don't bother unless I'm going out (the husband and I work from home), but when I do, he has to do it up for me. And I can't tie my long hair back, either - he has to do that, too. I comb with my left hand (I'm right handed) and he ties it back.

                    Shampoo... I diluted my shampoo in a yoghurt container and threw it at my head for a while. Didn't do a great job, but it was passable.

                    1. re: chococat

                      I broke my non-dominant hand last year, and found that shoes were definitely a challenge. I had one pair of elasticated ballet flats, and bought two more pairs, enough to get me through. (I was working full-time during surgery, PT, etc., except for about a week off at surgery.) Normally I am anti- the elastic waist, but it too was a God-send. It was winter, so I bought a bunch of knee-hi tights to wear instead of the usual full-length ones, which were impossible to maneuver.

                      It sounds like you're thinking about the things you'll really want to eat (the comfort foods), which I think is a great idea. I tried to make things as nice as I could, because I know that is what will keep my spirits up.

                      My situation was different due to non-dominant hand and a brace I could wear on my other hand that would support it so it could assist with various tasks, but I found there was a way I could do what I needed to do ... but I was much slower than usual. You have to be patient with yourself. I also became a pretty good one-handed typist ;)

                      Good luck! :)

                      PS Oh! If you don't already have it this way, be sure to change your profile at the pharmacy to non-childproof caps. If you already have some for prescriptions you take regularly, on at least some caps there's a way to push the center of the cap to break them so they become screw-off.

                    2. Don't have anything heavy that you have to lift---if you usually buy milk by the gallon or half-gallon, for a while, get it in quarts and if you drink iced tea, figure out how to manage it in small quantities. You might want to put some laundry detergent and bleach in smaller containers for post-surgery use.

                      Anything cooking equipment that you expect to use a lot, put where it is handy and you don't have to climb a ladder or lift out a bunch of other pans to get at it. TJ sounds fine---they have an infinity of frozen entrees. Also, plain baked potatoes and sweet potatoes and plain chicken quarters require nothing but plain baking. Dishwashing: a dishpan full of hot water and detergent lets you soak the dishes for an hour then give them a swish and rinse them off, which you can do one-handed. Also, my friends who have had this surgery could not sleep lying down and had to sleep semi-reclining on a lounge or in a recliner.

                      1. I broke a wrist several years ago, and had similar issues. I learned that packaged, chopped things were my friend. Trader Joe's has quite a few choices. I look at them normally and say "gee, how lazy do i have to be to buy chopped celery, carrots and onion?" it's a guilt free choice. I found I could do a stir fry or pasta sauce when everything is chopped and ready to go. I did pasta too....and instead of draining the pasta and adding it to the sauce.....i just used tongs and put the pasta directly into the sauce. So....rather than saving some pasta water and adding it...I was actually transferring the water with the pasta. Same difference. I also got really good opening bottles of wine with a waiter's corkscrew!

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: perk

                          I was surprisingly adept at opening wine with my left (non dominant) hand while casted for a R wrist fx.

                          There was a will, so there was a way!

                          1. re: monavano

                            Screw top and a nut cracker are your friend :)

                            1. re: c oliver

                              Screw tops are much more prevalent now.
                              Hmm.. I could have done the box.

                              1. re: monavano

                                We've even found Scotch and vodka in boxes!!!