Welcome to the second part of this series, the kitchen!
The kitchen is usually the heart of the home, families gather to eat and share about our day's events, friends gather and gossip over coffee, and of course if you're like me - you like baking and cooking.
But for some of us with low vision, especially those newly diagnosed, the kitchen can be a large source of frustration and accidents. It doesn't have to be that way and meal prep and cooking can be enjoyable again!
I'm listing a variety of tips and products for you to pick and choose from and they vary due to 1) amount of vision loss & 2) skill level in the kitchen.
If you're new to experiencing low vision, I highly recommend getting some independent living skills training.
Again, many of these tips can be found in my eBook.
Disclosure: Some text contains affiliate links and I may receive compensation from them.
As I mentioned in the first part of the series - the living room, the easiest adjustment for vision loss is to have less clutter.
Now, let's use the picture above as a good layout for a kitchen:
1) Lots of natural light as well as several lighting options throughout.
2) Cupboards and drawers have contrasting color handles and knobs for easy viewing.
3) Appliances are easy to notice between cupboards (I hate those makeovers where they cover the appliances with the same "covering" as the cupboards).
4) Paths are clear and chairs are tucked in properly - no tripping hazards. Also all cupboards and drawers are closed. (Number one rule in my kitchen).
5) It seems the kitchen table is the same color as the floor, you can remedy this by putting a contrasting table cloth on it, or using a contrasting area rug (secured to floor well) under the table.
This section is on prepping food and the different tips and products that will help you out.
Again, I encourage getting some independent living training to help boost your confidence and reduce your reliability on someone else. If you don't feel confident enough, please check out this correspondence course "Self-Esteem and Adjusting to Blindness" from the Hadley School.
1) Cut food in a well lit area, or use a small desk lamp for task lighting.
2) Use contrasting color cutting boards to highlight the food. Use a light colored cutting board for dark colored foods and a dark cutting board for light colored foods. (Please remember not to cross-contaminate).
3) Tuck the knife blade under the cutting board when not in use to prevent knocking if away and prevent cuts.
4) If you're not comfortable with your knife skills yet, you can opt for a manual dicer instead.
1) Be the one to put all the groceries away - that way you'll know what was bought, do any labeling if necessary, and you'll put it away yourself (so, now you know where they are).
2) If it's hard to read labels (or cooking instructions), there are several options you can choose to do:
3) Gather all the ingredients for your recipe ahead of time on the counter. You can choose to pre-measure ingredients into bowls and cups and such. Once you've added an ingredient to your recipe, put it away! This helps prevents double dosing as well as being easier to find the next ingredient.
4) Use large print measuring cups and spoons for easy viewing. One thing I always do while measuring ingredients, especially liquids, is to pour over the sink. With low vision we don't always see or react quickly enough to prevent over-pouring. So, doing it over the sink makes clean up a lot easier!
5) Put all utensils, dirty dishes and so on, in the dishwasher or in the sink and out of the way. Again, my mantra - "the less clutter there is, the easier it is to see".
Here are a variety of things to do with your "standard" appliances, the ones we are accustomed to - fridge, stove, microwave:
1) If you'r appliance is fairly new (this century), some manufacturers have a tactile (Braille) dial available for some models that you can switch out for to "feel" where the settings are.
2) Get puff paint, or tactile dots, to apply to your favorite settings on your appliance for you to easily feel and push.
On the right is a picture of my microwave with some puff paint on the following buttons:
Sure, it's not pretty, but it is very effective and I no longer spend time straining to look from different angles to find each button.
3) For the stove, don't start burners until you've placed the pot on first. Turn burners off before removing pots too. Turn pot handles inward away from edges to prevent accidentally bumping them.
Alternate to Appliances
If you're not comfortable using the standard equipment, there are several cooking alternatives to use:
1) Slow Cooker - Everything gets put into the pot while it's cold and left all day to cook on it's own and it's ready to serve. This reduces the chance of burns, and does not need a lot of "supervision" over it.
2) George Foreman Grill - Again, food can be placed on here while it's cold and then closed and started. Less chance of burns plus no fighting to flip food as it cooks both sides.
3) Air Fryer - Again, food goes in cold, turned on, check the temperature and texture of food and the handle stays cool to transfer to a plate. I have one and love it! You can read my review and a recipe too.
4) Cobolt Systems - this is a company that sells talking versions of various products such as a Combination Oven, Microwave, a single hotplate and a double hotplate.
Well this post is getting a bit long, I'll save Part Two for next time where I'll give tips and products for Cooking & Eating.
Thank you and feel free to ask me any questions!
Everyone enjoys a good homemade meal, but before you can dig in, you have to prepare it first. Cooking can be a hard task, especially if you have vision or hearing loss. However, if you only make a few adjustments to your kitchen and get a few aids, you’ll be preparing delicious meals in no time.
Here’s what you can do to create a functional kitchen for people with vision and hearing loss.
If you want to make cooking and navigating your kitchen even easier, you might consider removing all sharp edges and opt for rounded tables and countertops. These will cause less painful bumps and fewer spills caused by bumping into something.
Also, pay attention to how you orient your pot and pan handles on the stove, since knocking them can cause severe burns. Additionally, make sure you don’t have any wires and cables over the floor because they can be serious trip hazards.
Smooth and shiny surfaces for countertops, flooring and appliances easily reflect light and create glare. Additionally, glass cabinet doors and clear glasses can also cause glare, but more importantly, they are completely invisible which makes them a hazard unless you mark them clearly.
Adjust the lighting
When you have vision loss, every space needs ample and appropriate lighting, especially a kitchen with all those knives and appliances. Increased illumination makes it easier for people with low vision to navigate their kitchen and prepare food.
On the other hand, poor lighting increases the risk of falls, bumps and even more serious accidents. So, your best bet is to invest in good lighting for your kitchen. Fluorescent strip lights with diffusers offer great distribution of light while spotlights direct ample light in all directions.
Also, bringing light closer to the task at hand is a great way to improve visibility. For instance, installing strip lighting under the kitchen cabinets will provide good lighting in the countertop area. You can also install some lighting in your cupboards and on the shelves for easier food identification. If you combine these lighting fixtures with some standard lamps and hanging pendants, you’ll get a well-illuminated space ready for meal prep.
Another way to make food preparation easier for people with vision loss is to create contrasts. Painting doors, cabinets and walls in contrasting colors with respect to the rest of the room will make them stand out more and make the space easier to navigate.
You can opt for neutral colors and go with dark colors against bright colors (black and white contrast, for instance) but combining darker and lighter shades of the same color can also work, it all depends on your vision level and your personal preference. You can also invest in appliances that have contrasting surfaces such as colorful Viking refrigerators that come in icy white, black, gray, red, blue and beige. Additionally, get contrasting cooking utensils, such as chopping boards, bowls and knives, which will also make it much easier to locate and handle them.
When choosing appliances, make sure they have some sort of contrast on controls to make setting the dials and pressing the buttons simpler. You can also use tactile markers, such as bump-ons or Velcro dots, and apply them to the controls.
Adapting the kitchen for hearing loss
People with limited or no hearing can also benefit from some easy kitchen adaptations. The main issue in the kitchen is the fire alarm. However, there are gadgets that will send visual signals instead of audio ones if there is a fire situation in the kitchen.
People who are deafblind can find vibrating pagers that will alert them of any kitchen happenings, from fire alarms to oven timers. All of these easy fixes will make cooking a much easier, safer and less stressful experience for people with hearing loss.
Don’t be afraid to venture into cooking waters. These kitchen safety tips will keep you safe, so all you need is some inspiration and a good appetite.
Have you or someone you know lost some vision?
Had some loss for some time and want to gain more independence?
Whatever your circumstances, you can shop for groceries on your own independently with very little help. Wouldn't that be awesome?
There are many ways to shop for groceries when you have vision loss, all with varying degrees of monetary costs and help involved:
Local Delivery Service
Many cities and even small towns have a delivery service / taxi service that can make small deliveries. I would only recommend this for the occasional item that you need "now" - such as a missing recipe item.
Another similar service that you may want to know about is UberEats for food delivery from restaurants that don't offer delivery.
Walk or take Public Transit
If you live close to a grocery store, consider walking there, you'll get good exercise, orientation and mobility (O&M) practice, and get familiar with your neighborhood.
The same goes for public transit, take a bus tour of your area and find a grocery store that's convenient on your route. Some advice, the best grocery store on your route may not even be the closest one to your home - pick a store that's easy to stop at and has a return route without many "exchanges" or long wait times.
Grocery Store Fulfillment Service
Some grocery stores have shopping fulfillment services - you call or fill out an online form with your shopping list and can just pick it up at the customer service department. Wal-Mart offers this service in some places and will even put the groceries in your car for you. So use a ride-share service like Uber or Lyft, or your taxi and just have them wait while you go in and claim your order. No long hassle of searching for items on rows and rows of shelves.
If your local grocery store doesn't offer a fulfillment service, you can call ahead and request a personal assistant - an employee that will walk with you and either read you prices and items, or fetch them for you. This also saves time hunting around for items when you can't see things well.
Shop in Bulk
Shop in bulk when you have a ride with a friend or relative. Grab all the big bulk items like toilet paper, paper towels, canned food, pantry items like flour, sugar, coffee, etc. This way you won't have to struggle with getting these heavy or awkward-sized groceries home on your own - whether you're walking, taking the bus, or ride-share.
This way you have -
Use Amazon Fresh
Another new service you may want to check out is Amazon Fresh. A produce and grocery service offered by Amazon.com. They offer an unlimited service for only $14.99 a month and the food is delivered right to your door!
BONUS - Grab some Promotional Codes!
For some extra savings, use these promotional codes when you shop on Amazon:
15% off Peet's Coffee k-cup packs - 15BRAZIL32CT
20% off Gillette Venus Women Razors with Olay - 20VENUS
20% off Gillette Fusion Gel - 20GILLETTE
$30 off Tiger JAX rice cooker - 30TIGEROCT
20% off Global Pet Nutrition soft chews - 20GPN
So, there's many ways to shop when you have vision loss and without losing your sense of independence as well.
What other ways do you do for shopping? Share your experiences!
Last Christmas, I got an air fryer from my folks and have loved it since.
An air fryer is a kitchen appliance that “fries” food but with little or no oil used at all. It does this by circulating hot air around the food. It’s like a tabletop convection oven. Most models come with a basket that looks like a deep fryer basket, but without needing all the heavy oil.
My air fryer is an Actifryer from T-fal, it’s rated #3 on YourBestPicks.com. Check out the link for all the pros and cons of each air fryer brand.
Like I said, most air fryers come with a basket, but mine doesn’t. the Actifryer comes with a paddle that slowly stirs the food around. A great advantage over the other models as those require you to stop midway and stir or shake the food midway through cooking. With the paddle, the food gets stirred and flipped over for nice even browning and crispiness.
T-fal has two models, the larger model not only can hold more food, but comes with a grill plate to grill food as well. I’ve got the classic model which suits our family of 4 just fine.
You can cook a wide variety of food – vegetables, meats, fish, seafood, snacks and even desserts. I believe the food is tastier and it sure is healthier than “traditional” frying.
Here’s our favorite French Fries recipe:
Homemade French Fries
*Courtesy of the T-fal Actifryer Cookbook (included with Purchase)
Feeds about 4 People
Prep Time – 15 minutes
Cook Time – 40 minutes
2 lbs. Potatoes
1 spoon of oil (Spoon is included with Actifryer – equivalent to 1 TB)
My special trick of soaking the fries in cold water for several minutes seeps out the starchiness of the potatoes and you end up with soft fluffy centers while retaining a crispy exterior.
For other awesome T-fal Actifryer recipes check out The Skinny Actifryer Cookbook from Amazon.
Advantage for Blind and Low Vision Users
Another advantage I’ve discovered with using an air fryer is that it’s GREAT for a low vision user like myself!
As much as I love my cast iron pans (Southern girl going on 11 years here), I find it hard to fry when I can’t see that well.
There’s the danger of:
The advantages for blind and low vision cooks are:
How awesome is that? I love the peace of mind I get with my air fryer!
Also, cleanup is a snap! Just load the pieces into the dishwasher. Done!
Disadvantages of an Air Fryer
This is what some websites listed as disadvantages:
Let me dispute those for you:
So, can you tell I love my air fryer? So excuse me while I try out a Cinnamon Apple recipe.
Ever wonder why sometimes our food doesn’t look or taste as good as someone else’s? Or even be different from the last time you made it?
Whether you’re a beginner or have been cooking for years, there’s plenty of cooking mistakes we make over and over again.
Here’s what we’re doing wrong:
1. We don’t read the recipe all the way through:
We look at the recipe, get the ingredients and then get started. What we don’t do is read the recipe all the way through to see any prep work that needed to be done beforehand.
To avoid this, read the recipe all the way through and look for things that need to be done. Does anything need to be at room temperature? Does anything need to be brined, marinated, or pre-soaked? Do all your chopping first before cooking.
2. We put too much into the pan:
We try to do everything in one go. The problem with overcrowding the pan is that instead of browning and searing the meat, we steam it. Steaming the meat doesn’t lock in the flavors, get a nice char on it, or keep it juicy.
Instead, either use two pans or cook in batches. Allow a few inches between the meats to allow heat to circulate. If you’re cooking in batches, put the first batch on a plate or cooking sheet in the oven at a low temperature.
3. We’re Not Preheating the Pan
We don’t let the pan get hot enough to cook properly. When this happens, food sticks to it, doesn’t brown properly, and can get soggy.
To be sure the pan’s preheated, just sprinkle a few drops of water in and watch for it “dancing” across the surface. Then you can add your butter or oil. When the butter starts bubbling, or the oil starts shimmering, the pan is ready for your food. If you’re using a non-stick pan, put the butter or oil in first before heating it up as an empty non-stick pan releases contaminants when heated.
4. We’re not tasting while we’re cooking
We throw all the ingredients in according to the recipe, but we’re not tasting the food as we go along. Food ends up being either bland or too spicy.
While chopping, taste the food (except raw meat) to see if it’s fresh. Taste the pot for flavor combos and saltiness.
5. We’re not letting food rest
We pull the meat out and cut it up and serve it right away. We take out casseroles and other dishes out and bring it to the table.
When this happens we end up with dry meat or a runny casserole. Allow time for the meat or dishes to rest for at least 5 to 10 minutes to adsorb juices and to firm up.
6. We’re turning the food too often
We have a tendency to turn, flip and poke our food before it’s ready. When we do this, the food won’t get a nice sear, get crusty, sticks to the pan, or lose its coating.
When you poke the meat with a fork or prongs, this releases the juices and thus the meat gets dry.
Leave the food alone in the pan for the stated amount of time. It’s ready when you can slide a spatula clearly under it without sticking.
7. We check on the food too often
When the food is covered, or in the oven, we open the lid or oven door to check on the food often. When this happens you lose precious heat or steam. Food then ends up being underdone.
Save the checking to only once or twice closer to the end of the cook time instead.
8. We’re doing the math wrong
When the recipe has a large serving size, such as serves 6, but want to cut it down to only 3 servings, we often get the measurements wrong.
Fractions sometimes throw the best of us off. To remedy this, look up and print off a recipe fraction chart, such as this one from Pinterest.
9. We’re overcooking
We tend to overcook our food. Overcooked vegetables tend to get mushy, lose their flavor and color. Overcooked meat gets tough, chewy and chalky.
To preserve vegetables fresh flavor, taste a bit throughout the cooking time, also most vegetables can be eaten raw, so it doesn’t hurt to leave it a bit on the firm side.
To ensure meat is cooked thoroughly, but not overcooked, is to use a meat thermometer. Pull the meat off the heat when it’s a few degrees underdone. The residual heat will finish it off.
10. We’re not using fresh ingredients
We sometimes wonder why our recipe taste alters the different times we’ve made it.
This can be due to not using fresh ingredients. Frozen vegetables doesn’t offer the same taste or texture as fresh ones do. Sometime vegetables that aren’t so fresh have lost or changed their flavors.
Sometimes our spices on our spice rack don’t get used as often and becomes stale and that alters the taste of the food too.
To avoid this problem, keep an eye on expiration dates, use fresh food quicker, and even use fresh herbs and spices instead.
Following these tips will go a long way to having a great meal experience and less surprises.
"One finds limits by pushing them" ~ Herbert Simon
Hubby brings home a lot of various kinds of cheeses that were donated to his Agency. State law maintains that any food cannot be served past it's expiration date. Well to us, the expiration date is a "suggestion" and a lot of food is "still good".
One day he brings home a whole bag of "Blueberry Vanilla Goat Cheese", just look at them all!
So, off I go to Pinterest and search for recipes and found one for Goat Cheese Sugar Cookies. Well it's really "Blueberry Vanilla Goat Cheese Sugar Cookies" now, but that's too long....
Goat Cheese Sugar Cookies
Makes about 36 Cookies
2 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
1/3 Cup (3 oz.) Goat Cheese, room temperature
6 Tablespoons Butter, melted
1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 Large Egg
2 Tablespoons Milk
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract (Since there was already Vanilla in the cheese, I halved this, if you're using regular goat cheese, use 1 teaspoon)
Nonpareil sprinkles or sanding sugar (optional)
Note the "f" and "s" on the containers, just a low vision trick I use to differentiate the flour and sugar.
Yeah, doesn't look appealing here.....but patience my grasshopper....
Hang in there, almost done....
There we are!!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use foil and spray nonstick on it.
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl and set aside.
In mixer bowl combine the sugar, goat cheese and melted butter until smooth.
Mix in oil, milk, egg and vanilla extract until smooth.
Fold in flour mixture until no dry mixture remains.
(Optional Step) Pour Sprinkles or Sugar into a small bowl.
Dough should be soft but workable. Scoop out about a Tablespoon of dough, roll in the sprinkles/sugar and arrange on baking sheet with 2 inches of space between cookies.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until just set and slightly cracked.
Cool on baking sheet for about 3 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
One finds limits by pushing them" ~ Herbert Simon