Neurodivergent Kitchen Hacks
Food prep can be a neurodivergent nightmare whether you have ADHD, Autism, or some other spice. Over the years, I’ve developed some neurodivergent kitchen hacks (also known as coping mechanisms) to make things a bit easier on myself. I never really learned how to cook. Prior to my mom and I, the women in our lineage could all easily cook and bake incredible food just by feel and that is simply not something our spicy brains ever really absorbed. While I love a good baking binge, trying to keep up with well-rounded meals all week is overwhelming to me and I don’t even have kids to feed yet. My ADHD kitchen coping mechanisms are admittedly not flawless and often subject to my hormone cycle, but they have definitely helped me so I’m sharing them here, in hopes they may help you too.
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Ways to Waste Less Produce
- Get a Fruit and Vegetable Washer
This purchase was a game-changer here where it can often feel like a produce graveyard. The Sunday me who makes meal and grocery decisions is not the Thursday me. Sometimes I simply just do not want the textures the produce in our fridge has to offer. Cue the fruit and veggie washer! You will be delightfully disgusted by all the dirt that comes off and it will help your produce last longer. Yes, it may sound a bit more tedious than tossing your produce in the fridge when you get home from grocery shopping. But by taking the time to clean and properly store your produce, it will last longer which wastes less food, saves you money, and you’re more likely to eat it if it’s already clean and ready to go.
- Learn How to Properly Store Your Produce
Learn which produce should and shouldn’t be stored together, whether they should be stored in the fridge or on the counter, and how to store them. Having a good produce storage system can be helpful in your fight against wasted produce. Air-tight containers that have a lifted divider that allows gas and juices to be released from the bottom can help most produce stay fresh longer. I like this set of 10 stackable organizer bins because the big one has a drawer so even if you have the others stacked on top, you don’t need to move everything to get to whatever’s on the bottom. The less steps, the better.
Make Your Fridge ADHD Friendly
- Keep Things Visible and Easy to Grab
While your produce is getting a cleansing massage from the fruit and vegetable washer, take the rest of your groceries out of their packaging and make everything as easy to grab as possible. Try and keep perishables within view so your problems with object permanence don’t lead to out-of-sight mold experiments. Some people move all their sauces and items with long shelf lives to the back and put produce on the door shelves. I think this is a great solution for some people. I just can’t stand how that feels autistically speaking so personally, I do not partake in such chaos.
- Get Fridge Liners
Accept that you will inevitably forget about some items and things may fester despite your best efforts. Ensure their odors don’t spread to fresher produce by throwing these Fruit and Veggie Life Extender Mats on the shelves. Your produce will last longer and your wallet will thank you.
Preparing your Pantry
A big problem for many people with ADHD is food waste and stockpiling nonperishables until after they still somehow perish. As covered above, your two ADHD food storage mantras should be:
- Keep it visible
- Make it as accessible as possible
We don’t all have the luxury of space to keep everything where you can see it. Trust me, I am one of them as we have a very tiny kitchen that is a perpetual game of Tetris. This is made worse by my ADHD habit of thinking we’re out of something that we’re not or forgetting I have already replaced something so I just end up with too much somethings. To help prevent things from using my pantry as an entry to Narnia, here are some things I use to make food prep more ADHD-friendly.
- Vacuum-Sealed, Clear Storage Bins
I hate when everything in my pantry is different sizes and shapes so nothing fits quite right. For every item I need to move out of the way or organize back into place later, I am less likely to follow through with cooking. If I can’t see it, I will forget about it so this storage system is a must for me.
- Lazy Susans
Being able to spin Susan around and get whatever you need without having to move multiple items is far from lazy, it’s a lifesaver.
- Stacking Shelves
We only have cupboard space for our pantry items which can be challenging. Having a set of stackable shelves not only gives us more storage space but keeps more things in view as well which makes us more likely to use them.
Neurodivergent-Friendly Kitchen Utensils
Did you know people with ADHD and people with autism can struggle with opening things? Not simply dreaded jars but plastic packaging, Tupperware, and pretty much any kind of food container can be difficult for us to open at times. I also have rheumatoid arthritis which adds another element that often leaves me frustrated in the kitchen. However, there are a few tools I have found really helpful for opening difficult packaging so I’m left in an ADHD rage less often.
- Silicone Gripper Pads
These are an absolute must in my kitchen. Before I had them, a difficult jar could lead to some ridiculous outcomes. Bent kitchen tools, sliced fingers, and enough yelling to alarm the dogs. Not anymore! Seriously, you need these.
- Garlic Press
I love garlic. For any recipe that calls for garlic, I triple the amount of garlic and that can get tedious. Whether it be because of the ADHD or the arthritic hands, I need chopping garlic to be simpler. A garlic press makes things much easier so I can pile on as much garlic as I want.
Part of autism questionnaires should include whether you have strong feelings about The Big Spoon or not. Many of us have strong preferences about our eating utensils that may not make sense to neurotypicals as we can be very particular about texture, weight, and size.
- Wheat Straw Bowls and Plates
Dishes I can break stress me out. I don’t even drop or knock over dishes very often and surprisingly don’t spill as often as my wild gesturing would imply. I’m just always worried I will and then I won’t have the whole set and things won’t match and most obviously, I’ll have to clean up a mess. I love that wheat straw is durable, lightweight, and easy to clean while still being cute while not looking like cheap plastic dishes.
- Rainbow Cutlery
Not only is this shiny rainbow set beautifully dopamine-inducing, but the big spoon isn’t so big it’s intolerable. What’s not to love?
Kitchen Systems Worth the Money
I love a good deal and never want to spend more than I need to. That being said there are a couple of kitchen systems I think are absolutely worth the money:
- Soda Stream Soda Water Machine I am a spicy water addict. Regular water just gets so boring and my ADHD beverage-goblin ways mean I tend to use beverages to chase dopamine. Having a soda water machine saves me so much money and so much plastic waste that it is absolutely worth the cost.
- Ninja Full Kitchen System
This is probably the most expensive thing I will ever include in an affiliate post but it is so worth the money! Smoothies can be a bit of a lifesaver for me. On days when nothing sounds good or I’m struggling to get fruit or protein into my system, smoothies are the best answer. I can pack one with nutrients and protein and return right back to my desk with it. Yes, making smoothies is already pretty easy but a Ninja blender makes it even easier. Being able to blend the smoothie in the same cup is great for my “as few steps as possible” approach and it is how easy it is to clean. We got the full system with the food processor addition which is great for so many things I won’t even begin to list them all here.
Now, not everything in my kitchen is for neurodivergent functionality to speed up food prep. Some of it is purely for a little dopamine boost. Here are some of my favorite silly kitchen items.
- Glitter Tumbler Cups Meant for Kids
I can’t explain why I love cups like this. They’re such a nice weight and I love the glitter and the cute things on the side. I dunno, I just love them, okay?
- This adorable Neu-ROAR-divergent Mug
Yes, I got it from my own Etsy store. That’s how adorable I think it is.
NeuroSpicy Kitchen Updates
I’ll be sure to add any other suggestions for a neurodivergent-friendly home as I discover them. Hit subscribe so you never miss an update!