Cooking for the Holidays When You Are Blind or Visually Impaired

cook stirring pot on stove
Photo by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash
Cook in Kitchen

Whether you’re making a meal, taking a dish to a party, preparing treats to have on hand if visitors drop in, or creating gifts to please the palette, with proper planning these don’t have to be holiday stressors! 

What to Fix  

With low or no vision, what is your skill level?  By evaluating what you can easily do, you can tailor your recipe choices to your abilities. If you’re not very experienced or are still learning adaptive ways of doing what you used to do with good vision; plan gifts to give such as dump, mix, and go appetizers, candies, and desserts; easy to assemble casserole; oven bag meats or poultry; slow cooker hot beverages; and jarred mixes. If you know your way around the kitchen and are comfortable with more advanced skills,  make those rolls from scratch, dip those bonbons, and dazzle your guests with that layer cake or meringue topped pie.  If you have friends or family to help you, ask your children, grandchildren, nieces and/or nephews to assist you bake and decorate holiday cookies. Get together with your friends or significant other to share in some food prep fun and deliciousness! 

The Internet and YouTube are among great sources for recipes, as simple or complicated as you desire. Google Groups, Yahoo groups, and Facebook have groups specifically geared toward the cook who is blind/visually impaired that answer questions and provide helpful tips and a wide range of accessible recipes. 

Make a List and Check It Twice 

Once you know what you want to prepare for the holidays, make a list of all the things you’ll need using braille, large print, a digital recorder, or your smart phone. After making your list, remove the items you already have, such as spices, flour and canned or powdered milk. Divide your list into perishable and nonperishable items. Once again, go through your recipes to be sure everything you’ll need is in your pantry, fridge, freezer, or on your list. 

Shop, But Don’t Drop 

Now that you know what you need to buy, why not take it easy and let someone do the shopping for you? Throughout the United States, there are now grocery delivery services where the delivery fee is comparable to a round trip on paratransit or free.  While they may not have every item you need, grocery delivery is free to people with Amazon Prime through Amazon Fresh, if the purchase totals $35.00 or more.  Walmart.com will let you order your groceries over the phone, 800-924-9206 as long as you have a Walmart account.  You can have your groceries picked up free of charge or delivered.  The delivery fee ranges from about $7.95 to $9.95, depending on the time of day you want the delivery, or, for approximately $12.98 a month or $98 a year; unlimited deliveries are covered with no additional charge. Many of the larger chain grocery stores offer pick-up and delivery services and/or you can use a delivery service such as Instacart. With these services, you often have to order groceries via a desktop computer and/or phone app. While making your order, you can check the week’s ad and may be able to obtain digital coupons. You can buy nonperishable items when they are on sale to use when needed. Perishable items need to be purchased closer to the time you plan to use them.  

Make a Schedule  

The more you plan to prepare, the more precise you will need to be. You can buy freezer appetizers that can simply be placed on a cookie sheet or in an air fryer to heat if company shows up unexpectedly. Another suggestion is mix together 16 oz. each of salsa and sour cream or 16 oz. sour cream and an envelope of dry onion soup mix or Ranch dressing mix to serve with chips or raw vegetables.  

If you’re taking something to a get-together, determine whether it would be best to make it the day before such as deviled eggs, potato or pasta salad or a dessert. If it is the day of the event, you can plan a hot dip, green salad with dressing or a casserole. Some casseroles can be assembled the day before and baked on the day they are to be served.   

If you’re making a dinner, figure out what can be made or assembled ahead of time. Put together the stuffing/dressing, deviled eggs, a fruit salad, and dessert on the day before the big meal. On the day of the dinner, bake the turkey and stuffing/dressing and prepare the mashed potatoes and other vegetables, so everything will be hot and ready at the same time.  If, for example, you plan to make a Thanksgiving turkey that is frozen, schedule his transfer from freezer to fridge. So that he will be thawed before going into the oven, plan one day for every four pounds of turkey to be thawed. 

Based on what you know about your prep ability and any help you may have on the day of the dinner, make a schedule in 15-minute increments of what you’re going to do up to the time that the dinner is served. Plan what cooking vessel or small appliance you’re going to use for each item, what will have to go into the oven, and when and what you’ll cook on the stove top. If using foil pans in the oven, be sure they are supported by a baking pan or cookie sheet.  Never leave handles of pans sticking out on the stove top! Try to determine where each item will be placed when ready to serve. 

We Gather Together          

As your dinner guests arrive, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you want or need it.  Most people are happy to help, and we all have our talents. You may have made a delicious turkey, but you may want someone else to carve it. Once the meal is ready, let those who can serve themselves. To make clean up easier, you may want to use heavy duty plates or platters, but you may want to avoid plastic eating utensils, as they often don’t stand up to the vigor of spearing or cutting foods.  Above all, don’t bite off more than you can chew!  Keep your holiday food prep as stress free as possible and enjoy eating and drinking with family and friends throughout the holiday season!   

Happy Holidays! 

Additional Information 

The Gift of Homemade Cooking for the Holidays – VisionAware 

Food Gifts You Can Make for the Holidays – Part 3 – VisionAware 

Cooking and Meals: Master Your Kitchen – VisionAware