A Vegan Experience of Surgery & Recovery: I had chest reconstruction surgery on August 22nd 2017. For Vegan Mofo 2017, I will be writing about my experience preparing for surgery and my ongoing recovery.
This post is all about stocking up your cupboards, fridge and freezer in preparation for recovery after surgery.
When I first thought about feeding myself during recovery, I felt huge pressure to spend time preparing loads of healthy and nutritious meals for my freezer. I sat for hours at a time trawling through my cookbooks, trying to pick out exciting and varied recipes that would keep me satisfied for the first month of recovery. It was a stressful process and for me and my situation, not realistic.
I was working full time, my Partner got a last minute date for surgery 4 weeks before I was due mine and my mental health often gets in the way of me cooking even basic meals. After a helpful discussion with my therapist, I decided that I needed to prioritise certain things to prepare for surgery….bulk cooking was pretty far down the list.
After a lot of stressing, I came to the conclusion that convenience foods and online shops were the way forward. I could spend time looking for easy to cook foods before I went down for surgery and I could have someone bring it all to my door for me. Perfect! So, here’s a run down on some useful products that I stocked up on.
Fill That Freezer!
If you have a freezer, now is the time to fill it up with ALL of the fun convenience foods! Here is a selection of products I stocked mine with
Quorn Hot & Spicy Burgers, Quorn Fish Fingers, Quorn Chicken Nuggets, Fry’s Chicken Strips, Linda McCartney Pies, Vegetable Burgers/Vegetable Fingers, Valsoia Ice Cream Sandwiches, Amy’s Mac n Cheese, Amy’s Burrito, Fry’s Slicing Sausage
Of course fake meats can work out to be very expensive. I kept my eyes peeled for offers a few months before surgery. I managed to get some really good deals on the Quorn items as well as the Linda Pies.
The other great thing to fill your freezer with is pre chopped fruit & vegetables. I didn’t have energy to chop a load of ingredients for meals. Grab yourself bags of mixed veg and fruit if you’re keen on making smoothies. If you like your frozen potato based products, get them in! Smiley Faces and Potato Waffles are the shit.
Now, if your freezer is anything like mine….you have some tupperware full of mystery meals you don’t remember cooking, bags of fresh herbs/spinach that you threw in there in panic and years worth of forgotten ice lollies. This requires getting smart when it comes to space. Throw out what you don’t need, organise things neatly and get yourself a load of freezer bags. Honestly, these will be a lifesaver when your delivery arrived. Decant everything out of their bulky boxes and condense them all into the freezer bags. This will save so much space. You can tear the cooking instructions from the packaging and pop them inside the bags so you know what each bag has and how long they need in the oven/microwave.
Handy Items for your Cupboards
Well stocked cupboards are going to really help you here. Pack them with a variety of foods so you can pick or choose what you fancy and have the energy for
Depending on the surgery you’ve had, you may not be able to prepare yourself anything more than a ready meal popped in the oven, but when you get a bit more mobility or if you have someone cooking for you jarred sauces, pesto etc are all really great for stirring through pasta and rice.
Flavoured couscous sachets, instant noodles/pasta are also lifesavers. Just boil your kettle and you’ll have something warm and filling within just a few minutes.
One idea I heard about but didn’t get round to using…have a look for some of those flavoured/seasoning bags that are used to cook chicken breasts and such in the oven. A lot of the time they’re vegan as they just contain oil and spices. Fill the bags with frozen veg/tofu/chickpeas/faux meat etc and bake them in the oven. Really easy to do and requires very little prep or clean up. If you can’t find them in your local supermarket, you could pre prepare some season mixes to stir through your veg/tofu etc, add a little oil and wrap in foil for similar results.
These boxed curries are amazing. They can be found in Indian food shops and ASDA also sell them. All you need to do is place the bag in a pan of boiling water and boil for under 10 minutes. You open the bag up and result, you have hot curry.
They’re surprisingly good, I wasn’t expecting much from them when I first discovered them. It’s also great that they have vegan ‘tofu paneer’ curries. There is a huge variety of these available, they’re reasonably cheap and most of them are vegan.
Tinned foods aren’t always the most exciting, but they’re very handy when you’re unable to prepare meals. Look out for curried/flavoured beans that can be paired with couscous or rice, nice hearty filling soups, baked beans for days when all you can make is toast and grab some vine leaves, giant beans in tomato sauce, greek green beans, stuffed peppers/aubergine etc to help liven up rice, couscous and salad.
Probably more relevant around summer time but Aldi and Lidl had some tinned/jarred vine leaves, olives and stuffed vegetables for really good prices. Make sure to check out their special buys every now and then for these sort of things
If you know you’ll be unable to carry shopping for a while, get a load of milk in for yourself. There’s usually some kind of non dairy milk on offer. Ocado often have Almond Breeze on sale, so I bought a load of that in.
Also, flavoured milks are great for recovery. You can take these into hospital, have them as a snack if you’re too lazy to get some toast on…and also choccy milk, it’s awesome.
Fill your fridge with Hummus
Toast, sandwiches, wraps, crackers and baked potatoes are going to feature quite heavily in your diet while you recover, so get a load of hummus in to liven things up a bit. I managed to find my favourite brand Sabra, so I stocked up on a load of that. This hummus is a dream, so smooth, garlicky and delicious.
Also worth stocking up on cream cheese, falafels, marinated tofu, salsa and vegetable pate. I love the Good Food range, it’s varied and really delicious. They are pretty pricey but can be eaten cold and are a good snack. Look out for offers on this range.
Yogurts, puddings, custard are good chilled options too, useful for easy breakfasts, puddings and snacks.
Jus Roll do some amazing vegan friendly Croissants, Pain Au Chocolat and Cinnamon Rolls. They have a long shelf life and are usually on offer, so get a load in. I did some pretty obscene and delicious things with these, but you’ll have to wait for a future post to find out!
A lot of folk will say “Eat healthy! You’ve just had surgery! Look after your body!” and whilst of course it’s a good idea to eat your fruit and veggies, you’ve just had a major operation, you’re going to be tired, sore and lacking in energy. You’re also likely to not have a huge appetite, so get in some of your favourite foods.
Treat yourself to all those things you don’t often by. In my case it was filthy cheap crisps full of all kinds of chemically flavourings, Pepsi Max because yes I know Pepsi is evil but having it there would encourage me to drink enough fluids and goddammit I just got sliced open so GIVE ME ALL THE SUGAR CEREALS NOW AND DON’T JUDGE ME. Seriously, just go for it.
I got myself a lot of Peanut Butter, Biscoff Spread and Chocolate spread for recovery. All good on crackers, toast, bread or just off the spoon. Also great for dipping bananas into. I tried the Mr Organic Chocolate Hazelnut Spread for the first time, small and expensive but my God, is that stuff good.
I also got in an obscene amount of chocolate. I didn’t end up eating it all, I still have loads hanging around but it was nice to have a selection of my favourites around for when I did want to treat myself. Sometimes when you’re lying on your pillow fort, counting down the minutes to your next load of Codeine it’s nice to distract yourself with your favourite bar of chocolate. I found Moo Free, Go Max Go Bars and Ananda Wagon Wheels the most helpful for these times.
Once you’ve prioritised all these things, have a look at getting in some token fresh fruit and vegetables. Remember though that preparing veg is energy sucking. I stuck to salady things and pickles to put in wraps and sandwiches, avocados and then things like easy peel clementines and bananas.
Pre prepared fresh vegetables that can be steamed, boiled or put in the microwave will be much more useful than sacks of onions, carrots and potatoes. And for the love of your stitches, keep away from chopping up pumpkins and squashes.
So there we have it! Those are a few of my suggestions for easy convenience foods to help with recovery. Are there any more you can think of? Please comment below!