Skip to main content
Naidex and HSBC logo

19th - 20th March 2025
NEC, Birmingham

CPD Member 

20 Dec 2022

Wellness and cooking, a blog with Mr Cookfulness

Ian Taverner - Mr Cookfulness

With the cold weather and the cost-of-living crisis having an impact on those living with chronic illnesses and disabilities, cooking can become a daunting task. We know that cooking can bring so much joy so here are some questions that could help with finding this…

With the cost-of-living crisis, what are some cheap go-to meals that you can prepare?

Pasta is always right at the top of my list.  It is on the whole good value and it keeps, of course, if you buy the dried pasta which I do.  The great thing about pasta is the shapes, sizes and even flavours it comes in now and all available in every supermarket too.  The shapes are important because they all hold a sauce or topping differently, meaning you can’t get bored or tired of the same dish! You can get gluten free and/or dairy free pasta now very easily too and at a reasonable price. Pasta is also brilliant for adding pretty much anything to.  It is quick and you can make it as simple or complicated as you want to, so the ultimate flexible meal to match however and whatever you are feeling able to achieve!

Pasta really needs a sauce, something to coat it, and even a very simple sauce can transform pasta to something really special.  When I am really struggling I often go to my super quick cheese sauce, then add a bit of ham, some leftover veg or chicken, and a really quick and tasty family dish appears!  The ingredients are really simple

1 small packet of cream cheese (vegan options work too)

Some of the hot cooking water from the pasta

That’s it!

All you need do is add the cream cheese to a small saucepan and gently heat it up, add 2 or 3 tablespoons of the cooking water from your paste and stir to combine! The beauty here is you can use all kinds of flavours of cream cheese to keep it interesting.  When you feel able to make a full cheese sauce from scratch, go for it!  When you don’t, you can make this one and you’ve still made it!

A Bolognese is, for me, one of the very best in terms of taste, versatility, adaptability and future proofing yourself!  Here’s why!

A home made Bolognese is fabulous with spaghetti, either made from minced beef/lamb/pork, or vegan mince or chopped mixed vegetables.  However, this base mix can then be transformed into so many other dishes with the simplest of additions that you can literally go around the world to eat, all from the one base dish!

Some of the core element of Cookfulness cooking are right here within the Bolognese. 

  • You will see from the recipe that I use chopped frozen onions, garlic and ginger paste, all to help when chopping/grating is off limits.  This isn’t cheating, it is very Smart Cooking!

  • If you are able to ‘Make a Little Extra’ when you make a Bolognese, then you can bag up the extra not eaten, pop into your freezer and it is ready for the days you really need a helping hand to cook.  I don’t batch cook, that scares me to death!  I just Make a Little Extra of things when I can and freeze it. 

  • You absolutely must Celebrate the fact you made a dish using the frozen one you might have made weeks before, the same way you would a fresh one.  YOU still made it!

  • You can use a freshly made one or one you have taken out of the freezer as a Bolognese or, by adding a couple of dried herbs or spices, you can go Mexican, Middle Eastern, American, Greek, Turkish, British you name it!  See the recipe for all of the additions you can make to turn one dish into lots!

There is nothing wrong with using a jar of pasta sauce when you need it, or adding some frozen ready chopped veg when you need it.  These are smart and clever things to do to help you still cook when you are really finding it difficult. 

You are still cooking!

You should be very proud of yourself!

You should celebrate the fact you’ve been able to cook when not feeling at all able to!

In the section below on gadgets there are a couple of essentials that can really help you with cooking pasta as the hot water and heavy pans can put you off.

Which simple recipes are good for when people are tired or feel unable to cook, but still want a nutritional meal?

Obviously in addition to the above, dishes with minimal effort but maximum taste and benefit are brilliant.  I have a few absolute favourites I go to

  • Filled Jackets!  A jacket potato is a packaged meal, but if all potato it’s a bit dull and slightly carb heavy!  So, I like to make filled jackets by baking them as normal, then cutting out a circle from the long side of each potato, carefully scooping out the potato to a bowl and then adding whatever you have to hand.  Some leftover cooked meat and/or veg, some dried herbs and spices, whatever you have to hand.  I have even added some coconut milk, curry powder for a great creamy spice hit! Mix it up, put it back inside the skins, top with the lid and back in the oven for 15 mins! Incredibly versatile, you can take your time and spread your effort and you get a different wonderful dish each time!

  • The pie!  I don’t mean loads of pastry, although that is nice too, but I mean a dish with a great base and a topping.  Think Cottage/Shepherds pie.  Mixed vegetables (fresh or frozen), leftover meats, anything you want to add, a stock cube in hot water is as far as you need to go but having some fun with different dried mixed herbs and/or spices is a great way to excite and delight!  Use one of your previously made and frozen bologneses as the base! Peeling, slicing, boiling and mashing potatoes can be incredibly difficult, so a tip here is, whenever you are making some jacket potatoes, Make A Little Extra and when you scoop out the insides, quickly mash with a fork and put into a bag and pop in the freezer for when you need some instant mash!  Alternatively, just ask someone to slice a few potatoes up for you and lay them on top instead of mash.

With mash, you can make it with added carrot, some sweet potato, broccoli, turnip, peas, most veg really! This can really push up your vegetable intake whilst keeping wonderful flavours.  Rather than having to prep and boil all of this, use the ‘Little Extra’ method whenever cooking veg, with the extra, give a squish and keep in the freezer.  The more different pre mashed items you add to your freezer over time, the more options you have when you need it!

Are there any kitchen gadgets can be used to make the process easier?

This is so important!  I have some absolute essentials in my kitchen to help me when I need it

  • Knives!  I have 2 that I use all of the time, for everything!  These knives though are from a company called Active Hands, a truly brilliant British company making wonderful things for anyone who needs help.  You will see from the picture that they are right angled, which makes it so much easy to hold, to slice and chop and achieve!

  • Can Opener!  Those ring pull cans can be absolute torture, so I have this one touch auto opener that you place on the can (and if it is one with a ring pull on top, you turn it upside down and take the bottom off), press the button and it goes round and removes the whole lid and keeps it due to the magnetic part.  Safe and incredibly satisfying!  Again this is from Active Hands.

  • Large Slotted Spoon!  Transferring heavy/hot pans to drain can be impossible.  I use this to lift out veg or pasta from the cooking pan and into the sauce or serving dish, then the hot pan I leave to go cold when it is safer to empty.

  • Steamer!  I used to think these were a luxury item or for fancy stuff, but I use mine all the time now.  They have an in built timer, you can control what you are cooking, you can cook loads of things all at once and you arent using heavy pans of boiling water.  I have had the same one now for years and it is still showing no signs of giving up so, whilst a cost up front, the savings over the years in your health, ability to cook whatever the day and also use of electricity/gas will be really benefcial.

Illnesses and disabilities can really be affected by cold weather. What tips do you have for still being able to cook during these periods?

Absolutely!  It makes already difficult things even harder, and that affects you physically and mentally, so here are a few quick tips to help you

  • Give Yourself Time!  When you are really suffering, the tendancy is to either not do it or rush to try and get it done as fast as you can.  The best way I have found is to really take my time, but to acknowledge that this time is really important and make sure it is planned into whatever else I had on for the day so youu don’t feel guilty for taking all the time!  Make cooking part of your special, required and positive things you do each day, not the one you put off and off and hate.  Just that change of philosophy can really help.   Giving yourself time means that you add time to how long things usually take, you accept that time is essential and smart and you give yourself every chance to make things, just taking your time to do it!  You cook almost every day and it can become something you have to squeeze in to everything else, but by making cooking part of your key achievements each day, you will give it more time and start to celebrate your achhievements more!

  • Music! Give yourself the best chance by playing music you really love!  Create a Cookfulness playlist of all of your favourite songs from now and as you went through life towards now.  Make it a really positive mix of music, not the break up song(s!), and let yourself be flooded by the music, feel the power and positivity it brings, sing out loud and go for it!  Keep adding to it, keep creating new positive memories and let music and cooking transport you!

  • Widen Your Kitchen! You don’t have to be in the kitchen to be cooking.  I prepare a lot of my meals sat at a table.  Being outside of the kitchen environment can often take away a lot of the pressure to rush and not enjoy it. Make your own rules!

  • Use Your Freezer! As I have said throughout, using your freezer is really smart.  Not just your Litttle Extra cooking, but having a selection of bought prechopped veg in there, from onion to sweet potato, chilli to broccoli, that you can build up over a long time, is a huge help when you really need it.  There’s less waste, less chopping/peeling, and much, much more happiness and Cookfulnes joy!

  • What You Need! All my recipes set out exactly what you will need to make them, down to the teaspoon.  It really helps to get everything out upfront so there are no nasty surprises of what you haven’t got which, when you are really suffering, can be enough to tip you too far!

  • What are your favourite meals to cook?

For me there is nothing better than a middle of the table dish ready to dive into! You will know that from what I have said already!  My favourites do change all of the time.  Currently I am really enjoying experimenting with stir fries.  The way I try things is to firstly get a spice mix or sauce ready made, make it up with loads of veg, have with noodles or rice and, if it gets the thumbs up, then I try and see if I can make it myself with what I have in the cupboard.  You always get someone saying “be nice if had more xxxxx” or “take out the yyyyy next time” and so then you can start to play about with the flavours.  The key is that you know you like the flavours, it’s just tweaking them!

When I am really struggling, then I will still have the pre made sauce/spices in, have a ready chopped frozen bag of stir fry veg in the freezer, and you are turbo charged ahead to create a wonderful dish without too much of the stress, pain and anxiety.

When you are feeling a little brighter, you can try using different vegetables, different flavours, really experiementing but you cook it all in one pan/wok.  I really love dishes that you can play away to your hearts content but always know you have options in the freezer and store cupboard when you really need them.

Curries are also great to make as you can do exactly the same here as with the stir fries with ingredients, the freezer etc.  There is nothing quite like a proper, traditional curry, but that’s why you go out to eat them made by the specialists, not slave away for days trying to do it yourself!  Just using some basic spices like Garam Massala, Curry Powder, Chilli Powder, you can create lovely, fragrant and delicious dishes with minimal effort.  You can use them to marinade or straight into a dish for curry on the go. Don’t go mad, just one or two of these spices will make a huge difference.

Of course, there’s the bolognese............or is it???!!!!

Make Cooking Part of Your Happy Stuff, The Cookfulness Way!


Check out Mr Cookfulness' Bolognese here.


Cookfulness is available at Amazon & Goodreads in hard copy or e-book

You can follow Ian’s Cookfulness journey on his social media channels.  Twitter, Instagram & Facebook are all @Cookfulness

Website -

YouTube - Cookfulness

View all News & Press Releases