Getting Past Barriers

Jars & Bottles

The problem, of course, is that your hand can hang on to either the top or the container and you need something to grip the other part. One good solution is a device mounted under an upper cabinet. The gadget holds the cap while you twist the jar or bottle out of the cap. Another solution flips the solution. The vise on a Swedish cutting board holds the bottle or jar while you exert force on the lid. A number of products can help increase your gripping power on the lid.

Tin Cans

Pull Tabs

Pull tabs on cans are useful, but being one-handed, you still need a way to hold the can while you pull the tab. If you have some use of your second hand, you may be able to use that arm/hand to hold the can. Perhaps you have a way to wedge the can in place so you can pull the tab. If that is not an option, a Swedish cutting board can definitely help. Just lock the can in the vise and pull the tab to open the can.

Can Openers

A standard can requires the use of a can opener. Unfortunately, can openers can be a problem. Most manual can openers require holding the can still while piercing the lid and twisting the key. Almost all of the electric openers require holding the can (usually up in the air) with one hand and using the other hand to lever the cutting tip to pierce the lid or the side of the can. If you have trouble attaching the opener to a can, you can anchor the can in the vise of a Swedish cutting board, assuming the can is tall enough for the can opener to clear the jaws of the vise. If you don’t have a vise to hold the can while getting the opener in position, you may have success placing the can on a rubber or silicone mat or a damp cloth to reduce the slipperiness of your work surface.

I tried one battery-powered opener that runs around the top of the can, but it was hard to discern when the opener was positioned correctly. That opener was very slow going around the can, and the batteries didn’t last long.

Hamilton Beach came to the rescue with its Walk ‘n Cut can opener. It is cordless (when in use) and rechargeable (by plugging in the recharging cord). It takes only a little practice to get the opener positioned and the tin pierced. You should let go of the opener as soon as it pierces the top of the can and begins moving. If you hang on, the operation may fail.

Since the population of the world seems to be predominantly right-handed, can openers are pretty much designed for the right hand. I’m happy to say that operating the Walk ‘n Cut with my left hand is no problem.

An excellent manual can opener is the Chef’ Ez Squeeze One-Handed Can Opener.  It has become my go-to can opener. With it, I don’t need batteries or to plug in a charger. You spread the handles, place the cutting head on the rim of the can and squeeze the handles repeatedly. Each squeeze pierces the edge of the lid and advances the jaws around the can. The only negative is that removing the opener from the can by spreading the handles seems to always pull a sliver of metal up. Be careful not to brush the top of the open can because the sliver is sharp. I have had no problems operating the ratcheting mechanism.

When I open a can with extra thick ingredients, such as condensed soup, that won’t slide or pour out of the can, I place the can in the cutting board vise and use a small silicone ladle to scoop the contents out of the can. The flexibility of the silicone allows the scoop to conform to the side of the can. The scoop does a good job on the sidewall but it misses the content at the very bottom. A jar paddle would do a better job moving the product around the bottom edge. You can place the can at an angle in the vise, which may facilitate dipping the ladle into the can.


I use scissors to open heat sealed bags. If the contents of the bag are likely to spill, I just place something under the end I plan to open. Simply elevating the opening end usually allows gravity to keep the contents in the bag.

Zipper top bags were a great invention; however, I find I must use my teeth with my one good hand to be able to open most them. Bags that don’t have a zipper head/pull are a big challenge. If the bag seals tightly, I must sometimes call for help. I avoid the flat zip type. Elegant as they are, they are just too difficult to handle without a second hand.

Storage Containers

It’s important to choose containers that can be opened and closed with one hand.  For things that don’t need a tight seal, small clear glass bowls with loose lids (think sugar bowl) work for storage of non-perishable items. Bigger containers may need a handle.Weight of a bowl when filled may be a factor, depending on the strength of your usable hand.

There are many styles of containers available. Plastic containers are common, but you have selections in glass and other materials also. Just find ones you like that you can handle easily.

Among the plastic ones, I find that a container with a lip around the rim of the lower section plus a lip on the lid provides a way to use fingers to separate the two parts. Glass (or plastic) containers with snap down bails are a good possibility also. Some are easy to use, such as Snapware, and some are very difficult.  When in doubt, find a store where you can try opening and closing the containers.

My current favorite is the Good Grips style with the pop up button on the lid. These are very easy to use with one hand. Just push the center button down to seal; push the button again to unseal. You can’t put as much in this container as you might expect because the lid takes up the top inch. The pop button lids can be separated into two pieces. A 90-degree counter-clockwise twist separates the parts. The bottom part is the part potentially in contact with food, and it can be immersed in water to clean. Do not put the pop-up part in water because of the metal pop-up mechanism, but it can be wiped clean by hand. Except for the button top part, I wash the plastic parts in the top shelf of the dishwasher.