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10 Ways To Avoid The Winter Blues

10 Ways To Avoid The Winter Blues

Let me first start by saying that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real thing.  If you think you’re experiencing depression and not just a case of the “winter blues” you should see your doctor because we’re not doctors here and nothing in this article is meant to be medical advice. I’ve really got to stress that point because, like really, I. AM. NOT. A. DOCTOR. So you interweb crazies that are looking for medical advice and someone to sue–move along, this is not the place for you.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I want to say that I am not a fan of winter.  Sure, it’s a necessary evil.  I don’t think I could live somewhere that didn’t have a proper winter because it would just suck all of the joy out of spring!  You know, that moment when all the snow melts and everyone in the northern states start wearing shorts and tank tops and flip flops the minute it’s 60 degrees outside! LOL  Ah yes, these are MY people!  As a matter of fact, I wear flip flops as long as there isn’t snow currently on the ground.

10 Ways To Avoid The Winter Blues, www.shesmovingmountains.com

With that being said, I get in a funk every year during the winter.  That time between Christmas and warmth just messes with my head, I guess.  I don’t like to be penned up indoors.  I hate how dreary and colorless it is.  I hate how everything smells stale.  I hate that my food is not as fresh and vibrant.  I’d say I have a case of the winter blues (also known as the snowy sorrows, the blizzard blahs, and the frosty funk) every year, but I’m finding ways to get past it.

  1. Exercise.

    That’s a dirty word, right?  You don’t have to go to the gym and all that, but just be active.  I usually try to throw myself into my housework (aka all the crap that I neglected to clean all summer).  Being active gets your body out of it’s winter funk too.  You know the funk I’m talking about–where you eat one cookie and gain 14 pounds.  Yeah, your body thinks it’s time to hibernate so we gotta kick it up a notch.  Winter sports and activities are a great way to get some of that exercise too.  When was the last time you went sledding, ice skating or skiing?  Why not today?!

  2. Sunlight.

    The winter blues can be fought off to some degree just by getting a dose of natural sunlight!  So open those curtains even though it looks like a white death outside.  While you’re at it, be sure to soak up some rays while you’re shoveling, salting, and scraping unmentionable amounts of snow and ice off your vehicles–take off the ski mask!  Sunlight helps your body to produce vitamin D, and also produces endorphins that make you feel happy!  You don’t want to get sunburnt so don’t over do it, and try to avoid the tanning beds because we all know the risks of those things.

  3. Turn on the Lights.

    Making your home brighter makes it feel like a bright sunny day.  It tricks your brain into thinking you’re getting more sunlight than you really are and can definitely increase your mood!  I have made a habit of this over the years and find myself with every light in the house on when it’s overcast and gloomy all year round!

  4. Eat Healthy.

    I don’t need to lecture anyone.  I fail at eating healthy and eating right very often.  Thrive foods helps me stay on track because it’s easy and quick.  Planning and prepping my meals helps me stay on track too.  But sometimes the cookies and chips just call my name, and I’m weak.  You can be better than me and you can resist!

  5. Keep Yourself Busy.

    Whatever it is that you enjoy, go do it.  I like to paint and create and write, so here we are.  I also like to read. I keep lots of houseplants too–which kinda simulates spring/summer.  The greenery cheers me up and it gives me something to do too! It could be anything for you, but find it, and pursue it.  If you can’t think of anything, then it’s time to try something new!!  Find a new hobby if necessary.

  6. Make it smell like spring or summer.

    There are so many options for this one.  I get on a kick sometimes–right now it’s lemon and citrus scents.  So I’m using essential oils for that, and even putting lemon in my water.  Some of my most favorite scents in winter are rose and lilac and sandalwood (which just smells really clean and fresh to me).  Candles, wax warmers, air fresheners, whatever you want to use.  I like to use a warming pot that came with our old crockpot to make a nice potpourri. I only have to fill it once in the morning and unplug it at night. It puts a good amount of moisture back in the air too!

  7. Music.

    Listen to music that reached deep down in your soul and can pull you out of your funk.  Listen to music that makes you want to sing along and dance.  Listen to music that is stimulating and happy.  Above all, listen to music that moves you and makes you smile.

  8. Avoid What Makes You Unhappy.

    Seems like common sense, right?  I’ve heard of lots of people avoiding the news altogether because they find it depressing to watch and listen to it.  Well, they find that they also have to avoid social media and some tv/radio stations and youtube channels to find their peace.  I don’t have much of that problem because I have always avoided things that make me unhappy.  Life is TOO SHORT, my friends, entirely too short.

  9. Plan a Getaway.

    Planning a vacation or road trip or even a weekend away can stimulate the senses.  It’s great if you can get away to a warm place in the winter, but even if you can’t, the planning is beneficial.  Even if you’re planning a trip that may take place years from now–just thinking about it can be a distraction from the winter blues.

  10. Keep a Schedule.

    This is probably the biggest and best way that I avoid getting into a terrible funk, and succumbing to full on depression in the winter months.  We keep a schedule.  This is mostly thanks to the Mister’s insanely accurate internal clock.  I could and would sleep the day away if he didn’t wake me up.  He even helps me keep my schedule on the weekends by waking me up by 10am.  He’s up by 7am no matter what day of the week it is, but he’s a dear and let’s me sleep.  Thank you Mr. Wonderful, I appreciate that so much!!

These 10 things are what keeps my winter blues at bay, nearly without fail. I do occasionally have days where I just don’t feel like doing anything but taking a nap, but I force myself to snap out of it and go back to these good habits that keep me going strong and mentally healthy!

Do you have a tip you’d like to see added to this list?  Let’s hear about it in the comments!

10 Ways To Avoid The Winter Blues, www.shesmovingmountains.com

Organize My Life, Part Four: Meal Prepping

Organize My Life, Part Four: Meal Prepping

“Meal Prepping” can take on a variety of meanings depending on who you’re talking to, what they like to eat and what they consider a meal.  That may mean preparing things ahead so it’s easier to cook, that may mean cooking things ahead so having a healthy dinner at home is as fast as drive thru or anywhere in between!  So let’s just explore some of the meal prepping options and you can pick and choose what fits you and your lifestyle.  There is no right of wrong way to do it–you just have to try things out and see what you like. The guarantee of meal prep is that your week will be easier, less stressful, healthier, and you’ll save money!

I personally, do my meal prepping on Sunday most weeks, but sometimes that gets pushed back until Monday.  I like to prep for the whole week, but some people like to do it twice a week so that things stay a little more fresh.  In truth, there are some things that I can’t prepare ahead of time because it might not be used for 5 or 6 days, and let’s face it, that’s just too long for some things because they’ll be sub-par when I go to use them.

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Prepping for cooking later:

This is my biggest helper in the kitchen and it saves me so much time during the week.  Some of the things I like to prepare in advance are:

  • Slicing and chopping up any fresh produce for meals, such as bell peppers and onion for fajitas or carrots for pot roast. I also do this with zucchini to make “zoodles” with this slicer. To keep the veggies fresh, fill up the container with water before they go in the fridge!  They’ll keep fresh for days!
  • Boil your pasta ahead of time (to al dente) , put in a container with cold water and refrigerate.  When you’re ready to use, just drain them and toss them in boiling water for 1 minute to reheat.  I’ve even been known to just run them under hot tap water, but our tap puts our ridiculously hot water!
  • Brown your ground meats ahead of time if you’re not using Thrive ground beef and sausage crumbles.  You can do it all at once, then portion into containers and toss in the freezer or fridge for later use.
  • Make any meatballs, burger/sausage patties, etc so that you don’t have to do it later.
  • Slice up any meats you’ll use later in the week.  If they need marinated, put them in a container with the marinade and refrigerate until needed.  If you’ll be adding them to a casserole or other dish, you may be able to cook them ahead too!

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Assemble ahead of time:

These are my favorite because they’re so easy on a hectic night!  They’re already put together and just need a little bit to make an amazing dinner!

  • Pre-assemble casseroles and baked pasta dishes.  When you’re ready to use them just pop them straight in the oven!  (Tip: Make a second one and pop it in the freezer!)
  • If you like to bake fresh bread or rolls, prepare several batches of dough and freeze in portioned balls so you can bake it as needed.
  • Make ahead any salsa or condiments you will use this week.
  • Prepare burritos and wraps for the week, then wrap tightly in foil and store in the fridge.  They are great for lunches!
  • Put together a few meals-in-a-jar for the extra hectic nights
  • Assemble your salads ahead of time, just don’t add your dressing or croutons until you’re ready to eat.
  • If you’ll have a slow cooker meal or soup this week, put everything together in a large zip-lock bag or container so you can just throw and go!
  • If you’re a smoothie drinker, put all your ingredients together in zip-lock bags so you can just toss it in and blend!

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Cook ahead for quick reheating:

Some of the other ideas above also include cooking ahead, but these meal prepping ideas all sort of overlap at times.

  • Prepare breakfast foods like scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage.  They reheat wonderfully, and you can even make them into a burrito if you want to eat them on the go!  Or you can pre-assemble breakfast sandwiches–they reheat easily and the cheese gets all melty….yum!
  • If you love grilled foods, cook them all at once for the whole week.  We do the same thing with our smoker, and smoke several foods at once to eat during the week.  (Note:  We also grill and smoke foods to freeze because we miss it in the winter! It’s amazing to pull out grilled corn on the cob in the middle of January!)
  • You can peel and cook potatoes that you’ll mash later with a meal.  You just boil them until they’re done, drain off the water and pop them in the fridge.  When you’re ready to use them, heat in a pot of boiling water until heated through, drain, and mash away.  That trick right there saves a huge amount of time because peeling all those potatoes is too much work for your evening!  Yet, homemade mashed potatoes can really make a meal feel ‘homemade’ instead of ‘box-made’.  Ya know?
  • Make ahead homemade soup for a quick weeknight meal with grilled cheese or other grilled sandwich.  You could even do a soup, salad, and breadsticks for a light, quick dinner.
  • Consider planning and making your desserts/sweets for the week.  If you make them ahead of time you’re much more likely to stick to your diet plan and not overindulge!  You’re also more likely to choose something on the healthier side.  So, go ahead and make that dessert, then portion it off so you aren’t tempted to eat it all. (This one doesn’t work for me because I will eat it all Sunday and it will never even get portioned….LOL)

One things is for sure, meal prepping is not a one-size-fits-all activity.  You have to be creative in what you can make ahead, and how to store it until it’s time to use it.  It changes in my house from week to week.  It’s definitely something you have to make yourself do (because who wants to do all that on a Sunday?) but you’ll be over-the-moon happy you did it the other 6 days of the week!  You will eat healthier, and you will be more likely to eat at home more if you can just convince yourself to make meal prepping a priority every week.

I’d love to hear your meal prep ideas in the comments.  Tell us how you make your week easier, less stressful, and save money by planning and prepping ahead.

 

Organize My Life, Part Three: Meal Planning

Organize My Life, Part Three:  Meal Planning

What’s so great about meal planning anyways?  Why should I even bother?

Meal planning saves money!

You heard that right, it will save you money very consistently, week after week.  Every week I take a look at my favorite stores sale fliers.  Since my biggest food expense (like most families) is meat, that’s where I start.  From the sale priced meats I plan approximately 4 out of 7 meals.  Then, I buy a few more meals worth of meat to put in the freezer for later or to make freezer meals for later use.

Thrive does monthly sales on our freeze dried food so I usually do my best to buy sale items in larger amounts.  I also buy much of our produce items from Thrive since I never have to worry about them going bad that way, and I’m confident in Thrive’s high quality standards, which are much better than any typical grocery store.  I try to make it a point to put together a few meals-in-a-jar per month.  We use about one or two a month because, inevitably, something comes up where it ends up being dinner time and I don’t have a clue of what to cook or no time.  By putting together a different one each month, and some extras for later, I always have “fast food” in a variety of flavors!

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Meal planning means less stress!

By having a plan, I don’t have to think about dinner every single evening.  I have a list that has my meals for the week (or 2 weeks, or month, it’s up to you!), it’s straightforward.  No stress.  I look in the morning and decide which one I’m going to make, thaw anything that is needed from the freezer, so that’s it’s all ready to go by dinner time.  I cook every night with few exceptions, so I like to keep the time I spend in the kitchen to a minimum.  By doing just a little bit of planning ahead I can make that happen.

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Meal planning means a healthier family!

When you plan your meals, you will inevitably plan healthier foods than anything you might grab at a fast food joint, or have delivered.  Even if you plan to have a burger and fries at home, it will be healthier than what they’re serving you from a drive thru window.  Not to mention, planning can help you meet all of the nutritional needs of your family–especially if it’s like my house with differing diet plans going on.  Holy moly!

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How to start meal planning for your family:

  1. Choose how often you’d like to do the bulk of your shopping.  Keep in mind that if you do your shopping bi-weekly or monthly that you may need to make small trips to the store for perishable and produce items between “big shopping days”.
  2. Check those sale fliers.  I check all of them online, and “clip” any online coupons the store might offer.  My favorite store is Meijer and they have a coupon and savings program called mperks.  I save about $1000 per year using that.  I never clip real coupons.  The Sunday paper is too expensive to justify buying it just for the coupons within.
  3. Try to base your meals around what’s on sale to make your dollar go further.  Write out your meals fully.  Instead of just writing “pork chops” write “pork chops w/mashed potatoes, gravy, and green beans with dinner rolls.”  Instead of writing “hot dogs” write “hot dogs, macaroni-n-cheese, and steamed broccoli with ice cream”  This will help you to make your shopping list more quickly without forgetting important things, like dessert.  Ha!
  4. On items you buy a lot, stock up when they are on sale.  This week at our local grocery store, they had thick cut bacon 2 for $6.  I bought about 10 packages of bacon.  It won’t go to waste and it will last us for about 2 months!  Score!  Remember:  It’s only a good deal if your family is definitely going to eat it before it goes bad and has to be thrown out!
  5. When you’ve got your meals all planned, write out your detailed shopping list, including what you’ll buy at which store if you’re going to more than one.  Stick to your list and I guarantee you’ll save money!

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Plan to be prepared too!

It’s fantastic to plan your meals, and even to have a few meals put away in the freezer or pantry.  However, it’s important to plan for the unexpected too.  So why not spend a few dollars per month (your savings from planning your meals) on something that will help ensure your families preparedness if something bad does happen?  Why not start by researching 72-hour kits and what should be in them?  Just pick up one item per shopping trip!  Maybe I’ll do a more in-depth post about the importance of preparedness soon.

shesmovingmountains.com Organize My Life Series, Part Three, Meal Planning