The Shift Worker's Wife

Nimble Fumblings of a Mom, Wife, and Quirky Creative

Category: Health

Take It With You When You Go, Part 1

 In our life, leftovers are an essential part of survival. Hub works 12-hour shifts, but add in drive time and maybe a workout before or after shift, and he’s easily gone for 13-14 hours at a time. Leaving the energy campus to go grab food isn’t really an option, so we have to pack meals up for him.

I personally am not a huge fan of leftover meals, so the fact that Hub LOVES a good leftover is just more proof that we were a match made in Heaven. Nothing goes to waste in this house.

So if you’re like us, and you need some easy, go-to ideas for tasty, packable recipes, I hope you enjoy this post. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel right now with all of my own recipes, I’ve rounded up some awesome dishes from fellow bloggers who already have the whole food-blogging-thing in the bag. I trust they won’t lead you astray.

I’m thinking this topic will be revisited again in the future, so let me know if you find this helpful!

Oh…and I’m sharing my daily menu themes here, too. Yes. I really am that dorky.

Meatless Monday

Shrimp Avocado Salad from Natasha’s Kitchen

 When I initially suggested this start-of-the-week theme to Hub, I think the conversation went a little something like this…

Me: “Babe, I think we should start doing Meatless Mondays for dinner.”

Hub: “Ummmmm…no. I don’t like that idea.”

Me: “It’ll be great! We’ll save money and get some extra veggies in our diet!”

Hub: “Nope. I like meat.”

Truth. The man is, in fact, a proud and happy carnivore. He is also more than a little obsessed with protein—insert Arnold Schwarzenegger accent—GOT TO FEED THAH MAHSSULS.

Ladies…you’re welcome 😉

So we compromised. Rather than using Mondays to try new vegetarian recipes, we’ve opted for a more protein-packed lacto-ovo-pescatarian approach (yes, that’s a thing), allowing dairy, eggs, fish and other seafood into our Monday meals.

Hearty salads usually grace the menu board for this theme, so this recipe for Shrimp Avocado Salad from Natasha’s Kitchen fits the bill. It’s loaded with colorful veggies and protein for “thah mahssuls.” And, if you want to bump up the nutrition even more, add some drained and rinsed, canned black beans to the mix.

 

 **PACKING TIP**

If you think you’re going to eat the whole recipe in one sitting, go ahead and serve it all up together in big beautiful bowl like Natasha does. But if it’s going to be eaten as leftovers…

Toss the avocado in some lemon juice or sprinkle with Ball Fruit-Fresh before packing to slow its oxidation (browning) process.

Keep the toppings and dressing separate from the lettuce.

  • We usually just pack the toppings in one container, lettuce in another, dressing in another. It’s more dishes but everything will taste so much fresher that way.
  • OR if you’re kinda fancy, you can layer everything in a big mason jar (protein on bottom, heavier veggies next, lettuce on top), dressing in a little container on the side.

And one more nitpicky thing…I can’t stand tomatoes that have been refrigerated. It instantly ruins their flavor. So I buy cherry or grape tomatoes, wash them and send them with Hub in a little Ziploc bag to be kept OUT of the fridge at work. Personal preference. You do what you do.

**NO COOK OPTION**

If you’re extra short on time or just really don’t want to dirty a skillet, you could easily substitute packaged tuna for the shrimp. I really like this Starkist Herb and Garlic tuna in the pouch. I buy mine from Target and always keep a stash of pouches in our fridge.

 

Taco Tuesday

Sheet Pan Fajitas from Half Baked Harvest

 Unlike Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday was easy to sell to my crew. Of course, as you’ll notice from my suggested recipe here, I don’t limit this night to strictly traditional tacos. This theme includes burritos, enchiladas, fajitas, gyros (basically Greek tacos), etc. I like variety.

This recipe for Sheet Pan Fajitas from Half Baked Harvest is awesome. Easy, fast, healthy, colorful, filling—checkmarks all around. Chicken, steak, pork or any combination will work. You can use flour tortillas, corn tortillas, or if you’re watching carbs, just use a big lettuce leaf to hold all the goods.

This one is also easy to pack up. Just keep your tortillas or lettuce leafs separate. If you want cold toppings like cheese, sour cream, salsa or other fresh veggies, you would pack those separate, too.

Worldly Wednesday

30 Minute Mongolian Beef Stir Fry From Life Made SIMPLE

 Mid-week I try to inject a little global flair into our culinary repertoire. My kids have typical pre-schooler palettes—if they had it their way they’d live on pizza and waffles—but I refuse to raise picky eaters, so they are required to at least TRY two bites of every food served to them. If absolutely necessary, I’ll let them add a topping or condiment of their choice (hello, cheese and ketchup).

So on Wednesdays we try new things. I’ve dabbled in Indian cuisine and explored Scandinavian fare. Sometimes we like it and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes I can’t find or pronounce the ingredients listed in a recipe so I substitute something more familiar to us.

This recipe for 30-Minute Mongolian Beef Stir Fry from Life Made Simple is fast and family-friendly. I take it easy on the chili flakes for the littles, and if I’m short on time I’ll just use a bag of frozen stir-fry veggies instead of chopping up the fresh stuff. Uncle Ben’s Jasmine Ready Rice is my favorite accompaniment for this dish, or if you’re looking for bonus nutrition points, served up with quinoa.

This one is easy to take to go—just throw it all in a container to be reheated later!

Themeless Thursday 

Roasted Pork Chops with Brussel Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes
From Taste of the South

On Thursdays, anything goes. If all the leftovers haven’t been finished yet, we’ll work through those. Otherwise, I just whip up with whatever toots my whistle that night.

This recipe for Roasted Pork Chops with Brussel Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes from Taste of the South is my kind of meal…ONE SKILLET! Of course, you’ll also need to dirty a knife and cutting board, but otherwise, cleanup is pretty easy. I love cooking in cast iron…something about it just makes food taste like it was made with extra love.

  • Note: To “wash” a cast iron skillet, just sprinkle in some coarse salt, crunch up some aluminum foil into a ball, add a wee bit of super hot water, scrub the surface, and rinse. I never use soap on my cast iron skillet.

Don’t think you like brussel sprouts? Trust me and give ‘em another chance in this dish. These little fellas might just rock your world once you discover how to cook and season them correctly.   And they are so good for you! Cut them up into halves or quarters before tossing into your skillet so the flat surfaces can get richly caramelized. That’s the real game changer.

This is another recipe that’s super easy to pack up. Just throw it all into your to-go container to be reheated later.

Pizza Friday

Flat Out Pizza
From No Thanks to Cake

That’s right. At the end of the workweek I take a break from my alliterative menu themes because Pizza is amazing and deserves a weekly dedication even if it doesn’t fit into my daily play on words.

We are a second-generation Friday Pizza Night family.   My parents started the tradition and now it lives on in my home.

I’ll be honest with you, we usually let Friday night be our “cheat meal” and just order a pizza for pick-up from our favorite little Italian restaurant (Girolamo’s). But since this is a healthy recipe roundup, I’d like to share this super-speedy recipe for Flat Out Pizza from No Thanks to Cake.

Flat Out wraps make a sturdy, crispy crust while keeping calories in check. They also offer up a good dose of protein and fiber. For toppings, I like everything Kelly uses in her recipe, except the pepperjack slices…I prefer a mozzarella or goat cheese. I would also suggest lining your baking pan with parchment paper (NOT wax paper! Hub made that mistake once). The parchment helps the bottom of the crust get nice and toasty. You could also use your grill to cook the pizza.   Just keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t burn.

Sammy Saturday

Turkey and Tomato Panini From Spache the Spatula

Hub loves a sandwich (aka “sammy”). If I stack some meat and cheese between two slices of bread for him, I’m a hero. Just like that.

So Saturday is his day. And this recipe for Turkey and Tomato Panini from Spache the Spatula makes him a happy camper. It’s fast, simple and super satisfying.

I agree with Rach’s suggestion about using Dave’s Killer Bread – Thin Sliced. Bread isn’t always bad. Dave’s is a good choice. You could also use Ezekiel bread, found in the freezer section at the grocery store.If you don’t have a Panini press (like me), a George Foreman grill or something similar works perfectly. You could also use a regular skillet on the stove. Just press down on the sandwich with the back of a spatula while toasting each side.

Serve this up with a cool, crisp salad or some grilled veggies and you’ll have a delicious meal ready in a flash.

**PACKING TIP**

I mentioned parchment paper for the pizza recipe…that stuff is also great for packing up sandwiches for leftovers. Wrap your sandwich up in parchment before putting in a sealed to-go container to help keep it crunchy.

Souper Sunday

Slow Cooker Sausage Kale White Bean Soup From A Cedar Spoon

Hub loves sandwiches and I love soup. So Sunday is my day!

Soups are easy to make in a crockpot, which fits right into our busy weekend schedules.

This recipe for Slow Cooker Sausage and Kale Soup from A Cedar Spoon is both hearty and healthy. Plus, soup is one of the very best leftover foods in my book.

Julia’s recipe is perfect just as she has it posted, but since this is my blog, I’ll share some minor adjustments I make for my family’s personal preferences.

  • Omit the celery (cooked celery is one of the only foods Hub doesn’t like)
  • Add 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1” pieces (adds extra color and sweetness)
  • Sear the sliced sausage in a skillet to caramelize the surfaces and render out some fat before adding to the crock pot (not necessary, but browning the meat adds extra texture and flavor)
  • For extra stick-to-your-ribs goodness, I’ll add 2-3 medium-sized red potatoes, diced
  • 15 minutes before serving, add 1 can of petite diced tomatoes (drained) and 1 fresh zucchini (diced) to the pot.

** Make sure that your kale has been thoroughly washed before you toss it in with everything else!

Yee Haw! Now that, my friends, is one heck of a recipe roundup! I hope you’ll give these recipes a try and let me know what you think!!!

Until next time, please connect with our Shift Worker’s Community on Facebook and follow along with all my blogging world discoveries on Pinterest.

Thanks for stopping by!

Liquid Motivation

Hey there, Shift Lifers.  This post is way overdue. I’m truly sorry that I’ve withheld this valuable information from you for so long.

So you or spouse works a weird schedule. Your sleep patterns are all jacked up. You’re feeling foggy and groggy, but for some reason the world still thinks you should be a productive member of society.

What’s a guy/gal to do? I mean, coffee helps. I am in a committed relationship with my morning coffee. It’s a ritual for me and I have no intentions of ever splitting with it.

HOWEVER, once my morning coffee wears off…Houston, we have a problem. The coffee crash is real. In the past, I would just drink another cup of coffee. Then another. Then another. I would drink coffee pretty much every two hours throughout the entire day just to keep me going.   And if coffee was out of reach, I grabbed SUGAR. Candy, cookies, soda, or generally anything easy that would give me a quick pick-me-up.

It was an ugly cycle.

Until one fateful day…

Love At First Sip

I met her at a business networking meeting. She was full of spunk and shined brightly in the crowd.   She gave a presentation on some company I’d never heard of, and handed samples to the newbies in the room. It was some kind of drink mix that was supposed to give an energy boost.

I was tired (as usual). So I found a bottle of water, sprinkled in this alleged magic dust…

And the rest is history.

Afternoon Delight

Unlike my beloved coffee, there was no crash with this new juice. No jitters, no aggressive jolt—just a smooth, steady boost. I felt more focused. More friendly.

And it was delicious! Fruity and refreshing. I usually struggled the most after lunch. When my belly was full, my eyelids got heavy. But after that lunch meeting, I felt fantastic.

I asked for a sample to take home to Hub. I needed to know if he felt the same way.

Not long before that, he had fallen asleep driving home after a 13-hour night shift. His car bounced off of a guardrail along the side of a highway. Thank God he wasn’t hurt. Every night shift after that, I worried about him. He started carpooling with a coworker to give me some peace of mind, but it wasn’t always super convenient for either of them.

Maybe this new stuff could help. He took it to work that night and I told him to drink it before the drive home.

 “Spark Saves Lives”

We say this to our friends with a cheeky tone, but it’s true. The morning he drank his sample, he didn’t come straight home and hit his pillow. We actually had a conversation and ate breakfast together. It was lovely. He said he wasn’t tired during the drive at all.

In fact, these days, he even has energy to hit the gym after a long night shift. Life. Changing.

Spark makes me a happier, more productive person. And since I’m not riding the energy roller coaster anymore, I’m not eating as much junk. My pants appreciate that.

Do You Know What We Know?

Have you heard of Spark? Have you tried a Spark? Because if the answer is no, we must remedy the situation.

It comes in 10 yummy flavors and mixes easily in water.

Fruit Punch (my personal favorite)
Blue Raspberry (Hub’s fave)
Mandarin Orange
Pink Lemonade
Limeade
Cherry
Watermelon
Grape
Green Apple
Mango Strawberry

It’s also sugar-free and loaded with good-for-you vitamins and amino acids. Wins all around.

Want to know more?  You can view label info HERE.  Message me through Facebook or email me at shiftwife@gmail.com for other details.

5 Lies You Should STOP Telling Yourself

Pinocchio_LyingAdult-ing is hard. The struggle is real. But you know what my mother would say? She’d say, “Quit complaining, pull up your big kid britches and get to work, because it isn’t anybody else’s job to adult for you.” She’s a tough broad, and she may not be generous with her sympathy. But you know what? She’s usually right.

As I approach my 30th birthday tomorrow, I’m reflecting back on all the ways I’ve screwed up this whole adult thing in my 20s, and how I can improve in the next decade.

I can honestly say I’m actually looking forward to 30. Sure, my genetic eye wrinkles are coming in full force and gravity is for sure taking its toll on my post-child-bearing bod, but those things are being offset by greater wisdom. I’ve discovered a new sense of peace during this last year of my twenties that I’m excited to carry over into the subsequent phases of my life.

Unfortunately for me, this newfound peace was birthed from a place of self-loathing. Not a good time, feeling like I just wasn’t doing anything right. And I truly believe it was because I was telling myself these lies. Lies about life that society misrepresents as truth.

So if you haven’t done so already, I urge you to denounce these lies sooner rather than later. Because there’s loads of potential and happiness inside of you that can shine brightest after you lift the weight of these lies off your shoulders.

Lie #1) You Can “Have It All,” All At Once

joneses-300x210We’re grownups now, right? So we “need” stuff and, unfortunately that stuff costs money. Stuff like…A beautifully decorated home that stays clean and organized. A nice car. A techy cell phone. Cable TV and a movie streaming service. Classy date nights. Tropical Vacations. A home and vehicle maintenance fund. An emergency fund. Health insurance. Property insurance. Life insurance. Disability insurance. Personal liability insurance. And you also need diversified retirement funds. Money for wedding gifts, housewarming gifts, bereavement gifts, birthday gifts, holiday gifts. And if you’re like really on the ball, you have money set aside to help pay for your kids’ college, their wedding, or maybe to help them with a down payment on their first house. Ok. Got that?

Now you’re also going to need to be very mindful of this little non-renewable resource we call TIME. Time to work for all that money to pay for the things listed above. Time to relax. Time for family. Time for friends. Time for service and philanthropy. Time to exercise. Time (and energy) for sex. Time to shop for, prepare, and eat nutritious meals. And time to sleep.

I mean…that’s doable, right? WRONG! If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past decade, it’s that having and doing all of these things all at the same time is a physical and emotional IMPOSSIBILITY. That is, I guess, unless you’re an independently wealthy heir to a family fortune. Lucky duck.

As for the rest of us, we’re only human! We are lying to ourselves if we think we can have it all, all at once. You can have some of it during one phase of your life, and some of it later in life, but you’ll make yourself miserable thinking you’re going to have it all right out of the gate.

The truth is, you have to choose. You have to decide what is most important to you right now and gracefully allow the other stuff to slide until another time. Talk to a financial planner. Talk to a therapist. Talk to your grandma! Grandmas are so smart, seriously. And discover your best balance somewhere in between being awesome and being a complete slug.

Lie #2) Your Health Can Wait Until Life Calms Down

ticktock-1Nope. Just nope. We know better than this, people! Bad health habits compound over time. Not sleeping? Eating a bunch of junk? Ignoring pain? Justifying excess stress? Don’t lie to yourself and act like it’s okay. These things will catch up to you if you don’t do something about it NOW. Life simply does not “calm down” on its own. You have to take control. You have to take action.

We can’t fix everything overnight, but we can be progressive. Focus on one problem at a time and stop making excuses. Find resources and use them. I’m sorry I’m NOT sorry about my crass opinion on this one. I am my mother’s daughter after all…

Lie #3) You Make Enough Money to Afford That Loan

loanOh boy, we sure believed this lie!!! And we ended up financing ourselves into a very tight corner. We were making a healthy income, so we felt like we “deserved” to have nice things without the wait. Bad life decision.

I know we’re not the only ones. Unfortunately, I think most people have to learn this truth the hard way. I wish my parents had emphasized the importance of responsible money management as hard as they emphasized the importance of getting good grades.   But I can wish in one hand and poop in the other, right? No use crying over spilled milk. I can’t be the pot calling the kettle black…yes, I’m stalling because I’m still in the process of learning how to fix the money mistakes we’ve made.

I realize I’m not the best person to give advice on this topic. I just know we’ve screwed this one up and I hope you, my readers, are smarter than me.

Lie #4) It’s Someone Else’s Fault

shutterstock_116562400_Man_Being_Blamed_300pxDangit, sometimes I really wish I could blame someone else. The good old blame game–it’s so easy to play, but you can never really win. Like me blaming my parents for not teaching me to save money. It’s not their fault. My own actions got me into debt. And I’m going to have to work my way out of it, fair and square.

I’m not saying that I don’t still allow myself to believe this lie sometimes…like when I have to waste 20 minutes of my day talking to a customer service robot…but you know what? I chose to give my business to that company. Shame on me, not blame on them.

This lie is like one big umbrella. It covers so many areas of life — relationships, money, health, happiness, time, and on and on. I’m trying not to preach, but I truly believe that passing blame and having a victim mentality dilutes our human potential.  We just gotta own it.

***NOTE: The one exception here…when hubby places his dirty socks on a countertop or table…why in the $#@! would he do that?!?! Totally his fault. My fury will be unleashed.

Lie #5) You’re Too Cool for a Minivan, Dammit

wambulance_by_spazgurl

Quick, somebody call the Wambulance because I’m about to cry about this one. Yes, my name is Jenny, and I drive a minivan. There. I said it.

And you know what really pains me… I actually love my minivan. My kids LOVE the minivan. My dogs love the minivan. My hunky husband looks like a huge dork driving the minivan, and he loves it. This is real life, people. Get ready for it.

Denial was expensive. First I had an Equinox – it was uncomfortable. So we traded for an Armada – it guzzled gas when prices hit $4.10/gallon, yikes! Then we were working really hard and super stressed so we traded for a 4-door Jeep Wrangler because it would be “fun” with 2 kids – that was just plain stupid. And finally, after all my kicking and screaming, I surrendered to the practicality of the damn minivan.

I’m pretty sure I wasn’t cool before the minivan, but now I’m just waving my Mom flag loud and proud as I cruise the strip in my “Super Ship” (that’s what my superhero-obsessed sons call it…seriously).

It’s a Nissan Quest. It gets great gas mileage. It’s comfortable and it has a movie player in the back seat. I’m slowly buy surely learning to accept the fact that I’ll be driving a minivan until my kids no longer have to ride in car seats (which probably won’t be until they’re like 18, thanks to super safety laws). Neat.

 

So there you have it. My raw, unadulterated, finger-in-the-air, soapbox-style advice on adulthood. Kids, love your naps and respect your parents. Please and thanks.

Now go forth, and adult like you mean it. 

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The Slippery Slope of Sleep Debt

imagesThis past weekend, Hub and I left the kiddos with Grammi and took a quick trip with some friends to a cabin in the southernmost part of the state. We had so much fun laughing, catching up, and just decompressing from the daily grind.

The timing of the trip for me couldn’t have been better. You’ll hear me say this far too often—but I do NOT love winter. Like, at all. So a simple change of pace and scenery was just what the doctor ordered to help me nip my S.A.D. in the nads.

For my dear husband, however, a different weekend would have probably served him better. He was scheduled to work 12-hour night shifts Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. He had taken 24 hours of his vacation time to cover the Friday and Saturday shifts, but kept the Sunday and Monday shifts.

Friday night at the cabin, neither of us slept well. Saturday night, I slept great but he still didn’t catch up. Sunday we got home around 11 a.m. hoping that he could get some rest before going into work, but still, sleep evaded him.

After his 6:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. shift Sunday night, he came home and went straight to bed, but was only able to stay asleep until about 11:00 a.m. He lounged around the house Monday afternoon, still not able to make himself take a nap, and pushed through a fourth night without adequate sleep.

So he got home this morning (Tuesday), is scheduled to be off Wednesday and Thursday, then will leave Friday morning at 5:30 a.m. to begin his round of weekend 12-hour day shifts.

Good Lawdy, let’s talk about “sleep debt”! Because my man is seriously in a hole right now. So I want to know: how bad is it and what can we do?

What is “Sleep Debt”?

Sleep Debt was surely established by some hard-number-lovin’ scientists. It’s basically a mathematical equation used to quantify the accumulation of inadequate sleep sessions. It goes like this:

(Number of Ideal Sleep Hours) – (Number of Actual Sleep Hours) = Sleep Debt

So if you usually need 8 hours of sleep to feel well, but only get 6 hours one night, you have a Sleep Debt of 2 hours.

Now, there are stipulations for repaying your “debt.” So let’s take a look…

Balancing the Books

Many sleep studies have been conducted to assess the physical and attentive symptoms of sleep deprivation. In these studies, scientists have concluded that no more than 2 hours of sleep debt can be recouped per day, and only recent debts (within a 1-week span) can be repaid.

Using my man as our example:

Over the course of 4 days, he has accumulated at least 12 hours of sleep debt. He only has Wednesday and Thursday off and can only pay back 2 hours per day. Even if he sleeps soundly for 10 hours both days, he will still have an 8-hour deficit.

When he starts back on shift, he’s only home for 10 hours total in a 24-hour span (after we factor in drive time and shift turnover). So by the time he eats, showers, packs food, etc., he’ll be doing great just to get his full 8 hours on those days.

So at this point, he has to accept that our lovely weekend cost him a total of 8 hours (a full night) of healthy sleep that can never be recovered.

So what…

You Can Sleep When You’re Dead?

Eeesh! I can’t even tell you how horrifying for me it was to research the dangers of sleep deprivation, especially in regards to workers on rotating shifts.

  • Irreversible brain damage
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Psychological disorders
  • Immune system disorders
  • Digestive disorders
  • Attentive and reactive impairment

…And the list goes on and on. The results of sleep studies make it quite clear:

Adequate sleep is as ESSENTIAL to our health

as adequate nutrition and exercise.

And yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that around 40% of Americans do not maintain healthy sleep habits. And I’m not just pointing my finger at my husband in this post… I’m one of them! I struggle with insomnia and restlessness on a weekly basis. And on top of my own issues, I’m a mother of two pre-schoolers who aren’t awesome sleepers either.

So, What Can We Do About It?

In his book Power Sleep, Dr. James Maas suggests that sleep debt should be paid back by going to bed earlier, not by waking up later. He recommends always keeping the same wake-up schedule to maximize your energy and alertness during the day.

He also suggests that naps can also be helpful for repaying your sleep debts, as long as they occur before 3:00 p.m.

As for sleep quality, I’m sad to say that I have yet to find a miracle solution, but I do keep a box of AdvoCare SleepWorks at home to help me relax if my “busy brain” tries to get the best of me at bedtime. And we also try to practice basic sleep hygiene tips such as:

  • Leaving electronics out of the bedroom
  • Making sure the room is cool and dark
  • “Unplugging” 30-60 minutes prior to bedtime
  • Using a white noise machine
  • Writing out our to-do list for the next day at least 1 hour prior to bedtime
  • Stretch while praying or meditating to relax muscles and calm the mind

I guess what I would like to be the main takeaway here is that sleep is VITAL to our overall health, so we need to be aware of our deficits and how quickly “sleep debt” can pile up.

Of course, as with any topic, I’d love to hear from you on this. Do you have any tips on healthy sleep habits? Feel free to comment below or connect with me on Facebook.