The Shift Worker's Wife

Nimble Fumblings of a Mom, Wife, and Quirky Creative

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Chop-Free Shopping Spree – A Real Life, Healthy “Convenience Foods” Grocery List

Are you ready for a fresh reset? Ready to slim down and tone up? Ready to have more energy and less bloat? Then the 24 Day Challenge may be just the thing to help you get your health and your habits back on track.

The thing I love most about this program is that, although you are using supplements to speed up your results and help you feel your best, the main focus is on EATING REAL FOOD. Nutrition education is our number one priority when we work with our clients. We love getting questions, we love to talk to our Challengers regularly to encourage them through struggles and celebrate with them when they have victories.

I personally commit to doing a Challenge at least twice a year. I am not perfect. I’m a normal person with normal cravings. I love a good French fry and I adore cheesecake. There are times—like during the holidays—that I throw caution to the wind and my scale creeps up. But the thing is, I know I have the knowledge and tools I need to grab back hold of the reigns so that things don’t get out of control for too long.

When you learn HOW TO EAT to fuel your body, and you have more ENERGY to exercise, you can still enjoy treats mindfully without completely wrecking your confidence and progress.

I’ll tell you the truth. My very first Challenge, I slipped off the wagon a lot. I definitely needed to learn better habits and develop a healthier mindset. But 3 years and 6 Challenges later, I actually look forward to sticking strictly to the plan because I always feel ah-maaazing after giving my gut a total break from junk that isn’t good for me.

I have several people on Challenges right now that have requested a Grocery List to help them get their kitchens ready to rock. Last year I shared My List of Healthy Foods and Portion Sizes. AdvoCare also provides a Grocery Guide on the Virtual Coach website. All of these resources are helpful and give plenty of general options, but today, I’m focusing on SUPER CONVENIENT, specific grocery items that I like to stock in my own kitchen. This list does prioritize convenience over cost, so if you’re on a tighter budget, you may need to be selective from this list and plan to do a little more prepping on your own at home.

I don’t know what your house is like, but my mine is constant, happy, CHAOS! My children are expert mess-makers, and we are busy bees always buzzing around to activities. So if I can avoid dirtying more dishes and spending extra time in the kitchen, I’m all about it.

I’m sharing with you some actual brands of foods that I like to buy. I am not sponsored in any way, so these suggestions are purely from my own honest opinions and experiences. I can find all of these products locally at Dierbergs, Schnucks, and Kroger stores, but I’m sure all larger grocery chains should carry them. This isn’t a lengthy list, but it will stock your kitchen with plenty of fresh color and variety!

So now… let’s go grocery shopping!

Produce Section

  • Pre-Prepped Veggie Platter (I’m lenient on ranch dip in small doses…your choice)
  • Pre-Prepped Fresh Fruit Platter (if it comes with sweet dip, throw that out!)
  • Fresh Snap Peas or Snow Peas in pods
  • Fresh Berries
  • Nature’s Sweet Cherub Tomatoes
  • Cuties Clementines
  • Del Monte Sunfresh Red Grapefruit – No Sugar Added (in jar, in fridge)
  • Pre-washed Baby Spinach
  • Taylor Farms Sweet Kale Chopped Salad
  • Chiquita Bananas
  • Fuji Apples
  • Sweet Mini Peppers (in a bag, in the fridge)
  • Wholly Guacamole Minis – in the produce refrigerator

Deli/Salad Bar

  • Rotisserie Chicken
  • Pre-Prepped, Peeled Hard Boiled Eggs
  • Applegate Organics Oven Roasted Turkey Breast Deli Meat
  • Private Selection, Alderwood Smoked Wild  Alaskan Sockey Salmon
  • Synergy Kombucha
  • Zico Coconut Water

Bread Aisle

  • Dave’s Killer Thin-Sliced 21 Whole Grains and Seeds Organic Bread – or other brand that has at least 6g protein and 5g fiber
  • Flatout Multigrain with Flax Flatbread

Dairy

  • Cracker Barrel Cracker Cuts Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • Oikos Triple Zero Greek Yogurt

Inner Aisles **Note, navigate these aisles with CAUTION!  Try your best to stick to this list.

  • Orville Redenbocher’s Smart Pop Kettle Corn Mini Bags
  • Kashi Fire Roasted Veggie Crackers
  • Blue Diamond 100-Calorie Almonds
  • Plum Organics Baby Food Fruit & Veggie Pouches
  • Jif To-Go Natural Peanut Butter Cups
  • Uncle Ben’s 90-Second Brown and Wild Rice
  • StarKist Herb & Garlic Tuna Pouches

Freezer Section

  • Shrimp Cocktail platter- from freezer section
  • Halo Ice Cream
  • Birds Eye Steamfresh Mixtures Broccoli Carrots Peas Chestnuts

 

I’m thinking about making a “Grocery Haul” video to explain why I like these products. What do you think? Would you watch it?

If you liked this post, have questions, or would like to share some other healthy convenient grocery foods that you love, please comment below or post in our conversation on Facebook. Thanks for stopping by!

Spruce the Goose: The Persuasive Power of Putting Your Face On

I’ve been enforcing a new House Rule for Lent, but I think I’m going to keep it as a permanent tradition in our home. **Read the back-story HERE**

 Screen-Free After 5

After 5 pm, the TV goes off, phones get plugged into chargers away from quick reach, and computers and tablets are shut down. For the rest of the evening, it’s less-tech time. Music and phone calls are still allowed, but no texting, social media, video games, etc.

So far, we’ve used this time to do things like:

  • Play games
  • Ride bikes and go for walks
  • Cook dinner and make desserts together
  • Read books and magazines (with actual paper pages)
  • Do puzzles
  • Go to the gym
  • Visit face-to-face with extended family and neighbors
  • Work on hobby projects
  • Jump on the trampoline
  • Make crafts
  • Draw and color

It’s really been great! I feel much more present. My kids have been insanely cooperative. We’ve been going to bed earlier and I’ve been sleeping MUCH better. And most importantly (the main reason this new rule started), I’ve been spending more time in prayer, both before bed and in the morning when I wake up.

I have a legit addiction to my phone, so it has been hard for me to stay away from it. I’ve slipped up a few times, but I’m trying to get better. Hub has been assigned as my parole officer.

Reese Witherspoon Made Me Do It

Before the days of Pinterest and mobile-friendly Internet browsing, I used to love reading lifestyle magazines. Southern Living, Midwest Living, Better Homes and Gardens, Cooking Light, Women’s Health… every time I received one of these in the mail felt like Christmas.

I got my first iPhone a couple of months after Will was born. That was 5 1/2 years ago. I discovered Pinterest not long after that, and my once-cherished magazines fell from grace. I still had subscriptions for a while, but I never opened many of them. I just put them on a shelf to “read later.”

So the first week with our new Screen-Free rule, I was going through Pinterest withdrawals. I needed a visual fix. And that’s when I remembered all my unopened magazines from years ago. I went to my desk and found a Southern Living issue from September 2015. Reese Witherspoon adorned the cover. I like Reese, so I opened it up.

A few pages in, I found an interview written by Jenna Bush Hager (I’m also a fan of Jenna on the Today Show). It was entitled “REESE on the Secrets of Southern Style”

It starts out discussing her clothing store in Nashville, Tennessee called Draper James (named after her paternal grandparents).

She goes on discuss her attitude about style…

“I wanted to dig into the question of why Southern women dress the way we do. Why don’t we walk around in sweatpants? Why do we wear makeup everywhere? It’s just how we were raised. My grandmother would always say things like “SPRUCE THE GOOSE” and “PUT YOUR FACE ON.””

“My grandmother was so ELEGANT. She didn’t have a lot of dresses or anything, but she always looked PUT TOGETHER.”

Good Vibrations – Effort and Energy

For some reason, this just got me thinking. I wasn’t “raised” with that kind of cultural mentality. My mother was a dirt-loving farmer’s daughter.  When we were kids, she worked with my dad in the cattle fields and drove a tractor. She cared much more about raising daughters with a strong work ethic than she did about our sense of style. And that rearing has served me well in life.

However, I have always felt like it was important to put some effort into my appearance. I don’t think I learned it. It just seems like common sense to me.

I almost never leave my house without at least some mascara and a dusting of bronzer on my cheeks. I do NOT go out in public in my jammie pants (unless my jammies are fleece-lined leggings…those are perfectly acceptable to wear everywhere). And if I only have 2 minutes to get ready, I’ll put in a pair of pearl stud earrings, blast my roots with dry shampoo and whip my hair up into a tousled bun.

(See Missy Sue’s Messy Bun Tutorial Video HERE)

It doesn’t take that much effort, but I FEEL better when I put myself together a little bit.

And it’s not about vanity. I read a quote somewhere that said something like, “Dressing well is a form of respect.” And I’d say I agree. I don’t know about dressing “well,” but at least putting forth a little more effort than just rolling straight out of bed. I think it conveys self-respect, as well as respect for others. It communicates your energy and level of conscientiousness.

Now, I’m not saying that I always (or ever!) look like a million bucks. I’m a simple girl. I buy cheap sunglasses and bargain tote bags. Most of my wardrobe was purchased at Target alongside diapers and sippy cups. But putting on a bra and some sort of coordinated apparel (workout clothes count, in my humble opinion), sets a positive tone for your interaction with the world.

Guys…Please Ditch the No-Shave Nastiness

 This isn’t just a lady message here. The same concept applies to dudes. I can honestly tell you that the whole un-kept beard trend thing that is happening right now…I don’t like it. Please trim that shit up. We went to a bluegrass concert in St. Louis last week and the amount of fuzziness in that room was disturbing. Some of that facial hair looked like it could be harboring varmints.

I guess the Duck Dynasty guys can get away with it because it’s like their signature look or whatever, but the rest of you…especially city-livin’ hipsters. Nope. You’re not allowed.

Just a little bit of maintenance. That’s all I’m saying.

What Do You Think?

Honestly, I’m not exactly sure why I felt compelled to write on this topic, other than it’s fun to say, “Spruce the Goose.”

But I would like to hear your opinions on this topic, whether you agree or disagree. Connect with our community on Facebook or post your comments below.

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Wake Training Boot Camp for Grownups

“It’s time to get up, it’s time to get up, it’s time to get up in the mooooooorning!”

 That’s my wake-up song for the kids. Pure lyrical genius, I know.

I dance into their room, throw open the curtains and gleefully tickle two grumbling piles of Avengers blankets. It totally annoys them. But I’m actually a little jealous.

I wish somebody would come sweeping into my room to pull my ass out of bed in the morning – and by “somebody,” I mean a person other than my husband, like a personal trainer. If Hub tried to do it I would physically assault him.

But alas, I’m on my own. I’ve found there are lots of resources out there on how to Sleep Train a Baby (not that I used those resources when I should have… my minions are terrible sleepers), but not so many helpful resources out there on how to become an “early riser” as an adult. Basically, I think we’re just supposed to have the will power to pop out of our warm, cozy bed when the alarm goes off before dawn. Who does that?

Well, my husband does.  When Billy was in the Navy in Norfolk, VA, he had to leave our apartment at 5am to get to base on time. His alarm would go off at 4 and he would pop out of bed and blast a Frank Sinatra playlist while he cooked himself a hot breakfast. It was disgusting. You know why? Because he’s one of those people who just has the will power to do stuff like that. Yuck.

Me on the other hand, not so much will power in my tank. I need more push. More pull.

So I came up with this real-life, no BS Boot Camp for waking up early.  The strategies you’ll read below are exactly how I taught myself to start my day before sunrise.  It’s also the only reason this blog is back in action.  These wee morning hours are the only time I’m able to focus on writing without a slew of distractions.  It is currently 5:27a.m. on Saturday morning as I’m typing this. The rest of my family is still a-snooze, including the two dogs sitting next to me on the couch who keep huffing in aggravation because I’m disturbing their peace. Lazy daisies.

This blog is a volunteer effort. There’s no whip being cracked at me to be awake right now. And yet, here I am. Bright-eyed and bushy pony-tailed, drinking my coffee in my fluffy, pink robe.

It wasn’t an easy habit to form, but now this is my favorite time of day.  Do you want to wake up earlier?  If so, read on…

Step 1: What’s Your Worm?

“The early bird gets the worm.” You know the saying. Metaphorically speaking, my worm is my me time. Like I said, my family is still sleeping right now. The house is quiet. I finished a whole cup of coffee before it got cold. I’m spending uninterrupted time doing something I enjoy. These early hours may be the only time I have completely to myself for the rest of the day…and that is extremely valuable to me.

So if you want to start waking up earlier, you need to wrap your head around WHY you want to make the change. How is it going to benefit you?   What would make it valuable to you? Some examples…

  • Want lose weight? You have to eat right! Give yourself extra time in the morning to prepare and portion food for the day.
  • Want to boost your mood and/or sculpt your body? You have to exercise! Use the golden hours of the morning to knock out your workout before the day gives you excuses.
  • Want to strengthen your marriage? Enjoy spending time with your spouse while you are both well rested and stress from the day hasn’t set in yet.
  • Want to have more confidence? When you look good you feel good, so spend a little extra time putting yourself together.

There are lots of other reasons to get out of bed. Know what you want. Wake up and get it.

Okay, I realize this first one bares a resemblance to the whole will power thing, but you have to start here and then move on to my next tips.

Step 2: Go to Bed Earlier

You had to know this one was coming. SLEEP IS ESSENTIAL to life. So don’t skimp. I won’t go deep into this topic now because it will be a resounding theme on this site, but just know it’s an important part of your Wake Training.

Step 3: Anticipate Sabotage

 I told you this is a no BS list. In real life, your good intentions will be thwarted. It’s almost guaranteed. The first morning you set your alarm to wake up early, you’ll have insomnia or your kid will get the stomach flu. Expect it before it happens. Know your resolve. Roll with the punches. Just keeping trying to make it work. Eventually the sabotage will end and you’ll be able to get into a groove.

Step 4: Be Assaulted By Your Alarm

 This is Wake Training Boot Camp, Sunshine. At first it’s gonna suck. A gentle alarm makes it way too easy to just slip back into slumber. Don’t be a snowflake. We mean business here. It’s time to WAKE UP! Set an alarm that is going to jolt you out of bed. Here’s my Alarm Assault criteria:

  • Make it LOUD – as many decibels as possible.
  • Make it OBNOXIOUS – jingly wind chime noises ain’t gonna cut it. Find a sound that you can’t stand. Maybe an air horn? You have to be desperate to make the noise stop.
  • Set it FAR AWAY from your bed – Your feet have to hit the floor. You have to be erected into a vertical position. You have to open your eyes to hunt down the assailant.

Okay. Now you’re out of bed! Let’s keep those eyes open.

Step 5: Caffeinate…Fast

Unless you have a major sensitivity, I believe this to be non-negotiable during Wake Training Boot Camp. Pick your poison. SPARK works wonders. Coffee gets the job done. Whatever you go with, it needs to be at the ready to shoot down the hatch. It needs to hit your veins within minutes of waking. If you’re brewing coffee, chug some ice-cold water while you wait. This is no time to mess around.

Step 6: Light It Up

No, I do not mean a smoke…that’s gross. I’m talking ILLUMINATION. Flip every light switch in your reach. Make your domain as bright as possible. Tell your brain that it’s time to fire up the engines.

I’ve recently started using a Sunlight Simulating LightBox first thing in the morning and I love it!  Whether I’m hitting my treadmill or sitting down to write in the morning, I prop the LightBox up in front of me and soak up the energy.   Good stuff. 

Step 7: Go Forth and Be Awesome

You did it! It’s time to start your day. Game on. Can you feel it? That’s victory. You’re awake. Force a smile, give yourself a high-five and go get your worm.

Do you have other tips on learning to wake up early? I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below and join the conversation.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

‘Tis the season for potlucks and parties.  I have several go-to dishes that are quick to make and easy to transport, but this one probably tops my list.  It’s simple, inexpensive, and addictively delicious.

There are many variations of this savory party favorite, but my personal preference calls for tangy bits of sun-dried tomatoes.  I think it helps balance the richness of all the cheese and enhances the textures of the spinach and artichokes.  I’ve used both jarred, marinated sun-dried tomatoes and the kind that come dry in a package.  Both work well, but the dry ones are less messy when you chop them, so I tend to lean in that direction.

If you want a more dramatic presentation, you can use the Oven Method and serve this up in a pretty dip dish.  Or, if you’re like me, and want to keep things low maintenance, just toss all the goodies in a crockpot and pour yourself a glass of wine while you wait for the magic to happen.

Happy Holidays!

Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

16 oz. cream cheese

8 oz. sour cream

4 T. butter

1 ½ c. fresh grated Parmesan cheese

14 oz. artichoke hearts (I prefer frozen or jarred, not canned), chopped

10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

2 fresh garlic cloves, minced/pressed (or 1 t. garlic powder)

½ c. chopped sundried tomatoes

Salt and pepper to taste

Crockpot Method – Throw everything in the pot and set to high heat. Stir occasionally until everything is melted, then reduce heat to warm setting. *Use a disposable slow cooker liner to make cleanup a breeze!

Stovetop/Oven Method – Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a pot on the stovetop, melt together the first 3 ingredients. Add 1 c. of the Parmesan cheese (reserve some for topping), and everything else. Stir until combined. Transfer to a greased casserole dish, sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top.

Serve with crusty bread, toasted crustini, or tortilla chips.

Creamy Chicken Pot of Love

We’re enjoying a high temp of 12 degrees in the Heartland today.  I don’t know about you, but when the mercury drops, my appetite rages!  Specifically, I crave warm, creamy comfort food.

I altered a recipe (as I always do!) for chicken pot pie, leaving out the pie part.  I just served Crescent Rolls on the side for the boys and stuck to a bowl of the good stuff for myself.  The end result was soooooo good!

You could use this base recipe to make chicken pot pie, creamy chicken noodle soup (just add more broth and some Reams frozen noodles), or chicken and biscuit casserole.  Enjoy!

***************

Creamy Chicken Pot of Love


4 T. butter

1 c. chopped yellow onion

1 c. chopped carrot

1.5 c. sliced mushrooms

1 pint heavy cream

2 T. flour

2 c. chicken broth (I used 2 c. boiling water with 2 t. chicken bouillon)

1 can Campbell’s cream of chicken soup (I know, I know… I usually don’t do condensed soups, but it really fit the bill here!  I guess you could do without it, but I had it in my cupboard.)

2-3 c. chopped cooked chicken (I had grilled chicken breasts that I cut up.  You could also use shredded chicken or cut up a rotisserie bird)

1/2 c. frozen peas

1/2 t. ground thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a deep pot.  Add the onions and carrot and cook for 5-10 minutes until they start to get soft.  Add the mushrooms and cook 5 minutes longer.  Add the cream.  Dissolve the flour into the COLD chicken broth before adding to the pot. If you use bouillon like I did, dissolve the flour in a few tablespoons of cool water instead.  Add the remaining ingredients and let simmer until heated through.

Creamy Roasted Cauliflower and Goat Cheese Soup

IMG_1238This recipe came to life one dreary November day, with the kind of looming gray clouds that just made me want to stick my face in my couch cushions and listen to Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill album.

But since I’m pretty sure that behavior would be frowned upon in the presence of my small humans, I made soup instead.

Funny how this dish came about today, actually.  Mom asked what we all wanted to bring to Thanksgiving this year.  I volunteered my variation of Martha Stewart’s Pumpkin Cheesecake, green bean casserole (because I would be grumpy if that doesn’t show up the Turkey Day table), and a meat and cheese tray for pre-dinner munchies.  My darling younger sister volunteers to bring….roasted cauliflower.  Blek.  I told her I love roasted cauliflower, when it’s pureed with aromatics beyond recognition and camouflaged further with creamy cheese and bacon.  Yep, that kind of veggie dish is invited to dinner.

Lil’ sis, oh she debated that my suggestion defeated her purpose of trying to bring something “healthy” to the party.  Muwahaha she doesn’t even know!  So I’m here to set her straight.  This recipe  is chock full of vitamins and minerals, super low carb and pretty darn low cal.

I don’t know if it’ll make our Thanksgiving line up, but I highly recommend it any day of the week!

Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Goat Cheese and Bacon

Ingredients:

(2) 12 oz. packages frozen cauliflower, or 1 large head of fresh cauliflower, florets trimmed

½ t. onion powder

½ t.  garlic powder

3 c. chicken broth

½ c. heavy cream

4 oz. soft goat cheese (I like Chèvre)

1 t. sea salt (or more to taste)

½ t. ground black pepper

cayenne pepper to taste (I add 3-4 good shakes to the pot)

crumbled cooked bacon and chopped chives or scallions for topping

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper OR lightly coat with nonstick spray.  Spread the cauliflower out evenly on the baking sheet and pop into the oven for 25 minutes.

When lightly browned, remove cauliflower from the oven.  Using a blender (I use the large cup of my NutriBullet and work in 2 batches), puree the cauliflower with 2 c. of the chicken broth.  Allow plenty of time to let the cauliflower become totally smooth and velvety.

Return the puree back to the soup pot and use the remaining 1 cup of chicken broth to rinse out any puree that wants to stick to the inside of the blender. Add cream, goat cheese, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper and cayenne to the pot and stir over medium heat until everything is  well combined.

Serve hot, topped with crumbled bacon and chives…and be prepared to lick your bowl clean.

Welcome

Hi, friends!  This little project has been on my heart for a loooong time and I’m so happy to finally launch it!

For those of you who don’t know me in real life, please visit my About Me page to “meet” me in this virtual world and be sure to connect with me on Facebook.

I hope you’ll follow along with me as I test recipes, share daily struggles and victories, and sometimes just write for my own sanity’s sake.

So, cheers to this new endeavor, y’all!  I’m looking forward to all that’s to come!