It’s been a little while since I mentioned a move. Since then, I’ve trotted across a few more states. (Am I actually insane? Perhaps.) After about 9 months in Indiana, my boyfriend and I just made the leap to the Seattle area in June. And moving has been taxing, as always.
I’d love to say that we planned perfectly to move across the country with ease and grace. Unfortunately, when military bases are involved, like they are for my boyfriend, there isn’t always time for perfect planning.
In the span of about 2 weeks, we:
Found an apartment
Packed our old apartment
Rented a truck
Drove across the country
Bought and assembled an apartment’s worth of new IKEA furniture
It was more the whirlwind version of moving.
Moving Your Whole Life Across the Country Recommendations
Get Help Finding an Apartment
Because we were moving to a state we’d never even visited, we did some research about areas we’d like to live, and then we hired a company to help find and show us apartments in those areas.
Between not having to rent a car on our visit and saving time before and during, it more than paid for the day of him driving us around to a bunch of apartments. And he picked the place we chose in the end.
I cannot recommend a service like this more when moving blindly. It made our lives so much easier.
We also loved our guide and are planning a double date with him and his girlfriend, so win-win-win.
Seriously Consider Movers
We did not seriously consider movers, and we are still a little sad about that. After loading the truck in Indiana, picking up my remaining belongings at home in Illinois, and driving over 12 hours a day for 3 days, my back was out when we got to Washington, and needless to say, it was a really rough way to unload a truck.
My mother was kind enough to come on this journey with us and help, but the 3 of us unloading our floppy king-size mattress alone was enough to make it worth hiring movers. I wish I had a video to prove to you that you should never accidentally bring this fate down upon yourselves, but alas, I do not, so instead, I like to think it looked a lot like this:
Combined with the floppiness of this:
And this small child’s linebacker skills:
Seriously, hire movers. We will next time.
Splurge and Take Extra Time Off
I only took off a few days for us to drive across the country, and then I hopped back online on Monday. I really wished I’d taken off the whole week.
Poor Matt assembled almost an entire apartment’s worth of IKEA furniture without much help from me while I was working. And it took a lot longer to have any functioning TVs or food in our fridge because I wasn’t available to help.
You will need more time than you thought you would to unpack and settle in a move across the country compared to a state or even just a few miles away. Trust me.
Plan to Grocery Shop
We didn’t plan time to grocery shop early on, and while our kitchen was the first thing unpacked, we couldn’t really use it for about 5 days. We’re lucky to have a grocery store, Starbucks, Panera, Chipotle, and more across the street, so we didn’t live off just fried food for days. But it was still not fun or good for us.
When you eat every meal out for 8 days in a row, you’ll understand that it’s expensive and exhausting. Plus, you’ll feel really gross by about day 3. So plan to be able to cook or at least throw together cereal or simple salads early.
Protect Your Skin and Hair
Even though our local water board just sent us a report about how great our water is, and I’d been living with extremely hard water in Indiana, better water might still wreak havoc on you.
I’ve had more breakouts in the last 2 months than I did at any point going through puberty or bouts of extreme all-night cramming in college. My normally happy combination skin has taken a full nose-dive into adult acne territory, and my boyfriend’s wasn’t doing too well at first either.
I know it sounds crazy, but Google it. I’m not the only one. Lots of people who have moved across the country or move regularly, like those in the military, have hit this issue.
There are many factors in a move that can take a toll. From the stress of the move, to different water, to adapting to a city without air conditioning and much more sweating than normal (no really, apartments pretty much never have air conditioning in Seattle), to a change in climate, they can all affect your skin. These changes can also be hard on your hair.
My skin’s finally starting to get used to the new digs, but you can save yourself by being prepared. Digging out my normal skincare routine and regularly sticking to it during 2 weeks of moving and unpacking wasn’t high on my list of priorities, and obviously, it should’ve been.
If you don’t take care of yourself during the move, you will regret it later. Wash your face in the morning and before bed, and be prepared to adapt your old routines. You might need a new lotion or conditioner for suddenly dry skin or hair or to change your old products while your skin and hair adapt.
Work on Patience and Understanding
While you’re moving, it’s extremely high stress, and it opens the door to fighting. My mom and I already have the tendency to bicker, but my boyfriend and I are usually very level-headed.
In a twist of fate, my mom and I did a pretty great job, and the bickering mostly bubbled up with my boyfriend, probably partially because we were trying to make serious life decisions on barely any sleep while being completely physically exhausted, all with the added bonus of an extra witness there to see us duke it out.
I’ve had some not-great relationships in the past, which at times made it feel like I had a free pass to be mean if an argument required it. But my current boyfriend is wonderful and one of my oldest friends, and he doesn’t deserve that. As a result, I’ve really had to work on my patience and understanding in the middle of arguments.
One of the best rules I can recommend is don’t fight while you’re exhausted, hungry, or triggered by something else, like work. But when you’re exhausted, hungry, and triggered by moving, which you’re doing all of together, some fights have to bubble up. It’s fate.
Tips to Be More Patient for a Fair Fight
What you can do is be ready. Try to practice patience with some deep breaths, some gratitude for the other person, and maybe just by embracing the uncomfortableness of what’s going on together.
Then, when you can’t avoid that fight, fight fair:
Recognize the other person’s concerns and feelings.
Listen, listen, listen.
Never mix meanness for the sake of meanness or other issues in your relationship into an argument they don’t belong in.
Don’t say things like ultimatums you don’t mean. If what you’re arguing over isn’t a relationship deal breaker, don’t taunt that it is in the heat of the moment.
Know your own and each other’s limits. My boyfriend likes to talk things out right away. I like time to cool off so I don’t lash out. We both know that about each other and try to make arguing work for both of us, even when that’s hard to do.
Pick your battles carefully and get comfortable with compromise. Instead of arguing over a soap dispenser, wait and find one you agree on because it’s just a soap dispenser. If you don’t really care what color that side table is, but your partner really cares, give them the win. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did after the 800th snap decision you have to make in the middle of IKEA.
Always bring it back to a place of love and respect, even while you’re arguing. Never forget that you’re partners in this, even if (when) they’re driving you crazy.
Forgive easily. Moving is too stressful to hold every meltdown against the other person, and with a huge move, there will definitely be some meltdowns.
Take Time to Relax
Luckily for us, we got our big move in right before a big vacation to Hawaii, so we had a built-in break about a month after the move.
Hawaii was gorgeous, and having never been that close to the equator before, a great reminder of the value of sunscreen.
But you should plan time to explore your new home or get away if you need to, even if it’s only for a date night, a weekend, or a massage.
And don’t beat yourself up over the occasional splurge during this time. If there were ever a time to have some real ice cream or a steak, it’s when you’ve just picked up your whole life and dropped it nearly 5,000 miles away.
And for fun, because, Hawaii…
Appreciate Your New Home
After about a month of craziness, hopefully your new home will be in decent shape. At which point, you need to take a step back and give yourselves a big pat on the back.
This will be the second time I’ve moved across the country blindly, once with nothing but a couple suitcases, and this time with everything I own. It’s scary, and stressful, and so worth it. Don’t forget to appreciate what you’ve built.
I’m finally taking a second to admire my gorgeous apartment in a brand-new building, my wonderful puppies, our gorgeous surroundings, my boyfriend who calmly spent about 10 hours in an IKEA with my mom and I and built like 15 pieces of furniture, and the awesome job that let me move across the country and keep working for them remotely, saving me from a frantic job search at the same time. #Blessed, am I right?
And I live about 25 minutes away from this. Seriously, how can you stay burnt out living anywhere this gorgeous!
You’ve probably heard in the news that processed foods are bad for you. They’re frequently blamed for high rates of obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes in America.
But it’s a little more complicated than that. Not all processed foods are bad for you, and it’s important to know which ones you need, which ones can help you save, and which ones to avoid.
What Is Processed Food?
There is a whole range of processed food, and the more processed it is, the less likely it is to be good for you.
Barely processed foods are things that you can find at the store that have been prepped for you for your convenience. These include:
Washed and bagged lettuce and spinach
Precut or chopped fruit or veggies
Foods processed at their peak lock in and preserve nutrition, quality, and freshness. These include:
Frozen fruit and vegetables
Foods with added ingredients may have better flavor and texture, but they can also be worse for you. While these ingredients help preserve quality, they can also have higher sugar, fat, and unnatural additives. These frequently include sweeteners, spices, oils, colors, and preservatives. Foods with added ingredients include:
Jarred pasta sauce
Ready-to-eat foods are usually heavily processed with lots of added ingredients. These include:
Prepackaged deli meat
Frozen and premade meals are usually the most heavily processed with lots of added ingredients, including salt and preservatives to make them last. These include:
Positives of Processed Foods
As you can see, some processed foods are good for you. Fresh fruits and veggies that have just been chopped and washed before being packaged really just save you time. (Although you usually have to pay more for that time savings.)
Foods processed at their peak are a great way to save, with the same nutrition at a lower price than fresh.
And some foods with added ingredients are actually better for you. Many kinds of milk and juice have more calcium and vitamin D added in. Some breakfast cereals have added fiber.
Problems with Processed Foods
The 3 biggest problems with processed foods are added sugars, salt, and fat.
Sugars aren’t just in candy and prepackaged desserts. They’re added in all kinds of foods, and you may not even know it.
Breads can have added sugars to give them a nice brown color.
Canned pasta sauce generally has a surprising amount of added sugar.
Many cereals are heavily sweetened.
Fruit canned in syrup is filled with sugar.
Salting your food isn’t to blame for high levels of sodium in your diet. 3/4 of the salt you take in comes from processed food.
Most canned vegetables, soups, sauces, and beans have added sodium to improve the taste and texture and to help preserve them on the shelf.
Premade meals and snacks are full of extra salt to make them taste better and preserve them.
Added fats make food shelf-stable and tastier. But trans fats in processed foods can raise your bad cholesterol.
Many products with added fats have really small serving sizes, and if you eat more than that, you’re eating a lot of trans fat in one sitting.
For instance, a serving size of Oreos is just 3 cookies, and those 3 cookies have 7 grams of fat, which is 11% of your recommended daily total of fat. Do you actually eat just 3 Oreos in a sitting? Just doubling to 6 cookies puts you over 20% of your daily fat total!
Smart Processed Foods Choices
Now that you know the basics, how can you pick out processed foods that are good for you?
Have you ever bought a bunch of groceries, only to have plans change and food go to waste? Fresh fruits and veggies that go bad in your fridge before you make that recipe or snack on them? Leftovers that you got sick of without finishing?
This is a problem millions of Americans run into every day, and it’s called food waste.
An estimated 25 to 40% of food in the U.S. goes to waste instead of being eaten. And when food goes into a landfill, it also produces a greenhouse gas that’s bad for the environment. All those lost groceries add up to about $165 billion lost every year.
Reducing your food waste can help you save money, and it’s good for the rest of the world. And the great news is it’s easy.
Prepare to shop. Have a plan and buy exactly what you need to at the grocery store .
Know yourself. Pay attention to how much of something your family really eats so you can buy the right amount. If you live alone, don’t buy fruit in bulk (unless you really love apples). If you hate cooking, don’t stock up on things that have to be cooked.
Buy the odd-looking fruits and veggies. Many are thrown away because their size, shape, or color doesn’t look perfect, but they’re actually just as good.
Save at Home
First In, First Out. When you unpack your groceries, make sure you’re putting the newest food in the back so older things get used first.
Use all of an ingredient. Whenever possible, use all of what you’re cooking with, like leaving the skin on potatoes. Use citrus rinds and zest to add flavor to sauces and desserts. And the skin and stems of most fruits and veggies are safe to eat and have extra nutrients that you need.
Use your freezer. Freeze fruits and veggies you can’t use up before they go bad for easy smoothies. Store extras from recipes.
Eat leftovers. Take them for lunch, skip cooking the next night, or freeze them for an easy dinner later.
Share. Split a huge dish when you’re eating out or take home the leftovers for an easy meal later. If you made too much of a meal, bring a dish of it to family or friends.
A little thought can go a long way toward helping you reduce food waste in your home and save you money.
When you see them side by side, you can see that the new label calls out the actual serving size and calories per serving much bigger. At the store, this can quickly help you see how good for you something is in terms of calories, and how much bang for your buck you’re getting in what you buy.
It also calls out added sugars, which are sugars (like sugar, honey, or corn syrup) that are added to packaged food. Fresh fruit has natural sugars, so juices don’t list the sugar that’s naturally occurring from the fruit as added sugar.
And now it calls out the exact amount of nutrients, like vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium.
The FDA’s new labels have also changed serving sizes to better show how much people actually eat of certain foods:
While a half a cup of ice cream used to be the recommended serving size, most people are scooping out closer to a cup, so the FDA wanted to make sure you know how many calories you’re actually eating in that bowl of ice cream.
Making the Most of Food Labels
1. Serving Size
When you pick something up at the store, start with the serving size on the Nutrition Facts label.
It will tell you the total number of servings in the package, and the new serving size, which better shows how much of it you actually eat.
These serving sizes are standard, so it’s easier for you to compare the calories and nutrients in similar foods to find the healthiest brand for you. Serving sizes also come in measurements you know, like cups, followed by grams.
Next, look at the number of calories per serving. Calories are a measure of how much energy you’ll get from food.
Many people eat more calories than they need to, so keeping track of how many you eat can help you with your weight. Most people should eat around 2,000 calories per day.
When you’re looking at the calories, if you’re eating around 2,000 calories a day, then 40 calories is low for a serving, 100 calories is in the middle, and 400 or more calories is high. In fact, you should shoot for whole meals to be around 400 calories.
3. Nutrients to Limit
The nutrients listed first are ones that most Americans get plenty or too much of.
Eating too much fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, or sugar can raise your risk of certain diseases, like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
The bold headlines are most helpful for you when you’re shopping, so you can quickly see how much of these is in something, while the subheads, like saturated and trans fat, can help you focus on a nutrient you’re interested in.
The percentages along the side tell you how much of your 2,000 calorie diet this food takes up. So in this image, the total fat in this food takes up 10% of all the fat you should eat in a whole day.
Dietary fiber and protein that are mixed into this list are good for you and important to keep an eye on. Fiber can help you better process food and reduce the risk of heart disease, and protein can help you stay full longer and is important if you’re trying to build muscle.
4. Nutrients You Need
The bottom section of nutrients are ones that many don’t get enough of, so they’ve been highlighted to help you buy foods rich in them.
These are nutrients that can help you improve your health and help lower the risk of some diseases. For example, calcium and vitamin D can help you build strong bones and lower your risk of getting osteoporosis later in life, and potassium can help lower your blood pressure.
The footnote is more simple in the new design, too. It just reminds you that the percentages are based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet.
Now that you know what the different sections of the Nutrition Facts label are telling you, it will be easy to look for food with good calorie counts, limited salt, fat, and sugar, and plenty of healthy nutrients, like calcium.
Even after you’ve gotten ready to head to the store, grocery shopping on a budget for healthy meals can be hard. But there are some things you can do to make it easier.
Stock Your Pantry
Keeping your kitchen stocked with certain key things can make cooking easy. This list has some items that are perfect for this. And this article has some healthy foods perfect for your pantry that only cost about $2.
Add one item that won’t go bad, like a spice, grain, beans, or frozen veggies to your cart each shopping trip to help you build your pantry without dropping a lot of money at once. (These are also good things to buy in bulk when they’re on sale if you have space to store them.)
Having this stocked pantry will help you throw together meals fast, help you save on packaged or premade meals you might’ve grabbed in a hurry, and make shopping easier.
Choosing Your Store
Choosing where you shop can also help you save. Besides the grocery store, some great places to find good deals are:
Once you’re at the store, you should try to shop the outer edge of it as much as possible. The outer edge usually has the fresh produce, like fruits and veggies, meat, dairy, bread, and frozen food. It’s typically the inner aisles that are full of boxed and processed foods.
Fruits & Veggies
It’s recommended that you eat 5 servings of veggies a day, so it’s important to really use that part of the store. With that in mind, fruits and veggies, fresh or frozen, should take up about a third of your cart on each shopping trip.
Shop in season
At the farmers market, you have to buy what’s in season, but at the grocery store, there are lots of choices. But when you buy what’s in season, you can save a lot, and your food will be the tastiest and freshest it can be. This list can help you find what’s in season when.
Buy bags at the right time
With certain go-to things your family will always use, like apples, oranges, potatoes, and onions, buying them in the big bags when they’re in season can help you save even more.
Stock up on canned and frozen fruits and veggies
Canned and frozen fruits and veggies are picked while they’re in season and tasting best, and they’re good for you, too. So instead of buying fresh peas when they’re not in season, stock up on frozen ones to save and get the best flavor. Plus, they last much longer.
Look for frozen veggies without added sauces or butter. Choose canned fruit in 100% fruit juice and veggies with “low-sodium” or “no salt added.”
Canned veggies and broths are perfect for easy soups and stews, and canned fruit makes great fruit salad and snacks for the kids.
Avoid a lot of the packaged and processed foods in the center of the store. Cookies, candy, chips, crackers, and soda are all high in things you don’t want, like sugar, salt, and bad fats, and low in things like protein and nutrients. They’re also expensive.
Look for whole grains
Be careful you don’t get fooled by things that just call out wheat. Instead, look for whole grains and whole-grain breads.
Find high-protein foods besides meat
Yogurt and cheeses are great sources of protein, as are beans and other legumes, which you can find dried or canned.
Be smart about cereal
Cereals are one of the top foods for hidden sugar. Look for ones with little or no sugar. You can always add honey to flavor it in the bowl. Also look for cereals high in fiber to start your day right.
Try new things in the bulk aisle
If you want to try a new grain, nut, or dried fruit, the bulk aisle with bins is a great way to taste test. Scoop out a small bag for your family to taste before buying bigger servings.
Make the most of your trip by paying attention to how your store organizes things, their price tags, and food labels.
Don’t shop at eye level
Stores oftentimes stock the most expensive things right where they’ll catch your eye. Looking at the upper and lower shelves can help you find the best deal.
Grab from the back
Stores also stock from the back, putting newer things behind the older ones. Grabbing from the back gets you fresher food with better expiration dates, so your food will be good for longer.
Look for store brands
Many stores have their own brands of items, and in most cases, you’ll get the exact same or very similar thing at a much better price.
Some things might seem good for you until you check the serving size. Sometimes the serving size is much smaller than what you’d actually eat in a sitting, which makes the numbers on the label look better.
Learn how to read unit price on the price tag
Unit price tells you how much something costs per pound, ounce, quart, or other unit of measure. It can tell you which brands are the most affordable. This guide can help you read or calculate unit price.
Have a calculator handy
Whether it’s on your phone or you bring a small calculator along to the store, having one on hand can make it easy to compare labels and costs.