It has been really cold here in northern Minnesota. Cold, as in, -45ºF windchill COLD. And I’ve heard reports from friends and family enduring unseasonably cold temperatures in parts of the country that are supposed to be warm. It’s pretty cold everywhere.
I’ve survived more than three decades of bitter cold Minnesota winters, so I thought I would share some tips for how to stay warm in cold winter weather.
Staying Warm Outdoors
Layer, layer layer. Forget about fashion. Do not worry how dorky you look or that you’ll have hat hair. This is about comfort, and more importantly, safety.
Start with a base layer. I’m a big fan of thermal underwear – especially CuddlDuds. I love the silky style ones, but they’re a little more expensive (unless you shop the clearance). I have found the cheaper line of CuddlDuds at Target work just as well. If you don’t have thermal underwear, layer long-sleeved t-shirts and leggings or sweatpants under your your clothes.
For the middle layer, I recommend fleece or wool. These fabrics are breathable and keep you warm.
For the outer layer, get a good insulated parka. My go-to winter coat is down-filled and has a waterproof shell and a big hood to keep me warm and dry. Snow pants or ski pants are also a good idea when it is very cold outside.
Invest in a good pair of winter boots. Yes, they can be expensive. But warm dry feet make you feel warmer all over and are worth every single penny. Look for deals during the winter clearance sales and be prepared for next winter.
Cover every inch of skin. Make sure your head, ears, face, back of your neck, wrists and ankles are all covered. Bare skin is frost-bitten skin in just a matter of minutes, and a good hat will help you keep most of your body heat with your body. My boys all wear ski masks and hats when it’s really cold out. They may look like bank robbers, but they’re not cold!
Keep moving. You’re going to feel a lot colder if you just stand there in the cold. Make sure you walk around a bit and keep moving.
Make sure you have a roadside emergency kit. The cold weather can cause even the most reliable cars to have trouble. Or bad roads could leave you stuck somewhere. Being stranded in the winter can be very dangerous. Make sure to call ahead to let people know you’re traveling and that you’re prepared for winter weather if you were to get stuck in your vehicle for an extended period of time.
Don’t stay out any longer than you have to. Make sure every thing you do outside is necessary and that you are efficient. This is not a time to dink around. Do what you must do outside and get inside and warm up. Be sure to plan your activities so that you’re not outside during the coldest part of the day.
How to Stay Warm Indoors
Wear warm clothing. It’s far easier and cheaper to keep yourself warm than it is to warm all the air in your house . Wear long-sleeved shirts and sweaters, put on thermal underwear, and keep warm wool socks and slippers on your feet.
A lot of folks swear that SmartWool socks are the way to go, but they are so expensive when they’re not on sale. I found Wise Blend socks, which are a Merino wool blend at my local farm and fleet store (I haven’t found them online yet) for about $6 a pair and I think they are more comfortable, keep my feet warmer, and hold up better than the more expensive socks. Plus, they’re made in the USA.
Warm up your insides. Drinking hot beverages like cocoa, coffee, tea, or even just plain hot water will help warm you up. Plan hot comfort foods like homemade soups or casseroles for lunch and dinner. You burn more calories when it’s cold, so make sure you’re filling up on good, warm foods.
Get cooking. Do some bulk cooking of meals to put in the freezer or bake up a bunch of bread and goodies. The activity will help you stay warm, and running the oven and stove will help warm up your house, too.
Increase the humidity. One of the reasons it feels cold in your home is that the air is so dry. Adding a bit of moisture in the air – with a humidifier, an aquarium, house plants, or even just a pan of boiling water on the stove – can help make your home feel more liveable on chilly days.
Use your curtains, blinds and shades. When the sun comes up, open up all your curtains and let the sun shine in and help warm things up. Then, as soon, as the sun sets, shut those shades! Your window coverings will help keep the cold air out and the warm air in.
Get some exercise. Being stuck indoors, doesn’t mean the fitness routine has to go out the window. Pop in a fitness video (or stream one online). Do some yoga moves in your living room. Do the stairs 10 times. The more you move, the warmer you’ll feel. (Plus you get to burn some calories, too!)
Snuggle up. Cuddle up with a warm blanket, a significant other, your kids, or your pets. A homemade bed warmer can go a long way in keeping your warm whether you’re going to bed or even just sitting on the couch. Flannel sheets and warm blankets can also keep things toasty.
Be okay with turning the heat up a little. I know that one of the best ways to save on your heating bills is to lower your thermostat, but I will admit that I don’t always do that. I get chilled easily and when that happens, I get crabby and start to overeat, which is not good. The cold snaps are always temporary. You can always turn the heat back down when the weather warms up.
A final piece of Advice
Pay attention to the weather forecasts, and plan ahead so that you don’t have to leave the house during really cold weather. If possible, make arrangements to work from home. Keep your pantry, fridge and medicine cabinets stocked, and be prepared to hunker down for a few days.
And think warm thoughts. It helps!
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