How to Keep Warm Without Turning up The Heat

How to Keep Warm Without Turning up The Heat

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As a Minnesota farm(ish) girl, I’m well versed in the art of how to keep warm. When fall rolls around, it’s time to button up and start the unavoidable descent into colder weather. I mean, we all know winter is coming…

Keep Warm Without Turning Up The Heat - A Farmish Kind of Life

Cold temperatures can lead to extra expense if you’re bumping the thermostat up every time the outside mercury drops, so here are a few of the things we do to keep warm here at Clucky Dickens Farm before we even touch our thermostat.

(Don’t want to read all the words? This blog post is also a podcast—just press the triangle play button on the little black bar at the top of this post!)

Keep warm and layer up!

Dressing in layers isn’t just for outside activities. This works for inside the house, too.

Layers work because they help to trap air and insulate you better. I don’t have any shame in admitting that sometimes I’ve got a pair of yoga pants on under my jeans. And maybe like, a tank top, a long sleeve shirt, a t-shirt, and a sweatshirt on top. Maybe I should try some fleece-lined yoga pants? And y’all know they make fleece-lined jeans, right?

Warm and toasty is the name of my game. Pile it on!

Tuck those layers in.

What I will not admit to you, however, is how old I was before I actually learned that tucking in my bottom layer would help to keep me warmer.

Oh, sure. It makes total sense now…total sense.

Cover your dang feet and your head!

If you’re walking around the house barefoot and complaining you’re cold…just stop.

Stop right now.

Cover your feet with wool socks like maybe these or these or these and a nice pair of slippers (these keep my feet warm). Heat escapes fastest through your extremities, so make sure those puppies are snug!

Wear a stocking cap if you’re cold—even when you’re sleeping. Remember “Ma in her kerchief and I in my cap”? Y’all, that wasn’t for fashion. Keep yo’ heads warm. Keep yo’ feet warm. Carry on.

Drink something warm.

Coffee. Tea. Hot Cocoa. Cider. Russian Tea. Even a mug of hot water will do the trick.

Liquid warms your insides and the mug warms your hands. Score! (This is the same reason that soup and stew is such a favorite menu item in the fall and winter!)

Go outside and come back in.

When the temps recently started to drop, my husband and I were out for a couple hours working around the farm. When we came back in, my husband commented how bloody hot it was in the house. Now, we both knew that’s only because we’d both been working outside, but isn’t it amazing that our feeling about the temperature is relative?

A house set at 64 seems cold, until you go outside and work where it’s 30. Then 64 seems really cozy.

A Minnesota farm(ish) girl knows how to keep warm when the temps turn cold. Here are my suggestions for how to stay toasty without turning up the heat.

Get moving and keep warm!

This is grade school stuff and we all know this—when your blood is pumpin’ you’re warmer. The problem is that in the winter, we want to go into hibernation mode and we move less.

Make use of the ten minute tidy and move around your house quickly picking things up. Or do a hardcore scrubbing of the bathroom using mostly elbow grease to finish the job. It’s amazing how much warmer we can feel when we’re workin’ hard!


Listen. I know you want to be gorgeous and fit into your size-whatever-jeans, but trust me when I tell you this: the time that the temps start to drop is not the time to start restricting calories. Your body is able to deal with colder temps much easier if it is properly fueled. That means eating enough food and drinking enough water.

Take care of your body so it can take care of you!


The same reason you don’t want to make bread, pies, cookies, or roast vegetables in the summer is the same reason you should do it when the temps outside turn chilly. I don’t consider the constant running of the oven to be wasteful because what’s coming out of it is stuff we’re going to use anyway (even if I bake it and it goes into the freezer for later).

Some of my favorite things to bake when the temps turn cold:

And hey—when you’re done baking, leave that oven door open! All that leftover heat is better used outside the oven where you can feel it, right?

A Minnesota farm(ish) girl knows how to keep warm when the temps turn cold. Here are my suggestions for how to stay toasty without turning up the heat.


Keep warm by using an appliance that creates heat.

We always save our lard rendering for when it’s cold outside. Running the roaster creates heat and helps keep the temp up in the kitchen. Using a canner also throws a lot of heat (and humidity!) so save some processing to be done in fall and winter.

Take a bath or shower:

Ever been chilled to the bone and just can’t get warm? A bath can fix that.

Just remember if you’re really cold to not make the bath really hot – you’ll do more damage than good.

Keep warm. Use blankets.

Figure out what material keeps you the warmest.

We discovered early on in my youngest’s life that he cannot wear a polar fleece sweatshirt while running around outside in the fall because he overheats. Guess which blanket he grabs when he feels the house is chilly?

My oldest has a fuzzy sherpa throw he’s claimed as his own. I prefer a denim quilt or a soft wool blanket. And don’t forget that you should be changing to flannel sheets for the colder temps. They can make a huge difference at night!

Snuggling—my favorite way to keep warm.

The phrase “it’s a three dog night” means you needed three dogs to keep you warm.

Body heat works, y’all. Whether you’re having snuggle time with your pooch, family snuggle time on the couch, or…um….”snuggle time” with your love, body heat works, yo.

Keep something warm in your bed.

My husband and I used to watch an old British Comedy called Good Neighbors, and in it the couple always put a hot rock at the bottom of the bed to warm their feet. Now, while I’m not brave enough to put a scalding hot rock in my sheets, I could handle using a heated rice or bean bag or a hot water bottle for the same purpose.

Put plastic on the windows. 

If cold air is leaking through or around your window, you’re fighting a losing battle! Consider covering your windows with plastic to help keep out the drafts. Is there a door you don’t use in the winter—maybe a patio door? You can easily cover those as well.

Use curtains, drapes, window quilts.

Confession. I love sunlight and I hate shutting it out. As a result, this means we have no curtains or drapes in our house.

I’ve been challenged to rethink this set up, however, because curtains and drapes actually act as insulators to any drafts that might be coming through. They can also trap the warmth of a sun-warmed room if you close them up when the sun is done for the day. (See the next point…)

Use the power of the sun to help keep you warm.

When the sun is blazing outside, get your curtains open! Our living room can be up to five degrees warmer just from our big south facing windows. If the sun is shining in, don’t shut it out!

Close things up that you’re not using.

Shut doors on areas of the house you’re not using, and adjust the thermostat accordingly.

If the kids have all moved away and no one is using the upstairs, there is no need to keep that floor of the house as warm as the rest. Do you have a room in your house that isn’t often used or could be organized differently and shut up for the winter? The set up of a toy room (move the toy box out into the living room) or an office (keep it cooler and move your laptop to the kitchen to work) can easily be organized in a different way to save you from fully heating all the rooms in your home.

(I probably don’t need to say this, but I’m not suggesting you turn the heat off to these rooms. I’m just pointing out that you won’t need to keep them as “toasty warm” as the spaces you’re actually using.)

Having trouble with how to keep warm? Maybe we need to be realistic.

Sometimes we have to admit that here in modern day, we are just a bit pampered and spoiled. Get okay with the fact that fall and winter are chilly.

A Minnesota farm(ish) girl knows how to keep warm when the temps turn cold. Here are my suggestions for how to stay toasty without turning up the heat.

My guess is that the proverbial Ma Ingalls wasn’t expecting her lil’ house to be the same temp in December as it was in May.

Your body is an amazing powerful machine and (unless there are health conditions that prevent it) will adjust to changing temps. Most times, a body that is comfy in a house kept at 70 can learn to be comfy at 65. Have you ever wondered why we think that a house kept at 60-something in the summer is comfortable, but a house kept at 60-something in the winter is chilly?

Take control of your mind and show it who is boss.

Are there any tips you would add? Share them in the comments. We can use all the keep-it-warm tips that you have!

A Minnesota farm(ish) girl knows how to keep warm when the temps turn cold. Here are my suggestions for how to stay toasty without turning up the heat.

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22 thoughts on “How to Keep Warm Without Turning up The Heat”

    • Many years ago, when I lived in the city (and the houses were very close to each other), new neighbors moved in next door during winter. They were two young teachers and I watched in amazed amusement the first month when I could see them through the windows in the evenings wearing tee-shirts and shorts. (No curtains, no drapes.) Apparently, they got their first fuel bill because the next month, I noticed sweatpants and long sleeved shirts and sweaters in the evenings. lol Me? I have several “house sweaters” that I wear over my long sleeved shirts and wool socks that are worn under my sheepskin slippers. I drag out my “winter outfits” about October and put them away sometime in the spring.

  • I sometimes will throw a towel in the dryer then put the towel under my blankets ….. Presto the bed is warm when I get in

  • We didn’t have central heat when I was growing up. Just a log fire place and only the living areas were warmed. Then the door to the bedrooms was opened just before bed. We warmed our beds with electric blankets for about half an hour before bed, then turned them off.

  • Leg warmers help a lot. They were a passing fad except for dancers, but they’re back now as an accessory for boots. Even alone, though, they’re very effective.. If you have an old sweater you can cut the sleeves off straight across at the armpits and add elastic to the top. Make it .loose enough to go over your jeans. You can use the body of the sweater to make a matching hat using a pattern designed for fleece. If it’s real hand washable wool,, machine washing it before you begin turns it into wonderful,, thick felt, which is denser and warmer and doesn’t fray or unravel..

  • I recently saw this hack and it made sense: Spritz water on your window and cut bubble wrap to fit the window part. It lets in the light and still provides insulation to keep the cold out. Hang some lace curtains for camouflage and you’re all set.

  • When I see it is really going to get cold, I throw a blanket in the dryer long enough to get it hot then wrap up in it while diving under the other bed covers.

  • Do NOT shut off vents to unused rooms, this can cause your furnace to overheat and ruin your furnace. I was told this by more than one furnace repairman.

  • I’ve learned that covering windows at night with drapes (or curtains or whatever you want to call them) really does make a difference. My first chore in the winter morning is opening all the drapes to let the sun in, then as the sun goes down I go around the house to close the drapes to hold the warmth in. In Summertime it is just the opposite, I open the drapes and windows at night to let the cooling air and breezes in, then close them again as the sun heats the air around mid-morning. I like wearing a hoodie to bed as it keeps my shoulders and back of my neck warm as well as my head. Every one of your tips is great!

  • I’ve got a great tip that most everyone will think is crazy, and that I only know works from experience and pretty much nothing else. Starting in summer, take cold showers. By cold showers I mean COLD showers. Turn the nob clear all the way cold, no heat whatsoever. Every shower. You’ll want to die in the shower for the first few weeks, but then it will start to actually feel really good. Some tips to make it more tolerable in the beginning is to breath as quickly and deeply and you possibly can a few minutes before and during the shower; start the shower semi-cold and get progressively to totally cold; and also, most importantly, TAKE CONTROL of your mind, and convince your subconcious that the water will not make you cold. Sounds crazy or wacko but I’m telling you it worked for me. Focus deeply on the heat inside of you and feel it move to your skin, driving out the cold. Then, continue into the winter. Soon, you will be cold resistant. It’s mid November right now in Washington and I can almost always be perfectly comfortable outside in a tee shirt. Don’t know if it’ll work for you but it works for me.

  • Don’t forget to humidify! If you just can’t seem to get warm no matter how high the thermostat is set, you probably need some moisture in the air. It’s amazing how much difference it makes. If you have floor vents, radiators, or wood stoves, try putting a pot of water on each one,. If you have ceiling vents,, get a humidifier — I like warn steam, but cold works just as well. You’ll be able to turn the heat down and stay toasty warm.

  • So, here is my sad story. Our outdoor wood boiler furnace bit the dust this fall. Since we are in Indiana and our winters have been fairly mild, we opted to simply use our back-up electric furnace for this winter. So then, of course, we got hit with the coldest Indiana winter ever! Our last electric bill was $450, and that is with us keeping the daytime thermostat at 63 and nighttime at 59! We have plastic over the windows (double on some), heavy drapes, foam tape and door strips, and we are using two space heaters to supplement the furnace. I am wondering what brand/type of windows homeowners in your state of Minnesota buy? I’m considering buying new windows for the bedroom this year and want to get the best, draft-free windows we can buy. Thanks Amy! Love your site

    • We have very old windows and we need to replace ours as well, but I’m not sure what way to go since the cost overwhelms me when I think about it. I think we have twenty some windows in this farmhouse. GAH!! I’m sorry to hear that your outdoor wood boiler bit the dust. Were there tears shed? Because I would have been out there having a funeral for that thing. 🙁 It’s amazing to me how much electric costs! Hopefully the temps warm up soon!

  • When we were kids in upstate NY we would go to the farm a big rambling Hoyas with fireplaces upstairs and down my uncle only started the ones in the bed rooms being used, but we always had some bricks under the wood stove in the kitchen My aunt would wrap them in foil and put themm in the oven for awhile once warm she would wrap them in a towel and put them in a pillow case and put them under the covers as we got in bed after warming it we would mowe the bricks to our feet and jump in under a pile of covers Then we were so warm and toasty we really didn’t care if the fire went out.

  • During our childhood we lived in this huge farmhouse for awhile the halls were wider than most rooms are these days we had a furnace but it was never ment to really heat what was once a summer home. My dad got a coal stove that was barrel shaped and set it up on the second floor where the halls met in a T he then ran the pipe down through the hallway and out the end of that hallway wall to heat that part of the house by using the heat off the pipe to heat those 2 other rooms.

  • Shut doors in house of rooms leave vents open in those rooms. Air moves and with doors closed it makes house feel less drafty. Also use draft stoppers on bottom of exterior doors.

  • Don’t neglect fingerless gloves! My daughter and I are never without a pair on our hands inside. I like lined wool best. Save the full gloves and mittens for outside.

  • Don’t forget rugs on floor or if you don’t have rugs use old blankets. Helps to keep the coldness of the floor to cool off the room.

  • These are great tips! I have really trying to be conscious of the heat this winter. Plastic on the windows seems so sad as I love to look out the window during the day, but we have original to our 1950’s fixer upper home and they really need to be replaced. My husband needs to get up into the attic and work on the insulation as well. We live in the SE when 40 at night is cold haha, but it’s amazing how cold that really is when summer lasts forever and is 100 degrees consistently 🙂 First time to your blog and I can’t wait to read some more of your posts!

  • Great tips! Fun reading too! Don’t forget the attic. R-40 and proper vents. You need top and bottom vents. It’s just like the hat you wear on your head!
    Check out a quality ERV system, it captures the humidity as well as the heat, as opposed to the HRV system. The initial outlay will save you $$ in the long run, and you’ll improve the quality of the air in your home. Even if your walls leak, there may be mold spores within them that are also leaking into your home.

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