Monthly Archives: May 2011

May 23

How to Save $317 On Your Food Bill This Month

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

Last October, Bethany and I made one seemingly simple change that has now saved us an average of $317 on our food bill each month.

I want to share with you exactly what we did and how you can do it, too.  In fact, at the end of this post, I’ll show you how you can actually save a bit more just for being a member of our Engaged Marriage community.

So, What Was the BIG Change?

We signed up for E-Mealz.

E-Mealz is an online meal planning service that was started by a couple of busy Moms who were looking for a better way to manage their families’ time, health and financial well-being.

It has become a major help to thousands of busy families, and it has won the endorsement of financial guru Dave Ramsey.

In our case, we were eating carryout restaurant food too often, plus we were wasting groceries on a regular basis.

We shopped for what we thought we needed during each grocery store trip, but without a plan we inevitably found ourselves opting for the “convenience” of takeout/delivery and (at the same time) letting groceries expire before we actually used them all up.

Plus, our grocery shopping trips weren’t organized to take advantage of sales and store discounts since there’s no way to know this information without guidance from someone who tracks it.

How Does E-Mealz Work?

It’s really simple!

You just choose the best plan for your family from the 26 different options on the E-Mealz website.  These include a mix of food types (regular, low-fat, portion control, vegetarian, low carb, gluten free), family size and your favorite grocery store (or choose the Any Store plan if your grocer isn’t listed).

Then you just log in each week and print off your new meal plan and shopping list.  All of the ingredients you need for your weekly shopping trip are organized onto a single page and broken down aisle-by-aisle for your store, and the meal plan/recipes are on a second page.

You can even click here, browse the meal plans and print off a sample plan to check it out for free!

We haven’t noticed any recipes repeating since we started in October, although E-Mealz says their most popular recipes may repeat every 4-6 months.  That’s a lot of variety!

And in case you’re wondering, the meals are almost always DELICIOUS…so we have lots of new favorite dishes that we wouldn’t have discovered without this service.

How Does E-Mealz Save You Money?

In addition to simply eating out less and grocery shopping with a plan, E-Mealz menus are actually planned to give you the best value with each shopping trip!

The weekly plans are set up to coincide with the sales at your store for that week.  This alone can represent a major savings if you aren’t already tracking and planning your shopping trips and specific meals based on your store’s weekly sales.

Plus, you will most likely be eating healthier under your E-Mealz plan, which means you’ll lose weight, feel better and ultimately have lower medical bills!

What Does E-Mealz Cost?

E-Mealz costs just $5 per month, or $1.25 per week. Given what you save with sales, less eating out and no more wasted groceries, this is just an incredible value.

I am proud to share our experiences with E-Mealz with you, and I’m proud to endorse their great service.  Check it out!

May 06

When God Sends a Baby Girl to Change Your Life

By Dustin | Children

As any parent will attest, having a baby will change your life. Big time.

This is especially true for your first child when you’re forced to stop focusing on your own needs and attend to every need of your new baby.

There is probably no greater event to change your worldview and your day-to-day life.

However, as Bethany and I discovered over the course of the last year, a new baby can bring a deep, life-changing message at any time.

Hello Avery, Welcome to Our Crazy Life!

Last July, we welcomed with joy the arrival of our third child, a precious little girl named Avery.

Unlike our first two children, Avery took a little longer than we planned to make her way into our lives.  Since we use Natural Family Planning, we have been blessed with an awareness of my wife’s fertility that allowed us to plan the birth of our first two children pretty much as we intended.

Avery took a little more “trying” and her birth ended up coinciding with a lot of chaos in our family life.  While we can see now how positive this was, it certainly didn’t seem like the “right” arrival month at the time.

Life Is Just Too Hectic

I haven’t talked much about the intense changes that we’ve experienced over the last year or so.

In a nutshell, I found myself becoming increasingly unhappy with my career situation after spending 10 years with the same small company. There were many uncertainties and many forks in the road that started to converge with urgency with the arrival of summer.

When Avery was born, I took a week off to be with our family. This gave me some much needed perspective and really opened my ears and eyes to some messages that God had been screaming in our direction for a while.

As she entered her third trimester, Bethany was told that her special education position was being moved to a new school within her district.  After 8 years of building both her career and her social network, everything was changing for her as well.

Life was insanely hectic on all fronts. Most days brought a familiar grind of long work days, brief family time and when we focused on it maybe 15 minutes of time for us.

It wasn’t what we wanted, but we thought it was all we had available.

Back to School?

The summer birth meant that Bethany had to return to work, at an entirely new school in a whole new unprepared classroom, on maternity leave. With our two youngest in tow, she worked hard to get the room ready for school just a few weeks postpartum.  She was fairly miserable, especially with the thought of returning and sending Avery to daycare.

My work situation reached a head, and I decided it was time to make the difficult decision to leave the comfort of the known to test the waters and see what other opportunities were available.

I continued to work hard at my current job, Bethany returned to school and the kids went to daycare.  It was back to the grind of the preceding Spring, except with an extra child and lots of additional discontent thrown into the mix.

Money was tight, and it really seemed like this was simply our reality.

Leap, Then Look

After a series of late night talks, we decided that something had to change.  This was not what we wanted for our marriage or our family.  The urgency was there, but we still didn’t see any options.

My work situation finally degraded to the point that I was forced to be proactive or risk going berserk.

In a flash, I found a better opportunity, we decided it was time for Bethany to resign from her position and be home for our kids.

We didn’t know if all of this crazy change was going to work, but we decided it was time to take a leap of faith and change.  Everything.

Listen!

After we made a conscious choice, a sense of peace enveloped us both. A divine kind of peace that we had felt previously when finding NFP after years of struggling with our sense of morality and meaning surrounding our intimacy.

What had just happened?

We believe we had finally listened to the call that God had put on our lives many months before.

He had delivered this message not through a written message or a dream.  He had sent us our own little angel at just the Perfect Time.

Avery’s birth, right at the crux of our struggles and frustration, had forced us to reassess our priorities and the plans we had for our future.  God had been speaking, but we were finally ready to listen…despite trying SO hard to keep our ears closed!

By the way, after we made our decision, we realized that Avery was most likely conceived while we were away at a Church marriage retreat…and it was during this retreat that we first openly (and tearfully) discussed the possibility that maybe Bethany should stay at home…

Coincidence?

Life is Good.

We still share many of the struggles that face a young family.

But I have a job I enjoy and the mental energy to run two online businesses to help others with their marriage and their health.  Bethany is home with our children and feeling very fulfilled with her new role.

We are happy. Our kids are happy. Our souls feel right.

Thanks God, and thank you Avery Josephine.

How has God spoken to you through your children? Have you listened?