$30 of free groceries.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Do you live in or near Raleigh like I do? (Or in Baltimore, Washington DC, or several locations in Virginia?)

My sis-in-law recently told me about Relay Foods, an online grocer where you order groceries and pick them up from food trucks stationed around the city. You can also have them delivered for a fee.

For this new mama of two, saving myself a stressful trip to the store with both babies was really appealing. When I initially looked at the site, the food looked fantastic - lots of local, organic, and gluten free options - but the prices felt really high. But here's what sold me: by using a referral link, you can get $30 off of your first $50 order. For my first order, I spent $21 out of pocket to get $51 worth of groceries. This included everything you see in the photo: natural eggs, natural bacon, turkey pepperoni, lots of organic produce, and some gluten free noodles. Well worth $21 and more! Then, if you like the service and share it with friends, you can get $30 in your grocery account each time someone makes a first time purchase.

Here's how to get started: just go to Relay Foods, fill up your cart with $50 or more, and enjoy $30 off of your first purchase. Follow the prompts to set up a pickup time and location and pick up your groceries the following day. Then if you share it with friends, you can keep making money toward more free groceries. Win!

Full disclosure: This isn't a sponsored post. I'm just a thrilled customer. But if you do end up placing an order, I will get a grocery credit from your first purchase. My family says thank you!

A letter to my 12-year-old self.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Dear Whitney,

On Sunday night, you became a pastor's wife.
Your two children became pastor's kids.
Most momentously, your husband became a pastor.

Hear me out. I know that at this particular stage in life, there are 3 things you say you'll never do (quite emphatically, and in this particular order):
1. You'll never be a pastor's wife.
2. You'll never homeschool your children.
3. You'll never drive a minivan.

I know that because of traveling with Mom and Dad to different churches every weekend, you've met many, many pastors' wives. To you, they all have two things in common: a permanent assigned seat on the front pew and an obligation to nod and smile during their husbands' best sermon points. They either seem to wear no makeup at all or way too much, particularly frumpy clothes or overly gaudy. They always seem to be wrangling a gaggle of children to church, then home for lunch where they wear aprons and serve casseroles. Their role, to you, seems so weak. So subsidiary to the actual goings-on of the church. It doesn't matter if they have careers outside of the church; they could be lawyers or teachers or nurses. They're simply known as "the pastor's wife," an identity dependent on the man they married.

Fast forward 17 years and you'll find yourself smack dab in their shoes, but (breathe...) actually really proud of your new title.

In your late twenties, you'll move to Raleigh, North Carolina, and even before your husband is ordained, the other pastors' wives at your church will invite you to their monthly gathering. What you'll discover is that the stereotype you've created in your head is just that: a stereotype. Instead, a handful of these pastors' wives will become some of your dearest friends. When you get together, you'll pass your baby girl around the room and receive candid breastfeeding advice and laugh and gorge yourself on chocolate cheesecake. You'll share prayer requests and pray for one another. You'll feel supported and loved and so honored to be considered among their ranks. You'll find them to be godly, intelligent, insightful, creative, passionate women. Pastors' wives.

What you've also underestimated is the privilege of being married to a pastor. No, not all pastors are men you'd want to be married to. You know that already. But the man you married, pastor or not, loves Jesus more than he loves you (and that's a really good thing). He serves humbly. The man he is on stage is exactly the man you see at home, and that's something you can't take for granted for a second.

On a chilly Sunday night in February, you and your family will respond to a call God placed on your lives to serve His church for all of your days, whether in Raleigh or on the other side of the globe. The prayers spoken on your behalf that night will ring in your hearts for years to come. You will have never felt so encouraged in your calling or so unworthy of the love this community has shown to you. You will want to cry happy tears over the sweetness of this season of life and ministry.

So, sweet girl, be careful what you don't wish for. It may turn out to be the most precious gift.

Your older, hopefully wiser self

PS - Don't worry... you still don't have a minivan. At least not yet.

1 month with Lane Eliette.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Dear Lane Eliette,

When the nurses at the hospital called you "feisty," I wasn't quite sure what they meant. To me, you seemed perfectly quiet, laid back, and content. A month in, though, I'd have to agree with them. While you still share many physical similarities to your big brother, you keep reminding me that you are very much your own person. You have your own opinions, your own preferences, and I can't parent you like a cookie cutter child. For example, Liam loved being swaddled and would go to sleep within seconds once we zipped it up. You, on the other hand, scream until your arms are free. Liam slept well and easily in his own bassinet or swing, not needing to be held all the time. You are most content nestled under the crook of my arm and you'd rather be held and cuddled than anything else.

And while your needs are specific, you're very easygoing in other ways. You don't seem to mind a little rough hugging from your brother, a handful of dinosaurs placed on your back while you sleep, or Liam's volume. (And when he calls you "Wanie girl," we all melt.)

You still have more hair than Liam ever did at this age, and a deeper complexion. You have big, bright eyes that I think will stay blue and that focus like you know exactly what I'm saying. When I look into your eyes - even from day one - I see a girl I believe will be wise. Oh how I pray that you are. If there's anything a woman needs while journeying through this world, it's a big dose of wisdom. I also have a feeling you'll be passionate and fiery in the best way, if your whirlwind birth is any indication at all.

My prayer for myself in these early days of being your mom is that I'll recognize and celebrate what makes you you. Because God made you unique, uniquely ours, and uniquely built to serve His Kingdom. I believe that fully.

Lanie, we can't wait to know you. Knowing your brother two years in makes us a little impatient for you to grow into your personality, but there's also a part of us that wants to slow things down so that we savor these sleepy newborn days even more.

I love you, angel girl,

On saving money.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Confession: I'm one of those girls who never thought she'd be a "couponer." It's always seemed overwhelming to me, and honestly, a little tacky. I'd see women with binders full of clipped coupons, matching prices at the grocery store, and I'd feel a little sorry for them. All that effort to save pennies on cans of tuna? I'll pass.

I had attempted using coupons a few years ago before I had Liam and quickly got in over my head. I set out to learn the system at Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid all at once, and while I did pay much less for boatloads of shampoo, deodorant, and toothpaste, it quickly became time consuming and never stuck.

Recently, though, I've decided to give it another shot. And this time? It's sticking. And it's saving us a whole lot of money, which is especially helpful as I'm not working in these early days with two babies at home. My sister gave me some pointers on learning the CVS system and it's really unbelievable how little I'm spending on toiletries and diapers. I used to just to to Target or Costco and find the cheapest diaper deal, but now, I'm spending pennies in comparison and usually getting more money to use toward my next purchase. (Yes, yes, we could cloth diaper and save more. That just isn't my cup of tea and hasn't worked for us when we've tried.)

Anyway, I can promise you this isn't about to become a couponing blog. Promise! But I know that lots of you who read are in the same boat I'm in, trying to navigate your finances and be good stewards with the money God has entrusted you with. So I thought I'd share a few resources - beyond just coupons - that have really helped us get on track with spending, saving, and giving.

+ Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University - Shawn and I took this class a few years ago and it truly brought a sense of peace, especially for me. I had always hated talking about money, thinking about money, worrying about money - probably because I never really had a grasp on how much I had or where it was going. But knowledge is power. And this course set us on the right track to start getting out of student debt, set up a budget (and actually use it), and move toward financial goals. I wish we'd taken this class long before we actually did.

+ Mint.com - I use this free online budgeting service to track every single dollar that goes in and out of our bank account. The type A side of me thrives when I know how much we're able to spend in each category. If you've never really kept a tight budget, it may take you a few months to figure this out, but it's so worth it. And even though it seems like it would have the opposite effect, living with a budget really brings freedom! Instead of feeling guilty for eating out or buying shoes or seeing a movie, you can see in your budget that you have the money allotted for those things and feel the freedom to spend.

+ Southern Savers blog - Here's where we dive into couponing. This woman is a genius. There are many bloggers like her - and for different regions - but this has probably been my favorite blog to help me understand how to really save money by using coupons and layering them with sales to spend much less money on things you normally buy. Her site is easy to navigate according to which store(s) you use, and I think it's helpful to start learning the policies of one or two stores at a time to really get the hang of it. For example, I've never been a Harris Teeter shopper for groceries, thinking it's overall just too expensive. But then I learned that they double all coupons up to 99 cents. And that they have Buy 2 Get 3 Free deals for different items each week. It's easy to make your grocery list based on what's on a big sale, and then stock up. If you've read my blog for long, you know that we have to eat gluten free and we really strive to eat healthy food. Often, you can't find coupons for fresh, healthy food. So with groceries, I try to do my best to find great sales on items we already use and then stock up.

+ Money Saving Mom - This blog is much more than just couponing and is also very inspiring. Crystal, the author, is quite motivated (as in, she wakes up and starts her day at 3:30am and reads more than 80 books a year. Yeah.). I really like skimming this blog every day or two to find deals on things I never would've heard about.

+ Money saving apps - Did you know there are smartphone apps where you can get money refunded to you for certain grocery items you purchase? I currently have 2 and use them nearly every time I go to the grocery store. My current favorites are Savingstar and Checkout51. At first, this felt really overwhelming to me, but now I make it part of my routine after getting home from the grocery store. Basically, there are items each week that you can submit for a rebate. So if I buy strawberries and strawberries are featured on one of the apps, I just take a picture of my receipt with my phone, submit it, and get the rebate (usually 50 cents or a dollar per item). This adds up slowly, but once you hit a certain amount (different for each app), they'll send money to your Paypal account or a check in the mail. Every little bit helps, and so far, I've made about $20 doing this.

So are we really seeing any difference in our budget since I've been doing this? Yes. Last month, I saved about 10% on our grocery bill which wasn't life changing in itself, but I was also able to stock up our freezer with quite a few extra foods. So while we didn't spend a ton less quite yet, we ended up with a whole lot more food for the future and will save more money in future months.
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