Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

What a grace-filled marriage looks like

10 Tips for having a grace-filled marriage

I’m not a graceful person. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, I watched in awe as middle schoolers jumped hurdles during a track meet. I trip over my own two feet and can’t imagine I’d fare well trying to run and jump over a hurdle. I have given up hope on being graceful. But I continue to strive to be a grace-filled person. That affects my relationship with myself, my children and my husband. I want to have a grace-filled family life and a grace-filled marriage. I want my husband and me to be an example to our children as we live out God’s grace to each other daily.

After just over 22 years of marriage, my husband and I have learned a lot about what a grace-filled marriage looks like. We are not at all perfect. We’ve had our fair share of mess-ups, and we still do. But, we have grown and changed together through the years. God has worked in our lives and in our relationship to bring us closer together. He has given us grace so freely that we work to give it to each other as well. I’ve found that often the smallest things can make the biggest difference.

1. Ban negative talk.

This doesn’t mean you pretend everything is great when it isn’t. Instead this means, banning any talk that is harmful to your spouse. Name-calling, belittling or angry outbursts aren’t conducive to building a grace-filled marriage. In fact, a grace-filled marriage includes letting go of some of our own selfish desires like revenge and hurt!

Neither my husband nor I are yellers. We haven’t struggled with calling each other names either. But we have struggled with negative talk in other ways. Early on in our marriage, we realized that even if we were with friends or family who were joking about shortcomings of our spouse, it hurt the other for us to join in. In fact, we learned to shut it down nicely and change the subject.

We have also dealt with passive-aggressiveness. We make it a point to say what we mean. For example, if I’m irritated with my husband for not helping with something, instead of making snide comments or slamming kitchen cabinets as I work, I am direct with him.

Negative talk hurts your relationship and each other. It can make you feel bad about yourself or your spouse (or both!). None of that is good for your relationship.

2. Look at each other’s point-of-view.

Sometimes we think about looking at our spouse’s point-of-view when we’re having a disagreement and trying to compromise. But the more we often we look at his or her point-of-view, the more likely we are to have a grace-filled marriage. I’ve learned through the years that the more I can see my husband’s side of things, the fewer hard feelings I have and the less angry I feel. I understand him more than am irritated by him.

For example, my husband and I are very different when our vehicle is low on gas. He doesn’t mind driving until there is only a few miles’ worth left in the tank. I start getting antsy around 1/4 tank of gas. Once the light comes on, I MUST fill up right away! A couple of years ago, this was an issue when I had to borrow my husband’s car. I stopped myself from getting irritated with him as I realized he hadn’t expected me to drive it and the gas light being on wasn’t worrisome to him. He wasn’t intentionally making my life difficult. In other words, I gave him grace for being who he is.

Stopping ourselves and thinking about where our spouses are coming from allows us to have more grace for them.

3. Find ways to connect with each other.

In the busyness of life, it’s easy to miss connecting with our spouses. My husband and I share a home office, and we still don’t get to connect without being intentional. We do different work and are often in our own worlds as we go through the day. Being intentional about connecting with your spouse is important. Find time to talk after the kids go to bed. Schedule a lunch out once a month. Figure out a hobby you can do together. (My husband and I enjoy gaming together!)

Feeling connected to our spouse helps remind us why we love them so much. We end up naturally giving them more grace as a result.

4. Laugh with each other.

Laughing together is a great way to help make sure you have a grace-filled marriage. We bond with other people through laughter. Just having fun together is good for any relationship and makes it easier to feel more like giving grace to each other.

Find ways and reasons to laugh together. We watch funny shows or movies. Sometimes we even laugh ironically together at the craziness of life going on around us. We definitely laugh with our children as well. And, of course, laugh together not at each other in a harmful way.

5. Listen to each other.

In order to understand someone else, we have to listen to them. As the old saying goes, God gave you two ears and only one mouth for a reason. This is true in marriage as well. Listening is a big part of communication, and we all want to have good communication in our marriages.

We can’t possible understand where our spouse is coming from or how they’re feeling without listening to what they are saying. Listening to your husband makes it easier to give him grace when he is cranky after a really bad day at work. Or listening to your wife can help you give her grace when she snaps at you after being up half the night with the kids.

Of course we should always treat our spouses well, but we are also all human and sometimes we need grace. In order to give that grace to our spouses, we must listen to what they tell us.

6. Give each other the benefit of the doubt.

Another key to having a grace-filled marriage is to give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. For example, when they do something that causes extra work on you, don’t assume they’ve done it on purpose. Making that attitude shift really is helpful. It can move you from thinking your spouse left the glob of toothpaste in the sink because he doesn’t care how hard you have to work to clean it to realizing he was in a hurry and just didn’t see it himself.

In a healthy marriage, you do well to give each other the benefit of the doubt and give grace for shortcomings. Chances are super high your spouse isn’t really trying to irk you or make your life more difficult!

7. Connect with God together and individually.

From the beginning of our relationship, back when my husband and I were very young high school sweethearts, we have been honest about our faith and relationship with God. In fact, it’s something that drew the two of us together even then.

Now, so many years later, our faith is still something that draws us together. Having time with God together is important. That can look different for different couples, but find a way to connect with God together. Maybe you pray together at bedtime or maybe you read a devotion book together. Perhaps you simply go to church together or participate in a small group together.

You also need your own time with God to connect with Him. I get strength outside of myself to give my husband grace from God. Each morning I pray to be the wife my husband needs that day. I want to see my husband like God sees him as much as possible. Because God made this really awesome guy whose insights on faith and God often blow me away. When I see him in that light, it makes giving him grace all that much easier and leads to a more grace-filled marriage.

8. Talk about problems instead of ignoring them.

Confronting someone goes against my nature. If you go by Myers-Briggs personality types, I’m an INFJ, and none of us like confrontation. I don’t like conflict and am inclined to just ignore it. But I’ve learned when I try ignoring a problem, it not only doesn’t go away but usually gets bigger and bigger. This is true in my marriage as well.

While we don’t want or need to nitpick our spouses’ every behavior, we do need to talk with them when there’s an issue to resolve. When problems are ignored and “shoved under the rug,” then they grow and fester. We end up taking those feelings out on our spouses in other ways like getting short with them and ending up with quite the opposite of a grace-filled marriage.

9. Ask your spouse for help.

I’m a happier person and wife who is more inclined to give grace to her family when she’s not overworked and exhausted. My husband is the same way. So sometimes that means we ask each other for help. It really is OK to let go and ask for help. Asking for help doesn’t mean you are somehow failing. It just means you’re human!

If you need another reason to ask for help, then ask for help because it will help you have a more grace-filled marriage! And don’t be afraid to kindly ask for help with things you think your spouse ought to know need done anyway. Go back to tip number 6 and recognize that maybe your spouse truly didn’t notice the sink full of dishes, the dryer of clothes to be folded or the bathroom trashcan overflowing. Instead of doing all the tasks in a huff, ask for help.

10. Be each other’s biggest support.

One of the most harmful things in a marriage is dwelling on the negative attributes of your spouse. Once you start doing that and grousing in your head and/or to others about them constantly, then you start seeing only the negative in your spouse. It can be hard to act gracefully toward them.

Instead, focus on their positive attributes and be their biggest cheerleader. I don’t think there’s anything with technology my husband can’t do or figure out. He’s so incredibly great at it. He doesn’t think there are any words I don’t know how to spell. When I’m having a moment of being hard on myself — something I excel at — he cheers me on and reminds me of the things I’m good at and doing right.

Being focused on the positive attributes of your spouse allows a lot more room for you to give them grace. You won’t be thinking about all the ways they come up short, but instead you’ll be thinking about all the things they’re awesome at. In turn, that will make it even easier to give them grace during a difficult moment.

Meal kit review: Every Plate

A series of unsponsored meal kit reviews and comparisons

A few months ago, my daughter made a case for us to try meal kits. I wasn’t so sure at first. Whenever I had checked into them previously, they seemed expensive and didn’t have a lot of recipes we would actually like. I have two particular eaters in my household, and we’re pretty plain eating folks. But, I decided to check into it again and found there were many more options, so I decided we’d give meal kits a try. I started with one company, but I was anxious to do a meal kit comparison and see what we’d like most.

So after about five meal kit boxes from one provider, I paused my account and changed to another. I just wanted to see the difference. At the same time, there was a third one I was curious about as well. I figured all this trying would end up being a great meal kit comparison to share!

Before ordering, I tried looking at meal kit comparisons, but most of them seemed to include affiliate links or sponsorships with the companies. I am not affiliated with or sponsored by any of these meal kit companies. When I started writing this meal kit comparison, in fact, I had no idea which service I’d end up liking the most — if any of them. I didn’t even intend to make it a blog post!

Then, once I decided to make it a blog post, I thought it’d be just one post. Pretty quickly, I realized that I needed more than one post to include all the information to make a helpful comparison. Over a few weeks, I’m posting our experiences with DinnerlyHello Fresh, Home Chef, Every Plate and EMeals.

Every Plate

The next meal kit delivery service we used was Every Plate. It was like Home Chef and Dinnerly in offering three meals a week as the lowest option. While Every Plate focuses on its lower prices, those prices are in part because there are many premium offerings cost extra per serving. Other meal kits did this, too, but Every Plate seemed to do so even more.

Menu choices

The menu choices for Every Plate were a bit so-so to me. They don’t seem to have quite as much selection as some of the others — at least of food that my family will eat. I have a couple of picky eaters, but getting three meals a week minimum in four portions made it more noticeable to me this time around. With the other meal kit services, I was able to find two meals per week my entire family would like and then maybe have one other meal my daughter and I would eat alone. That was a challenge for us with Every Plate.


I selected the minimum amount of meals per week, which was three. I went with four portions. Unlike Home Chef, you couldn’t modify portion sizes. The cost for three basic meals for four servings was $59.88 plus $9.99 delivery. Each serving is $4.99. In order to get the premium selections, add $3.99 more per each serving for a total of $8.98 per serving. So if you get all premium recipes for four people for one week with three meals, which would bring the cost to $107.76 plus $9.99 delivery. Premium recipes included things like hamburgers, steak and salmon.


My Every Plate boxes arrived via UPS in a large cardboard box lined with foam and with two big ice packs included. I like that the boxes arrived UPS because they get to me in the middle of the day. I didn’t especially like the ingredients were all thrown into the box and had to be sorted out by me. However, the large box also include a smaller open box with handles that my non-perishable ingredients fit nicely into once I pulled everything out. That box was easy to store on a shelf in my pantry.


The ingredients were fresh and not frozen. They were individually packaged. A couple were branded as Home Chef, which was interesting. It really does seem that most of these meal kits get their food from the same vendors because they are very alike.

Just like with Dinnerly, Every Plate needed a few extra ingredients from my kitchen to go with meals like ketchup, flour and butter that weren’t included in the box. The produce was mediocre on freshness, but I also live in the Midwest and it was March when I received Every Plate meals, so I’m not sure how much I can dock them for that.

One of the things we noticed is that the recipe cards for Every Plate did not include the nutrition information. All the other meal cards we tried previously did so.

Cooking the meals

The recipes were similar in writing style to Dinnerly and Hello Fresh. While they didn’t take lots of extra time like some of the others, this meal kit delivery service did take slightly longer for some recipes than the time estimated. But, overall, the estimated time was how long it took. It really depends on how much produce you’re using in the recipe and how long it takes you to prep it!

Portion sizes

The portion sizes were good on this one. They were good-sized portions without seeming way too much or too little. I guess like Goldilocks says, they were just right. We only tended to have leftovers when I made four portions but one or more of my family members either didn’t eat a portion or ate only a small portion.

Overall rating

I’d give Every Plate a 3.5 out of 5 stars. I don’t feel like their selection was as great. It just wasn’t a good fit selection-wise for my family. I also didn’t like that the smallest number of meals you could do a week was three. Two really does work best for my family. But, that’s certainly not the case for everyone! I also didn’t like that the nutrition information wasn’t included. While I didn’t pick a low-calorie meal option, I still like to have the nutrition information to keep track and make sure I plan accordingly for the calories needed for the meal.

Other posts from this series:

Family travel advice

10 Tips to make your family vacation more fun for everyone!

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Ah. The family vacation. We have dreams and ideas of how it should go. We plan for happy moments, all the time. But reality is often different. Each trip I’ve been on with my family has had at least one snafu. It started immediately with the very first trip my husband and I took together. We set out for our honeymoon and were so excited, we forget to get gas. So, we ran out. In the 22 years since then, we’ve had many other vacation adventures and added two kids into the mix as well. When it comes to family travel advice, I’ve got a decent amount to help make your next family vacation more fun for everyone.

1. Talk about destination choices ahead of time with everyone.

This is one of my best tips. If you want plan a family vacation everyone will enjoy, then get everyone’s input on the trip. You need to set some parameters ahead of time for this to be successful. When it comes to family travel, my husband and I have the final say-so for our family of four. During the years we had babies through preschoolers, we didn’t ask for any input from the kids on where we went. But we did always think about what would work best for them.

As they got older, our kids were able to be part of the decision-making process. My husband and I talk ahead of time and come up with two or three trip ideas for our family. We look up general things to do in those places. Then we give the kids a presentation. Well, that sounds way fancy. We sit in the living room, give them options and use the TV to show photos or videos we find. Then as a family, we discuss what we’d most like to do.

We don’t always agree, but we do agree that the majority rules. And, honestly, we’ve not had an issue in the past. Usually we can all work around to being on board with the same trip. Because what we really want is to go on a vacation and spend time together. That’s the best family travel advice you can get: remember a family vacation is about being together more than it is about where you’re going!

If you are traveling with extended family or friends, then talk among yourselves about ideas so that everyone is on board and excited for the trip. After all, no matter how frugal you are, traveling is going to cost money. Nobody wants to spend money on a trip they dread!

2. Make lists.

I am a HUGE fan of lists. I make lists for everyday life, so making lists for family travel just makes sense to me. Each member of my family has a packing list that comes in handy. I also make a list of things we want to do, places we want to eat and where we’re staying. Keeping track of confirmation information is a great idea in case you need it when you check in.

I usually put everything together in a file folder and take it along with us, whether we are flying or driving.

The more you organize ahead of time, the less you’ll have to worry about on the trip!

In fact, I am so into organizing for trips that I put together a 30-page family travel planner you can download and use yourself. It has everything you’ll need from brainstorming before you go to collecting memories when you return, including a daily planner, travel budget planner, flight information tracker, gift planner, travel log, packing lists and pages to organize what to do, see, eat and photograph. It’s an awesome planner to help keep you organized for your next family trip. Use the Coupon Code: FWGFAN to receive 10% off!

3. Plan downtime.

Another great piece of family travel advice is to plan for downtime. We learned pretty early on that our kids love to see and do things, but they also need a break. In fact, both of them talk about how much fun they have just hanging out in our hotel room together. Be intentional about finding downtime for breaks and rest, even if your kids are past napping age.

When our kids still took naps, we did our best to make sure they were able to have a chance to nap around their usual time because it just made for happier kiddos. Now, we plan for downtime as we go. Over spring break, for instance, we traveled to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. We planned for two days in Vegas, two days at the Grand Canyon and then two more days in Vegas. The days “off” at the Grand Canyon were more laidback and restful. We all need a break. Little legs get tired from walking a lot. Little minds get overwhelmed and overstimulated.

We also sometimes institute family nap time even now. On the same spring break trip, we went to a magic show one evening. It didn’t start until 9 p.m., which was late for us, especially considering the three-hour time difference. So we planned for less activities during the day and headed to our room in the afternoon for a couple of hours to all four rest and nap. It made the evening more enjoyable.

4. Allow for flexibility.

I love to plan, but anyone who has kids knows that life can be unpredictable at best. That remains true even on family vacations. Some things we just don’t know until we’re in the moment. On the same spring break trip, we planned to go to certain hotels to see sights on our first day. We opted to go to hotels closer by where we were staying and have an early night instead because we were all tired by the afternoon. Shifting your plans is sometimes necessary. Going into your vacation with general ideas of what you want to do each day is great. But being flexible to move things around is necessary. You want everyone to enjoy the trip. Sometimes that means changing plans last minute.

5. Keep your kids’ schedule close to usual.

Schedules and routines keep our kids happy. As a schedule-oriented person myself, I’ve had a basic schedule and routines for our kids from very early on. Vacation means those schedules and routines might be changed around a bit, but the younger the kids are, the more we try and keep routines the same no matter where we are.

If you always read a book before bed, bring some along. If your kids are usual in bed by 8 p.m., then don’t plan for too many late nights. For kids who are used to a daily nap, find a way to make that happen. My kids are 9 and 12 now. They are more flexible. But I remember the days that wasn’t as true. Sometimes it meant making a sacrifice on what my husband and I wanted to do, but the days of little ones really don’t last forever. Keeping kiddos on schedule and happy makes everything better.

Nowadays, we try to keep bedtime reasonable on trips. We make sure to have meals at pretty usual times or have snacks if needed to make it through. And if we are having a late night, we plan for it ahead of time by scheduling downtime during the afternoon of that day.

6. Take along grandparents or friends.

Sometimes the best family travel advice you can have is take along others on your trip. Grandparents, siblings, other relatives or friends can make a trip more fun in multiple ways. (And I say that as an introvert who values her alone time to recharge!) Obviously babysitting is a bonus in having others along. You can trade off babysitting kids so you can have a dinner out with just your spouse. You can also save money by sharing a bigger space and splitting the cost.

In March of 2019, we took our kids to Orlando for the first time. We went to Disney World and Universal Orlando. We invited grandparents to join us. My parents did so, and it worked out even better than expected. Halfway through the week, my daughter got sick with strep throat. We immediately took her to urgent care and got antibiotics for her. Since my parents were along, they stayed back with her and we took our son to a day at Universal Orlando alone. (We had three days planned at the park and this was the first of them.) Even now, a few years later, my daughter has fond memories of that down day with her grandparents. They got her ice cream and catered to whatever she wanted. My son had a blast being the only kid picking what we did for the day. It worked well for everyone. By the next day, my daughter was well enough to join in on the fun again.

7. Ask everyone for his or her priority activities.

Before we go on a trip, we talk about things to do on the trip (see tip number 1). Once we have decided on our destination, then we start talking about what we’re going to do. We ask our kids what their priority activities are. My husband and I think about that for ourselves. Since it’s pretty much impossible to do absolutely everything you want to do, knowing what is most important to everyone on your trip helps make everyone’s trip better. You are able to make sure you do the activities your family really wants to do!

I have been surprised by what my kids prioritized. I know my kids well and think I know what will most interest them, but they surprise me sometimes! During our spring break trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, my son really wanted to go up in the Eiffel Tower at the Paris Hotel. It was one of his priorities for the trip that I didn’t really expect. It had been more at the bottom of my to-do list.

Another thing we do when we talk about everyone’s priorities is remind our kids that we are going to do fun things for everyone. We tell them we expect them to be patient and kind during all of our activities, even if it’s something they don’t necessarily want to do. Usually when that happens, though, we all end up having more fun. If one family member is beyond thrilled, then that excitement passes along to all of us.

It goes right along with one of our family’s mottos: What is good for one of us is good for all of us.

8. Have the gear you need.

You can’t offer family travel advice without talking about gear. When our kids were babies and toddlers, we had so much gear. Planning ahead really helps. Think about how your kids are going to sleep. Do you need to bring a pack-and-play and sheets? Sleeping bags? Does your kiddo need a highchair and one won’t be available (like on a camping trip)? Pack a travel highchair/booster seat.

Make sure you have enough of the supplies you’ll need to take care of little ones from diapers to burp cloths to feeding supplies. I’ve even taken along kids’ bowls and utensils before. Even now, my son takes a medicine every other day to help with reflux. He can’t swallow a pill, so I break it up into applesauce for him. Most trips, I pack some applesauce pouches (which we always have at home), disposable 2-ounce dip cups and plastic spoons so we are prepared no matter where we are.

Don’t forget to think about yourself. Aside from needing toiletries and other essentials, what do you need to make the trip more enjoyable? Sunglasses? Sunscreen? A hat? A sweatshirt? One of the best choices I made on our recent trip was buying a fanny pack. (My 1980s child self is pretty happy these have made a comeback. Though I did opt for a plain black one instead of neon pink.) We did a LOT of walking in Las Vegas, and I knew that even a lightweight purse would hurt my shoulder thanks to my fibromyalgia. The fanny pack worked great!

9. Keep a sense of humor.

Motherhood definitely requires a sense of humor, and that’s just as true on family vacations! Be sure to pack your sense of humor as well. Sometimes plans go awry or things fall apart and usually the best thing you can do about it is laugh.

During our same spring break trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, we ended up being at the West Rim of the Grand Canyon during one of the very few times a year that it snows. It snowed so much and so hard that we literally couldn’t see the Grand Canyon while we were standing beside it, shivering in our hoodies. We made the best of it and ate lunch at the restaurant. We bought a book and then hung out in our rented Jeep for a while with the heat on, reading while we waited for the weather to clear out. It wasn’t what we planned, but we kept a sense of humor. After all, how often do you get to see snow in the desert when you’re from the Midwest?!

10. Don’t put pressure on yourself to have a perfect vacation.

Even though we all know that perfect doesn’t exist, we sure do like to strive for it and put pressure on ourselves. But the best family travel advice is to just relax and remember why you’re on the trip to begin with. We travel to let our kids experience new things and to make memories together. They learn how to react gracefully when plans change and we go to plan B.

Over spring break, they saw us figure out transportation to the Grand Canyon after our first car rental fell through at the last minute. Make the best of every moment. Remember that often the best memories are made in the small moments. Let your kids experience small pleasures like sitting in bed, eating Froot Loops, watching cartoons in a hotel room. Snuggle in with them and embrace the moment. Forget the perfect vacation and settle instead for the best company you could ask for — those you love!

Planning a road trip? Don’t miss this helpful post!

Meal kit review: Home Chef

A series of unsponsored meal kit reviews and comparisons

A few months ago, my daughter made a case for us to try meal kits. I wasn’t so sure at first. Whenever I had checked into them previously, they seemed expensive and didn’t have a lot of recipes we would actually like. I have two particular eaters in my household, and we’re pretty plain eating folks. But, I decided to check into it again and found there were many more options, so I decided we’d give meal kits a try. I started with one company, but I was anxious to do a meal kit comparison and see what we’d like most.

So after about five meal kit boxes from one provider, I paused my account and changed to another. I just wanted to see the difference. At the same time, there was a third one I was curious about as well. I figured all this trying would end up being a great meal kit comparison to share!

Before ordering, I tried looking at meal kit comparisons, but most of them seemed to include affiliate links or sponsorships with the companies. I am not affiliated with or sponsored by any of these meal kit companies. When I started writing this meal kit comparison, in fact, I had no idea which service I’d end up liking the most — if any of them. I didn’t even intend to make it a blog post!

Then, once I decided to make it a blog post, I thought it’d be just one post. Pretty quickly, I realized that I needed more than one post to include all the information to make a helpful comparison. Over a few weeks, I’m posting our experiences with Dinnerly, Hello Fresh, Home Chef, Every Plate and EMeals.

Home Chef

Next I chose Home Chef. Its ads kept showing up everywhere, so I figured it was a good one to try! One thing I noticed in the ads was some ready-to-heat meals. That piqued my interest for sure. The menu looked like it had enough options for my family, so I was in.

Menu choices

From the beginning of picking meals with Home Chef, I was pleased. Home Chef had a variety of options that worked even for my particular eaters. The Home Chef menu was different from the others in that you can customize the number of servings for each meal selected for the week. I picked a two-meal-a-week plan.

My plan was to pick one meal my whole family would like and then another that my daughter and I would eat without our particular eaters. I loved that Home Chef had the option for me to pick just two servings for those meals. It saved me money and made food prep easier as well. I also like picking serving sizes for times we have company so then I could opt for more servings.

And, as I mentioned, some menu choices were marked as oven-ready.


Home Chef listed the price per serving clearly on each of the menu choices. The majority are $8.99 per serving, but some were lower at $6.99 per serving. The highest price I saw was $14.99 per serving for some more gourmet dishes. As I selected meals and servings, Home Chef updated my overall price at the top of the page, which is great if you are trying to stick within a certain budget. It also doesn’t result in an unexpected higher price in the end.

The price without discounts for one 2-serving meal and one 4-serving meal a week was $53.94 plus $8.99 shipping for a total of $62.93. If I had done two 4-serving meals, the food cost would have been more around $71.92 for $8.99 meals, which is what I usually got.


I received my Home Chef meals via FedEx, which worked really well. Just like UPS, FedEx usually delivers in my neighborhood around lunchtime.


Ingredients for each meal came packaged together in a large, resealable zip-top bag. I could easily pull out all the ingredients I’d need for prepping a meal. I liked the bag being clear so I could see what was inside. The only thing that shipped outside of the bag was meat. For oven-ready meals, the pan was even included in the bag for easy prep.

Just like with the others, the ingredients were all pre-portioned. I needed very few things from my own pantry with Home Chef meals, usually just olive oil, salt and pepper. For recipes that needed butter, Home Chef even included pats of butter. One thing I especially appreciated is that fresh veggies came prepped and ready. Green beans, for example, were already trimmed. I just rinsed them and got to cooking. For recipes that used garlic cloves, the cloves were packed in sealed bags and were already peeled. They were ready to go, which I greatly appreciated. It saved prep time!

One of the other things Home Chef did differently was include some plastic containers with some of the ingredients. One of the Mexican dishes, for example, had a plastic jar with a twist-on lid full of enchilada sauce. I saved the containers, because they work well for leftovers or other home projects. Plus there is less waste that way!

The only drawback for some people is that the meat arrived frozen. My husband isn’t usually a fan of frozen meat. But we couldn’t tell a flavor or texture difference, so I think it was frozen just before shipping. I liked that better, actually, because I felt like the meat was likely to not spoil as easily during shipping and it would stay fresh a day or two longer than non-frozen meat.

Cooking the meals

Hands-down cooking the Home Chef meals was the easiest of all the meal kit services I’d previously tried. While the meals from Dinnerly and Hello Fresh both took longer to make than the recipe said, Home Chef meals took either the same amount of estimated time or less!

Each box arrived with 8.5×11-inch glossy recipe cards. The recipe cards were hole-punched to easily store in a three-ring binder if desired. All of the recipes are also available in your account if you prefer to cook with the recipe digitally on your phone or tablet. I’m a fan of recipe cards myself!

The directions were easy to follow. Home Chef had some prep required for things. Even the oven-ready meals needed a bit of prep, but it wasn’t nearly as much as the other meal kits. For example, with Hello Fresh I made a pasta with tomato sauce and started with whole tomatoes I had to puree and cook. With Home Chef, a similar recipe came with tomato sauce that I added seasonings and tomato paste to for easier and quicker prep. As a result, we also used less pots and pans with Home Chef recipes, which made for easier clean-up.

My 12-year-old daughter could easily make the Home Chef meals on her own. I appreciate fresh ingredients and doing things completely from scratch, but for weeknight meals, I loved that much of the ingredient prep was done for me. It saved me time on cooking dinner, which is always a bonus.

The only drawback is that since some of the items were prepared for us (like a marinara sauce and pesto that one pasta recipe used), it could be difficult recreating those dishes with just the recipe card later. For us, that wasn’t such a drawback, but I can see where it might be for some people.

Portion sizes

The portion sizes were good. For the meals I got two servings of, my daughter and I usually ate them without leftovers. For the servings of four, we tended to have some leftovers. But that is in part because my son is hesitant about eating much of new recipes.

Overall rating

I’d give Home Chef 5 out of 5 stars. We got good home-cooked meals with less work that gave me more time to enjoy my family!

Other posts from this series:

Finding hope in the waiting

Waiting on God can feel hopeless, but it isn’t!

Waiting goes against human nature. In a world filled with instant gratification, times of waiting often feel excruciating. And waiting on God isn’t any different. We pray and seek Him. We call on others to pray. Yet, sometimes He doesn’t move in a way we can see. Waiting on God can feel hopeless. But the good news is that it isn’t.

I shared a while back about the lessons I learned during a season of waiting. It wasn’t an easy time. I am again in a time of waiting on God. It’s a wait that’s been going on for seven long years and has been the most heart-wrenching journey I’ve been on. While I have learned that God is always in control and on His throne, I’d be lying if I said I’ve never had moments of doubt and frustration. Where is He in all of this? What could His plan be? Why isn’t God doing something?

I don’t have answers to what His plan is in this situation or why He hasn’t moved in the ways that really make the most sense to me. But I also know that He has been with me every step of the way. Where is He? Right there with me. How do I know that? Well, God and I have a history. I can look back throughout my entire life and see His hand in everything — even in the times when I wondered whether He’d forgotten me. (He hadn’t.)

Time and again, God shows up in my life and in my story. I can’t tell you the story of my life without telling you how He has impacted it. I’m so thankful for that! My daughter recently went to a small group meeting with us and noticed the other members talked about times they’d gotten totally away from God, but her dad and I didn’t have those same pasts. My testimony may sound a bit boring, but I only thank God for all the things He’s spared me from. I find hope in knowing God has never let me down or forgotten me. And I find hope in stories from the Bible that remind me what waiting on God can look like.

Waiting on God in the Old Testament

From childhood, I’ve known the story of Jonah getting swallowed by a whale. It’s one that comes up in children’s Bibles and Sunday School lessons. But it wasn’t until I taught a Sunday School lesson about Jonah a few years ago that I saw Jonah’s testimony of waiting.

What got to me in teaching this story is the three days Jonah spent inside of that whale. For three days and three nights, he sat in a dark, stinky place. He surely thought he was going to die there. He had to have regrets for not following God’s leading to go to Nineveh. Chapter two of Jonah includes his long and pleading prayer to God.

“When my life was ebbing away,

    I remembered you, Lord,

and my prayer rose to you,

    to your holy temple.”

Jonah 2:7 (NIV)

The Bible just tells us that Jonah prayed this prayer to God. It doesn’t tell us when he prayed it. I think getting swallowed by a whale would be such a monumental and dramatic life moment that you’d pray right away. After all Jonah had been through until that point, I think getting tossed out of a boat and swallowed by a fish would have been his moment of repentance.

So if we assume Jonah immediately saw the error of his ways and turned to God for help, then we also see that Jonah had a time of waiting on God. He stayed in that whale for three days and three nights — probably even after he prayed. Jonah was definitely in a time of waiting. He didn’t know the whale was going to spit him out. He couldn’t have known how God was working behind the scenes. Instead, he just had to sit and wait.

In the end, Jonah lived when the whale spit him out onto dry land. And, the people in the city of Nineveh were saved. They turned from their wicked ways and got back on track with God. Jonah got a bit perturbed at God’s compassion and mercy for them. Even though he should have learned a lesson while waiting on God inside of a whale, Jonah still had a ways to go. God was faithful to remind Jonah of how great His love is, even after all of that.

That’s how seasons of waiting can go. We can learn lessons in the waiting and think we’ve figured them out. Then, bam! A new time of waiting on God arrives, and we again have doubts creep in.

Waiting on God in the New Testament

Another example of waiting on God that I’ve looked at different in the past few years comes in the resurrection story. The story of Jesus dying on the cross and coming back from death is one that I have heard so many times as a child and an adult. It is the most hopeful story of all time!

A couple of years ago, though, thinking about Saturday struck me. This day is sometimes called Silent Saturday. It’s the day God was quiet. On Friday, He was present as Jesus took His last breaths. God may have turned away, but He was there.

We certainly know He was there on Sunday when the tomb was empty. But what about on Saturday? Where was God on Saturday? Why did we have to wait for Him to move? Why didn’t he immediately raise Jesus from the dead?

Obviously, I can’t answer all those questions. But I at least know where God was on Silent Saturday. He was still on His throne. He didn’t forget about humanity for one single moment. While I don’t know any theological reasons, the takeaway I get from Silent Saturday is to hang on and hope. Know that God has a plan. While we are waiting on God, He is working things for our best.

On the days of waiting and pleading and wanting God to move, we can rest assured that He hasn’t forgotten us. He may be silent at the moment. Or He may send us encouragement along the way. But there is hope in the waiting, because He is always at work.

I also think Sunday is all that much more special because we had to wait. We had to see if Jesus was going to come back. What if He didn’t? How many doubts the early believers must have had after He died! After the wait, the good news was even better. After times of waiting on God, we appreciate all the more His movement and blessing that comes.

What it means for us

Ecclesiastes 3 tells us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Though waiting isn’t listed, I have learned there is a time for waiting. Waiting on God can seem pointless, hopeless and frustrating. I struggle with getting discouraged. But my Heavenly Father is always faithful and always good, even when my situation isn’t. He holds me close. And even in the waiting He is working.

We can rest in that today and every day. We can remember all the times He’s been faithful and trust that He is working and moving in ways we can’t see. For the times that we are struggling most, we can ask Him to strengthen our faith. When our hearts break in the waiting, we can ask for His peace and comfort. He will be with us every step of the way.

One day, we’ll look back and see why we had to wait, whether that’s here on earth or in heaven. But I know beyond all doubt that whatever that reason is, God is using it for good. He has plans to give us a future and a hope and not to harm us (Jeremiah 29:11). Rest in that as you wait.

Raising boys: Why I let my son play with dolls

Raising boys and girls shouldn’t be totally different

I first wrote this post back in 2014 when my son was 1-1/2. Now he’s 9 and no longer plays with dolls. But as the youngest child with only a big sister, dolls were around when he was a toddler. And he played with them. I don’t regret it for a moment. Raising boys and girls shouldn’t always be different. It’s OK for boys to play with dolls. This post explains why.

My son has a new obsession that began last week: a baby doll nearly as big as he is dressed in a pink floral outfit sporting a tiny pacifier dangling from a white ribbon attached to her clothes. This is his first real toy obsession. He’s certainly played with, thrown around and chewed on plenty of toys in his short lifetime, but he’s not had one that he constantly wanted until this baby doll. She was a Christmas gift for his big sister last year. Fortunately, his big sister isn’t obsessed with this doll and doesn’t mind sharing.

As I’ve watched him cart that doll all through our house and into the car and weep for her when we take her away at bedtime or mealtime, I’ve smiled. I mean, he’s just so cute the way he hugs her and pats her. He’s learning to be gentle. He’s learning to take care of her. I see him mimicking some of the things my husband and I do to take care of him. And I’m not going to put a stop to it.

The teaching power of toys

I have no issue with my son playing with a doll and one that is so very feminine at that. I’m not a raging feminist myself. I see the differences between men and women, boys and girls. I appreciate those differences and try to celebrate them. My husband and I have different strengths and different ways of thinking. Together it works quite nicely for our family.

I tend to be more gentle with our children; he turns them upside down and tickle them. (He’s also gentle and loving with them as well.) We’re different and it works. The kids love both. I love both kissing their heads as we snuggle and hearing their laughter as they play with dad. I celebrate that my son already works differently than my daughter, both because of his personality and because of his gender. He is more physical; she is more verbal. Raising boys and girls is different in some ways, but not so much in others.

When it comes to toys, I don’t have much preference in what they want to play with. My daughter plays with superheroes, Ninja Turtles and cars. She also plays with princesses, baby dolls and Barbies. It’s up to her what she picks. I feel the same with my son. He loves helping his sister cook in the play kitchen (though he’s not super great at following her instructions, yet, much to her chagrin). And he loves playing with baby dolls. He carries them, he pats their backs and he is gentle with them like he isn’t with other toys. This one baby doll in particular has become his favorite. He also plays with cars, balls and blocks.

Toys are just toys, but they are also something more. They are what my children first use to develop and learn about the world around them. I make sure they have appropriate toys (as in their toys are safe), but otherwise, I’m hands off. I want them to be free to explore and to learn. For instance, I want my son to have a chance to explore his more gentle side in taking care of a baby doll as well as explore his more aggressive side in splashing the water in the bathtub as hard as he can.

Raising boys for the future

I very much want and plan to raise a strong, confident man. I also want to raise a man with a good heart who has compassion. He won’t learn that if I only let him play with “boy” toys. He can’t explore gentle play if I forbid him from playing with his sister’s dolls. Neither can my daughter learn to assert herself if I teach her only to be gentle. I want her to be gentle and caring, but I also want her to be confident in herself and be aggressive when she needs to in order to fulfill her life’s purpose. She can’t explore those aspects by only playing with dolls.

I’m not a fan of labeling toys as gender specific. I’ve long balked at that idea. I don’t think my son will be less of a man because he spent a few weeks as a toddler lugging around a pink baby doll. In fact, I think he’ll be a better man for having had the opportunity to do so. He’ll be a better father one of these days if he knows how to be gentle and loving.

Meal kit review: Hello Fresh

A series of unsponsored meal kit reviews and comparisons

A few months ago, my daughter made a case for us to try meal kits. I wasn’t so sure at first. Whenever I had checked into them previously, they seemed expensive and didn’t have a lot of recipes we would actually like. I have two particular eaters in my household, and we’re pretty plain eating folks. But, I decided to check into it again and found there were many more options, so I decided we’d give meal kits a try. I started with one company, but I was anxious to do a meal kit comparison and see what we’d like most.

So after about five meal kit boxes from one provider, I paused my account and changed to another. I just wanted to see the difference. At the same time, there was a third one I was curious about as well. I figured all this trying would end up being a great meal kit comparison to share!

Before ordering, I tried looking at meal kit comparisons, but most of them seemed to include affiliate links or sponsorships with the companies. I am not affiliated with or sponsored by any of these meal kit companies. When I started writing this meal kit comparison, in fact, I had no idea which service I’d end up liking the most — if any of them. I didn’t even intend to make it a blog post!

Then, once I decided to make it a blog post, I thought it’d be just one post. Pretty quickly, I realized that I needed more than one post to include all the information to make a helpful comparison. Over a few weeks, I’m posting our experiences with Dinnerly, Hello Fresh, Home Chef, Every Plate and EMeals.

Hello Fresh

Of all the meal kit services, I had heard most about Hello Fresh. It seemed to pop up everywhere. When the new year started and it offered a variety of deals, I decided to give it a try. It was our second meal kit service. My daughter was excited for it the most, because she also had heard the most about it.

Menu choices

Hello Fresh had a good amount of menu choices that worked for our family. Our second box, for example, included a barbeque flatbread pizza recipe that I could easily customize portions of for my particular eaters. Hello Fresh had a decent selection for both meat eaters and non-meat eaters. And some recipes I could customize to use less meat. For example, one box was a ground beef flauta recipe. I used half the amount of ground beef the recipe called for to fit my family’s tastes. The meat came in two separate packages, so it was easy to pop the unused package in the freezer to use later.

One of my complaints for the Hello Fresh menu is that the gourmet meals are mixed in with all the other menu choices. Since the gourmet meals cost extra per serving (usually around $8.99 per serving per meal), I’d like them to be separated so I know they’re gourmet without having to be sure and check.

That said Hello Fresh has way more non-gourmet meals than gourmet. It isn’t a big issue and when you click or tap to confirm your selections, it is clear that you are paying more. You can go back and make changes if you don’t want to.


Hello Fresh isn’t inexpensive. I opted for two meals a week for four people. Other meal kit services have three meals as the lowest option, so I liked that I could do two with Hello Fresh. Two meals a week for four people is $75.92 plus $9.99 shipping. New sign-ups usually get discounts and such. I had some discounts for Hello Fresh that offset the cost.

Discounts are applied over multiple weeks, so you get a smaller amount off of a few orders rather than a larger amount of one order. Hello Fresh also has a rewards program you are automatically entered in to. Every four boxes you get a reward. In only doing four boxes for each service for this post, I got one reward of a free random dessert in my fourth box.

My only gripe about the free random dessert is that it was two individual cheesecakes. Since I was ordering with a four-person plan that didn’t make much sense to me. Unbeknownst to Hello Fresh, though, only two of my family members really love cheesecake. So it worked out anyway.


Hello Fresh shipped to me through UPS, which was awesome. UPS delivers regularly to my house and neighborhood. Usually our deliveries come around lunchtime, so I received the meals early enough in the day that I could plan them for dinner that night if I wanted. I like that!


While the ingredients arrived pre-portioned, they also arrived brown-bagged based on which recipe they went with. So all the ingredients for one recipe were in one bag I could pull out of my fridge when I was ready to cook. Meat was separated but everything else was in the bag.

Everything was pre-portioned and even included things like packets of flour. The ingredients were all branded “Hello Fresh.” All of the ingredients were fresh. Veggies needed to be washed. I had to supplement my own ingredients much less. Usually olive oil, salt and pepper were all I needed from my own pantry. Once I needed butter.

We did encounter a couple of missing ingredients and once a missing add-on. The flauta recipe was supposed to come with Mexican seasoning, but it didn’t. I always have taco seasoning on hand, so it worked out OK. The third box, I had a reward of $10 for add-ons with referring a friend. I chose a combo of creamy tomato soup and garlic bread. My out-of-pocket cost ended up being around $3. The garlic bread arrived, but the soup didn’t. I used the automated chat for customer service and my account was credited for the missing item. However, I was only credited my $3, so I lost the $10 reward and chose not to try ordering the soup again.

Cooking the meals

Each box came with recipe cards for what the box held. They were printed on thick, glossy 8.5×11 pages. The recipe cards listed the ingredients, description of the recipe and detailed instructions. I did download the app for Hello Fresh, but since it sends recipe cards, I didn’t need to have the app.

The first meal I made, which was a corn chowder, took longer than the estimated 40 minutes on the recipe card. It took more like 60-70 minutes. Other meals were usually around the time listed on the card, but never quite as quick as the estimated times. I think again that the times are estimated by professional chefs. I found that overall, the meals did take longer to make than was estimated on the card, so I learned to plan for that.

The directions were pretty straightforward and easy. It included the directions for a 2-person plan and 4-person plan in one. I didn’t need any special kitchen gadgets for any of the recipes. I did use a grater on a couple.

Portion sizes

The portion sizes were large and good. There was easily enough for my family of four. We almost always had leftovers as well (due in part to my particular eaters). But, even meals that everyone ate, we still had at least enough leftovers for one person to have for lunch.

Overall rating

Overall, I’d go with 4 out of 5 stars. I’m only dinging Hello Fresh for price, being off on estimated cook times and missing ingredients.

Other posts from this series:

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