Stay-at-Home Dad 101: What I Eat During the Day, As a Vegan

The thought seemed intimidating when I was first immediately launched into my new career as stay-at-home dad:

“But what will I eat?”

Turns out, the answer was simple. I eat the same stuff I ate every day back when I commuted nearly an hour away to an office; only minus the oatmeal with trail mix and a banana.

I eat a little less because I am a little less hungry, and I suppose that might have something to do with the fact I’m not getting outside to exercise as much. When I worked at the office, I took my breaks walking or biking or running outside; as for now, I have an 18 month-old daughter and cold or hot weather to consider.

My calorie consumption begins each morning with a cup of instant organic iced coffee. (Honestly, it’s only 2 calories; but I’m not counting!) The entire container only costs about $5, the same amount of just one Starbucks latte.

While I could opt for the unsweetened vanilla almond milk in the fridge to add some flavor and creaminess, somehow along the way I discovered I genuinely like the taste of cold, black coffee.

But I do bring out the unsweetened vanilla almond milk about an hour later for my official breakfast, which is the manly vegan smoothie I invented. My recipe is high in protein and total fat, but contains very little saturated fat and zero cholesterol.

The ingredients, in addition to the almond milk: A whole banana, a cup of frozen blueberries, a half cup of plain oatmeal, a teaspoon of chia seeds, a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa or carob powder, and a tablespoon of peanut butter. Then I put that all together in the blender for about 20 seconds.

My lunch is quite predictable for me as well. There’s a brand of organic ramen noodle available at Whole Foods and Sprouts, called Koyo. They are around a dollar a package, and I cook 2 of them for my lunch. They are also high in protein, like my smoothie. I typically go with the “low sodium” version, but if it’s not available, I don’t let it bother my conscience: I usually consume under my daily allowance of sodium, since I don’t eat meat.

Throughout the rest of the afternoon, I may go for another cup of coffee, but I’m typically not really hungry after having consumed so much protein and good fats earlier in the day.

Depending on what’s for dinner, I may start prepping for when my wife and son get home. What’s really great is when my wife has already put together a crock pot meal the day before and placed it in the fridge. I can have that heating up during the afternoon so it will be ready for dinner. Plus, I can throw together a festive salad.

If I do stray from my ramen noodles routine for lunch, it’s only to finish off any leftovers from the night before, like my wife’s homemade vegan pizza; and maybe a bowl of cereal as well.

And consider, this meal plan is coming from a guy who said most of his life, “I got to have meat! I need more meat! I’m still hungry. I could never be a vegetarian. I couldn’t do it. Especially not a vegan!”

Obviously, there was dynamic character growth in the person narrating this story.

But I have embraced my identity as a manly vegan; and here more recently, as a stay-at-home dad as well.

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Stay-at-Home Dad 101: Don’t Drink (Coffee) and Drive (the Grocery Cart)

I found out this afternoon while doing a mid-week grocery store run for my wife, that it’s not as easy as one might think, to push the grocery cart with a kid, while drinking coffee.

As I entered the Super Kroger in Spring Hill, Tennessee, I thought to myself, “Okay, this is my first time as an official stay-at-home dad buying groceries. Enjoy this errand and make it part of your identity. This is part of your job now. So… what would my wife do in this situation to make it more fun?”

And there it was, Starbucks. She would definitely buy a $5 coffee to begin her journey. So I ordered an Eggnog Latte with coconut milk, as my daughter played inside the two-seater Kozy Coupe-looking car attached to the front of the shopping cart.

I tried to order the manliest drink I could think of, but unfortunately, they don’t make the Spicy Mocha that High Brew in Franklin makes: cayenne, cinnamon, and mocha.

Once the nice young man handed me my unregulated caffeinated beverage, I made my way towards to organic section. But immediately, I found out it’s quite difficult to make a right turn when your right-handed and are pushing a shopping cart with a giant car attached to the front of it, still while holding a $5 drink in your other hand.

How was I going to make it all the way through a ten acre grocery store without spilling my coffee?

The answer: I wasn’t.

Historically, I have stayed home with the kids while my wife buys the groceries early on Saturday morning. I have yet to memorize where everything is in that grocery store so big it needs its own zip code.

Some of the items on the “scavenger hunt” were in the baby section, some were in the organic section, and some were just mixed in with the regular stuff.

In case my Instagram photo doesn’t show the details, then just believe me:

Each time I suddenly had to jerk the cart to make a turn in time, or simply bumped into the corner of the aisle I was trying to enter, an eager ounce of the Starbucks magnificently shot out of the adult sippy lid of my coffee cup and landed in the cart.

Needless to say, my daughter’s clothes still smell of Eggnog Latte, as she had eventually exited the faux Kozy Coupe and asked me to place her in the normal kids’ seat; right where the majority of the two dollars’ worth of Starbucks had made a miniature puddle.

I know there will be a learning curve to this stay-at-home dad thing, but today I learned that I shouldn’t be drinking Starbucks and driving the grocery cart.

How I Accidentally Became a Stay-at-Home Dad Back in October… Finally, I’m Ready to Talk about It

Imagine the irony. The very same week I was driving around in a $50,000 car, the 2017 Lexus IS 350 to promote here on my blog, I became unemployed. That fancy car then began serving as my vehicle to begin a new job search.

Yeah, that was a crazy week.

And really, it’s been an interesting month and a half since then. Let me catch you up on what I was hiding from social media this whole time…

It was simply my fate. I was already a vegan daddy blogger and a YouTuber. The demographics were there. So it only made sense that a guy like me would end up as a stay-at-home dad.

On October 18th, after having worked for over a decade at the same company in the Human Resources field (recruiting, onboarding, and retention), the new president of the company basically shut down the whole branch where I worked in Tennessee.

Imagine the psychology: Spending over 10 years of your life at the same company, seeing the same people day after day, appreciating the solitude of the same hour long commute to and from work; simply having a predictable routine which made me feel like I was financially providing for my family.

And then suddenly, it all ends. The plug is pulled. Not just for me, but for an office full of people who suddenly have a new full-time job: to find a new full-time job.

I admit, I was privately struggling with it. Even though it wasn’t my fault, nor the fault of the dozens of other people who were laid off that day as well, it still felt like a death, of sorts.

That job was part of my identity. I was always grateful for it. It was my first real job out of college; and really, my only full-time job.

During the next 30 days, I applied for over 60 jobs online; plus, I signed up with 4 different staffing agencies. It all resulted in one legitimate job interview, but they ended up hiring someone else for the position.

Through all this, it was important to me that no one else knew I had lost my job and that I was in search of a new one. I didn’t want the free world asking me everyday if I was okay, or asking if I got a new job yet.

To put myself in that situation would make me feel like I was some sort of victim- which I am not. I always choose to be victorious; never a victim.

The way I’m wired, I didn’t want anyone to know about any of this, until I had a success story to tell.

Just as I was about to cross the line of “not okay anymore”, right before Thanksgiving my wife presented me with some amazing news which I was quite thankful for.

As she is the one who handles our budget, she joyfully explained to me that since losing my job, we have been continually putting more money into our savings account each week; not less.

When I asked her how, her immediate response was, “I know it has to be a God thing.”

She went on to break down all the ways we were saving money:

We are no longer paying for two kids to be in daycare full-time.

Our daughter, who was growing up in day care, stopped getting sick, so our doctors’ bills ceased.

I am no longer filling up my car with gas each week; only monthly now.

While that may not sound significant, my wife told me that considering the cost of two kids in day care, my job was ultimately only making our household $200 per week. I was being paid appropriately for my position where I worked, but my wife has a Master’s Degree and therefore has been making a bit more money than me for a while now.

So actually, those little things added up to more than cover the $200 per week difference.

Me? A stay-at-home dad?

It would have been too crazy of a plan; for me to leave my steady job of over a decade. But that steady job came to an end; with over 10 years of Human Resources experience as a souvenir.

We wouldn’t have chosen this. It wouldn’t have seemed like a smart position. But it’s working for our family right now.

And obviously, I truly enjoy getting to actually spend time with my awesome kids. Even my wife and I have more quality time as well, including the fact she is able to call me everyday on the drive home from work. We have more time together as a family now.

Granted, I’ll remain on the look-out for a great job in Human Resources, as I never stopped applied for jobs. And while my daughter is taking her nap each day, I work diligently on further building my YouTube channels, which I predict will eventually exceed the $200 weekly difference.

But as for now, I have officially made it part of my identity. Last night, I changed the “work” section on my Facebook profile:

I am now a stay-at-home dad.