The Swan Life: May 2017

Swan Life

Hello Swan Life readers! It’s Lucy here and I’m excited to take over the Green Swan again for our monthly “life update”. May was a good month in this household. I wonder if I’ll ever not start with saying that… hope not!

Lifesaving Instacart

Ok this title might be a bit of a stretch, but let me say I’ve found a service that has been amazing… but maybe not quite lifesaving. Have you heard of Instacart? It’s a grocery delivery service that we were gifted 3 months free for Christmas. We decided to hold off and start once our second child was born. Let me just say Instacart is on the list of things I never thought I’d want to pay for… until I had kids. The service here in Charlotte includes many of the grocery stores we normally shop at, including Costco (and I don’t have to be a member to order here!!) I can start my grocery list throughout the week and add items via the computer or through the app on my phone.  Then when I’m ready and my list is over $35 (to avoid an additional fee) I can order for immediate delivery (sometimes the groceries can be delivered in as little as one hour) or schedule to be delivered at a later time.

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There is still a service fee of 10% of your total order so we’re still definitely paying something for this service. What we’re avoiding for the first three months is the membership fee. The yearly fee is $149 and quite honestly it’s something we’re still deciding if it’s worth paying for and avoiding the grocery store trip. Again, something I wouldn’t even consider… until I had kids. Have you ever tried shopping with a toddler and forgot to bring the Cheerios for him to munch on?

Vegan Update and Recipes

Speaking of groceries and food, anyone wondering how we’re doing with the vegan diet? I’ve been able to try out a bunch of new recipes this month while still being on maternity leave. I’ve, once again, crushed my goal of trying 3 recipes each month. I lost track, but I’d guess we’ve tried out 10-15 or so? I will say we haven’t been super strict on this new diet (ordering at a restaurant still includes some pizza with cheese now and again… although still no meat). Here are a few recipes we’ve tried and really enjoy!

One Pot Sweet Potato, Tomato and Kale Skillet

Easy Black Beans and Rice

Cauliflower Marsala

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One Pot Sweet Potato, Tomato and Kale Skillet

Vegan Ice Cream

Oh and while I’m on the topic of going vegan, we’ve recently found some great alternatives to the foods we enjoy, but don’t fit into the new diet. Namely, ice cream. This delicious dessert was the main item JW was worried about giving up. It was a staple in our household prior to changing (however, it seems we still make it a staple now). Why you ask? Because we’ve discovered some great non-dairy options. Brands like SO Delicious, Breyers and even Ben and Jerry’s have non-dairy options!! Seriously you have no idea how excited we were to find the amazing flavors that Ben and Jerry’s offer in the non-dairy. Although I will say these options are more expensive than the normal ice cream we used to buy. We now make this more of a treat (not buying each trip to the grocery store and not eating every single night), but we also stock up a bit when there’s a sale.

Swan Life

Swan Life

Kid Activities

In my January Swan Life post I asked you what sort of activities you’ve found for your kids that were free or on the cheap. And you guys definitely had some great ideas! Anyone who has a toddler at home knows getting them out of the house and engaged is good for development… and makes for a good nap. Our neighbor and friends introduced us to a new activity that we’ve now made a monthly event. Home Depot offers free kid workshops on the first Saturday of the month. We’ve attended two now and definitely plan to keep attending if our schedule allows. Each month they offer a new project where the kids can create with hammers, paint and a little imagination. Our boy has now made an Easter basket and flower pot holder. I will admit the noise level in the store is very high (imagine thirty some kids banging with full size hammers), but it’s worth the smile we get from him and the pride he has after finishing the project. Oh, and kid #2 can even sleep through all that pounding, amazing!

Swan Life

Swan Life

Maternity Leave

It is almost time for me to return to work and to say goodbye to my maternity leave and days spent mainly cuddling with our new baby boy. I’d say overall I’m prepared to return to my job, to return to a more normal routine and, quite honestly, to return to a life where I’m a more productive citizen. Don’t get me wrong, these weeks at home with our little guy have been great. It’s so important for mom to be home with a newborn as they grow rapidly and their brains development tremendously. I recently read Financial Samurai’s post about The Difficulties of Pregnancy and thought I’d touch on my thoughts and our financial plan during my leave.

Yes, I agree that the American norm for maternity leave and pay during that time is nowhere near perfect. On the flip side I’m an optimistic person and will say what I do receive is better than nothing. After-all nothing in life is free, right?

In the past year or so my employer has amended their maternity and paternity leave plans in my favor. They now offer two weeks of parental leave with full pay. That was not offered when I had my first son so right off the bat I’ve won! On top of that my short term disability plan will pay me 60% of my salary for seven weeks. Add those up plus one more week I am taking unpaid, my leave will be a total of ten weeks. I did this same thing with our first son and the amount of time at home seemed to work well. I have already visited my office with our son and it was so great to see and catch up with my co-workers. Again please don’t think this scenario is perfect and please don’t persecute me if your thoughts on maternity leave are different. This is what has worked for me and for our family.

With that it’s about time for me to dust off my suit and high heels and return to work! Wish me luck…

Let’s hear from you

Anyone else subscribe to a grocery delivery service? Do you think it’s a service that worth the yearly membership fee? Has anyone tried the new non-dairy option from Ben and Jerry’s? Got some more recipes or blogs to check out with vegan recipes to try? Did your second or third born sleep through anything and everything too?

– Lucy

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25 Comments

  1. We’ve never used Instacart, but the delivery services are definitely popular in our area. We use our grocery store’s online ordering service. Save all your items to an online cart, pay and schedule a pickup time, and they bring your order right to your car. The fee is $4.95 per order but we can easily justify it for the time savings, hassle factor, and keeping us to what’s on the list.

    1. The grocery store ordering service sounds like a great idea, something we may need to look into also! We pass two grocery stores very close to our house on our drive home from work. That would probably be a convenient way to shop, almost as easy as having them delivered, Thanks! -Lucy

  2. I’m so excited we’re getting a Publix near us! I don’t think Instacart would make sense for us but I’m SO looking forward to having another supermarket with a deli and butcher!

    It was great seeing you and JW and meeting the little guy and the big guy! You are so calm as a mom. It’s wonderful to see how motherhood suits you.

    I don’t know about that non-dairy Ben & Jerry’s. I’m trying to refrain in general, and I don’t know if I could pry the Phish Food out of Mr. Groovy’s hands on weekends.

    1. I never knew Publix before they built one near us about 3 years ago… now it’s my fave!! Ditto, it was great to see the Groovies and introduce you to our boys. Always great company. And let Mr. Groovy know that Phish Food is still (by far) the best of Ben and Jerry’s! Maybe I should petition them to make it in the non-dairy version! 🙂 -Lucy

    1. It has been so great to be home and cuddle my baby each day, I’m grateful for this time. Now it’s back to work on Monday! I hear ya on the grocery delivery… never thought I’d consider it either… until I had kids 🙂 -Lucy

  3. We have never dipped our toe into the grocery delivery service. We have considered it. I do often see plenty of grocery store employees running filling home orders. Looks like a great time saving, need to see if we can justify the cost.

    1. Yea give it a look and see if it’s right for you! I see the store employees filling orders all the time too. And yes I do still actually go to the store every once in a while! -Lucy

  4. That’s awesome you were able to take off 10 weeks? And get some pay! Did anybody give you a hard time? I know male colleagues like to poke a lot.

    What do you think the ideal amount of time is to take off as a father?

    1. JW here… I’d say three weeks felt about right but I have no problem with fathers taking longer especially if they’d be the “primary” parent. I don’t know the right answer but I’m all for employers providing flexibility. The WSJ had an article about it recently which shed light on parental leave benefits being greater the higher the income ladder you are… Hard to argue that’s fair.

      1. Just to clarify, if you think 3 weeks is about the right time to take off as a father, what was the reason why you took 10 weeks and what do you think are the reasons why 4-10 weeks off is not as good as 3 weeks off?

        I’m of the mindset that infinity time off is the best! But that’s just me 🙂

    2. I didn’t get a hard time from anyone when visiting the office a few weeks ago… although I guess it is predominately female. My experience as the mom has never gotten negative response at wok, it has always just been supportive. The person who was filling in for me was not there when I visited, but I’ll spend some time with him doing turnover Monday morning. Since his job is to travel around and fill vacancies such as maternity leave I don’t expect any bitterness from him. I do keep him essentially employed after all 🙂 -Lucy

        1. Sorry for the confusion but Lucy is author of this post, she was the one who took 10 weeks off and I took 3 weeks. I do know some organizations who offer 4 months off paid paternity leave which is great, but there is a major economic consideration for the employer.

          JW

  5. The introduction of kids definitely changes one’s perspective. Is sanity worth spending a little more money on? =) We have one kid, but we’re pondering when we should try for a second. It’s scary though to think about. We have no regrets, and we love our child, but wow it’s definitely been a lot of work and sacrifice! I remember back when we were gushing about wanting 3 kids at a minimum, and wanted to shoot for 4 possibly.

    1. I hear ya! Kids definitely change your life… for the good! It becomes a struggle for balance. Making sure we’re still saving to reach FIRE (which is what we want to do at a fairly young age in order to spend more time with our kids while they’re young), but also spending on certain goods, services and experiences now so aren’t pushing everything off (Instacart, swim lessons, etc). -Lucy

  6. I hear ya! Kids definitely change your life… for the good! It becomes a struggle for balance. Making sure we’re still saving to reach FIRE (which is what we want to do at a fairly young age in order to spend more time with our kids while they’re young), but also spending on certain goods, services and experiences now so aren’t pushing everything off (Instacart, swim lessons, etc). -Lucy

  7. I didn’t get a hard time from anyone when visiting the office a few weeks ago… although I guess it is predominately female. My experience as the mom has never gotten negative response at wok, it has always just been supportive. The person who was filling in for me was not there when I visited, but I’ll spend some time with him doing turnover Monday morning. Since his job is to travel around and fill vacancies such as maternity leave I don’t expect any bitterness from him. I do keep him essentially employed after all 🙂 -Lucy

  8. The Home Depot workshops are great. We stopped going for a while, but really need to start again. Thanks for the reminder.

    I’m happy to hear that you have decent maternity leave pay. I always feel so guilty when I hear about the difficulties of moms with no paid time off – they often have to make the impossible decision between spending time with their newborn baby and money needed to survive. I’m about one third of the way through my time off, and still very much enjoying time with the family . . . and naps. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to survive going back to work and not getting a nap in the afternoon anymore.

    1. We actually missed the workshop from this past weekend unforutnately. Already looking forward to the July activity! I am with you, we’re so fortunate to have the opportunity to take time off to snuggle the baby. I actually am back to work now so I have to get in all the snuggles I can at night! -Lucy

    1. Wow so you must have some good recipes that you’ve perfected and enjoyed over the last couple years. Are there any certain websites you might find some new ones? Can’t say I’ve ever tried making Pad Thai (Vegan or not) so I have no idea how to cook rice noodles the right way! -Lucy

  9. We’re also vegan and find it really congruous with a frugal lifestyle. Once you’ve got a handful of rotation meals which are easy, healthy and you all enjoy it’s easy. I don’t even think about it now, and our groceries cost under half the national average for our family size, despite the fact we’re “high earners”.

    I will definitely check out some of your recipes 🙂

    1. Wow great work on getting your grocery bill down! Yes we’re still working on taste testing different recipes and taking note of the ones we really like. Could you share some with us? We’d love to bulk up the list and hear what your family enjoys. -Lucy

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