Here is part two of the best of post from yesterday on frugality and babies.
A few days ago I posted a reader’s question from Allymonami. In my first post I addressed issues having to do with breastfeeding babies. Today I will tackle how to feed an older baby.
When you head out to a grocery store and step into a babyfood aisle you are bombarded with choices. There are rows and rows of pretty shiny bottles filled with all sorts of colors (even if brown and beige are predominant!). Buddy is now 4, and I’m amazed at the increase in food choices just in the few years since he has stopped being a baby. There are an abundance now of organic, natural, regular, simple, glass jarred, plastic jarred, and on and on. It can be overwhelming to a new mom.
Have you ever stopped to wonder what moms did before store bought baby food? (or even stop to consider that there hasn’t always been baby food?) My mom tells a story about HER grandmother, my Nanny, visiting when I was a baby.
My mom was feeding me babyfood from a jar, and my clever Nanny said “Oh, isn’t it just wonderful all the things you girls have for babies now. Babyfood in a jar!”.
Of course my mom said exactly what Nanny had wanted her to say. “Why Nanny, what did you feed babies if you didn’t have baby food?”
“Oh, we’d just cook a little bit of the vegetable and meat that everyone else was eating till it was mushy, then mash it on a plate with a fork. And we’d make sure that their was rice, noodles or soft potatoes at every meal that we knew the baby could eat.”
At this point in the story my mom always points out that she realized that she had a nifty gadget, called a blender, that would mash up the food even easier, and that with a freezer instead of an icebox she could store it for the long term. She never fed any of us (and there were five of us) jarred food again.
So yes, you can make your own babyfood! I admit that I was skeptical at first. I figured that making baby food was going to be a pain and a hassle-after all, when there is a new baby in the house the last thing you want to do is increase your work load. But it turned out to be very quick and easy, and wound up making 90% of the food that Princess and Buddy ate as babies.
The basics are easy. Cook the item (even fruit-banana is about the only thing you don’t have to cook), puree it with a bit of the liquid you cooked it in using either a blender or food processor, then freeze, either by “plopping” servings on a wax paper covered cookie sheet, or in icecube trays (1 cube equals about an oz). When frozen, transfer into a LABELED freezer bag. (Trust me, the labeling is important. Sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, etc all look alike when frozen in little cubes. You don’t want to be playing “what is this” while the baby is starting to squall for dinner) I was even known, when in a rush, to buy canned unsalted veggies and puree those.
Making your own baby food saves quite a bit of money over buying those little jars. I found a baby food cost comparison chart, and they estimated that most fruits and veggies cost about $.20 more an OUNCE when buying it in the jar compared to making it yourself. When you start thinking about how many ounces of food a child will eat before moving to table food. . . . well, lets just say it can add up!
Homemade baby food is not only cheaper, but it can be more healthy. When you make baby food, you know exactly what is in it! Every baby book I read when researching prior to Princess’s birth stated that babies do not need salt or sugar added to their diet-but most baby food “dinners” and “desserts” not only frequently have a bunch of filler added (look for anything with the word “starch”) but also salt or sugar!
I also have anecdotal evidence (from my own kids, friends and articles I have read-but I don’t think there has been any actual research) that by eating “real” foods, children are more open to eating a wider variety of foods when they get older. I noticed this about my kids-they eat a lot of things that other kids their age won’t even try. I think I’ve told you all before that Princess’s favorite food is sushi.
If you really want to read more specifics on making your own baby food, I found a wonderful site called Wholesome Baby Food. They have lots of articles on different things related to making baby food, baby nutrition etc.
Another issue to consider when feeding your baby/toddler is wether there is any difference between the “baby” version and the adult version. Babyfood companies spend a lot of money trying to convince you that their food is somehow more nutritious, or appropriate for babies.
As far as I was ever able to tell, the only difference between “babyfood” applesauce and unsweetened natural applesauce in the canned fruit aisle of my supermarket was that the babyfood came in a tiny jar an was a ton more expensive per ounce! The same goes for juices, and much of the “toddler” food they sell now. How is a little tub of mac ‘n cheese any different than the stuff in a box that you make yourself? Or a little tiny jar of diced green beans or peaches. Is it really that difficult to open a can of green beans and cut them small yourself? And apple juice is apple juice, right?
You can even avoid the “baby cereals” if you want by buying plain instant oatmeal, or Cream of Wheat and grinding it finer in the blender/food processor.
There are, of course, some situations where jarred baby food is just more convenient. When you are traveling, or out at lunch time. If you are in a daycare where you must provide store sealed food. To cut down on your costs some, register with all of the baby food companies-they will start sending you coupons. Also, just like with groceries, watch for sales and stock up.
Do any of you have additional recommendations?