Sunday, December 5, 2010

Making Your Own Baby Food

I just talked about how we switched to cloth diapers in our last post, but I want to share something cool with you that my mama taught me that I have used with my own children and those I have nannied.  Yes, let’s talk about making our own baby food.  Big deep breaths, this is so much easier than people make it out to be.  I owe alot to my mama, don't I?  Cloth diapering, baby food, not going insane when traveling with kids, I should make her a Mother's Day card every day of the year.

Mama and me.  I was the ripe old age of 20.
First, let us dispel some of the crazy ideas out there.  Like that making your own baby food has to be time consuming and hard.  You can use frozen, canned, or fresh fruits and veggies, just like you do with your own meals.  You can even use left overs and that’s definitely saving you a few dollars. 
Second, buying jarred baby food, especially organic is safer and more economical.  When you think of the idea of buying 2-4 oz of something for $2, especially when you have a lot to buy, that’s just an overwhelming amount of money you could shave off of your grocery bill.  Buy simply buying a bit more of the fruits and veggies you are already getting that month, then steaming, roasting, and pureeing the extra, you save yourself time and money in the long run. 

You don’t have to can your baby food, unless you need to store it for longer than it would last, covered well in the freezer or the refrigerator. You can easily prevent spread of bacteria by discarding uneaten portions, measuring out small amounts for baby to eat, cooking food properly, and storing it well covered.  I don't can my baby food but others do and if you know how to, that's FANTASTIC.  If not, don't worry!  This isn't to make life harder but easier and more natural!
Don't forget about squeezing your own juices too!
The best part of you making your own baby food is that you know your child’s needs, likes, and dislikes.  You can get them to try new things by simply varying the ingredients, adding a hint of salt or spice here and there, or by cleverly disguising naughty offenders (say broccoli) with something else.  There is even the wild idea that you may get your child feeding themselves faster and letting you eat your own dinner in peace.  That’s an idea I can live with.

Let’s take two items, say apples and broccoli.  Cut them both up, compost what you don’t or can’t use, then steam them.  Add a bit of salt and a tiny bit of broth to the broccoli, puree and store.  Scoop out your soft, steamed apple flesh, add some cinnamon or a bit of honey (Which you most likely won’t need), puree and store.  Remember ages and stages, of course.  A good guide is this.  If your child is to Stage One foods, the purees should be the consistency of smooth, slightly runny applesauce.  Stage two, thicker, grainier applesauce texture.  

At stage 3, think of apple sauce with teeny bits in it.  Remember too, if your child is to Stage Three, by all means try steaming bite size pieces of veggies and fruit, cheerios, etc.  The sooner they learn to self feed, the happier you can all be.  At least that is how it's been with both my kids.  Both have been wildly independent about feeding themselves.
Steaming and then pureeing is the most common method that I've seen.  Notice that they even threw fresh herbs in!
It’s that easy.  Make what you need for the week of say, two vegetables and two fruits,perhaps 2 cups worth of each maximum, store tightly covered in the fridge or the freezer, and when it’s time to eat, scoop out what you need into a bowl, thaw or even microwave it gently then serve.  Try mixing fruits with yogurt to get them extra calcium (use plain or vanilla, sugar free).  Mix veggies with fruit if there’s a certain few your child won’t eat.  My son hates broccoli, spinach, and even peas.  But by mixing them with carrots, applesauce, or even pureed pears, he’ll eat it right up and get a double whammy of the daily fruits and veggies he needs.

You can also try things like boiled noodles with a touch of butter and Parmesan, scrambled eggs, the list goes on and on.  If you want to do meat, which I haven’t talked much about simply because no matter what we try, our son won’t touch it, puree some with a bit of broth to the consistency your child likes.  In this age of food allergies and special diets for gluten intolerance, celiac disease, etc., it’s nice to have economical alternatives.
A post dinner snack of an orange sock is always great for any 6 month old!
Our son was born with incredible food and protein intolerance's.  He had to be on Neocate or Nutamigen formulas for a long time and would NOT breast feed.  Luckily, he was a champ about eating fruits and veggies, and has outgrown most of the food intolerance's that he had.  He is still finicky about a few things.  He won’t touch anything that has tomatoes in it, and neither did our daughter.  Let’s just put it delicately, anytime either of them did, it was a messy situation that involved baths, more laundry, and upset tummies.

You do not need fancy ‘baby food grinders’ or other tools that ‘make baby food easy’!  You need your stove, something to steam or roast veggies in, a blender or food processor, and a safe way to store the food you make.  Tupperware, ice cube trays, Ziploc bags, etc.  But if you want to try these items, feel free too.  I had a baby food grinder with our daughter and never used it as much as I used our plain old $5 food processor. 

Finally, if it’s not for you and your schedule, it’s not for you, and that is perfectly fine.  You run your household however you need to.  We always have a few jars of food on hand as a back up.  You may even look into local farmers markets, stores, etc., to see if they carry freshly produced, organic baby food.  It may be a few more bucks but if it saves you a headache, then it’s worth the cost.  But, I promise you that with the amount our son eats (and for a skinny 18 month old, it’s a ton), we shaved nearly $100 off of our grocery bill every month.

So, give making your baby their own food a whirl.  You might just surprise yourself and baby too, at how much you both like it.  If you've got some jars on hand, it's really easy to reuse them, too.  After washing them, boil them (this also makes removing the label easy after they've cooled) for about 5 minutes to effectively kill any germs.  You can try your hand at canning as well, but I have never.  I either make a weeks supply or more, freezing the excess and using the amount I need.

Here's some links to other homemade baby food articles, with recipes to try too:
-One of my personal faves- Honest Fare's recipes here
-Recipes from Parents.com- here
-Cool website entirely devoted to homemade baby food!
-Same websites section on stage one baby foods
-Baby Food Do's Here
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1 comment:

Mummy's Money said...

I LOVE making baby food! I totally have a foodie who will try anything, and I swear it is because he always ate "real" food. My son did love meat, but I didn't inroduce it until stage 3, and then I just threw my left over steaks in a food processor and stored it in a freezor baggie, and added a spoonful to his squash, and he totally loved it. It comes out kind of powdery/ground, which is why it was easy to spoon out of the frozen bag. Just an idea