Part two of our "Expecting series" is going to take a closer look ways you can save some money by making your own baby food. If you've missed the other "expecting posts" they can be found here.
Now, I've been asked by friends about this before. I guess because I am always in the kitchen whipping up something new-- last night it was an awesome Potato and Zucchini Frittata-- people assume that I also make my own baby food. However, three babies later and this is actually the first time I am making baby food, at least more seriously.
It seems like my decreased milk supply has left baby #3 ravenously hungry for all things solid food! The little rascal simply cannot get enough. So, what was a busy momma to do but buy more and more jars of baby food, right? Wrong! Big fat wrong!
I figured out that three jars of baby food-- the amount he is currently consuming and has been consuming for the last month or so really-- at an average of 73 cents a pop, would cost me nearly $66 a month! That's over 16% of my monthly grocery budget! I had to do something and I had to do something fast.
So what did I do? I'm so glad you asked! I got out my trusty Cooks 5-in-1 Power Blender, which moonlights as an excellent smoothie/milkshake maker and coffee grinder, and started pureeing almost everything in sight! Overripe banana? In it went. Baked sweet potato? In it went. Leftover pork? In it went. And so on.
Each time I whip up at least a double or triple batch, serve one serving to my son immediately and refrigerate or freeze the other servings. There are a lot of cute but pricey storage devices for baby food. I've found that simple ice cube trays that you can purchase at the dollar store and reusable baby bowls work just fine. I am partial to the Take and Toss Feeding Variety Pack from the First Years because it is a bargain and includes several bowls with lids that are oh-so-perfect for storing baby food.
Let me try my best to anticipate some baby food making FAQ's:
How do I know what foods to puree for my baby? Good question! If your little one is just starting out on baby foods, start with the basics (carrots, squash, pears, prunes, bananas, etc.) but after a month or two, you can channel your inner chef and get creative!
This time around I am having so much fun-- okay maybe not so much fun but more fun than I thought I would have making baby food-- making gourmet baby foods. My son's favorite right now is Banana Pumpkin with a dash of Cinnamon, made using a ripe banana and canned pumpkin (I freeze the remaining canned pumpkin in ice cube trays for later use). So, my best suggestion is check out the flavors that the baby food companies are putting out there and attempt to recreate your own. Think Plum Banana, Apple Peach, Broccoli Pear.
Are there any foods my baby shouldn't eat? Yes, there are. Honey, peanut butter and citrus fruits come to my mind first. I'll defer to the experts at Babycenter on this one regarding Foods that can be unsafe for your baby and When is it safe to feed my baby...?
Do you buy any store bought baby food? I still like to purchase certain flavors that my son really likes to keep on hand when I am in a pinch (read in bed with a viral infection). I also buy the baby cereals like rice, barley and oatmeal because they are necessary for a balanced diet and they are affordable to purchase. Although it is not baby food per say, I like to have natural applesauce on hand at all times. You can buy it in the big, cheap containers and it is the perfect baby food.
Where do you buy your fruits and vegetables? This answer is key. Making my own baby food would not be nearly as affordable if I just went into the produce section of the grocery store and bought everything right then and there. The produce is simply too expensive especially in the winter. I buy most of my produce from the farmer's market and highly recommend that option. Warehouse markets like BJ's and produce outlets like Produce Junction are other good options. And remember, it can be just as healthy (and economical) to use canned and frozen fruits and vegetables!
Can my baby eat what my family eats? For the most part yes he can just know the exceptions. You also wouldn't want to feed baby something extremely spicy or overly sweet so generally what I do is reserve a little bit of the basic, cooked ingredients while I am making a recipe. Put this into my power blender and we're good to go.
How do I achieve the right pureed consistency? You will learn this as you go but what I can tell you is that you must add a good amount of liquid to the blender in order to achieve a nice, smooth consistency to your baby food. You can add a little bit of juice (for additional flavor) or breast milk/formula or just add water. Occasionally I will add a splash of prune juice to my son's foods to keep him regular! And if your food becomes overly runny, you can always add a little bit of baby cereal to thicken it back up.
I look forward to hearing you specific questions; post them in the comments section below!