#904 Thrifty Baby: Make Your Own Baby Food Or Skip It Altogether

10 Apr

baby food jars

Both organic and conventional baby food are more expensive than making your own.

“It’s so easy to make your own baby food,” a friend told me when I was expecting. Really? I hadn’t thought about doing that. Then another acquaintance who was selling me her baby stuff had a whole baby food making system out for me when I came by to check the crib. “Do you want this,” she asked. They were trying to get rid of as much stuff as possible for a big move. There it was staring me in the face, I should make my own baby food.

Thank goodness I had already decided to do this by the time the baby was six months old. We had a few jars of baby food in the cupboard. When I tried them on my daughter, she hated them. No wonder. I tried them, and they were tasteless.  And they were the “good” brand. Baby food is processed so there is no iota of potential food poisoning, which means the food is tasteless and mostly stripped of any of the good stuff in fruits and vegetables. After opening a jar, there is only so long that it can stay in the fridge before throwing it out. After throwing out two mostly-full jars of baby food, I knew there was no way I could buy the baby food jars just to throw them away. If my baby had been the opposite and churned through jars with a voracious appetite, food expenses would have been much higher. In the end, I don’t think adding another mouth into our household cost us very much at all.

organic carrots

A bag of organic carrots is cheaper and can be used either for Baby Led Weaning or making your own baby food.

Instead I bought a bag of organic carrots and called it good. A bag of organic carrots costs around $1.50 per pound. Organic baby food will cost twice that amount or more. Conventional baby food will cost about $1 more per pound, and it will not be organic. A disturbing amount of pesticide residue is found in non-organic baby food.

The baby food system I acquired included a hand mill, a plug-in blender, covered freezer trays, a portable lunch box with spoon and a cookbook. We mostly put unseasoned portions of what we were eating through the hand mill at meal times so we made the baby food right at the table. On the weekends I might have cooked up a bunch of carrots and processed them through the baby blender and then frozen them in the trays. A note to others – two pounds of carrots is A LOT of baby food ice cubes. The baby will probably be sick of carrots by the time he or she is only half way through the amount you made. Make smaller batches of baby food from varied foods to switch things up. We still had the hated pea puree left in the ice cube trays by the time pureed food time was over.

Both the special baby blender and freezer trays are not needed if you’re doing with what you have – a regular blender or food processor will work. Regular freezer trays are fine if you transfer the frozen cubes to a freezer zip lock bag for long-term storage once the food is frozen. I didn’t use the cookbook. The portable lunch box came in handy a few times but wasn’t necessary.

baby led weaning meal

My nephew’s first Baby Led Weaning meal at six months.

We were not much into the baby food making stage when we accidentally started practicing more of a Baby Led Weaning approach. Baby Led Weaning (BLW) means that you eliminate the pureed baby food stage altogether! You give the baby food just like you would eat on a plate. So instead of spending time milling or blending those organic carrots, you give it to the baby well-cooked on his or her plate. While some people may be concerned about choking, a baby’s gag reflex is much closer to the front of the mouth than an adult’s, so if the piece of food is too big for the esophagus, the baby would spit it out instead of choking. My sister who officially read about and followed Baby Led Weaning, versus our accidental uncovery, said her son rarely had a choke moment, and it made life much easier, especially traveling. There were no worries about bringing “baby” food on a trip or to restaurants. It’s true, we didn’t worry about traveling, going out or jars of food either. Between continuing to breastfeed and giving the baby food she could eat from what we had, no one went hungry or had to carry a metric ton of baby mush around.

baby led weaning mess

The “gravity exists” lesson of Baby Led Weaning.

Advocates of Baby Led Weaning say there is lots of learning to be done by baby while eating his or her own non-mush food, like how much pressure is required to pick up different foods and learning shapes and colors. Babies love learning by touch so playing with their food is a great way to learn before they get too old, and grandma yells “didn’t anyone tell you not to play with your food!”

Those itty-bitty pots of baby food are so cute! But expensive! And unnecessary.

If you’re not comfortable with Baby Led Weaning, make your own baby food. Like my friend told me, it’s so easy. Plus, you’ll probably end up in the Baby-Led-Weaning-is-so-much-easier camp and quit the pureed food quickly. Either way, you’ll save money and won’t have to make special purchases. I know organic carrots is already on my grocery list most weeks.

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