I write a regular piece for the Community Co-op’s monthly newsletter and find it to be a regular joy. The last piece I did, for the February newsletter, was one of the best in recent memory. It brought me back to the days of Beckett as a rolly-polly baby, hours spent shoveling and cleaning up the drips and slips from beginner baby eating and the pride I had in making our own baby food (and saving some serious buckaroos!).
Here is a link to the PDF Version. Below is the article in its entirety.
I find that there is one certain misnomer about babies that is often repeated to expectant parents. We are continuously warned of the costly hit our budget is going to take upon the arrival of the bundle of joy. As a parent to a now three-year-old and an almost four-month-old, I find that the cost of raising a healthy child grows exponentially as the years progress. I am steeling myself against the whopper of their teenage years.
Feeding is one of the easiest ways to save money when it comes to childcare. If mom is blessed to be able to nurse, feeding is practically free with the exception of the additional calories required for mom. And, if you have made the upfront investment of cloth diapers, your pocketbook (and landfill!) can save thousands of dollars. But, eventually children require solid foods and the possibility of paying for food beckons.
I chose to make baby food for our first daughter, Beckett, and am prepping to do the same for our second daughter, Camden. I had two reasons for doing so, one being entirely honorable and the second being just plain rational. First, I wanted to know what was going into my child’s food and felt the need to vouch for the quality of ingredients. And, second, we’re cheap. I had been feeding her for free with breastmilk for months and wanted to ride that gravy train for as long as possible. And, honestly, once I started, I was hooked. It was easy, it was extremely affordable and she loved it.
The basic supplies required for making your own baby food are most likely already stocked in your kitchen.
- Masher: a food mill, blender, food processor, potato masher, fork or any combination thereof
- Containers: small, resealable containers that can be refrigerated, frozen and reheated
- Ice-cube Trays: I find these to be easier to obtain and afford, and more effective for serving than any container on the market when it comes to freezing
- Permanent Marker: used to date all fridge and freezer foods
- Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron: a great book for in-depth information and recipes
Fresh or Preserved
The easiest and most obvious method of making baby food is to do it tableside with a fork in hand and baby who has joined the family meal. With a quick grab from your own plate and a slick mash, baby can eat what you are enjoying.
Clearly baby will not always be able to eat or have an interest in what the adults are having, so you’ll find yourself stocking up on homemade baby-only food. For quick food ideas, scan the baby food aisle and make notes of things that sound appealing to you. I would tend to opt for carrots, sweet potatoes, green peas, apples, peaches or plums and skip the meals-in-one (think, turkey dinner or swiss steak in a jar)
After you have chosen what you are preserving, choose your method of preparation. Remember to preserve the foods unaltered – in other words, don’t use spices, seasonings or savories like oil to enhance their natural goodness. Sweet potatoes can be baked whole in the oven and carrots can be steamed until each was soft. When they are cooled, but still warm and workable, I mash them completely with a fork until smooth. Fruits like peaches, apricots and plums, were skinned using a quick blanch, whirred in the blender and preserved fresh.
When the chosen food has been prepared, you are ready to spoon it into the clean ice cube trays. Wrap the tray tightly in foil and pop out the serving size portions when they are frozen solid. I use resealable plastic bags with a date stamp and food name on them for storage. It might seem silly, but don’t forget the food name. You’d be shocked how quickly sweet potatoes, carrots and apricots can look the same, but taste entirely differently mind you, at a glance. When it’s mealtime, you can pull out three or four cubes and either defrost or microwave before serving.
Store bought baby food was still our primary choice for roadtrips and vacations, but we always opted for organic. In the end, we were able to extend the relatively inexpensive baby-feeding days a bit longer and provide high-quality, fresh food for our child that was easy to make and quick to serve.
Remember to follow the advice of your pediatrician when starting solid foods and to practice common food safety for preservation of homemade baby foods. For more information, reference Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron.