Besides cloth diapering, another great way to save money is to make your own homemade baby food. I started Orla on solids shortly before she turned 6-months-old. For various reasons, some people start their child on solids before this or do not even introduce solids until much later. It all depends on the child, the parents' philosophy, and the pediatrician. Like most people, I introduced one food at a time and fed this same food for 4 days to see if there would be any allergic reactions (before even attempting another type of food). I started out with carrots and then tried sweet potatoes because they are easily digestible. If you are not sure what to introduce and when, ask your doctor and here is an excellent book that my sister's pediatrician recommended called "The Best Homemade Baby Food on the Planet". I love this book. Here is a picture of what it looks like. I got mine on Amazon.
Making baby food really does not take that much time. I think what takes most time is figuring out what to make and actually going to buy these items. I wish that I could pick everything in my back garden because that would be easy and for the reassurance that I would know exactly where my food came from and how it was grown (pesticide-free, etc.), but this is not the case. With this in mind, I prefer to buy ALL organic fruits and vegetables for making baby food, but some people just buy the organic "dirty dozen". The food can be expensive, but it still is much cheaper than buying little glass baby food jars and pouches of food, especially if you buy organic. Plus, it is not recommended to reuse a jar or pouch of baby food if the child's saliva touches it. This could mean throwing away a whole jar of food if your child does not like it after one taste. Sometimes, babies will not like a food the first try and it takes several tries in order for them to enjoy the taste. Orla didn't like apples at first, but now she loves them!
How do I make it?
It is not rocket science. I tend to make 2-3 things at the same time. For example, I might make peaches, broccoli, and carrots one day. On this day, I would peel the carrots and boil them with a little water at the bottom until they are soft. You can stick a fork into a piece to check. I would steam the peaches and broccoli. After the food is tender, I mix each one at a time in a blender. I try to use some leftover liquid in the pot to not waste any of the nutrients. Ideally, everything should be steamed to get the most nutrients and not boiled at a high temperature too long. You may need to add a little water to the food in the blender to get your baby food the right consistency. After I am done mixing my food in the blender, I scoop it into ice cube trays or Beaba Silicone Trays. Each slot in an ice cube tray is 1 oz. and the slots in a Beaba Tray are 2 ozs. If you make big batches like me, you can always buy a few extra trays or get them at Goodwill or an estate sale.
Some parents think they will have to invest in an expensive baby food appliance like a Baby Bullet for $60, but you really do not need to. My sister's actually broke. When I was working as a nanny for various families, I just used the family's pots, blender, ice cube trays, and Ziplock Bags. Most families have these things anyways. However, I have a Nutribullet and some of those Beaba Silicone Trays, so I used these things in additional to my ice cube trays. Again, whatever you have at home is o.k. I do have to say that a blender might be better than the Nutribullet because after steaming some broccoli one day, I put it directly into the Nutribullet. After mixing it, I tried to unscrew the top and it popped off and sprayed hot liquid everywhere and burned my wrist badly. I learned the hard way that I need to completely let food cool properly before using the Nutribullet, so I mix the baby food in a blender now because I am not patient enough. I never had this problem in the past with just using blenders. My advice is to be careful:) I tend to work too fast!
After everything is mixed, I keep a few ounces of each in the refrigerator in a glass airtight container to use for the next few meals. (We don't use any plastic containers in our house and this could be another blog for the future.) I pour the rest of the food into the trays to freeze. It usually takes a half a day to freeze. When they are frozen, I put the food into Ziplock Bags and label them.
You can store your food in your freezer in the kitchen, but I store my baby food in our outside freezer. Here is a picture of what it looks like. I like to keep the fruit on the top shelf, the vegetables on the two shelves below it, and some extra breastmilk on the shelf underneath.
Once I found out that Orla did not have an allergies, I started offering her a variety of foods during our mealtimes, usually a fruit and a vegetable for now because she is only 7-months-old. Because my baby food is separated in my freezer, it is easy to locate and grab if I am in a hurry and it helps me to know when I am getting low. Again, if you are not sure what to make and when to introduce each food, look at the book above, ask your doctor, and go to a store and look at the labels on the baby food for ideas and ages. Each package is labeled (see below). I try to have a variety on hand and tend to mix my own blends based on the varieties available on the market. Just be careful when you introduce new foods. You may even want to keep a food diary the first few months in case there is an allergic reaction, so you can pinpoint exactly what it is. With Orla having a gluten and dairy sensitivity from day one, I thought she might have some other sensitivities or reactions, but the only other thing that I know of right now is cinnamon. She gets a bright red rash around her mouth. Good luck and happy baby food making!
Thomas Edison said, "The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition."