While we're on the subject of feeding your baby, we may as well talk about baby food. I have never, I repeat, never purchased a jar of baby food.
When I was pregnant with Isabelle, I really thought it was a rule or something that you had to buy those cute little jars of babyfood, and my only question was regular Gerber or organic. To prepare for the big jump from being a two income family to being a single income family, I met with a friend, Debbie, to talk with her about making cheap and yummy meals. She's the one who first told me that I could make my own baby food. I had no idea that it was becoming the trendy, SuperMom thing to do, especially in "crunchy" circles.
It's incredibly easy to make your own baby food. It sounds like it's such a production, but it isn't. Everyone will think you're SuperMom or Martha Stewart, but don't let them be fooled. It's way too easy to make baby food. It takes very little time or know how--if you can read, you can do it. I even learned to travel using my homemade purees.
You can save quite a bit of money making baby food yourself. I love to cook anyway, so for me, it was also a little bit of a culinary adventure. I remember being so excited when Isabelle finally liked something--butternut squash. She'd turned her nose up at our home grown, home made squash puree as well as fresh avocado, but butternut squash finally whet her appetite. Otherwise, I did try to stick with seasonal veggies and fruits to be truly thrifty. In November, the cost of yams is ridiculously cheap, so I bought a ton for her, and my mother brought some up from south Louisiana too. I wish I'd kept my calculations on what I saved on the sweet potatoes alone, but it was quite a bit. I was probably paying around 20 cents per sweet potato, while a 4 ounce jar of sweet potato baby food would've cost 40-50 cents.
I think an added bonus of making your own baby food is that you're already used to the idea of cooking for your child, and ideally, your baby will easily transition into table foods as soon as he is ready for them. I frequently fed Isabelle from the table before she turned 1, as long as I knew it was a safe food. She loved it because she wanted to eat the same things we were eating. Consequently, she does a much better job of eating adult food than kid food--don't try to make her eat a french fry or she'll cry. But beef stroganoff or Asian chicken salad with almonds and soy sauce? She's all over that.
If you really want to be a frugal mama, don't buy any special gear for making baby food. Sure, there are special products on the market specifically geared towards baby making, but they're just not needed. The Beaba ($150) does your steaming and pureeing for you and the KidCo food mill ($15) can help you get great purees, but really, you don't need either one. I have enough kitchen gear cluttering up my house without having to find a place to store something else. All you really need is a steamer basket for your pot, a food processor, and a pan for baking (my favorites are glass because they clean up easier).
Essentially, you'll either steam or bake your vegetable, let it cool, and then puree it. That's all. Don't boil your veggies, or the water will leach out all the great vitamins. After the veggies are pureed, put them in the freezer until you're ready to use them. You can either microwave the baby food (very carefully to avoid hot spots!) or let it thaw in the fridge.
Unless you're getting really fancy and creative with your baby food, don't expect to spend more than an hour a week in the kitchen making baby food. You'll make enough sweet potatoes for feed your child for a few weeks, then next week, do the same with peas. Eventually, you'll have ziplock bags (labelled and dated, of course) with various foods ready to go in the freezer.
If you want cooking times and specific details on each veggie, you can use a baby food cook book or a website like Wholesome Baby Food. I'll give you more specifics on those items tomorrow, as well as the one item I did choose to purchase for my baby food making endeavors.
I'd love to hear any of your thoughts about making baby food or any tips you've got!