This post on homemade baby food was previously published on my personal blog in April 2009. Still, I decided to commit the sin of republishing a stale post in the interest of this week’s theme of trimming the budget with multiples.
I had nothing against jarred baby foods, but I wanted to provide M and J with fresh foods and more variety than I could get from the baby food shelves at the store. I started out using the jarred stuff, but soon realized that with two enormous baby appetites, it was far cheaper to make purées in larger quantities. At age 18 months, our twins averaged an even 12 lbs in weight, but could down the equivalent of three jars of baby food per meal, three times a day, each. That could easily have me spending over $100 per week on baby food.
The girls’ daycare didn’t start providing meals until kids started table foods, and was very accommodating of the frozen or fresh purées I’d bring in every day. It actually wasn’t that much work. Once M and J were exposed to a pretty large variety of foods, I’d simply leave half of each dish unpuréed, salt it, and eat it myself. I don’t think the girls were any better nourished than kids fed Gerber or Earth’s Best goodness, but it worked for us.
There were definitely folks who found my choice to minimize prepared baby food in the girls’ diet to be pretentious. Perhaps it was. One thing that raising identical twins who are far from identical has taught me is that there is no right way to parent.
When new and expectant mothers tell me that they’re considering it and ask how I made it work, I give them a list of my favourite tools. Here’s what goes in my baby shower gift for friends who’ve asked my advice on how to start making their own baby food:
- Annabel Karmel‘s book, Top 100 Baby Purees. The recipes were good, but even more helpful to me was the idea that baby food didn’t have to be bland. Onions and garlic in baby food? Cinnamon in fruit purées? Why not? I didn’t introduce salt or refined sugar until after Jess and Mel’s first birthday, but used other more mature flavours with abandon. Note that Karmel is British and follows Great Ormond Street guidelines on introducing new foods to children, so the age guides don’t always correspond to the recommendations of the American medical establishment.
- KidCo food mill. This produces food that corresponds to a Gerber Stage 2 texture. The mill comes apart completely and can be washed in the dishwasher. There are no sharp edges, which is a necessity for someone as clumsy as me. It’s perfect for taking to restaurants so that you can share your meal with your baby. You turn the mill upside down, pop in your food, insert the base and set it on the table. Then you push down gently while turning the handle, and the ground up food gets pushed up into the bowl at the top of the mill. You can feed baby straight from the mill, and then pack it up in its carrying case to take home and wash. It’s the perfect size for one child; I did have to refill it to get enough food for both girls.
- Ikea flexible icecube trays. Unfortunately, Ikea no longer carries the triangular icecube trays for portions that fit perfectly in Ziplock sandwich bags. Whenever I made a new batch of baby food, I’d keep out enough for a couple of meals, and freeze the remainder. Once the cubes were solid, I’d pop them out and store them in the freezer in Ziplock bags labeled with the contents and date. Three to four fully defrosted cubes made a full meal for both J and M.
There are a few generic tools that I consider a necessity.
- A good quality blender. This is how you get the smoothest purées for a first introduction to solid foods.
- A full-scale food mill. I used a handcrank food mill that I still use for applesauce and apple-pear-sauce. When I first started to introduce texture in the girls’ food, I’d process half of each batch of food through the blender and half through the food mill and mix them back together. Once they were ready for chunkier foods, I switched to the food mill.
- Small bowls with lids and, yes, baby food jars. You’ll want to transport baby food from time to time. Baby food comes in jars for a reason! They’re a great size and very sturdy. I reused baby food jars many many times. I also loved Gerber Bunch-a-Bowls with lids.
Do you have any other tips or recommendations for cutting food costs without compromising nutrition and taste? Please share!