When pregnant with my Certain Little Someone, I determined that I was going to make all his baby food from scratch in order to give him the healthiest start to life possible. It would be hard, I told myself, cooking and pureeing and freezing huge batches of food, all for the sake of my sweet little baby… but I could push through! I read all the books, browsed all the websites, learned about all the different methods of cooking (steaming, baking, boiling, microwaving) and freezing (ice cube trays, flash freezing, made just-for-that-purpose little containers) and determined to do it all.
And I did. (Mostly. We did have some random jars of baby food when out and about, and/or as a last resort.) I discovered, however, that it wasn’t all that big of a deal.
Seriously, people. When just starting out on this food adventure, babies eat like a tablespoon at a time. Or less. And the puree stage simply just does not last long enough to justify freezing batches and batches of homemade baby food… unless you’re feeding triplets. Besides, you want to explore a whole world of tastes and textures with your little adventurer, and that’s hard to do when you have to finish half a gallon of mashed sweet potato, one tablespoon at a time!
I discovered a few more surprising elements to this whole homemade baby food venture along the way; namely, that it’s not always cheaper than the jarred baby food, and it’s not always that much healthier. And it’s certainly not always as convenient.
You know by now that my approach to life is QECH: Quick, Easy, Cheap, and Healthy. It’s pretty much my philosophy. If it ain’t QECH, I don’t do it. Most of the time. So the bottom line is this: Is making baby her own food QECH? Or not? Here’s my analysis:
Is it QUICK and EASY?
It can be. It all depends on the food in question, as some foods naturally lend themselves to easier prep. I found, for example, that unless I had pumpkin puree left over from some other purpose (like my annual fall pumpkin cooking extravaganza), it was simply not worth it to go to all that trouble of peeling, baking, and pureeing pumpkins and other winter squash just to give baby a few spoonfuls. There are plenty of foods, though, that just require a bit of smashing with a fork, or a quick whirr in the blender. Bananas come immediately to mind. Peel, mash, feed. That’s my kind of baby food.
You can also avail yourself of the tools available to you these days. This time around, I have a Baby Brezza machine that does most of the work for you: it steams and then blends whatever food you put into it. You do still have to peel and chop, but that doesn’t take a lot of time (depending on the food).
I also used these handy dandy little mesh feeders for my Certain Little Someone: all you do is put in a piece of fruit (like part of a plum or peach, for example), and they can safely gnaw away at it until it’s a little pile of pulp. Some people even put frozen foods in there for teething little ones, but I never tried that (was a little nervous!).
Of course, very little is as easy as unscrewing the cap off a jar, but there are many things you can feed baby fresh without a lot of time and effort.
But is it CHEAPer?
Again, I say, it can be. It all depends on what exactly you are comparing in cost. Do you pay full price for the jars? Then, yes, homemade baby food is definitely cheaper. However, if you use coupons and shop sales, baby food jars can be very inexpensive. I compromised by buying the jars when they were very cheap and saving them to use when we were away from home. I also shopped around and got the best price possible for all the foods I fed baby, just like the foods I fed everyone else in the family. If sweet potato was in season and on sale, that’s what baby ate. I remember he was really getting into solids during the summer, so I would buy him whatever was at the farmer’s market that week. There was one week in particular that nectarines were on sale. We gave one to him – whole – and he ate it all (we took out the pit of course), and loved it!
Some foods just aren’t any cheaper than the jars, no matter how you cut it. That’s when you have to decide what is more important to you: cost, convenience or the health factor.
Which brings us to the last question:
Is homemade baby food any HEALTHY-er?
My answer to this is: mostly, yes. The biggest advantage to homemade baby food is the freshness factor; because it is fresh, it retains the majority of nutrients. Who knows how long the canned baby food has been there, and if the food was fresh when it was processed to begin with?
Other than that, I don’t see where homemade baby food has any clear advantage in the health arena over the jarred baby food.
However, there are some jars you just don’t need to buy. I would stay far far away from any baby food jars that contain any of the following:
- dessert (baby does NOT need “dessert”!)
- yogurt (baby needs FRESH yogurt)
- hot dogs (really, now, do we need an explanation?!)
- grains (my personal opinion is that baby is just too young to process these properly, so hold off on them until they’re past the puree stage anyway)
I would also be very choosy about mixes containing meats as well. Personally, I prefer to make all his meat dishes myself, even if it is a little more work. To make it easier, I’ll just puree a portion of whatever meat the rest of us are eating for dinner until he’s capable of chewing it himself.
Whether or not you want to go whole hog with this homemade baby food idea, there are some foods that are just so easy to fix for baby that it would be silly not to! These foods definitely fall under my “QECH” philosophy, and can be incorporated into pretty much anybody’s routine. I’ve blogged about some of them before, but here they are again, in no particular order:
- Avocado When I told my people I was feeding my Certain Little Someone avocado, I got a lot of strange looks and a lot of questions. Just two years later, it’s a lot more widely accepted, but it still may be a new idea to you. There is no reason not to feed a baby avocado, and all kinds of reasons why you should. There are two main reasons why I personally chose it as one of my babies’ first foods: it’s high in healthy fats (every baby needs fat in their diet) and it’s soooo easy (just scoop it out and mash a bit. You won’t find it in any jars, but that’s only because it’s difficult to can. It’s pretty cheap, too: I can almost always find them around here for $1.50 or less, and some areas of the country are much cheaper than that. And since baby only eats about 1/4 of it at a time, it definitely costs less than a jar.
- Banana Just like an avocado, all you have to do is peel and mash. This one’s a no-brainer, folks. And if you consider that one banana costs about $0.20, and baby only eats approximately 1/3 of it at a time, it’s definitely one of the cheaper options.
- Frozen Butternut Squash At my local grocery store, one package costs $1.00, and it has at least 3 or 4 servings. It has all the goodness of homemade pureed butternut squash… but without all the work. Just defrost it and feed to baby: easy!
- Canned Pumpkin No, not pumpkin pie filling (please). Once again, almost as healthy as doing it yourself, but a lot less work. The main advantage of buying a can instead of jarred pumpkin for baby is that it’s a lot cheaper.
- Applesauce What could be easier? Making applesauce at home is easy, too, but I find that around here, jarred applesauce is often cheaper. Just be sure to buy varieties without added sugar, or – horrors – high fructose corn syrup.
And there you have it folks! Five super easy foods you can feed baby without breaking into one of those pricey little jars. Bon appetit!
Find more inspiring and informative posts at Make Your Own Monday, Motivational Monday, Homestead Barn Hop, The Bulletin Board, Better Mom Monday, Natural Living Monday, Trivium Tuesday, Titus 2sday, Teach Me Tuesday, Hip Homeschool Hop, Titus 2 Tuesday, Delicious Dishes, Open Call Tuesday, Tiny Tip Tuesday, Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, Works For Me Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Whole Food Wednesday, Allergy-Free Wednesday, The Mommy Club, Encourage One Another, Thought Provoking Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Homemaking Link Up, Keep it Real Thursday, Frugal Thursday Rewind, Your Green Resource, Homeschooling on the Cheap, Thrifty Thursday, Fellowship Friday, Fight Back Friday, I'm Lovin' It, Weekend Bloggy Reading, Weekend Whatever, Snacktime Saturday