9 Tips For Low Cost Yet Healthy Baby Food
Having a baby is such a daunting and emotional experience. No wonder there are thousands of books and blogs telling us the dos and don’ts – it can be mind-boggling!
So don’t worry, you’re not alone. Whether this is your first baby or your fifth, the beginning stages of a baby’s life can be hard on the budget and time consuming.
Here are key habits to feeding your baby the healthiest options in his/her beginning stages of eating without breaking the bank:
One of the healthiest cost savers you can do is nurse your baby for as long as possible.
Not everyone can or chooses to do it, but there is no doubt that breastfeeding easily saves you thousands over the course of a year or two versus purchasing formula.
It also has many immunity and bonding benefits, but the point is, save your dough when you can! Kids only get more expensive.
2. Home Cooked Is the Name of the Game
The best thing you can do is to make your own food. If you plan ahead and take just a few hours every 1-2 weeks to prepare the meals and freeze or refrigerate them, you’ll save hundreds over a year.
You will need a few items handy in order to make them. This includes a blender or processer, freezer safe containers, which can be found in most large retailers or grocers (or use the age old ice cube trays) and pots or steamers for cooking.
Most baby foods simply need to be washed, peeled, de-seeded, diced up and boiled or steamed for a few minutes until they can be easily pureed.
Add water if necessary (I made this mistake once. Sticky foods like sweet potatoes are hard to swallow without added water when you’re 6 months old!) Best to use the boiled water from the pot so it’s purified.
During the first 9-10 months most of your baby’s nutrients come from breast milk or formula, so new foods will be a game of trial and error. You are gearing them up for healthy eating habits later on.
If your baby won’t eat solids, just speak with your doctor to put your mind at ease.
Bonus tip: As your child gets older, avoid having to make multiple meals for your family by keeping a food processor handy to simply puree or dice up the family dinner right before you all sit down. Let’s hope you are not too busy for family dinners!
3. Try Before You Buy in Bulk
Though it is often said it can take 20 tries before your baby decides if he/she likes a food, consider that your baby (like mine) may never take to pureed peas no matter how you doctor them up.
Save your pennies by only purchasing enough for maybe 5 servings while you are testing your babies’ taste buds.
Also remember most doctors recommend spacing out new foods by 3 days to keep an eye on allergic reactions.
If it’s a hit, freeze another 7-8 servings. Otherwise, if it’s not move on to something else and return later when it’s back on sale!
Keep in mind at any point in time your baby may protest any food. We threw away many a jar of peas and spinach until our daughter could eat the foods in solid form.
4. Buy Locally Grown or In-season Foods
You can often get organic and all natural options at a lower cost if you purchase in-season produce, because there is a larger supply prices are lower [Econ 101!].
Also, it’s often cheaper to purchase locally grown at a farmer’s market than at an organic grocer.
Organic and local in-season foods taste better, because they are grown in their natural environment. Due to long treks to the store from far away places; non-seasonal foods begin to deplete their nutrients faster than in-season foods. They are more nutrient dense than those out of season foods. You can learn more here.
Are you wondering about frozen or canned fruits and veggies? Rule of thumb is fresh it best, second to that is frozen and third is canned. Just keep that order in mind and if you are truly tight on your budget, just try to at least incorporate some fresh in most meals.
Bonus tips: To truly save on costs, educate yourself on which fruits and vegetables are exposed to pesticides. Here is a handy list that can help calling out the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen”.
Better yet, if you can grow some of your veggies or fruits yourself you’ll save a bunch –Talk about cheap & locally grown!
5. Get Creative
Mix it up for baby, just for fun or if he/she is picky. As long as you have 1 fruit or sweet veggies, babies tend to love this.
I stole a few ideas from my sister including the “Nectarini”.
No it’s not a martini for your baby, rather is a combination of nectarines and zucchini – delish!
Other simpler options are apples and carrots or pears and squash.
Hint: Add some baby-approved spices for flavor like ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and garlic.
6. Know the Foods that Pack the Punch
For some veteran moms this may be obvious, but the most nutrient dense foods with naturally existing vitamins for baby are: Carrots, Peas, Sweet potato, Squash, Avocado, Bananas, Pears, Apples, Oatmeal or Rice Cereal & Prunes.
For about the first 9 months you’ll want to stick with just vegetables, fruits and whole grains for baby alongside his/her milk or formula.
Still, it’s important to speak to your child’s doctor for recommendations and warnings. You can also refer to this age-by-age guide on baby center.com.
7. Avoid Purchasing the ‘Baby Snacks’
There is nothing innately wrong here, but consider avoiding the snacks for young babies. They can be tempting for teething or when you are on the go, but the extra costs add up.
Look into all natural snacks everyone can eat and buy in larger portions.
Also, many teething snacks are marketed to us as if the baby needs it, but babies also like to teeth on things like frozen washcloths or frozen bagels. Talk to your pediatrician here too.
Though many baby snacks are fortified with vitamins, its still best to get the nutrients straight from their source. If you have a picky eater like we do, snacking can be a dangerous habit when it comes to mealtime.
8. It’s OKAY to Buy Prepackaged [sometimes]
If you are a busy mom [who isn’t?] or if you want baby to try some new foods that you can’t find at your local grocer, it can be useful to purchase some [ideally organic] baby foods.
Try to find coupons or sales whenever possible. Larger retailers like Target or Wal-Mart often have the best deals and varieties. Sometimes it is more economical to do this, just choose your battle. For instance, our daughter loved the blueberry, banana and beet combination pouch by Happy Baby brand.
This may save you time and money if you discover your baby has a skin allergy or digestive reaction to one of these new foods.
9. Have Patience [with yourself and your baby]
Being a baby is exhausting and so is being a parent. This is a trying time for both of you! You will be throwing away food, wiping it off the walls and possibly crying over the time you spent preparing everything just right to have them spit it all up.
It happens to the best of us and the sooner you learn to pick your money and health battles, the more energy and sanity you will have left for those teenager years. Good luck and remember this time will go fast as we’ve learned.