Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Gena Bigler: Babies are expensive, but baby food – homemade – is easy and economical
Babies are expensive. There are disposable diapers and baby wipe warmers and a million other things our grandmothers would shake their heads at. There are entire ‘travel systems’ now for the tiny tot. According to CNN the average cost of raising a child to age eighteen, BEFORE college is a staggering $226,920. That doesn’t include luxuries like organic baby food even though some pediatricians, like Elizabeth Knapp MD, believe limiting exposure to toxins and pesticides is critical during the ‘brain building’ first two years. Knapp fully supports providing the growing infant with organic foods to avoid unnecessary toxins.
At nearly a dollar per 4 ounce jar, the cost adds up fast. When you consider the nutritional content of those tiny jars, it’s pretty motivating to make it yourself. While some of the organic brands are nutritionally sound, some of the baby food companies add ‘filler’ ingredients that replace nutritious foods. Things like flours (believed to cause allergies if introduced too early) and starches are used as
There is a mystique about those little jars. Can you really produce better food in your kitchen than the billion dollar baby food industry can? Yes, you can. It isn’t even that hard.
Making your own baby food allows you to control what goes in the food and it is extremely cost efficient. There may be some initial cost if you don’t already own a blender, food processor or food mill. Quite a few first foods require only a fork to mash them. There are tons of specialty products you can buy and most are expensive. With my first child I used our food processor or blender to make her food, for our son I have a Baby Bullet we received as a gift. I love it, it’s small and I can make small batches of food very quickly with minimal waste. I especially love the little cups with date dial tops. I wish I could buy an entire full sized set of containers with that feature. To store your homemade food you can buy tiny containers made specifically for that purpose or you can use an ice tray you already have. Freeze the food in the tray and then transfer to a storage bag. You can pull out a cube at a time for feeding.
I’ve just started introducing my little boy to food. In less time than it took to make my lunch I made six little containers of organic sweet potatoes for him. I know exactly what is in it, organic sweet potato and water. No added starches, no wheat products, no added fructose, it is just simple food. One small organic sweet potato filled six little containers in less than 15 minutes.
When it’s that fast, easy and inexpensive, I wonder how Gerber continues to convince millions of parents to buy their little jars. Until the 1920’s when baby food came on the market, all baby food was homemade. By promoting convenience and ‘scientific feeding’ the little jars took over kitchen shelves across the country. It’s a shame marketing convinced generations of parents that homemade wasn’t as
good for babies as premade.
I’ve heard friends talk about trying to make their own baby food with trepidation. They expected it to be hard and time consuming. Some even bought expensive machines that only make baby food before delving in to try. It would be very easy to spend a fortune on the accessories billed as necessities to make your own baby food. The reality is all you really need is good food and a fork.
There are some foods that babies shouldn’t have during the first year. You can find that list in most baby books or from your child’s doctor.
A big part of nutrition is actually getting the baby to eat the food. Just like us, they are more likely to eat food that tastes good. If you are still on the fence about your own baby food, do a taste test. Try the jar stuff and then try the home made. Which would you prefer to eat?
Homemade baby food is delicious, easy to make, inexpensive and more nutritious than premade. You can make your own; all you need is good food and a fork.
Gena Bigler is passionate about public service and credits her time serving nonprofits in AmeriCorps and Volunteers in Service to America (V.I.S.T.A.) with teaching her extreme budgeting and bargain shopping. Gena is now CFO of a Kentucky business and serves on the board of the Kentucky RiverKeeper. Gena would be happy to hear from you at email@example.com.