Since my son started eating solid food, I have saved lots of money by making my own "baby" and "toddler" foods for him, armed with my blender, a few ice cube trays, self sealing freezer wrap, and some reusable freezer containers.
When he was eating "baby" food, I would blend up frozen peas and beans, canned peaches and pears, etc., until smooth, and then freeze them into cubes. I stored the frozen cubes in ziplocks, and would pop one or two out for each meal. I would also do this for mashed ripe bananas, and avocado, or buy a can of pumpkin (not flavored - but plain pumpkin) and cube those as well. When pears and apples were in season, we harvested from a friend's tree and cooked up our own, pureed it well, and made more cubes. Another favorite was lentil soup, pureed right out of the can and then frozen. I would make brown rice or white rice cubes out of leftovers from our dinners, and then mix the frozen rice with the frozen lentil soup for a great meal for him. He loved it!
Now that he is a toddler, I am always looking for quick meals for his lunch at daycare without purchasing the processed stuff. His current favorite is Pasta Pucks:
Cook the pasta according to directions. While it is cooking, put the jar of sauce and can of beans into the blender and blend until smooth. Add the sauce/bean mix to the cooked pasta and add any additional seasonings you like (I add some grated cheese and oregano). Freeze in muffin cups (with papers) or in silicone muffin pans. You can also freeze in small reusable freezer containers. I use the silicone pans, then pop the "pucks" out and put them in a ziplock. One puck for lunch was good from age 1-2, and now he is eating 2 pucks. Saves lots of time for both me and the babysitter, and he gets a good lunch with lots of added fiber/nutrients from the beans. The cost for about 10-16 meals - about $3.00!
We also make a double batch of waffles on the weekend (the big ones that divide into squares) and freeze the extra squares in press-n-seal paper. When the little guy wants a waffle during the week, I can grab one easily, and don't have to buy the commercial ones. You don't need a big freezer to do this, we just have the one on top of our fridge, and it has worked just great!
This sounds like a good idea. I have a 2 yr old and am always looking for freezer recipes and alternatives to store bought convenience foods. I like to make meatballs out of lean ground beef and flash freeze for about 2 hrs then put them into a zip lock bag. They can be thawed out quickly for spaghetti for supper or served up for lunch with everyones favorite dipping sauces. Add some veggies and you have a kid friendly and mom approved meal!
I have never thought of beans in the macaroni and cheese! I always sneak in pumpkin puree, which blends in well (3 cubes ) so this is a great hint for extra protien!
When my son was young, I was working such long hours that I went brain-dead and bought all baby/toddler foods for daycare. To this day, I cannot believe that I wasted so much money by not making homemade food for him. The saved money would have been a great start for his college fund. I salute you and your efforts.
Since this is a site for "Thrifty" tips, I would go one step further and cook everything from fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables. This is much cheaper, healthier, and eliminates all the salt, preservatives, sugar and other additives in canned products. For example, instead of using canned pumpkin, simple put an unpeeled piece of pumpkin on a tray in the oven at 400 F for about an hour (check for doneness with a skewer). To use, scoop out of the skin. For adults you can add seasoning. Likewise, there is no need to use canned fruit - just stew seasonal fresh fruit if the baby is too young to eat it raw.
It takes very little extra time to steam, bake or microwave fresh produce, and the outcome is much cheaper, healthier and tastier.
Brenda in Australia
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