I bought the hand-grinder, (around ten dollars) and used it every day. I would save out single ingredients (before mixing/seasoning, and so on: for example, if I was making chili, I would save some plain ground beef for the baby, as well as a few plain kidney beans). I was careful to read labels, and bought items with less salt, etc.) I didn't use salt, sugar, or other unnecessary ingredients.
I also kept a bag or two of plain veggies in the freezer, so I could have some veggies for her if we were having salad, or the like. For the "starch", I often used pastina or nuked a potato, and fork-mashed it.
I had a Tupperware divided dish that I used and made double quantities, so I could save some for the next day's lunch.
I did the ice cube tray thing early on, when we were just introducing foods, so that they might be eating all squash for a week. Later I did it occasionally so that I always had a convenient back up.
My father-in-law thought the grinder was the neatest thing he ever saw, when I first whipped it out at Thanksgiving dinner to grind some turkey and carrots. (She also had mashed potatoes that I gleaned from the kitchen before the butter and milk were added.) My mother-in-law tended to cook like I did--without salt, etc.; so it was always easy to get what we needed.
As a pediatric occupational therapist, I also believe the varied textures of the foods made the adjustment to "real" foods seamless. My kids would eat anything I offered them.
One thing (speaking as a therapist): parents, please be reminded that it can take your baby up to 12 times to try a new food before they will accept a new flavor. Don't offer it once or twice, then stop, because they didn't accept it! (That is how we get kids with a repertoire of four or five things they'll eat!)
By Anne Case
When he got a little older, I bought 100% Juicy Juice and mixed it with a little water instead of paying almost $3.00 for little bottles of "baby juice". I also bought MOTT'S no sugar added applesauce in different flavors instead of baby applesauce.
When he graduated to finger foods, instead of buying Gerber Graduates I bought single serving size veggies at Wal-Mart (they come in little one serve containers like Jello) and then I rinsed them very well and just put them on his high chair tray. I also feed my son some of whatever we are having for dinner if it isn't too spicy or hard to chew. He has had no allergic reactions to anything. He also ate things like cottage cheese or chunks of banana.
I probably have at least 10 books that I own, purchased at Half Price books and given to me. The Internet is also a resource for ideas.
Use a blender, cheap grinder or a fork. Remember, your infant doesn't need any food other than breast milk until he is at least 6 months old. And, he doesn't need any teeth. Don't continue to feed an 8 or 9 month old baby only finely pureed foods; it isn't necessary.
Google: making homemade baby food. If you truly want/need to save money, don't waste it on convenience foods.
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When my daughter began solid foods, I was shocked at the price of jarred baby food! It is easy to make your own, and is much, much cheaper!
When my daughters were babies, I would mix cottage cheese in with their applesauce to give them extra calcium. This was really important when my middle daughter decided she didn't want a bottle at nine months.
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I am thinking about making baby food for our second child so at the store today I checked out the frozen fruit choices. I was amazed that 2 pounds of peaches were $4. If I did the math right, I would get 8 -- 4 oz jars of fruit. I know I would have to add water or baby cereal but I thinking straight numbers here. I can buy baby food 4 oz jars for 50 cents each, so basically my cost is the same.
Mindy....I live in your neck of the woods....I cooked and blended foods for both my boys (except with the youngest I did buy some that we normally didn't eat, but switched to "canned" alternatives, like pumpkin (Libby's). If you have a Winco in the area, their prices are the best for frozen veggies, this will cut down the prep time and guarantee the best in terms of vitamins. Cook them until they are just soft (not for the full time) then puree in blender by slowly adding the broth. Freeze in ice cube trays and pop out one-two for a serving (equals about 1-2 tblsp.) This is also handy when you have to go out, as the cubes can defrost! I did the split peas for awhile, as I was on WIC, but frozen peas do not usually have extra salt. You can go fresh if you have a garden, but still buy carrots frozen, as the AAP has warned about nitrates in soil and the carrots can make it worse, so stick with frozen or canned for that (as they are all pre-cooked.)
I also prepped rice based dishes with that, and they ate meats at 6 months (my oldest ate Moose for 6 months, and boy did he grow!) They are easy in the blender too. Buy your applesauce and juice in the regular aisles, don't fall for the fancy baby packaging! You don't have to cook bananas before serving, so that is the easiest baby food! For special cookies, there are many recipes, but zwieback is a nice treat (unsalted crackers are a must during teething!) I also make oatmeal cookies and omit the chips, especially for after doc appointments (cookies are mandatory.) But especially during Thanksgiving, try buying the cans of pumpkin on sale, and if the baby doesn't like them, Nestle/Libby have great recipes for brownies, pies, cakes, etc and they are great for thickening soups. My babies still need their veggies snuck in to their diet, though they eat better compared to most kids (please, only whole grain wheat toast!)
I made pureed food from vegies and fruits for both my children when they were infants, and even as they were toddlers and the textures began to change. It is true that it is easier to teach kids about good foods and flavors if you use real stuff from the get-go. In fact, my boys now ask for things like asparagus, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes (real, not canned), blueberries, etc, etc, and they prefer my home canned applesauce (without sweetners) to store sauce. My method was to steam a bunch of a certain veggie or fruit, and then puree when it was still somewhat crunchy. Then, I would freeze in small containers and only use what I needed. I also pumped and froze breast milk to mix with cereals. To this day, my boys are good eaters and prefer natural to processed. So, even if it doesn't seem like you are saving money in the short run, you are teaching healthy eating habits an a taste for quality!