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Sunday, July 18, 2010

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Getting Over the Guilt: Semi-Homemade Baby Food

New moms are faced with lots of choices: Breast or bottle? Crib or co-sleep? Cloth or disposable? To circ or not to circ? etc, etc...

As I eased into motherhood, I answered these questions, one at a time, in the best way I knew how, and with the well being of my family in mind. One that didn't require much thought was the question of baby food: Homemade or store-bought jars? From day one, I fully planned to make my own baby food from scratch. I strive to eat homemade foods myself, so it only seemed natural that I would feed my baby that way, too.

I knew it would take a little more time than just opening a jar, but I didn't care. I'll admit that it's easy to get caught up in the SuperMom must-do-it-all mentality. Like other moms, I want the best for my son and I like as much control as possible over all the things that effect him, including his food. I get all squishy over the idea of growing some of his food and carefully selecting the rest from local farmstands, and preparing it with love with my own hands (If some moms do it, then I should be able to, too, right?)

But I have to be realistic. I work just shy of 40 hours a week, I blog, I have several other projects that I'm trying to bring to life, I have a house to take care of, I have a husband I like spending time with, and I like to shower once in a while. It keeps me hopping, to say the least.

So, as much as I like the thought of making my own baby food, I seem to have fallen into a groove I didn't expect – semi-homemade baby food. At first, I felt a little guilty each time I put those little jars into my cart, but over the past few weeks I got to really thinking about it, and it occurred to me that I really like this idea! I'd been beating myself up for not making everything 100% from scratch, but then I realized that this way just makes so much more sense!

Here's what's working for me:
We have a pretty large garden, but there are lots of variables. The weather has ruined some crops, some didn't produce as much as we had hoped, and some things just aren't in season yet (butternut squash!) So, we are picking what we can when we can and pureeing it up as our son grows into the need for it. In the beginning when he was just eating single purees, this was OK. But now that he's been introduced to several things, I want a bigger variety in his diet.

I've also been hoarding coupons for Earth's Best organic baby food. I won't budge on the organic, and it can be a little more expensive, so coupons are a nice bonus. The website has coupons, and you can find them on Earth's Best cereal boxes and, occasionally, in a multipack of jars (Usually $1 off either 7 or 10 jars.) I like to buy Earth's Best in single fruit and veggie purees, like pears or carrots, so I can use them in recipes for my son or even for the whole family (add to pasta sauce, casseroles, or use as an egg replacement in vegan baking recipes.) Plus, Earth's Best offers these in value packs, which are a great value if you find a sale and use a few coupons.

I also really like Sprout baby food.

It's very well made, all organic with no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. The founder of the brand is Chef Tyler Florence and the flavors are really creative, like baby carrot, apple and mango, or peach rice pudding. These are fun because they provide interesting flavor combinations that I can base my baby food creations on.

When I first started out making purees, I made peaches, peas, and a few others, but I really had trouble finding the items I wanted in an organic option. And sometimes, when I did, the prices were sky high. This is where the jarred baby food comes in handy. If you are careful about checking price per ounce, you may find the organic jars cheaper. (Like fresh organic pears vs. Earth's Best stage 2 jars...the jars are often a much better bargain!) Now that I'm stocked up on jars, all I have to do is pay attention to the local organic scene and stock up when I see things at good prices. Like today, I found organic peaches at a lower-than-usual price, so I grabbed a few to add in a mix with the bananas and a mango I already had.

As for grains, I like to buy these in bulk. We haven't introduced many yet, but brown rice and oats are favorites right now. They can add fiber and nutrients, along with bulk, to stretch out your more pricey fruits and veggies (don't stretch too much, of course.)

Here are a few examples of semi-homemade baby food:

Peach & Brown Rice Breakfast: Tonight we are having pulled pork, brown rice and mango wraps, so I'll cook up extra rice for my son's food. I will then add that to the fresh organic peaches I bought, along with a little cardamom and nutmeg (a recipe inspired by Tyler Florence's Sprout.) This will be frozen in ice cube trays and use for breakfasts...I expect about 8 servings.

Peas and Brown Rice: We still have a bag of peas from the garden in the freezer, so any leftover brown rice with be blended with those, frozen into cubes, and blended with breastmilk whenever I thaw and serve. A jar of apples or squash could be added, as well, for variety and nutrient value.

Avocado, Pear and Oat: I have an avocado to use up, so we may use that, too, in our wraps tonight. We only use about 1/2 between us, so the other half will be blended with a few jars of Earth's Best pear puree and some of the organic oats the husbo and I use for breakfast. Again, this will be frozen in cubes, and probably mixed with a bit of breastmilk to thin after thawing. The avocado has super healthy fats for a growing baby, but the pear and oats help stretch it out a bit so it isn't served all in one high-fat meal.

Roasted Banana and Sweet Potato: I have some organic sweet potatoes that I plan to use later in the week (I plan to stuff them with black beans and a Sunshine Burger.) Since the oven will already be on, I'll throw in an extra potato and a banana to roast until they are both sweet and flavorful. When they are finished roasting, I'll blend them with some organic applesauce and freeze into cubes. (Once my boy is a bit older and I introduce beans, I might leave out the banana and blend the potato with carrots and a few mashed black beans.)

Get the idea? It's all about using what you have, adding what's in season and what you can afford, and planning your meals and your baby's meals so that they synch up. And when the day gets away from you, as it inevitably will on occasion, you will always have a few jars of organic baby food on hand, and maybe a few servings of one of your recipes in the freezer, so you'll never have to say, "Oh, I'm too busy, I'll just give him ________." and feel badly about it later.

And, as anyone who eats local, seasonal foods will tell you, you do sacrifice variety when you choose to eat this way. When a certain fruit or veggie is in season, you eat it–lots of it–until it's gone, and then you move on to the next. So, actually, in my quest to provide my son with as much colorful, flavorful variety as possible, I could actually be doing him a disservice by relying solely on whatever happens to be plentiful in my local area. By incorporating some organic jarred foods, I can round out his diet in a way that would otherwise be nearly impossible, or at the very least, quite expensive.

I find making baby food to be just as rewarding as breastfeeding, cloth diapering, and all the other things that I feel are best, even though they consume a little more time. But I allow myself to bend a little, without ever having to bend so far as to give my precious boy anything processed or full of pesticides.

So I'm hanging up my cape. I'm surely not SuperMom, but I guarantee you that I feel good about every bite that goes into his little mouth!

By Wendy K.


Sarahjenne said...

Thanks for the ideas! I always thought I would make all my baby's food from scratch. That didn't happen, but we found Earth's Best to be a good alternative. I like your semi-homemade ideas.

girlsmom0406 said...

I love the title of this post, many moms do need to get over the guilt, we do the best we can with the time and resources we have. I made my own baby food with my first two children when I was a stay at home mom and I did love it and found it to be rewarding. Our third is 7 months old and just finally starting to really eat solids and I just don't have time. 3 kids, going back to school, working, caring for the house, cooking for the rest of the family and trying not to forget my husband along the way it just isn't possible. We don't even do organic baby food for the most part due to the expense, but I lost that mommy guilt somewhere after my second child. I doubt we'll do purees long anyways if he takes after my older two and then he'll be eating whatever we are, makes life much easier!

Amanda C

Laura W. said...

I enjoyed this article a lot. I've found that since becoming a mom I have a huge weight of guilt over my shoulders for all sorts of little things. I fully intended to make my own baby food for my son, and I still haven't really gotten around to it. He's almost a year old. I try to buy Earth's Best because it's organic, but it is quite expensive, sometimes even with coupons.

Mrs. Poland said...

I do this too! Buy organic baby food jars (in Canada we have a really great brand thats the same price as the non-organic) and than ill mix it with homemade stuff.
Great recipe/combo ideas!

Christine said...

I, too, fell into the guilt trap when I started buying more purees than I could make. She started needing finger foods and meats, and I just didn't have time to make that many.

It wasn't until she was able to eat what we eat that my guilt really went away.

I compromised with beachnut. Felt like a good compromise to me.

I've added one more thing that I make, however, and it's really helped the budget and my guilt factor. I now make my own yogurt. it's so easy, and she loves it. All it costs me is a 1/2 gallon of milk a week. Easy peasy!!!

Caite said...

I agree! I tried to make my own food 100% of the time and I couldn't keep up! So I tried Earth's Best and Sprout. Both have a wonderful array of different flavors and textures.

Love your ideas!

S.Hungerford said...

These are awesome ideas.

Hannah said...

I got a lot of purees (non-organic of course) from WIC and they were helpful for my budget and quite convenient. I did some of the things you did by mixing them into different combos or adding things that we were eating, especially when my LO developed a strong preference for finger food.

Baby food meat + pasta or rice = baby casserole

Baby apple-blueberry sauce + "real oatmeal" = yummy breakfast

Baby sweet potatoes can be baked into baby mini-muffins

nic and krista said...

I think women are too hard on themselves trying to do everything just right for their kids. I feed my baby jarred food and don't feel guilty one bit. I know there is a "better" way to feed him but I'm not going to burn myself out trying to do everything. To me it's more important to spend time playing with my kids and having fun with them!

Sisrea said...

I made some of my girls baby food. i tried to make it as much as an easy thing as possible and didn't stress about it too much. With twins i did what i could. When i couldn't make my own i tried to do orgainic when possible.

Mrs said...

You certainly wear a lot of hats and Kudos to you for making it all work!! You are certainly an inspiration. With our first we gave him Earth's Best and mashed banana's and potatos from home on occasion. This time around I will try "bending" more to incorporate MORE homemade options vs. always relying on organics in a jar.

Rita said...

I felt the pressure to have COMPLETELY made from scratch meals for my baby come off my shoulders when my mom said, "Rita, every element of YOUR meals isn't completely made from scratch, but that doesn't make it unhealthy. Just make wise decisions and stop making yourself so stressed out!" So true!! "Getting over the Guilt" is so right!! Great article!

Domestic Goddess said...

You may think you've hung up your cape, but you sound like Super Mom to me! Great ideas; thank you for sharing them. I strive to improve my kids' environment each day, and since eating is part of that, I truly appreciate all the ideas you just gave me. Many thanks, and keep up the great work!

Stephanie said...

Both of my kids have transitioned to table food early - away from spoon feeding. Mys on is almost 8 months,a nd he prefers to feed himself already - Cheerios, tiny pieces of cooked apple, peas, etc. My daughter made the change just after 8 months. But, I have only bought one set of "jarred" baby food - apple sauce while we were traveling. It is fairly easy, and I don't have to remember to buy it at a normal store (since I do most of the grocery shopping at Costco).

Nancy said...

Love the semi-homemade ideas! Great post. Side note- Tyler Florence has a lot of great (easy) baby food recipes in his cook books.

Kitty said...

This is a fantastic post! I'm trying to introduce solids to my almost 7-month old daughter, and aiming to make it all myself. I'm a stay at home mom, so I don't have any "excuse" not to, but it's still tough sometimes. You have some great ideas and recipes, and reaffirmed what I've heard about Sprout baby food. I've been thinking of getting some for lazy nights or as supplemental meals. As for your idea with organic sweet potatoes stuffed with black beans and a Sunshine Burger... WOW YUM~! I'm totally going to make that for us! (although we're veg/vegan so if sunshine burger is actually meat, I'll substitute Meatless Ground).

Another stumbling block I have about making my own baby food for Maddie is knowing whether I'm doing it "right". Does every food need to be introduced individually before giving her mixes? When can spices be introduced? So far she is a very reluctant eater, but I'm not sure if it's just because they are new tastes, if the tastes are too strong (I've been doing steamed veggies pureed and mixed with breastmilk), or if she's just not into eating yet despite a STRONG interest in whatever mommy and daddy are eating. So many questions!

Diana said...

Thanks for the ideas! I love the idea of making my own baby food too, but the reality is that won't be able to do exclusively it with CDing, making homemade bread, and the needs of the rest of the family!

Natalie said...

This is great information. My son is only 4 months, so we're not quite ready yet. I planned to make all of his food, and I might not feel so guilty now if I can't.

wendy @ ABCs and Garden Peas said...

@ Moderator can you please use this comment and delete my other?

@ Kitty....thanks for commenting and expressing your concerns. I had many of the same questions at first, too, but I've worked through most of them. I am by no means an expert, but I'd be happy to chat with you about any questions you may have!

That goes for any of the other readers, as well. Visit me at my blog, or email at wendykate99@yahoo dot com

Thanks to all for your comments!

SarahJ said...

Thank you so much for sharing ideas about semi homemade baby food. I've been making pureed fruits and veggies for my 7-month-old daughter since starting solids a month ago. I love your ideas for incorporating commercial baby food for variety in meals with several ingredients. I'm sure I'll be using these recipes soon!

Kristen S. said...

I made my own as well until work got to overwhelming. DD is 2 and still likes her veggies pureed and I LOVE the Sprout brand. Even DH has been caught tasting it!

Lissy said...

I loved this site for deciding when to intro food.

This is a good one too

Manda said...

I haven't read the other comments, but I have only a minute right now. Baby-led weaning is something I haven't done exactly but I think makes a lot of sense. I just read this post. You might like it, too: