Thursday, December 30, 2010

Summing Up Suppers

Christmas has come and passed with much busyness, joy, and unfortunately, sickness. Thankfully though, the latter only affected me and not my husband or daughter. Sadly, it has been more than a week since my last post, and sadly, I am not able to post exactly what I wanted to at the close of this baby food month. What I am able to post is a basic summary of how fast and easy it can be to make your own baby food, equipment you might need and methods you may want to use.
I know making your own baby food can sound intimidating. My mother made baby food for me and my siblings and I was still unsure of what to do or where to start. But it doesn't have to be a big deal. Here are some quick tips for getting started:
1. begin with green vegetables, then orange vegetables, then fruits
2. only introduce one new food at a time so that you can watch for any allergic reactions and how your baby handles the new food (pay attention to gas, constipation, fussiness, etc.)
3. keep in mind the texture of foods. Even when blended, certain foods are grainy, slimy, etc. Textures won't harm you baby of course, but generally it is best to use the smoothest foods first.
Have fun in the produce aisle. Experiment with lots of colour and variety. If you find your baby has a reaction to a certain food that's okay. Just eliminate it, talk with you doctor and perhaps you can reintroduce it later.
Now, here's the part that I was hoping to be able to do a little differently. Equipment. I have found you don't need much, and it doesn't have to be hi-tech. I use a normal blender, a soup pot with a steaming basket, and a few large ice cube trays. There is a lot of baby food making equipment on the market, and while most of it looks great, and sounds fun, if you're worried about cost, I'm living proof that you can manage without it. I myself was taken with Scandinavian Child's line of baby food gear (sold by William Sonoma) and was close to purchasing some of it, but after having questions about the materials used to make their products and contacting the company about it, and receiving a promise from one of their representatives to answer my questions, I have yet to hear back from them. Because of this, I don't feel comfortable recommending their products, and can state here that I certainly won't be. I didn't think it would take a month to find out what kind of plastic is used to make a certain product (even though their website states two different things on two different pages).
As for methods, there are several to choose from. First, there is the single food method, in which you cook or steam one type of food at a time and freeze it separately. When you want to make a supper, you simply grab the individual foods needed and mix them together ie: one cube each of chicken, peas, carrots and two cubes of rice would make a "chicken casserole".
There is also the meal method, in which you cook and blend all the ingredients for a meal together, and then when you want to prepare a meal, you just have to grab however many cubes of that meal ie: blending together and freezing ground beef, tomato, spinach and whole wheat pasta creates "cheeseless lasagna".
The third method is the fresh method, and the name speaks for itself. You prepare meals as needed, keeping them in the fridge for up to three days, or simply blend a small portion of whatever you are having for supper.
There is no right or wrong way to go about making baby food. Any of these methods may work for you. I myself use a combination of the meal and the fresh methods. The meal method works well for me because I can stockpile a fair bit of baby food on the freezer (it keeps for 5-8 months in a deep freezer) and use it as needed, and when I'm in a hurry. The fresh method also works well for me now partly because freezer space has become precious, and also because my daughter is now eating a lot of finger foods and is more tolerant of seasonings (although I still try to be extremely careful of sodium content).
Lastly, there is the issue of cost. I don't have time to go into great detail, but I will give you a basic break down. I know costs vary from place to place, but a large jar of baby food around here costs between $0.70 - $0.80 each. My daughter eats one large jar of baby food per meal, plus a small amount of some type of finger food of filler. After making a variety of food cubes using the meal method, I found that a meal for my 10 month old costs between $0.40 - $0.55, depending on what I make.
All in all, I have learned that the benefits of making my daughter's baby food far outweigh any extra effort on my part to make it possible, and I have even found it to be fun and certainly rewarding as I see my daughter enjoying such a wide variety of foods and getting excited about meal time.... even learning to say "yumyum", although it comes out as "mummum"

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