Living on one income can sometimes be a challenge. We are lucky that we do not live paycheck to paycheck but part of that comes from being smart with our money. I am always looking for ways to stretch my dollar. We like to be able to go out to dinner once a month and we also like to try and set money aside for mini vacations (like Maine this summer) or family passes to local venues (the Paddle Club last summer and hopefully this summer again). In order to do that I need to make the most of each dollar we spend.
One way I do this is to make most of my own baby food. Babies don't eat that much in the beginning. I have breastfed all three of my children which keeps the cost for the first 4 to 6 months super low (just a few extra calories for me!) but eventually they need more than just breast milk.
When Madeline started eating baby food I decided I would make my own. I did go to the store and buy the baby cereal and while I was there I looked at the prices on the jars. I thought "Hmm, $1 for a pack of 2 containers of peaches. Not bad." Then I realized those two packages might be about 4 meals in the beginning but they would slowly become one meal each. And what happens when Madeline started eating more than 1 jar of food per meal? I started adding it up in my head and I realized that feeding her was going to add a lot more onto my grocery bill than I had originally thought if I chose to use the jars. This reinforced my decision to make most of my own baby food.
I do buy some jars, when it is on sale, to have for traveling or if I fall behind in my homemade stash. I pay at least $1 for what would amount to between 2- 4 meals. If I make it from home not only does my money go further but I know exactly what is in it. No extra preservatives when I cook!
With Madeline and Owen I kept it simple, I pureed vegetables and fruit that we had in the house and mixed them with store bought baby cereal or fed them plain. It worked and I never spent tons of money on the prepackaged stuff. I did buy the pureed meats because I just didn't think I could puree my own. Now I know better. But I still hate the smell of pureed meats so I simply waited until Ben had teeth before introducing meats to him.
With Ben I am getting a little more creative. I'm not sure why I am getting more creative as a I have less time but it is working! I found a great website called Wholesome Baby Food. This is the BEST baby food website ever. I even found a way to make my own baby cereal. I never knew how simple it was and I wish I had known about this for Owen and Madeline.
Today I was looking around the website and found a page that teaches how to make your own baby teething biscuits. This is something I am very excited to try. Both Madeline and Owen loved these and loved to make a mess with these. Ben is just starting to discover them and he also loves his crunchies and his puffs that are made by Gerber. We can get them for a decent price at BJ's. But when I found the recipe for Oats and "Naner Drops I knew I had to try them. I made a batch this afternoon and they were very very easy. Jon tried one and even he liked it. Jon liking a cookie made without sugar is not something that happens very often. I am hopeful that these cookies will be something that Madeline and Owen like as well.
This evening I set aside some time to make baby food for Ben. Jon was home and it was a good time for me to get this done. I set out to make two veggies and one fruit. All I needed was my steamer (which I love for all of my vegetables), my food processor (a blender works well also) and some ice cube trays. When I made Ben's food tonight I spent much less than I would have in the store. It took about an hour to make and clean up from everything. But in the end I have enough peas, carrots and peaches to last about a week for about $1.63. I used 1/2 a bag of frozen peas (50 cents), 1/3 bag of organic baby carrots (33 cents) and 1/3 a bag of frozen peaches (about 80 cents). If I had bought the prepackaged baby food it would have cost me about $7 and that is if I was able to buy it on sale. I put the pureed fruits and vegetables into ice cube trays to freeze over night. In the morning I will pop out the cubes and put them into freezer storage containers. At each meal I will take out one or two cubes and microwave them for about 25 seconds. And breakfast/lunch/dinner for Ben is done.
Ben is also starting to progress to finger foods. I have never bought a prepackaged meal of finger foods. That seems silly to me. I can very easily cut up whatever we are eating for dinner and feed it to Ben for much less than the cost of a prepackaged meal. The other night we had meatballs and pasta. Ben at some of the meatball cut up as well as some noodles. I don't know how much it cost but since most of my dinners cost less than $5 for four of us I know it was less than $1! For dinner tonight he ate some leftover chicken cut into bit sized pieces, small pieces of mozzarella cheese stick, pureed blueberries with yogurt, sweet potatoes, some Gerber crunchies and some crackers. He was a hungry boy at dinner.
It takes a few extra minutes to make my own baby food and with three kids extra time can be hard to find. One way I work around this is to cook the food in batches like I did today. For me the time is worth the money I save.