Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Our family's foray into homemade baby food.

So I'm just gonna put this out there: I'm not really an all-natural kinda girl.  My groceries are not all organic, I have never been to Trader Joe's, and my guilty pleasure is Ramen know, the block of noodles with the extra salty packet of flavoring?  I may or may not have eaten two today.

It wasn't until we got pregnant that I even put much thought into what I put in my body, because, well, I wasn't just eating for myself anymore.  I did a lot of reading on the do's and don't's of pregnancy diets and came up with a list that I can easily follow.  I tried to avoid nitrates, I tried to eat organic, I definitely avoided lunch meat, etc.

Then Henry was born and everything is just about survival.  Fast food probably makes up at least two meals of our week.  I breastfed for as long as I could, and although I wanted to go longer, there's not much you can do with a biting child armed with teeth.  When we introduced solid foods to Henry, it honestly never occurred to me to make his food at home. I was working full time hours, and my at home time was spent snuggling Henry as close as possible.  I carelessly brushed off the thought with the age-old excuse: "I don't have time."

It hit me one day as I was reading the ingredients on Henry's baby food.  I was originally looking at the ingredients for mixed vegetables, trying to determine if Henry had been introduced to all of the vegetables in the mix--you know, so we can introduce foods only one at a time.  And my curiosity got the best of me and I continued until I had read the ingredients on all of his food.  To my surprise, many of the fruits had citric acid in it.  I understand the reasoning--most of us know that lemon juice keeps food from browning and who wants to buy brown banana puree?  But I was confused--I had read that citrus foods should not be introduced until after one year, but here was citric acid in baby food meant for a 4-6 month old.

And then, I went part time, and let's be honest--I needed something to save me from sitting around doing nothing during Henry's naps.

Another factor was totalling up how much we were spending on Henry's food per month.  Between feeding him 4-5 baby food containers and 4-5 bottles of formula per day, we were spending about $300 per month on baby food.  The formula we can't do anything about other than look for the best deals possible (which happens to be Sam's in case you are wondering), but the baby food we thought we could save on.

That's the extent of the thought process, and BOOM!  We had entered the world of homemade baby food.

I added some websites to my favorites bar, and downloaded a couple of books on the subject, bought our first fruits and veggies, some baby food jars, and we were on our way.

On the first day, I decided to try steamed apples.  I bought a cute little steamer you can slip in the microwave to cut down on steaming time, and in 1 minute, VOILA!  I had steamed apples.  I also steamed the heck out of my thumb when I took said steamer out of the microwave--ouch!  Lesson learned.  I used the accompanying masher (if that's what it's called) and mashed the apples to a nice pulp.  Or so I thought.  When I fed this pulp to Henry at dinner, he promptly spit out every single bite I fed him.  Fail #1.

The next day, I decided to go with avocados.  Henry had never had these before, but everyone says babies love them.  So I mashed them up until it looked like guacamole, and sat down to dinner.  Henry seemed to like the taste fine, but made quite an hysterical face at the texture.  Every other bite seemed to cause a small gagging fit, but I figured he would get used to the texture as we continued.  Wrong.  Not 10 minutes later, after one such gagging fit, he proceeded to projectile vomit his entire dinner.  Fail #2.

Several days later, in an attempt to add some protein to Henry's diet at the urging of his pediatrician, I decided to try scrambled eggs.  She encouraged us to try hard boiled egg yolk mixed in something he enjoys.  So I picked his favorite fruit, pears, and mixed in some hard boiled egg yolk.  It looked awful, smelled awful, and I'm sure it tasted awful.  I was right.  Henry refused to eat it, and the bites I was able to shove in his mouth were promptly spit right back out.  Fail #3.

So I figured it was just the boiling of the egg that was the problem.  The next day I mixed some formula into scrambled egg yolk and served it up.  I don't know if it was the formula, or the fact that it was missing the egg white, but the scrambled eggs that resulted were not the light yellow, fluffy consistency that I am used to seeing.  Instead, it was a gritty, orange mixture that was barely in solid form.  I fed it to Henry anyway, but put it on his tray so he could try to feed himself.  He definitely enjoyed rubbing his hands in it, and definitely enjoyed feeding it to the dogs, but I'm not sure so much as a handful ended up in his mouth.  Fail #4.

This stuff is harder than it looks.

So after months of trying and failing, we have finally come up with things that Henry loves.

We try to keep it simple, mostly just single fruit and vegetable purees.  Sometimes we mix it up and combine some fruits and/or veggies, and that's gone ok too.

We figured out that Henry does not like chicken puree--it doesn't really puree very well and ends up really dry and gritty, but when we mix it with bananas, apples or sweet potatoes, he really likes it.

So, if you are considering making your own food, here are a few tips that we learned the hard way:

1.  The blender seems to puree better than the food processor...give it a try.
2.  Don't be afraid to use a lot of water.  Depending on how big of a batch you're making, I have found you need about 1/2 of a cup of water added to reach the most edible consistency.
3.  Read up on the DIRTY DOZEN.  Buying everything organic can get expensive, so this is a great way to know which you should buy organic, and which you can buy "contaminated."
4.  Go with the multi-portion trays, versus baby food jars.  THESE are our favorites.  It's so much easier to make a big batch and pop out a serving when you need it, versus constantly washing single serve portions.
5.  The longest part is the prep work.  Peeling, chopping, coring.  Give yourself a couple of hours to dice and slice everything and then try to cook everything at once.  Between steaming, boiling, and baking, you can cook multiple things at once.  For instance: you can boil apples directly in a pot, while you bake peaches in the oven, while steaming blueberries in the microwave.  After 20 minutes, you have three fruits ready to go instead of cooking one at a time.

6.  Don't be afraid to enlist the help of your husband.  Making baby food is not hard--it's not even cooking, really.  JP has done a great job in this department.

So there you have it, folks.  I hope this has inspired you (rather than scared you) to give it a go!

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