Friday, June 01, 2012

Hungry for baby food and it's feeding time

I think it's high time to finally write a post on something I have been wanting to write about for a while: baby food.  Now, don't worry here--I'm not about to go off on an anti-corporate tirade, or tell you how you are feeding your child all wrong, or start looking for directions to Burning Man or anything like that. But like my cloth diapers post, I just want to take a few minutes to describe something my wife and I are doing for our kid.  Nothing more, nothing less.  All parents are different, and all kids are different, so don't take this as some kind of you-must-do-this-or-you-have-failed-as-a-parent blog post.  Basically, it's all good, so just hang in there as I explain what we have been doing for baby food the past several months.  :)

We started introducing solid foods to our son when he was about six months old, beginning with good ol' rice cereal.  He didn't like it that much, and if I remember right it didn't really sit well with his tummy, so we started looking for other alternatives.  We soon settled on buckwheat, thanks to a tip from my mom:
This is Buckwheat. What is Buckwheat? Who knows.
My mother has celiac sprue, a condition that renders her body unable to process wheat gluten. Unfortunately wheat gluten is found in just about everything, and we're trying to keep it away from our son until he's about a year old just in case it will help him avoid developing this condition as well.  Buckwheat, whatever it is, doesn't have wheat gluten, so that's good.  Buckwheat is pretty easy to make, and we have been mixing it with his other foods for several months now and it has worked out very well.  So there's that.

But what of his other foods?  Well, that's where things get interesting.  We wanted to try making baby food ourselves, since it didn't seem like it would be all that difficult and would probably be healthier than anything we could find at a store.  And rather than describe this, I'll just use an example from last night when we made up a batch of apples and apricots.

I like to eat, eat, eat, apples
That's a pot on our stove full of sliced apples and apricots.  I forget how many, but I think it was about 13 apricots and maybe 10 apples.  We get them from Nature's Supply, a local place that sells organic stuff.  But stay with me for a second here!  Why mess with all that hippie-dippie organic junk?  Simple: we just like it better. The fruit tastes better, the veggies are fresher, and we like that it's not treated with pesticides and stuff like that.  Like I said though, I'm not here to tell anyone else how to feed his or her child, so if organic food isn't your thing, no big deal.  We happen to like it.  And as for the cost? I'll get to that in a minute :)

So anyway, we chopped everything up, added about two cups of water, and cooked it for about 30 minutes.  All this is mostly guesswork and not an exact science, so for each batch of food we kind of just cook or bake or steam everything until we think it's soft enough to blend in a food processor.  The one we have is small, but it gets the job done very well.  It was a nice gift from my wife's parents, and we have certainly gotten plenty of use out of it.

It might not look like much, but it's got it where it counts.
Like I said, it's small, so it takes a few rounds of blending to get all the food processed into a nice gooey food-like substance:

A comb? A brush? Nope, just a bowl full of mush.
As you can see, this is not really a complicated process.  This blender only has two options: chop and grind, so it's hard to screw things up.  One spins the blade clockwise, and the other reverses it.  Grind pretty much does the trick these days, though when our son was younger we would grind and chop and grind and chop until everything was nice and runny.  Now that he's almost 11 months we leave a lot of bigger pieces because he's much better about chewing things up on his own.

But what to do about all this food once we get it in mush form?  It would spoil after a couple days in the fridge, and it is obviously too much to eat at once.  So we use my mom's solution: freeze it.  But not in one big chunk because that would be kind of difficult to, you know, actually use for a meal.  Instead we put everything in ice cube trays.
Ice cube trays, or tiny food storage lockers?
Last night we made so much food that there was even a bit leftover in the bowl, so we just put that in the fridge for meals today.  Pretty easy stuff, I tell ya.  And at mealtime we just thaw a couple cubes of food in the microwave, which takes about two minutes in total. Our freezer is full of tupperware dishes containing a variety of fruits and veggies that we have cooked up like this.  For veggies we steam them instead of boil them, but the process and the result is the same.  Come to think of it, here's all the homemade food we have made for our son using this method:

Carrots (cut up first, then steam, then blend)
Zucchini (cut up first, then steam, then blend)
Pears (slice 'em and put 'em right in the blender)
Avocados (scoop out the insides, then drop into the blender)
Butternut Squash (cut in half, scoop out seeds, bake in 1 inch of water for 40 minutes, then blend)
Sweet Potatoes (poke with fork, wrap in foil, bake for 1 hour at 400 degrees, then blend)
Green Beans (steam, then blend)
Peas, though he mostly just eats these on his own without blending
Apples (duh)
Apricots (duh again)

So what about the cost of all this?  Well, here's our bill for this particular batch of food:
Not included: hemp socks and acid-free dreadlock cleaning powder.
$25.58 might seem like a lot at first but let's break it down here.  Our son eats about two cubes of food per meal (two and a half for lunch), and has three meals of solid foods a day.  We haven't switched to solid foods entirely yet, so this amount will obviously increase in the coming months, but it's a good place to start for calculating the cost of everything.  If we leave out the extra food in the bowl, we have 48 cubes of food which translates into roughly 24 meals, give or take.  But remember the buckwheat from earlier?  Well, each meal for our son is one cube of buckwheat and one cube of fruits or veggies.  And one package of buckwheat makes roughly 60 cubes when prepared according to the stovetop directions.  So what we have here is a grand total of about 84 cubes of food for $25.58.  And if we figure 2.5 cubes of food per meal (which is overestimating) this translates into roughly 33 meals, which means the cost per meal is around 77 cents.  Or to put it another way, we can feed our son for a month on about $25.

So how does that compare to store-bought baby food?  To be honest I'm not really sure but I think it's roughly the same cost or thereabouts.  We don't buy a lot of store-bought baby food, and the point here is not to compare one method of baby food preparation to another.  I just wanted to share our particular method of making sure our kid is well nourished.  If you have any comments or questions, please share them below.  Or if you can shed any insight into how this compares to store-bought baby food, that would be cool too :)


Susan Ringsmuth said...

Very interesting blog as usual Simon. I made quite a bit of baby food over the years for our 5 kids.

Susan Ringsmuth said...
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Josh Kramer said...

I think you need to make me up some apples and apricots (with chunks) for myself to eat :)