Baby Food – To Go

Around here we have been getting excited for our upcoming road trip back east.

Did you catch that?  I already sound Midwestern.

I said “back east”.

I digress.

Beard and I are packing up our three kids in our new-to-us mini-van and driving half way across the country to see a lot  of family.  We are excited.  The girls are excited.  Heck.  Baby Brother is excited, and he doesn’t even know it yet.

Our girls are definitely no stranger to long road trips.  They had made the 8 hour trip between Virginia and my home state of New Jersey at least three times every year, plus they each made a few journeys out here to Wisconsin from Virginia.

There was this one crazy year where my husband and I drove to Wisconsin, stayed a week, then drove to New Jersey for my cousin’s wedding, then we drove back down to Virginia.  With a 15 month old Bitsy girl.  And I was 30 weeks pregnant.

That trip was made pleasant by our friends at Pepperidge Farm and their genius invention called the “goldfish”.

This summer will be Baby Brother’s first big road trip, and it is the first time I have brought a baby that still requires purees on a long road trip.  I have taken babies that exclusively nurse, and I have taken babies that can eat a lot of table foods.  Little Guy, though, is just not ready for much table food at all.  It means I have to be creative (and probably a bit industrious) about having enough for him to eat without relying on pre-packaged baby food.**

There are some foods that are no-brainers when it comes to feeding babies quickly, easily, and conveniently:

  • avocados:  I love feeding my babies avocados.  They are easy to mash up, have tons of good fats, and they are green.  What mom doesn’t love to have a baby covered in green mush?  At this point, Little Guy eats between 1/8 and 1/4 of an avocado in one sitting.  By replacing the avocado pit into the remainder of the fruit and putting the fruit, in its peel, in a sealed bag or container, I could feasibly keep an avocado for a few meals.  I highly doubt Baby Brother would like to eat avocado for 4-8 meals straight, so I eat some of it myself or pawn some of it off on his older sisters.  They ate the green mush as babies, too!
  • bananas:  Bananas are another of those foods that are easy to mash and come in their very own container.  Heck, I can slice off tiny slivers of banana with a baby spoon.  Bananas require no prep at all.  Like an avocado, Little Guy could probably eat 1/4 – 1/8 of a banana in a sitting, but bananas don’t keep as well as avocados once they are peeled.  Fortunately, those are also easy to feed to other family members.
  • applesauce:  I almost never buy anything that is packaged into individual serving sizes.  I will forego this rule with applesauce on road trips.  I can buy individual cups of sugar free, organic applesauce that make a very easy meal for a baby on the road.
  • watermelon:  This may be the first in this list where you think HUH?  If I buy a watermelon, or even half a watermelon, I can slice it up and put it in a large bag or container.  Little Guy can hold a slice of watermelon and gnaw on it while we are stopped.
  • hard-boiled eggs:  I have gotten Baby Brother absolutely hooked on egg yolks.  For the most part, he likes the liquid yolk from my hard-boiled eggs, but unfortunately there is not way I could bring those with us.  Hard-boiled eggs, on the other hand, are super easy to keep on a long trip, as well as easy to mash and eat.  Fortunately for me, I have a daughter that will only eat hard-boiled egg whites, so those won’t go to waste.

These are great foods to keep in the car for feeding babies while on a road trip.  I am, however, going to put together some purees to bring along in my favorite “baby food cubes” in a cooler.  I am working on a post about which purees to make and take and which are best left at home, as well as how to keep them frozen, and how to thaw them and feed them to baby.

Stay tuned!

Big Day for a Little Guy (And Something Else I’m Working On)

Baby Brother is rounding the corner to his half birthday, and in this house, that means he is able to start having some “solid” foods.

**I say “solids” because, let’s be real:  there is nothing solid about baby food.**

At about 2.5 times his birth weight, this guy has been better at gaining weight than his sisters were.  And at 5 1/2 months he was already sitting well unassisted.  Over the past couple of days, I offered him an empty spoon to see what he would do with it.

Of course he put it directly into his mouth.

Homeboy doesn’t play.

So this morning, just eleven days short of his sixth month, our little guy enjoyed some mashed avocado.

It’s too soon to tell whether he enjoyed it or not.  It seems each of our babies has made a face of disgust when tasting food other than breastmilk for the first time.

Starting solid foods brings a whole host of new things into the job of caring for baby:

  1.  You always have to make sure you have baby food on hand.  I have made all my babies’ foods except for the odd squeeze packet bought on a road trip here and there.  I intend to continue this trend by making and storing all of our own baby foods for Baby Brother.  This morning the girls helped me prep three different kinds of puree, and in addition to these I always have bananas and avocados on hand for easy mashed baby food.  I find once I get in the hang of making baby food, the process goes quickly, and I make purees in large enough batches that I have at least 10-20 1 Tbsp servings to put in the freezer.
  2. Babies who get solid foods need water.  This is pretty simple to take care of.  I had to grab a couple boy-colored sippy cups for Baby Brother.  Not that he couldn’t use the pink ones I had from the girls, but they had already been used for two kids.  The plastic spouts tend to wear from use, and if I’m buying new ones anyway, Little Guy can get blue.
  3. Solid foods in, solid poops out.  Now, this doesn’t happen immediately.  Thank.  Goodness.  But once solids become an established part of Little Guy’s diet in a few weeks, I will no longer be able to just toss his whole cloth diaper in the wash any longer.  I’ll have to actually put solid waste in the toilet, then put the diapers in their bin.  It’s not that painful of a process, but it does take an extra step.  An extra messstep.
  4. More laundry.  Is that even possible?  I’ll be washing more bibs, more of Little Guy’s clothes, more of my own clothes, plus a few more cloths that I use to wipe up spills.  It doesn’t sound like much, but in the course of a week, it can really add up.  I would say I am adding an extra load of laundry per week when I have a a baby eating baby foods.

Regardless of the extra work, introducing a baby to foods for the first time can be so exciting.  I’m thrilled to be doing this all over again, and I can’t wait to find out Baby Brother’s tastes.

In other, almost related news.  I have been working on a new project.  I am creating a downloadable menu plan that is both healthy (think whole foods) and inexpensive (about $50/week depending on how big your appetites are).  Having lived on one income for the vast majority of our marriage, our family is very accustomed to stretching a dollar in the grocery budget.  I have learned a few tricks along the way that I’d like to share about how to eat healthfully without breaking the bank.  Stay tuned for this menu plan to be available within the next two weeks!

Baby Food Snob

(I have been thinking about writing this post for a while, and I was tentative to start because of how much ground could be covered, should be covered, and would likely be covered by my knowledge.  This topic has come up too many times in the past few weeks for me to ignore it, so I will share with my readers what I know and where they can learn more for themselves.)

A few days ago Beard was telling me about a conversation he’d had with some of his man buddies about their children.  One man’s daughter had just begun to eat baby food, and the other was enlightening him about the different stages and different types of containers that baby food comes in.  They laughed shortly about the weird pureed foods that come in jars, and apparently, my husband was fighting his judgmental disposition from writing itself all over his face.

You see, we are baby food snobs.  There are no two ways about it.

When we found out we were going to have Bitsy Girl, my mother gifted us with the very food processor she used to make my baby food.  (Yes, this appliance is over 20 years old and still works like a dream.)  She explained that I never ate jarred “baby food”; instead she and my father would puree already cooked foods to feed to baby me.  Newly pregnant, I hadn’t really considered anything along these lines; I was more focused on labor and delivery than what I would be feeding this little child over a year from then.

As we grew more accustomed to the idea of parenthood, Beard and I researched things we would like to do for our children, and the topic of baby food came up again.  This time we were paying better attention.  With lots of advice from my mom, the instructor of our birthing class, and an excellent book called Super Baby Food, we felt that we were armed and ready to take on making all of our daughter’s food.

At almost 15 months old, Bitsy Girl has never eaten baby food from a jar or package.  We have literally made all of her food.  Of this, we are both very proud.  And a bit snobbish.

Why did we choose to make our own baby food?

First and foremost, we made this decision because we would know exactly what was in our daughter’s food at each meal.  If we made her food there would be no hidden preservatives.  Foods could be as fresh as we’d like.

Another factor for us was cost.  I tend to be a little bit of a budget freak (hey, we’re still paying off student loans!), so I try to shave little bits out of our budget if possible.  And the fact is that jarred baby food can get very expensive, especially if you are going to buy organic and natural.  A typical jar of baby food vegetables, let’s say carrots, costs between $0.50 and $1.  I could easily buy a pound of organic carrots at the grocery store or farmer’s market for $1.50 and make about 20 – 25 servings of pureed carrots.  It just didn’t make sense to me to purchase something I could so easily make at home at a lower cost.

How did we make our own baby food?

Some baby foods are more difficult than others to make.  Most vegetables and some fruits can be easily pureed after being steamed or boiled.  Foods like carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, apples, pears, potatoes, peas, green beans, and more fall into this category.  We simply cooked a portion of the food without salt or sugar, then put it in our food processor and let it do its thing.  We would add enough water to food to make a thin puree for Bitsy Girl when she was very young, and as she grew older and more used to food, we would use less water, allowing her more of a mashed food.

Some fruits, like pears, bananas, and avocados can be pureed raw or even mashed with a fork.  These were great in a pinch when I didn’t have very much time to make something for Bitsy Girl to eat and had nothing already made for her.  And as strange as it sounds to eat avocado by itself, most babies love it.  It is rich and creamy, plus babies aren’t usually born with an aversion to green foods.

In addition to fruits and vegetables, Bitsy Girl ate a few kinds of homemade baby cereals. My favorite to make was oatmeal because it was easily ground, but you could use rice, millet, barley, etc.  We simply ground up uncooked grains, then cooked them according to instructions found in our trusty Super Baby Food book.  

For protein, we would feed our daughter foods like yogurt, which can be fed to babies without any real preparation.; it is already easy for them to eat!  Several books and websites I had read suggested tofu, but the stuff kind of grosses me out, so we would feed Bitsy Girl beans instead.  Beans could be pureed with other foods to add some protein to the mix.  

How did we store our homemade baby food?

Of course when we were going through the trouble of pureeing and mashing all of Bitsy Girl’s food we didn’t want to make single serving sizes.  Instead, we would make several servings of food at once and store them.  For pureed fruits and vegetables, we would pour the puree into ice cube trays and freeze them until solid; then the “food cubes” could be stored in a freezer bag or container in the freezer, labeled with the type of food and date on which it was made.  These foods stayed fresh for up to 6 months.  We stored grains and cereals in a container in the refrigerator, and they kept for 3-4 days.  Yogurt, of course, could be scooped out of its regular container, so there were no special storing processes for that food.

What kinds of finger foods can babies eat and when can they eat them?

Beard and I used a lot of Bitsy Girl’s cues for our parenting, and feeding was no exception.  When we noticed her picking things up and putting them in her mouth (about 8 or 9 months old) we cut up mushy bits of food for her to grab.  Bananas were first because the texture is easy for babies to eat and because they were and still are her all time favorite food.  We moved on from bananas to avocados, then veggies cooked until soft.  Medium textured cheeses (mozzarella, cheddar, etc.) came soon after, and with all that Italian and Wisconsinite blood in her, Bitsy Girl was a fan.  

Bitsy Girl began to eat meat around this stage.  Chicken or turkey could be cooked and shredded for her to pick up with her hands.  White fish worked well, too.  We held off on beef for a little while, but by around 10 months, she was enjoying homemade Swedish meatballs.

Once Bitsy Girl could eat foods with her fingers, we began giving her foods that we were eating, as opposed to bland, unseasoned foods.  She would eat the pasta we were having for dinner or some succotash with butter and garlic.  As young as 9 months, our daughter was eating most seasonings that I use in the house.

I should say here that I cook with very little, if any salt, so I felt comfortable feeding these foods to my baby.  If you cook with salt, I would save a small portion for your baby before salting your foods.

Making your own baby food may sound like a scary undertaking, but Beard and I learned that it really isn’t.  It has so many great rewards, and it really only takes a bit time than shopping for baby food, opening a jar, and heating it up.

As a final note I want to leave you with an internet resource that was invaluable to us on our baby food adventure:

http://www.homemade-baby-food-recipes.com/

This website has so many great charts depicting what foods baby can and should eat when as well as ideas on how to serve and prepare different foods.  Enjoy!.  Enjoy!