Enjoying the baby series so far? If you are new, I have been busy detailing my “baby budget” and the many ways I have found to “beat the system” and raise a baby on a pretty small budget. Like- I’ve probably only spent $300-$500 out of pocket (not including the hospital delivery bills) in the last year. That kind of small.
I’ve covered the three of the biggies: paying to have a baby, feeding your newborn, and diapering your baby. Now I want to talk a little bit about what we have done to keep costs low while feeding our older baby/almost toddler. Which, by the way, when is a baby considered a toddler? Because Olivia is definitely toddling around these days…
Baby’s First Solid- Is “Baby Food” Necessary?
We started Olivia on solids just shy of her 5 month “birthday.” We had originally planned to keep her exclusively breastfed until 6 months, in accordance with the A.A.P. recommended guidelines, but decided to go ahead because she seemed so so so so interested in food.
What we did not do was give her your standard baby food or rice cereal.
Olivia’s first meal was steamed winter squash from our local farm co-op. She thought it was weird.
We tried Oatmeal, we tried peas, we did berries, we did rice, we did steamed carrots, we did bananas, we did cheese, and we even did salmon. She looooved the salmon (like her mama!)
Our basic plan was this: feed Olivia a little bite of whatever was on our plate. In tiny, soft pieces of course. And within a month or two Olivia was already feeding herself with her little fingers- she was getting tons and tons of dexterity and hand-eye coordination with all the interesting bites of food we presented her on her food tray. Yum! What motivation to grow and develop!
Olivia has never eaten jarred baby food or boxes of baby “rice cereal.” She loves to eat a huge variety of food- except eggs and lettuce, which she hates so much she will pick these out of her food and set them on the side of her tray to avoid- and is game to eat just about anything we put in front of her. New textures hardly phase her.
Why did we do this?
It Keeps Dollars In My Pocket and Not Big Industry’s Pockets
It was a little bit about saving money. Why spend extra on specially packaged baby stuff when the oatmeal we already buy at the grocery store is just as nutritious and perfectly suitable for little digestive tracts? Honestly, I am personally rather disgusted by the big industry surrounding baby and baby products, and I hate feeding (ha- get it?) into it any more than I have to. I feel like the big baby food industry is out there trying to make us believe that our children need to eat their specially packaged stuff, and I just don’t think that is true! Olivia is happy, healthy, proof.
Something one of our pre-marriage counselors said to us has really stuck with me as we have ventured into feeding our child solids. He said something like, “It is ridiculous that parents are made to believe that they have to spend big bucks to feed their children. It’s not like children require you to cook filet mignon while your budget calls for rice and beans. If rice and beans is on your plate, just give the baby some of your food!”
It Keeps Unnecessary “Stuff” Out of Baby’s System
Ever look at the packaging on baby food? Notice the long list of ingredients, including various things you cannot even pronounce, let alone understand why they are in your food. There are dyes. There are fillers. There are chemicals.
Mike and I were not very “organic” eaters before having a baby, but once I got pregnant, and especially now that I am actually responsible for nourishing a tiny life, we have become very conscious about what goes into our family’s diet. We buy mostly organic produce and dairy products to keep out unnecessary chemicals, and we try to eat mostly whole foods. Olivia only very rarely eats sugar (her birthday cake is one instance!), and she has virtually never eaten anything with high fructose corn syrup. I even hate to giver her dried fruit laced with preservatives!
The reason we steer clear of most baby food is that right along with all the good stuff is a whole bunch of junk. Literally. Junk that is going to clog up my little baby’s wonderfully created body. We do occasionally buy Olivia some “Happy Baby Organic Puffs” in the salad variety because they are an easy, easy snack and a great way to get some extra veggies in. But if we were to entirely switch to organic baby foods that promise none of the extra “junk” in other commercial baby food, we would be spending a fortune on baby food. Why do that when I can just as easily feed Olivia whole, unprocessed foods right off my own table. No extra fuss.
It Helps Baby Develop
I don’t think you have to feed your baby table/finger foods from the get-go to have your baby develop perfectly normally. But there definitely are some benefits to feeding baby finger foods. Olivia developed her pincer grasp (thumb and pointer finger) very quickly because she had practice 3+ times a day. She also had plenty of hand eye coordination practice.
Another developmental benefit to feeding finger foods is that Olivia has gotten very used to new textures and tastes, and it has allowed me to explore a wide variety of foods with her. We have also steered clear of refined grains (white rice, white bread) and foods sweetened with sugar or other sweeteners. At restaurants, instead of ordering her the standard chicken nuggets and fries, we get her something off the adult menu or share some of our own food with her. The other day she had an avacado wrap at a sports bar. Yum! Hopefully this will pay off in a child who has a palate for various kinds of healthy, whole foods!
Feeding Finger Foods Practically
So how exactly have we gone about feeding our baby straight off the table instead of giving her prepackaged baby food? Simple really- we started off giving her very soft foods in tiny, tiny bites (the size of my pinky nail). We steamed vegetables and mashed them up. We cut up little bites of bread, bananas, oranges, berries, cheese, fish, etc. We spoon fed her yogurt, cottage cheese, even peanut butter. And like anyone should do when introducing solids to a baby for the first time, we slowly added one food at a time to the list, giving a few days in between each addition to watch for allergic reactions.
We also have used a baby food mill to help mash up some foods. You can find an electric food mill for $25 at Target or other big shopping centers, and more portable hand g mills for $15. and all you have to do is throw in what you are having for dinner and it will mash it right up for baby! This is a great way to avoid preservatives, additives, and fillers in baby food, although if you are hoping to introduce multiple textures and promote hand-eye coordination and development, you need to supplement with bites of more “solid” foods.
How About You?
I don’t know the hard numbers for how much we have saved by avoiding baby foods. I do know that our grocery budget has hardly been impacted since having a baby, and there is no need for a separate fund to purchase baby foods or snacks targeted at babies. We also hope that by feeding our child healthy, whole foods, we are instilling in her a love for these foods. We hope that this will carry on as she grows older and can make her own choices about what she eats, and that it will help her body to function at its best, keeping her out of the doctor’s office as much as possible!
How about you? Why have you chosen to feed your baby the way that you have? What tricks do you have for saving money while feeding your child healthy, whole foods? If you have any thoughts or comments, leave it below!