How to make your own baby food

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

When Naomi first started eating solids, I set out to make my own baby food. I wanted to give her only organic produce, and I wanted to control exactly how much of each fruit or vegetable is in her food. Plus, I knew I would save money making my own. Well, I read up on it online, decided I needed a food mill because people said it was the best, and set out to make sweet potatoes as Naomi's first food. The food mill was, simply put, a disaster. The potatoes would barely go through the little holes to the bottom as I turned the handle, and most of them got stuck up on the sides. Since there was so little food in there (how much does a baby need?), it all got plastered all over the sides and none of it ended up actually becoming pureed baby food. I tried mashing peas the next day, and they didn't mash well at all. I didn't realize the skins would stay hard and lumpy. I scraped a banana, which Naomi loved, and called it good. It seemed too much of a hassle, so I started buying organic baby food packets, which weren't that expensive considering she only needed a packet a day. Then I bought an immersion blender that I had wanted for blending soup anyway, and would cook chicken and buckwheat soups and blend it up for Naomi with that. That turned out pretty well, but once we got our Blendtec blender, I realized I can very easily start making baby food. It purees everything so nicely, so you end up with the smoothest baby food on the planet, and it does it quickly and painlessly.

 Now Naomi's eating three times more, and it's become pretty expensive to buy packaged baby food. Wanting to save some money, I set out to give it another shot. This time I watched a few youTube videos and figured out which technique was the best for me. I ordered little 4 ounce canning jars on Amazon because I didn't want the risk of plastic containers leaching things into the food. I bought my fruit and vegetables and let them sit in the kitchen for a few days until everything was nice and ripe and juicy, and then I got cooking.

You can steam everything if you have a double boiler, but I don't, so I just boiled mine. Anything frozen, like blueberries and peas, takes only 1-2 minutes to boil just to thaw it out and soften it a little. The less you cook things, the more nutrients it will retain, so just check with a fork as you're cooking; if it slides in easily, it's done. I actually haven't given Naomi avocado yet, but it doesn't seem like it will hold up well in the freezer, so I think eating it fresh is the way to go. Here's a chart for preparing the fruit and vegetables I used:

Sweet potatoes: peel and cut into one-inch cubes; boil 8-10 minutes, blend
Butternut squash: peel and cut into one-inch cubes; boil 8-10 minutes, blend
Red apples: peel, cut in half, and core; boil about 10 minutes, blend
Pears: boil about 2 minutes (I think), blend--no peeling
Carrots: peel, boil about 5 minutes (I think), blend
Bananas, avocado, kiwi, mango: peel and blend--no cooking

I bought pineapple and green beans as well but totally forgot about them, so I'll try using those next time. I was making baby food basically in the middle of the night because Naomi's teething these days, and that means she doesn't nap and I don't get anything done in the daytime. So night it is.

It took me over 4 hours to make 80 servings of baby food. I didn't realize I was going to end up with that much food since it was my first stab at making my own and I didn't even know if it would end well. I now have over a month's supply of food in the freezer and I don't have to run to the baby isle every time I'm at the store to pick up more, and I think they taste great. I priced out all my produce to see how much money I was saving. I spent $51.35 on everything. Since I got 80 servings out of it (the same serving size those baby food packets come in), it came out to 64 cents per serving. I was paying on average $1.50 at the store, which is about $120. That means I saved $69 on a month of baby food. It's definitely some work, but I think I can do it even faster next time, and it was actually pretty fun. Filling those jars with something you made for your baby is a pretty good feeling. I wrote the flavors on the bottom of the jars with Sharpie, and it rubs right off with a sponge when you're washing it.

I ran out of little jars really fast since I only had 24 of them, so I used some 12 ounce jars I had on hand, which fit 3 servings in each. The problem with bigger jars is that as you use up some of the baby food, the rest of it is exposed to oxygen and gets a dry layer on top that you have to throw out. I think I'm going to start giving Naomi the little jars first, and as I open the big ones, transfer the other two servings to the available little jars so it doesn't dry out.

I was blending in the laundry room next to the chalkboard wall because it was the middle of the night and I didn't want to wake up any sleeping babies. :)

When I was at the store, I wrote down the flavors of some baby food combinations I wanted to try so I would have a few ideas to go off of. Then when I had everything pureed, I started mixing and tasting. It's actually fun and pretty easy to make combinations that taste good. The basis is to use fruit to sweeten the vegetables. These are the combinations I made:

carrot, kiwi, pear
sweet potato, banana
banana, mango
apple, spinach
squash, apple
squash, mango
squash, kiwi
pea, blueberry, apple, pear
banana, kiwi, pear
pea, pear, mango
sweet potato, carrot, apple
banana, blueberry

I hope that helps anyone who has been wanting to make their own baby food. I got a bad start when I tried making it the first time, but this method has worked like a charm, and I'm so glad I gave it another shot. I gave Naomi applesauce yesterday, and when the kids smelled it, they shared the rest of the jar! Looks like baby food isn't just for babies...


On my bookshelf

Reading is such a great thing in my life. It provides an escape from the day-to-day, letting my mind ponder things that are completely detached from my reality and that I may never think about otherwise. I can disengage from the present and dive into another place and time, and nothing else can do that quite like a book can, especially fiction. I love the feeling of expectation when you really want to know what happens next. I love beautiful language, and reading a book that's well-written and almost poetic in the way things are described impresses and awes me. I also love that reading is academic, that it stretches your mind and gives your imagination a workout. I've always known that using your imagination often plays a part in how smart you are and even prevents dementia and memory loss, so folks, reading is not a waste of time! It stimulates new connections between neurons in the brain and helps you come up with creative ideas at home and at work. Reading also has the ability to lift you up, to increase your faith, to encourage you to dream, to inspire you, to give you hope. It's such a powerful tool.

I thought I'd talk about what I've been reading on here every once in a while, and maybe it will give you some ideas for books you'd like to read (or books you'd like to stay away from). I don't want to call them book reviews, because I'd have to take notes and basically construct essays to do a book justice, and I don't want that responsibility. Just something quick and off the top of my head sounds about right. :)

The Fault in our Stars was my first read of the year. I checked it out from the library because I had heard good things. It's a story about a terminally ill teenage cancer patient, and it's written from a witty, wry standpoint, with both humor and tragedy throughout. It was a really good read, and really easy to read, too--it just flowed. The author does a really good job of finding humor in the tragic, which makes the book unique. Get ready to cry throughout this one. Obviously the fact that it's about cancer and it's about love would give that away. While I love the author's writing style, there were plenty of parts in the book that bugged me, mostly when they poked fun at religion and talked about not believing in God and not knowing what comes after death. Just warning you guys.

My next read was Hurt Healer by Tony Nolan. I got it free when I sponsored a child at a Winter Jam concert that was in town a few years ago, where I heard Tony speak. He writes about getting over his devastating childhood, in which he was adopted but told by his adoptive (and alcoholic) dad that he should have never "bought" him. Tony is an inspiration in his life working with hurting people in those same devastating situations to bring them to Christ. It was the third book this year that had the common theme of stepping outside of ourselves and doing more for God, and it gave me the kick in the butt I needed to refocus and reprioritize my life. Tony talks about how everyone around us needs the good news so desperately,and illustrates his points on serving with references to the story of the good Samaritan throughout the length of the book. It wasn't the most engaging read at times, and the writing isn't the best I've read, but it built my faith and got me back to where I need to be mentally.

I posted this picture on Instagram, saying these were my next three reads. I had picked them out off my bookshelf, and thought I had my mind made up. Then I attended that conference I mentioned earlier, and I had to dive into Charlotte Gambill's book, Turnaround God, first. The book talks about how God can turn your life around, and brings up story after story from the Bible to back up each point. She encourages us to step out of our comfort zone and do radical things for God, and not get discouraged when we feel stuck in a situation or there is turbulence along the way.

I have to say, I loved every bit of the book and would highly recommend it. Charlotte impressed me over and over again with insights into things that I hadn't thought about before, and I'm ready to buy another of her books. The book is completely Bible-based, and doesn't rely on her personal opinions or mantras, and each point is so well-rounded and researched. It challenged me to get out of my comfort zone and live more radically for God, much like Tony Nolan's book did. Interesting how there are often common themes in your life at a certain time, isn't it? Love how God speaks to us. Here are a few favorite passages from the book:

"I believe apathy is one of the greatest weapons in the enemy's arsenal. He would rather take on a sleepy sluggard over a wide-awake warrior any day. Too often, we have looked for the enemy in all the wrong places. We are looking for the obvious, when he is often far subtler. Instead of bringing you a nightmare, he will sometimes sing you a lullaby. He will happily rock you to sleep knowing that your apathy can become his doorway of opportunity."

"Don't let disappointment stop you short of your turn. Don't get stuck in your sorrow or hung up on your hurt. Hold on, push forward, and trust the turnaround God, who can make your latter days even better than your first."

"The enemy wants to fracture God's family so that we are distracted by our own dysfunction and therefore of no help to the dysfunction in the world around us."

"God is far more patient with His people than we are with one another. His presence creates room for people to navigate their own change gracefully, rather than using forceful ultimatums that result in deadlock. God's presence opens hearts and lives, while forcing has the opposite result of closing and shutting people down."

I'm really enjoying the Dare to Be devotional as well. Each point is so relevant for my life, and actually prompts me to think about and question my views and my actions, and to realign them with God's when I'm off. I think I'm going to be hooked on devotionals when I'm done with this one. Does anyone have any suggestions for a good one?

I'm currently reading Crazy Love and loving it, though I'm not too far into it. I love that Francis Chan is not concerned with people's opinions of him or what he writes about the problems with the current church in America, but challenges us to make the changes that need to be made. I love me an original thinker. Jesus Is ___ is another book I've heard a lot about and purchased recently.

If you have any books that you have loved recently (or not recently), whether fiction, nonfiction, self-help/motivational, Christian...please let me know.


Less guilt, more joy

I am happy to report that I've been really good at sticking to our budget in January (except groceries), and I'm all pumped up to do it again in February! It's felt really good to only spend money when I have to, not when I want to. There will always be so many things that I want, and I'll never not have a list of things that need to be bought. I am teaching myself to change my spending habits away from buying and towards doing without and putting the money towards other things, like bills and debt. I've had so much less guilt as a result, and that makes me a happier person overall.

I say I did well in every category except groceries. I always feel like we spend way too much money on food anyway, and I've been struggling to find a way to get the number down, but this month blew every other month out of the water.

Bogdan and I both started juicing/eating vegetarian again in January, so all that organic produce has definitely contributed to the high number, and I've been buying baby food and formula like crazy because Naomi's been eating more. I'm not sure how long we're sticking to the juice/vegetable diet, but I'm going to focus this month on spending less and spending wisely. I think the key word is wisely. Sometimes I think I forget that every little bit of 'extra' adds up. If something organic is outrageously priced, I'll just have to do without. And I think we can do with less snacks, which are expensive. I always buy organic meat, milk, eggs, and certain fruits and vegetables that are known to have high levels of pesticides such as kale, zucchini, and apples, and we always buy organic bananas because we eat so many of them. I'm not willing to budge on those things, and I'm not willing to eat low-quality bread that isn't really bread, or buy deli meat with a million additives in it. I know that makes for a higher food budget than the average household, but I need to get creative and figure out a different way to get the spending down regardless. I'll use this space to keep me in line and report back at the end of the month. It'll be my motivation to stay focused. I've already made some changes in the baby food department, so stay tuned. :)

If any of you have any suggestions for me or things that have worked for you, please share. I would love some good ideas.


January on my phone

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

It looks like January is mostly baby pictures besides the weekend goings-on...again. What can I say, that is mostly what my days consist of. I don't mind, though, because I know soon enough she will be walking and talking and this baby phase will be long gone. She's learning new tricks every several days and nothing is the same for long, I'm having a lot of fun watching her. Besides that, I'm back at the thrifts again, the kids had a sleepover at Bogdan's cousin's house (the kids love going there, and they're so nice to have them), we had more snow, we started hanging out with cousins again, Olivia started ballet, and I got ombre hair again, with a darker brown on top instead of my natural color. I'm still getting used to it. I think it's because the dark brown kind of clashes with my pale, pale skin, so I'm waiting for some sunshine to darken up my face to match the hair.


Last month I finished a few small projects around the house. Nothing makes me feel more accomplished at the end of the day than when I get something like this done. It just makes it feel like my whole days wasn't spent on housework and meal prep, which is so temporary (gotta do it all again tomorrow), but I have something to show for it. When my life is chaotically busy, these are the types of things that I just never get to, and it actually stresses me out that I know it's waiting on me, but I just can't get to it.

I got a few more prints hung in the play room. I'm doing it slowly so I don't make a bunch of weird decisions that I'll regret later. I find that a room comes together more organically if I take my time and do it slowly, especially when deciding what to hang on the walls.

I strung pom-poms I've been hanging onto on some yarn and hung the garland in the play room over some pictures. I like that it's not too noticeable and doesn't distract too much from the pictures but adds some interest.

Our kids are obsessed with melty beads. That's what we call them, but I think they're also called perler beards? They spend hours putting them together, and there are always some finished ones waiting on me to get the iron out and iron them. Mila had a bunch set aside that she wanted to hang on a string and put up in her room, and we finally got to it. She was so happy.

Ben's Legos have been in a big plastic storage container, and it was such a bad system because it was basically impossible to find anything. This month I decided to get some new storage and separate things out so he could actually play with his Legos. I got the Lego head for the small pieces and a big Lego brick from the big things, and the rest of the little pieces that didn't fit in the head went in a small plastic container. It took forever to get everything sorted and separated and all the men put back together, too. Why do they have to take the hands and heads off?! Why? Ben's been doing a good job of keeping everything organized since then, though, and he's playing with his Legos all the time now.

My last project was sewing a couple of pillow covers from some handmade fabric I bought on Etsy years and years ago. It's just been one of those things that I let sit around for way too long, but this year I'm trying to get all my projects finished up and out of the closets and drawers. It felt good to get this one done, and the girls love them.

Here's to getting more projects done in February!