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It’s no secret that sometimes we trade convenience for cost, especially when it comes to our eating habits. The food market as a whole, in my opinion, is well researched when it comes to consumer insights and trends. This knowledge makes their marketing all the more clever as they know exactly how to appeal to trending desires and needs. Which is exactly why the baby food market revenue is predicted to grow rapidly in the next five years, continuing as a multi-billion dollar company.
I remember standing in the baby food aisle when Jensen was around five months old. He had begun to show signs that he was ready to explore eating solid foods. As I glazed over all the options for stage one baby food, I was doing some quick calculations in my head on how much this was going to cost. Even at $1.00 per jar, if I got one jar per day I was going to pay roughly $7. Now that doesn’t sound too dramatic, but when I started to think about the compounding costs as Jensen’s appetite grew so did the weekly price of food and the pile of empty glass jars, it became overwhelming. I put the jar of food back on the shelf, turned to Jensen and openly shared my truth: I’ve never been much of a cook, but if he was willing to be my sous-chef, I was willing to learn how to make our own baby food.
So we did.
Before we left the baby food aisle, I picked up the jars once again, grabbed my phone, and started taking pictures of the recipes printed on the back. If the baby food market had already done the research on what food combinations pair well together, how to cleverly sneak in vegetables and other “superfood,” and had been so gracious to print the recipe on the back, then why do I need to reinvent the wheel? One of my favorite brands for inspiration, Beechnut, has gone a step further and has posted recipes and sample meal plans for each stage on its website. The recipes were helpful as they shared exactly how to prepare the food in a safe manner. If I was going to make my own baby food, I wanted to follow food safety guidelines.
Some of Jensen’s favorites food combinations included:
5 – 8 months
- Sweet potatoes
- Applesauce + pumpkin
8 – 10 months
- Sweet potatoes + black beans + rice
- Apple + pear + spinach
- Carrots + corn
- Chickpeas + peas + corn
- Pears + mango
10 – 12 months
- Avocado + black beans + rice
- Falafel + peas + carrots
- Sweet potato + black beans
- Sunbutter + toast
- Hummus + falafel
Cutting Cost and Upcycling
With the resources to create great tasting combinations, I still needed to gather the ingredients and prepare the food. Thankfully, the frozen food aisle provided a low cost and efficient way to save some money. A bag of frozen peas and carrots cost about $1.22. When pureed, that bag provided roughly four to five days of meals, which saved about $4.20 in costs. Another way to save on the cost of food was to practice eating what was in season. As the seasons changed, so did our meals. For fall, out went the mango and in came the pears.
To avoid having a growing stack of used baby food jars, I purchased small four-ounce mason jars (roughly $8.00 total) to store the food. As Jensen’s appetite grew, I purchased larger eight-ounce mason jars (roughly $9.00 total) to adjust for growing proportions. Being able to upcycling the mason jars meant my cost for food was actually going towards food, not the brand of food or the cost of the baby food jar.
Fed Is Best
What started as a journey to find ways to reduce the cost and be economically friendly still continues on today. Jensen loves to explore different types of food, though the food is cut up into bite size rather than pureed. We still practice eating seasonally. As we enter into the fall season, I am hoping his taste for pumpkin hasn’t changed too much because pumpkin pancakes are definitely in our future (or at least mine).
Though I’m not trading in my day job for a chef’s hat anytime soon, I love being able to cook for my family and provide a meal specifically tailored for their needs and wants. It has taken time, resources and a willingness to learn how to master the kitchen to prepare a delicious meal. Don’t let your inspirations sit on the back burner. Whether you’re making your own baby food or meal prepping for the week, there’s a chef inside of you.