Baby Food: Buy It vs. Make It
Baby food is a funny one. Personally, I had every intention of making and freezing my own; I even got a souped-up baby-food maker in anticipation. I used it once and sold it six months later so I could buy a fancier stroller. Other friends of mine never thought they’d make their own baby food, but found it so much easier than running to the store that they just ground up whatever they were having for dinner, froze the rest, and were done with it.
I suspect this has a lot to do with what your kid likes in the first place. My first kid was a preemie, and I was super stressed about everything I put in her body. For most folks, that level of fear and paranoia translates into “must make everything with my own hands to ensure its purity.” But I was such a hot mess of guilt (I mean really, I had one job to do and that was keep her in place for 40 weeks, and I couldn’t even manage that?) that I didn’t trust myself to cook for the babe, preferring instead to know that the FDA had personally approved every bite going into her mouth. Nuts, I tell ya. (You other preemie parents know what I’m talking about, though, right?)
Anyway, by the time the second kid rolled around, I was accustomed to ordering baby food in bulk, and I liked being able to throw it in the backpack and not worry about whether it had been in there too long or had melted in the heat. So with all that in mind — that there’s more to baby food than price, hassle and taste — here’s my assessment of baby food: bought or made.
Some of the effort that goes into DIY baby food is research: you should avail yourself of the many helpful web sites out there that detail whether you can freeze jars of food, how long food will keep in the fridge and freezer, and whether it’s safe to re-freeze frozen vegetables. The completely impossible-to-use baby-food maker I got was stupid and a waste of cash. You can get a simple grinder at Target or just mash things that are already soft (e.g., bananas) with a fork. You also want to make sure you’re not sharing something that an infant might not be ready for — many pediatricians recommend waiting to feed a baby a whole slew of things, like strawberries or tomatoes, or even eggs. So. In other words, physical effort is minimal; psychological effort is unbearable (if you’re neurotic, which I am, and I totally own it and feel no shame — join me!)
I mean, there’s no way around it: making your own baby food essentially costs pennies, while buying it can end up setting you back $4–$5 a day. If you get a popular brand at the grocery store, you can pay $1.29 per meal, and bigger kids will often go through two jars. You’ll find yourself saying things like, “She still looks hungry, but what if we open it and she doesn’t eat it?” Shop around, however, and you can get the cost down from $.52 per ounce to $.21 per ounce, even for organic baby food. There’s also online ordering. Because I knew I’d be ordering diapers, food and wipes in bulk, I joined Amazon Prime for a couple of years, which gave me free shipping and a 20 percent discount. I got a further discount by using their Subscribe & Save program. Truth be told, it wasn’t always cheaper than I could get by watching the sales like a hawk and pouncing on the deals (even with various discounts, my baby food of choice came in at about $.29 per ounce), but I saved on heartache and hassle. My hard-won advice is to have some of this stuff handy, in jars or pouches, even if you’re making your own just to have in case of a meltdown/blowout/hysteria at the park. Ask me how I know.
Baby food is gross and bland. It’s supposed to be. One thing you really don’t want in your baby’s stomach is excitement (result: technicolor puke) and contrary to what your single friends who read too many magazines will tell you, you won’t save yourself from dealing with a picky eater by introducing various foods at the perfect time. Some kids have extra taste buds and some kids are sensitive to weird textures; all sorts of things can explain picky eating, and it’s not just a bratty control issue. In other words, you’ll either have a picky eater or you won’t. Don’t worry about it.
This is your call. Making it is much cheaper, but buying it is a worthy splurge, especially if you do it right.
What’s the verdict? Check out all our Buy It vs. Make It comparisons!