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How to Easily Make Baby Cereal and Food Inexpensive and Nutritious

Frugal Parenting (featured column)
by Rachel Keller

Stroll down the baby aisle in any store and you will see an overabundance of baby food. Those little jars (which contain water mixed with fruits, vegetables, or meats) cost mere pennies to make, yet sell for astronomical prices. As your baby grows, he or she may devour several jars in one day. Manufacturers make a hefty profit on those little jars that eat into your family budget.

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While coupons help reduce the cost of baby food, you still pay plenty for convenience. Making your own baby food is really very simple. Over the course of a few months, you can save hundreds of dollars by making nutritious baby foods that have "all their nutrients intact and not processed our during refinement" (p. 2, Super Baby Food, Ruth Yaron).

Baby foods are fairly simple and take very little time to prepare. Ripe bananas and peaches require no cooking. Mash bananas with a fork and puree peaches for younger babies. For older babies, just break or cut into small pieces.

Use a hand-held grinder, blender, or food processor to mash canned fruit, sweet or white potatoes, as well as cooked vegetables and fruits. Make your own pear or applesauce by cooking pears and apples in water until soft.

The younger your baby, the more water or juice you need to add to your fruits or vegetables to obtain the right consistency. Either add water while cooking or when pureeing. (Save the cooking water to add to the food.) Add formula or breast milk to mashed potatoes.

As your baby’s eating repertoire expands, try grinding the same foods you cook for your family, including meats and whole grains. Remove a portion of the food for your baby before adding seasonings. Babies don’t need salt or sugar added to their food.

Save even more money by making your own baby cereal. I used my oat roller to grind oats, barley, and brown rice for baby cereals. However, you don’t need an oat roller. A good blender (or food processor) will work.

The following recipe for homemade baby cereal comes from the book Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron. (Every mother of young children should own, or at least read, this book. It includes many great and healthy baby/children recipes.) When cooked, this Super Porridge" looks very similar to commercial boxed baby cereal mixed with liquid, but it is a natural cereal made from unrefined whole grains rather than processed, refined grains.

Some babies who are used to commercial baby food may refuse to eat homemade cereal. In that case, try mixing homemade with commercial, gradually increasing the homemade cereal. (For more suggestions, ideas, or sample recipes, visit the Super Baby Food website http://www.superbabyfood.com, specifically note the update page for Super Baby Foods, 2nd edition, for questions about Super Porridge.)

To make the cereal, put a cup of water in a saucepan to boil. While the water is heating, measure 1/4 cup brown rice into your blender. Grind it very well for about 2 minutes. (It's very noisy, but if you have a beginning eater grind for the full 2 minutes. When your baby eats chunkier food, you may reduce the grinding time to 20-30 seconds.)

When the water boils on the stove, turn the heat down to the lowest setting. Sprinkle the ground rice into the water while stirring briskly with a wire whisk. (If you fail to stir, you will have lumps.) Cover the pot and keep it over low heat for about 10 minutes. Stir frequently with the whisk to prevent scorching as well as to remove any lumps. When done cooking, the rice cereal looks like porridge.

If the cereal is too thick, stir in a little breast milk, formula, or water. If it's too thin, add a little wheat germ, ground nuts, ground oatmeal, commercial powdered baby cereal, etc.

Cover the cereal and refrigerate. The cereal will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, or you can freeze for several weeks.

If you don’t have a blender, you can make this cereal by pureeing cooked brown rice with an equal amount of liquid.

You can use a similar process to make barley cereal. (I used hulled barley and added more water and cooked a little longer.) Make oatmeal by grinding oats in a blender and adding liquid. For a fast and easy meal, use the microwave.

To save time, batch cook fruit and vegetables and freeze in ice cube trays or very small containers. After the cubes freeze, pop them into resealable bags or airtight containers. When ready to serve the food, remove the desired number of cubes and heat in the microwave or on the stovetop.

Making your own baby food requires very little effort. Not only will you save money, but you will have the satisfaction of serving your baby nutritious food without extra processing or additives.

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Copyright © 2007 by Rachel Keller. All rights reserved.

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