Somewhere between 4-6 months, your baby will show an interest in food, in addition to its main milk. Fruit, veggies and cereals are good first foods before introducing a wider range of healthy foods. Feeding your baby shouldn’t and doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are some tips to help keep costs down:
1. Breastfeed where possible. If you are able to breastfeed, do it! It’s free, saves time i.e. no bottles to prepare, healthier for your baby, and it can even help you lose the excess pregnancy weight.
2. Make your own baby food. Homemade meals are cheaper than readymade meals, and you get to choose your own ingredients as well as desired texture, to suit your baby’s needs eg 6-7 months silky smooth stage, 7-9 months lumpy bumpy stage and 9-12 months finger foods for self-feeding. Babies don’t need fancy meals or special ingredients. Keep it healthy, simple and varied to maximise nutrient intake. There’s nothing better than a home cooked meal, freshly served.
3. Invest in the right kitchen equipment. Having the right tools on hand can make life for you a little easier. Invest in a small blender or food mill / mouli for pureeing food, as well as a masher (though a fork could do the trick) and grater, which are especially ideal for the lumpy bumpy stage.
4. Plan meals. Planning is essential if you want to stick to a budget and minimise wastage. Whether you’re making your baby its own food or a modified version of your meal, plan your menu around produce to suit your budget.
5. Modify your own meals to suit the whole family. One meal to suit the whole family saves you time and money. This especially applies to parents with two or more kids and time poor parents. Remember to choose a meal that you think the whole family would like, and add any seasoning i.e. salt and pepper or heated spice last, after you’ve dished out the kids. Puree and freeze any suitable leftovers for your baby.
6. Buy the freshest ingredients you can afford. Whether you buy certified organic, non-sprayed or conventional produce, make sure it’s fresh to maximise nutrients for your baby. For fresh produce like fruit and veggies, the longer it’s been sitting on the shelf and not in the ground or on a tree, the less nutrients it will have. Buy produce that’s in season as it’s usually cheaper.
7. Use cheaper cuts of meat. When introducing meat to young babies, it should be well cooked, tender and pureed to a silky smooth texture for better digestion and absorption. Casseroles and bolognaise which use cheaper cuts of meat, are goods ways to help keep the budget down, whilst still providing essential nutrients.
8. Shop around. Big supermarkets can be competitive with prices and usually you’re guaranteed fresh produce. But if you want to know more about the produce you’re buying eg if something has been sprayed or not, where exactly it was sourced etc, then try shopping at Farmers Markets or Co-Ops. At a Farmer’s Market, usually you’re able to talk to the actual farmer, who is able to tell you what you need to know. And produce can be cheaper.
9. Don’t shop on an empty stomach. Shopping when you’re hungry means you will be less likely to stick to your list and end up with unnecessary foods that might break the food budget for that week.
10. Cook and freeze. When preparing baby meals, cook enough to make several portions and freeze. This saves time for future meals, as well as adds variety to the selection of meals you might already have in the freezer.
With the cost of living on the rise, it makes sense to minimise spending where possible. Food is one area where you can definitely save money without compromising on health, which is good to know, when feeding a family.
By Cherie Lyden – nutritionist and mother – www.lydenvitality.com