Inside: If you have no time to DIY baby food, these baby meal ideas are for you. Your baby will love them, plus you’ll avoid blowing her college fund on baby food.
I want to be the type of parent who makes her own baby food.
I also want to be the type of parent who comes up with a delicious and nutritious meal plan every week to nourish my family, the type of parent who sets up art projects every afternoon to nurture my children’s budding creativity, and the type of parent who showers every day.
But I’m not.
Most of the time, I aim for the “good enough” style of parenting. I’m a recovering perfectionist, so accepting imperfection is the only way I’ve found to hang onto my own sanity while parenting three little ones. This “good enough” mindset keeps my family safe from the Incredible Hulk version of myself who comes out when anything falls even a millimeter short of the visions of perfection dancing in my head.
In other words:
- I may not meal plan, but I have 10 perfectly nutritious recipes memorized for whenever we make it to the grocery store.
- I may not set up creative art projects every afternoon, but if I happen upon an awesome idea on Pinterest that doesn’t need anything fancy, I’ll rope the kids into doing the project right then and there.
- And I may not shower every day, but I do work from home so at least I’m not inflicting myself on the general public.
But Here’s the Problem
Baby food is expensive.
Especially when you have an infant with an insatiable appetite. At the age of six months, my youngest could polish off two 4-ounce jars or pouches of baby food per meal. This was on top of nursing several times a day.
When you factor in that she had 4-5 meals a day, that meant in theory, we could go through 8-10 jars or pouches every day. Depending on your brand of choice, that can end up being anywhere from $4 to $20 worth of baby food every day, or $120 to $600 a month. If feeding your baby organic food is important to you, you’ll end up more in the $240-600 range.
A Better Way?
When my middle kid was a baby, we did baby-led weaning, and it worked out awesome. We didn’t have to buy baby food because we just gave her some version of what we were eating anyway.
But with my littlest one, we can’t get the food in her fast enough. She was a big baby to start, and she’s been a voracious eater from the very beginning.
We’d give her a meal of soft cubes of sweet potato, mashed black beans, and yogurt – more food than my toddler eats in one sitting – but she just wanted more, more, more. The only thing that satiates her consistently is to follow up each meal with at least one jar or pouch of baby food.
Which brings me back to DIY baby food.
Because even when it’s just 3-5 jars of baby food a day, that still adds up.
3 Easy Baby Meal Ideas
I know I should just bite the bullet and make my own baby food. But my husband and I can barely keep up with the dishes and the vacuuming and the laundry. (Honestly? We can’t keep up with all that, so please never, ever drop by unannounced.)
Adding another task to our weekly to-do list ain’t gonna happen.
If you’re like me and you have no time to go DIY on baby food, these baby meal ideas are just for you. Not only will your baby love these healthier meals, but you’ll also avoid blowing her college fund on baby food.
1. Swirl Your Own Yogurt
Those baby yogurts you can get nowadays are full of added sugar, plus they have the same cost issue as regular baby food.
Here’s what you do instead:
- Get a 32 oz tub of plain whole-milk yogurt. (Organic if that’s how you roll.)
- Get 8 jars of baby food – pureed fruits are ideal. My baby absolutely loves this mix of fruit flavors.
- When baby’s hungry, spoon out 2 oz of yogurt and 2 oz of baby food, then swirl together.
This gives you a healthy, high-protein yogurt snack sweetened only with real fruit. Not only have you made your baby food last twice as long, but you’re delivering more nutritional value with the added protein from the yogurt.
Let’s compare the cost:
- Before – 16 jars of baby food: $16 (at $1/jar)
- After – 16 servings of swirl-your-own yogurt: $12 (assuming $4 for the yogurt and $8 for the baby food)
That’s a savings of 25% plus more nutritional value for your money.
2. Flavor Your Own Oatmeal
The jars and pouches of flavored baby oatmeal can be even more expensive than a regular jar of baby food.
So try this hack:
- Get a box of baby oatmeal. I love this oatmeal best because it has added probiotics, DHA, iron, and more healthy stuff.
- Get a 24 oz jar of unsweetened applesauce (or whatever size you can find).
- At mealtime, make 1/4 cup of oatmeal per the instructions on the box, then mix in a couple heaping spoonfuls of applesauce. (Side note: 1.5 oz will make the math work out perfectly if you’re into that sort of thing.)
Bonus: Baby gets a little more texture than the typical ready-made oatmeal flavors you can get at the store.
Now for the cost comparison:
- Before – 16 jars of baby oatmeal: $20 (at $1.25/jar)
- After – 16 servings of flavor-your-own oatmeal: $5 (assuming $2.50 for the oatmeal and $2.50 for the applesauce)
You’ve just saved yourself 75% and fed your baby something that’ll stick to her ribs. For a little extra flavor, look for an applesauce mixed with berries, peaches, or other fruit.
3. Get a Chicken (Not the Backyard Kind)
Have you tasted the “dinner” flavors of baby food? Whatever possessed the baby food manufacturers to mix chicken, peas, and prunes and call it a meal?
And if you pick up a few jars of those chicken dinner monstrosities, don’t fool yourself into thinking they’re high in protein. They’re so processed and watered down that you get at most 2-3 grams of protein per jar. If you can convince your baby to eat the gross concoction.
Try this instead:
- Get a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.
- Get a sweet potato.
- For dinner, tear off a few small strips of chicken and microwave the sweet potato until soft.
Now your baby has a delicious dinner of real food, plus you should have enough to serve your family chicken sandwiches and sweet potatoes for dinner. (Big kids don’t love sweet potato? Put a little butter and brown sugar on top, and they’ll be converts before too long.)
Save any leftover chicken and sweet potato in the fridge, and give baby some for lunch or dinner every day until it’s gone.
The cost difference?
- Before – Dinner for a family of four plus two jars of “dinner” baby food flavors: $17 (assuming $15 for dinner and $1/jar)
- After – Chicken sandwiches and sweet potatoes for everyone: $13 (assuming $8 for chicken, $2 for a loaf of bread, $2 for sweet potatoes, and $1 for condiments, cheese, and so on)
Your savings works out to about 24%, your baby gets yummier food, and now you have dinner for the whole family figured out, too. You’re welcome!
Feature photo by Donnie Ray Jones.
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What are your favorite baby meal ideas? Share in a comment below!
I’m a mom of four, a recovering perfectionist, and the author of Happy You, Happy Family. Parenting is hard enough without all the guilt we heap on top of ourselves. So let’s stop trying to be perfect parents and just be real ones. Sound good? Join my mailing list and as a bonus, you’ll get 25+ incredibly helpful cheat sheets that will ease your parenting struggles.