Thursday, March 18, 2010

3 lbs of organic apples for $3.69 = Cheaper than a jar

The contenders?

3lbs of Organic Fuji Apples (which, by the way, smell amazing) for $3.69 at Whole Foods

Earth's Best Organic 12-pack of 2nd Foods Apples - $10.99 (12 4oz containers = 48oz).*
You don't likely need to buy anything to make baby food other than the food itself. I'm starting with apples, because they are so easy and most other baby fruit and veg purees can be made with the same method. Also, at 10 months my son is moving away from purees and this is one he still really loves. I'm pretty sure I will be making applesauce for years to come....

So its easy to get started. If you have a blender, food processor, or food mill, you are set to go. If not, then I was wrong and you will need to get one of those things. But the plus side is that you can use any size food processor - even those little bitty ones - and the results are the same. You may find you prefer smaller batches, or you may find that you just have to puree in batches. Peel your apples and core them. Cut them into whatever size chunks you like, as long as they are roughly the same size.
Place them in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then simmer until they are nice and mashy. Use a slotted spoon to pull the apples from the water and put them in your food processor or blender with as much of the cooking water as it takes to puree them to your desired consistency.

For "Stage1" foods, you will need to add most if not all, and maybe more water. Personally, I believe that "stages" are something baby food companies made up to make sure you spend as much money on baby food as possible for as long as possible. I don't generally add more than I need to to get the food pureed and instead I look at the texture. Boogie started with very smooth purees and moved slowly to chunkier ones. Apples can be pureed as much as you like forever since you will probably give your baby applesauce for years to come.
Spoon the puree into ice cube trays and if they have covers, cover them and freeze. We have some handy dandy Tupperware trays with lids that my mom bought off Ebay for fairly cheap, but they are currently in the freezer full of kale puree (yes, my baby LOVES kale puree!), so alternatively, you can put them in whatever trays are handy and wrap them in plastic wrap or foil to freeze. Just make sure if they are at all liquidy (as most purees are, no matter how little water you have added) that they are level.

I forgot to take pictures of my ice cube trays. Oops...

When they are solidly frozen (overnight is generally about right), pop them out and fill up a freezer bag, label it with the date and contents, and stick it back in the freezer. A deep freeze is super helpful with this as your collection of baby cubes grows!
I ended up with 32 ounces, or thereabouts, which translated into about 32 ounces of food, or about $.12 per ounce. Earth's Best jars work out to about $.29 per ounce. Not bad. If you ar elooking for a "stage 1" consistancy, you will probably add enough water to bring it to about 40oz or more, making your cost per ounce less than $.10.

*I like Earth's Best. This is for comparison only. Because their products are organic, whole grain, and do not contain (to my knowledge) any added sugar or salt, I believe they are a better alternative to conventional jarred baby food. But I believe that fresh, homemade whole food is best.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cloth Cost

There are a hundred websites at least that can break down for you the cost of cloth diapering versus disposables, but sometimes the reality is somewhat different.

Prefolds are cheap and actually not all that difficult, but as your baby gets older, it can be difficult to get them on and off of a squirmy baby. The all-in-one kind are pricier but they don't necessarily last and washing can be more complicated.
Washing gets more complicated if you use anything with synthetic materials. We use cotton terry diapers so we can even bleach them if we need to (which was nice when we came down with a nasty bout of thrush and yeast rash last fall). But I also have 4 pocket dipes that we use when we are out and about sometimes, since Boogie is at the "I will do whatever I have to to move in the opposite direction of what you would prefer," stage. A two-piece system is just a little more difficult on those silly fold out changers in public restrooms.

So what's the real cost? We spent about $600 all together, not including the ongoing washing-related expenses, which I find to be somewhat irrelevant. I don't notice the difference, really. And I usually fill the load with wipe up towels, burp rags, kitchen rags, etc. We try to use as many cloth towels instead of paper towels in the kitchen as we can, so I always have other things that can go in with the dipes.

At about $10 a pack for disposables, that's only 60 packs or roughly 30 weeks. Although, I don't really know how many disposables most parents go through in a week so maybe that's optimistic, or pessimistic? I realize that you can get most name brands or even store brands for less than that if you are vigilant, use coupons, etc. but those diapers make my son break out in a really nasty rash. So we use chlorine-free/dye-free/fragrance-free Earth's Best on the occassions when we need disposables (like on a trip to NJ last month when we really couldn't fly our stash with us) and they run about $13 a pack here, so I'm extra greatful not to be buying diapers.

The real cost to me isn't just in what you pay for disposables. You actually would need to spend a lot on top of the line cloth diapers before you would spend more on than on disposables, especially if you then use disposable training you can't re-use disposables for the next baby, etc. and so on. And if your kid is like mine, you'll be spending plenty on rash creams, too.

The real cost is health. Like I said, my son breaks out terribly with "conventional disposables" (if that isn't a contradiction in terms). But he didn't always. From the time we brought him home from the hospital, he was in disposables off and on for about two months. Our diaper system was too big for him at first. I had a dozen prefolds, so we did use those after about 3 weeks, and then we sowly transitioned into cloth full time over about a month.

The problem started when we hadn't used the disposables in a while and put one on him to get pictures made in a onesie that no longer fit over a cloth diaper. For maybe 10 minutes he was in that diaper. MAYBE. And when we took it off (okay, wasteful to take it off when it was dry but I don't like the chemical exposure more than I care about the environment), there it was - a bright red angry rash covering every single inch of where the diaper touched his skin, even down to the papery bits that hang off the elastic around the legs, and all the way up to the top the whole way around, even over his legs. And he hadn't even peed in it. 

So the question isn't why my son broke out like that. Obviously, it had something to do with the chemicals and fragrances in the diapers that he wasn't used to. The real question is why don't other babies break out when they start out in disposables and live in them for 2-3 years? The answer lies, of course, in the month or so that my son was not exposed to disposable diapers at all before that photo session.

So maybe your baby doesn't seem bothered at all by disposables. Maybe s/he never even gets diaper rash. I can't tell you how many disposable diaper using mamas have warned me that cloth diapers cause diaper rash, and have been then shocked to hear me tell them we just don't have that problem. In fact, he has never had it aside from a bout of thrush, except when he has been in disposables.

But do you want to just assume that it isn't affecting your child because there are no outward signs? Personally, I don't like to assume that because I can't see something, it isn't there. Only I had the opportunity to see it, know it is there, and be greatful that I was already doing something about it. It took about a week for that rash to clear completely. The pictures are cute, but they weren't worth it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Why "Feed Me, Cloth Me"?

I have been thinking about writing a blog for a while now. Since my son was born in May of 2009, I've had little time to spend on my first love - writing. I started writing recreationally when I was fairly young, perhaps about 9 or 10 years old, and in high school I found that poetry spoke to me and soon after that, discovered a genre I wouldn't know the name for for years to come.

In college, I took my first creative writing class in Creative Non-Fiction. It was the only class open for a transfer student late to the registration process. On the first day, I fell in love with writing all over again. I had been writing CNF for years without knowing it had a name. Blogging is not unlike CNF in may ways - at least, I believe that this blog will not be unlike it.

Over the last 10 months, I have learned so much about myself that it almost overrides the first 26 years of my life experience. Having a baby truly changes everything.

Feed Me!

I have always wanted to make my own baby food. I loved the idea of little ice cubes of carrots and peas in my freezer, a veritable rainbow of veggies and fruit. I had no idea that I could make baby cereal myself. I never expected I would feed my son tofu regularly. I certainly never realized I could make beans or lentils in batches and freeze them in ice cube trays. I bought cottage cheese for the first time in my life (and I was apparently avoiding it for good reason, but Boogie loves it) And I had no idea I would be buying so much yogurt.
But once I got started, I found it was incredibly easy to make healthy, organic, fresh meals for him. I love thinking up new ways to make simple delicious food that my husband and I can enjoy with him. It almost makes me sad to see that my son is outgrowing purees, even thick chunky ones, and wanting more and more to feed himself. In addition to loving the process, I love the outcome. Boogie eats anything (almost - see below) and loves everything he tries, including foods I don't care for like kale, cottage cheese, and lentils.
In the last 4 months, I have made a lot of baby food. It amazes me when I pass the baby jar section in the grocery store how incredibly expensive it is to feed your child what amounts to canned veggies. To some degree, I wanted to save money by making it myself. But the overriding thought was that I could make sure my son learned to love a variety of veggies, fruits, grains, and more in the first few years of his life if I made everything he eats from fresh, whole foods. Then maybe, just maybe, when he does eventually find himself at a fast food restaurant with friends, he'll take a bite and wonder what it is because it won't taste like food.
I think many parents share at least one of those goals. Making baby food really is easy. And, done in batches all in one day a month, it can be pretty fast and just as convienient as those little jars...and I can tell you from experience that it tastes better. We once tried to offer organic jarred food to my little Boogie at a restaurant and no only did he refuse to eat it (the FIRST time he ever refused to eat anything!), but he cried as though we had tried to feed him thumbtacks. I tasted it myself and I had to agree. Jarred string beans do not taste like string beans. Jarred carrots do not taste like carrots. I can handle that kind of picky eater.
Making your own baby food doesn't stop with purees, even when that phase starts to end (tear!). I'm changing the way my family eats so that we can all eat together and have healthy, nutritious meals that taste great!
Cloth Me!
I knew in my very early 20's that I would use cloth diapers for my children. A family friend used them and I was intrigued. Once night I spent hours on the internet researching cloth diapers and was amazed at all there was to learn. Years later, married and expecting my first child, I revisited the world of cloth diapers and found that even in those 5 or so years, the options have exploded into a phenomenon many people believe is just a trend.
Trendy or not, cloth diapers have been around for as long as...well...babies. Or at least as long as there has been cloth, it has been used for diapering babies.
The first disposable diaper appeared on the scene in 1949, and according to 1980's diapering authority My Mom, disposable diapers were hardly an option for full-time diapering unless you wanted to do even more laundry than you were already doing washing diapers. She said most of them still required a cover (which she called "rubber pants" so you can already see things have changed!) Besides, she used a diaper service and didn't have to wash them herself anyway. My point is that disposable diapers have only been a viable alternative to cloth as a full-time diapering option for about 25 or maybe 30 years. Since then, technology has boomed and a popular diaper brand is now offering a product they claim will keep your baby dry for up to 12 hours.
Which, in my opinion, is a technology we do not need. The longer you leave a diaper on a baby, the longer their skin is in direct contact with urine. They may not feel wet, but they will certainly be in cotact with urine. Think about it. And if you use a disposable diaper, it isn't just urine. We're talking chemicals, fragrances, dyes, dioxin (by-product of bleaching process), etc.
Do our babies really need to be wrapped in technology from the moment they arrive into the world? I think if I had the choice, I'd rather be wrapped in soft cotton than heavily scented, bleached, and dyed paper full of SAP.
This is why I diaper my son in cloth.