The first (and potentially only) edition of Frugal Friday is here today! Not only do I believe that as Christians, my husband and I are called to be good stewards of the money we have, but also, we just don't have a lot to be frivolous with! Hence, we have learned how to be more frugal in our everyday lives to stretch a dollar a bit further. Some people think we're crazy to drive old cars... sometimes I also think we're crazy, but hey-- they're paid for. Some people think we're nuts to live without cable half of each year, but we save so much money. We work hard, we spend wisely, we live comfortably. For that I am thankful.
Today's tip is less of a frugal choice and more of a surprise. It's homemade baby food. Let me explain further. When Isaac was born, I chose to exclusively breastfeed him for the first six months. This should come as no surprise considering I've become like a one-woman soapbox on breastfeeding. Enough already! One day, I had to start thinking about solid foods. How they would work into our current feedings and eventually overtake feedings as his primary source of nutrition. To be honest, I wasn't looking forward to solids at all. The trouble. The mess. The cost. But yeah, okay, one day my son had to become a table-food-eating member of the family. I might love breastfeeding, but you won't find me nursing a preschooler. Then also, because I'm an overprotective first-time mother, I like to know what my child is ingesting, which is the primary reason I originally chose to make my baby's food purees. I had the time, I had the resources without needing to buy extra equipment, and it just seemed easy enough. Initially, my choice had no bearing on cost of homemade food versus cost of jarred food.
So I did it. I've made nearly all of Isaac's food. With the exception of rice cereal, prunes, applesauce, and now ritz crackers, the remainder of his intake has been food that I've steamed, blended and spooned up to him. And it was just as easy as I'd anticipated it would be. Then, the real surprise came about: it was also ridiculously cheap. Like slap-your-mama cheap. I had no idea it was going to be so very cost effective. Because I was buying mostly organic products, I assumed that the overall cost would be higher than jarred food. I wrote off the difference in cost, believing that eating whole foods are healthier than processed foods. Imagine my surprise when I started analyzing the costs more carefully and realized I was saving beaucoup bucks. To prove my point, I took a field trip to our closest grocery store. For the sake of good blogging, I put my pride aside and looked like a total creeper taking pictures of vegetables on scales, price stickers, and jars of baby food. In the sake of full disclosure, I shopped at the local HEB and paid no regard to items on sale, nor did I use coupons. I used prices from the Gerber brand of jarred baby food (non organic, 4oz servings). It's neither the cheapest nor the most expensive, but seemed to be a "middle of the road" price. The fruits, veggies, and entrees were chosen simply because they are well-loved at our house.
Lets do a little comparing, shall we?
Gerber Price per Jar: $0.63
Homemade Price per Serving: $0.09
The cost per bag of Earthbound Farms Organic Carrots is $1.27. Technically, the entire bag would likely make more than 14 servings of carrot puree, but for today's purposes, 14 servings was my estimate. The math equals out to NINE cents per serving if you get 2 weeks' worth of carrots from a single bag. Or you could buy 2 jars of Gerber Carrots for the same price.
Gerber Price per Jar: $0.63
Homemade price per serving: $0.16
The cost per Potato is approximately $0.78. Using 3 sweet potatoes, I can easily get 14 servings of baby food. (Do you think 14 is an arbitrary number? Here's where I got it: First, each food tray has 14 spaces for food and like being able to make 2 trays' worth of food each time I steam & puree an item, which equals 28 cubes of food. Typically, I give Isaac two cubes at each feeding and no more than one serving of the same veggie on the same day. That means, I have two week's worth/14 days of sweet potatoes or carrots or whatever else I choose to make. Make a little more sense now?). Three sweet potatoes at $0.78 a piece comes to about $2.34, which when divided up into 14 servings takes us to a grand total of 16 cents per serving. To buy 14 servings of Gerber Sweet Potatoes, it'd cost you $8.82.
Blueberries & Peaches
Gerber Price per Jar of Peaches: $0.63
Homemade Price per Serving: $0.53
I couldn't specifically find a combo jar of peaches and blueberries, so I went with the price of just peaches. Isaac loves the combo of blueberries and peaches with his rice cereal in the morning for breakfast, which is one bag of frozen wild organic blueberries and 2 bags of frozen organic peaches. This easily makes 16 servings or more, considering some mornings I only give one cube instead of the typical two. However, to keep things moving, I went with 16 servings from the cost of the fruit, which totaled $0.53 per serving. This isn't quite as much of a disparity between the prepared food and fresh food, mostly because frozen wild organic blueberries aren't cheap. But as I said, I usually get more life out of our "breakfast" foods since I typically add rice cereal to the fruit, needing only 1 cube instead of two. I wouldn't be surprised if the actual price per serving was much lower. Regardless, you get the point.
Gerber Price per Jar: $0.63
Homemade Price per Serving: $0.40
Pears are one of Isaac's favorites, so I make them often. To make the ubiquitous 14 servings of pear puree, I need about 4 pears, which at $1.87/lb comes to about $5.61 total cost for the pears. Divide that up over 14 servings and once again there's a pretty significant savings. Consider the fact that I typically mix 1 cube of pears (instead of the 2 cubes that constitute my "serving size") with a few spoonfuls of applesauce and the pears go even further, which means more savings.
Chicken & Rice
Gerber price per Jar of "meat entree": $0.98
Homemade Price per Serving: $0.22
So you see, making baby food is super cheap, even when buying "pricey" organic ingredients. It can become fun to mix and match foods once your little one is accustomed to a variety of solids. Isaac's favorite combo was chicken and rice plus sweet potato. It is so easy to pop in a frozen cube of chicken with a frozen cube of potato, warm it up, and spoon it up. The cooking, pureeing and portioning process is kind of time-consuming and definitely messy, but it's a small price to pay for savings on the other side.