Think Outside the Jar: Nutrition outside of baby food

Homemade Baby Food - Carrots

Homemade Baby Food – Carrots (Photo credit: Cascadian Farm)

 

We know that baby food isn’t always the best option for your baby. But sometimes, you just can’t help it. It’s what’s available. You work with what you got, right? (especially if there’s a lot of it, and especially if it’s free!) Last week, I discussed some options you can do to make baby food more nutritious.

 

Now, let’s take a look at alternatives. Baby food does its job, but you don’t want to be using it all the time. With that in mind, let’s explore other options baby can have.

 

Pre-made

 

Half of the convenience of baby food is in the fact that it’s already prepared, right? No cooking, no heating up- just pop the lid and serve. Did you know you can do the same thing with homemade food?

 

Freeze it

 

A lot of foods freeze really well. When you make up a batch of food, set some aside into containers to freeze. Make sure you leave room for liquids to expand! This works great for meals with a lot of leftovers. Recently, I made a large pot of soup and had plenty leftover. I poured some of it into empty baby food jars and stuck them in the freezer, so they’d be handy later!

 

Pre-prepared

 

Most foods will keep well in the fridge for at least a few days, sometimes even up to a week. Pre-make certain foods and just keep it in the fridge, ready to pull out when needed. Most of the time, you won’t even need to reheat them, so whatever is left uneaten can simply go back in the fridge! My 8-month-old daughter LOVES eggs. I often cook up to four or five eggs at a time. I scramble them as if for scrambled eggs, pour into the pan, and let sit for several minutes, until nearly cooked through. Do NOT stir! After a few minutes, I flip it to cook the other side. When done, I let it cool and then serve small portions to her. The eggs are healthy for her growing body, and the “pancake” style makes it easy for her to pick up the pieces. The leftovers I’ll put in the fridge to pull out later and serve cold.

 

Snack foods

 

If you have the time, you can also make up certain snack foods for your little one. The idea is to make foods that the baby can pick up and feed herself. Crackers, cookies, and other such things make great foods. For babies under a year old, consider using coconut or some other flour other than wheat. Some research shows that babies are unable to fully digest grains before one year old, and some experts recommend up to two years. If all you have is wheat flour, then try and at least limit your baby’s grain intake.

 

Fruits are also a great food. Your baby can have most fruits, barring allergies. Some, like apples, may need to be cooked first in order to soften. Keep bananas and avocado on hand to give your baby a healthy, nutritious snack!

 

I understand there’s a LOT more that can be said about this issue, but I didn’t want to go on too long! What foods do YOU give to your baby? Are there any suggestions you’d like to add?

 

Nutritional Baby Food

Baby Food

Baby Food (Photo credit: Cascadian Farm)

Most any natural foods/whole foods/healthy living blog will tell you to never, ever, under-no-circumstances, use baby food. They instead offer a few options for making your own (suggestions which are often minimal at best, for a mother with no idea where to begin).

But… what if you’re on WIC? Not using baby food means there’s a LOT of food being wasted. 19 jars of baby food is a LOT- and that’s only one check! All total, I receive up to 95 jars a month for my seven-month-old. At the end of the month when pickings are low and your EBT card doesn’t refill for another week (or two), those 95 jars of food can make a difference for your growing, hungry (starving!) baby.

As a mother, reading about all the evils of processed food, including baby food, can make you depressed. It’s tough enough trying to feed your family on good, wholesome nutrition. But what about your baby, so fragile and easily susceptible to the dangers lurking in those tiny jars?

And yet… there’s nothing else to eat. It sounds all good to feed the baby the same meals that you eat- but that isn’t always practical. Moms skip meals a whole lot more than babies do. And what if dinner is just enough for hubby and yourself?

I know. I’ve faced this. I’ve literally cried as I fed my baby that disgusting, processed foods that have little to no nutritional value, and whose preparation methods are highly questionable. But through that experience, I’ve found at least a few tips that might help you to maximize your food budget (Seriously- who doesn’t want free food?) and still provide good nutrition. It isn’t perfect, but few systems are, especially when you’re living on WIC. That said- here goes…

Spice it up! 

Baby food with spices

Baby food with spices

Baby food makes for a picky eater. The foods are bland; unflavored and unseasoned, they do nothing to tickle your baby’s palate. So the baby gets used to the lack of flavor, and begins to refuse delicious, home-cooked meals. To combat this, add your own seasonings to the jars. Use moderation, since it IS a small jar. Add spices just as you would to your own food. Bear in mind that some spices, like garlic, may cause an upset tummy if using too much. This will help your baby’s taste buds to get used to good, flavorful foods!

Avoid GMO’s and the Dirty Dozen

GMO foods are those that have been genetically modified to withstand lethal doses of pesticides. The problems that go into this are for a post in itself, so I won’t go into it here, but suffice it to say that you don’t want your children eating them, if at all possible! Avoid corn and other likely GMO foods.

The other problem with conventional foods is pesticides. Although they are approved as safe by the FDA, it’s still not something you want to be putting in your body, and especially not in your kids’ bodies. Make a note of which foods are less likely to have higher doses of pesticides, and focus mainly on those.

Supplement

Baby food doesn’t have to make up the entirety of your baby’s diet. In fact, it would be good that it doesn’t, if possible. Make sure your baby is getting other good foods, too. There are two ways you can do that:

Mix baby food with “real” food.

This works great for leftovers, or even dinner. Mix a jar of baby food with, say, mashed potatoes, or gravy, and you’ve got a yummy and nutritious meal for baby! Another option I would often do is mixing baby cereal with bone broth. While the cereal isn’t ideal because of the grains, the broth will still provide some great nutrition.

Just real food

If you have it, use real food for your baby. While it may not always be practical, there are some things that you can give to your baby. This includes foods you have handy already as well as mealtime foods. Besides meals, you can also do veggies, fruits, and other foods like yogurt and cottage cheese, which are also good probiotics. Some will need preparation, such as cooking, while others can be given to them straight.

This section requires a post by itself, so I’ll just leave it at that. We all want real nutrition from real food. But sometimes, it just isn’t an option for all of us. Fortunately, you CAN feed your infant baby food and still give them good nutrition!

Working from Home

telecommuting

telecommuting (Photo credit: jessamyn)

This blog isn’t all about business. In fact, that’s not even the main focus of it. It’s about living better- better health, better finances, better spirits, better living. Business comes in as part of that, because we all would like “just a little bit more money,” and so I want to help point the way.

But not all of us are cut out for business. Not everyone wants to own or run a business. So how can earn a little extra income without running a business?

There are many ways you can earn a little extra at home. Some are more obscure than others, and a lot have misconceptions surrounding them. So starting this week, once a month I’ll post a new “Work at home” tip. These are specifically geared for those who want to work from home, but earning just enough to supplement their income, rather than a business to replace it.

Specifically, these ideas will be done with moms in mind- those who stay at home with their children and don’t have a lot of time to invest in a new business, or may not even want to. Ready- set- go!

Today’s tip- Use what you know

I’ll get more detailed into this in a later post, but for starts I just wanted to do a broad coverage. Many times, working from home just requires using skills you already have. Are you good at cleaning? Try and see if you can find domestic cleaning jobs, perhaps on Craigslist. Writing? There are a host of freelancing websites out there- some are better than others, so be careful what you sign up for. Are you good with kids, or do you have in-depth knowledge on a certain academic subject? Perhaps babysitting or tutoring is the job for you.

We all have varied skills. Some of us are more knowledgeable on some subjects than others. But we all have ways we can apply that knowledge to the benefit of our family.

Example: my husband is a certified computer nerd. He loves nothing more than to take apart a computer just to see how it works. So when I got to talking with an acquaintance who mentioned some computer problems she was having, I mentioned my husband. Usually, he can figure out a problem, and can pretty well fix anything, especially if it’s a virus. Well, as it turned out, we weren’t able to fix the computer- the motherboard was shot. But, she later gave us her daughter’s computer to fix, which had a virus. We were able to fix that computer- and unexpectedly, got paid for it!

That’s just a simple example. There are countless others I could give. The point is, be open to opportunities, even with strangers. You never know where something might come up! Examine your knowledge and skills, and see what use you can make of them.

Store-hopping deals

Daoxiao mian / Knife-cut Chinese noodle (刀削麵) ...

Daoxiao mian / Knife-cut Chinese noodle (刀削麵) Specialty store (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few days ago, we stopped at Safeway to grab something for dinner, having not had time to fix anything before leaving for church. My husband wanted pizza (his favorite), but knew that it would be hard on the stomach that late at night, so opted for a salad instead. I ran in to get the fixings, and was able to pick up a large container of fresh salad for just $5! Even better, it was organic! I was surprised to learn that the organic salad was the same price as the regular- making it affordable.

Of course, I snatched up that deal, but it got me to thinking. I grew up shopping different stores. In an effort to maximize our limited food budget, my mother would shop around at various locations- meats here, produce here, and hey, this store now has apples on sale!

When I married, I continued that tradition… for a time. Now, with a 7-month-old in tow, it makes it a little difficult. Getting to one store, getting her out of the carseat, going through the store while murmuring a prayer that she doesn’t fuss, getting out to the car, loading her back in the carseat, loading the groceries, going to the next store, repeat. It’s a lot. And as I don’t care for going to a lot of stores and getting in and out in the first place, it gets even more tiring.

So I stopped doing it. I limited my shopping to just two stores- Walmart and a local specialty store that I knew had good products. But at that dinner rush trip, I learned that I could better maximize my food budget if I expanded more.

Every store has its advantages. Learn what each store has in stock and what their prices are. Like I did, you may find that buying quality products at one store is impossible, but at another, it becomes affordable.

If necessary, keep a journal of the stores you visit, what products they carry, and especially the prices (and I’ll get more into pricing in another post). Use a paper and pencil notebook, an app on your phone, or whatever else works for you. Keep an eye out for sales- sometimes, the “good” stuff is on sale, so watch out for it!

While you’re at it for store-hopping, don’t neglect those specialty stores! Many of them have great foods at great prices. While some are overpriced, others may have even better prices than “regular” stores. Also, you are more likely to find fresh, less processed foods at specialty stores, and in bulk, too. I can get 20lbs of dry beans for only $10 from my local Mexican market- I’m lucky to even find that much at a Walmart, much less for the price!

Shop wisely. Use your town to its fullest. Find which stores offer which products at the best prices. Use specialty markets. Keep an eye out for sales. And good luck on healthy living!

P.S. If you’re on food stamps or otherwise have a limited budget, chances are you could use some more money. (who doesn’t?) Watch on Saturdays for tips on building your own business (with as little investment as possible), working from home, and earning a little extra cash on the side. If you’d like some personal tips for you, leave a comment and I’ll get back with you!

The Beginning of a Journey

"The New Fred Meyer on Interstate on Lomb...

“The New Fred Meyer on Interstate on Lombard” (7404 N Interstate Ave, Portland, OR 97217). This version has additional correction to correct for poor white balance and slight counterclockwise rotation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We all know we should be eating healthy. It’s almost instinctual. Similarly, we also know that eating fast food all the time will not make you healthy. It will, in fact, make you fat.

But what about other things, the things we don’t often see? How about the food in those boxes at the grocery store? Perhaps, on some instinctual level, we realize that that is not real food, either. It’s processed. 

Maybe you grew up in a traditional family and learned all about the old paths. Maybe you’re just now learning about the harmful chemicals in what you thought was “healthy” food. Or maybe you’re somewhere in between, or none of the above. Either way, you’re here for a reason. We’re all on some stage of a journey to real food. We all have different motives. But the end result is the same- health.

In that quest for good, nutrient-dense food, there comes the ever-present question of cost. It’s an understandable question, really. Organic is often insanely expensive, and buying fresh produce all the time just isn’t realistic for some people. And what about those who don’t, for one reason or another, have access to a farm?

That’s what this is for. Maybe you’re on food stamps and you’re only limited to the stores, because EBT doesn’t work for farms and online stores. Maybe you’re in the city and there isn’t a farm near you. Not everyone can take shortcuts.

I want to show you that it IS still possible. I’m not perfect; I’m still on my own journey to real food. I still eat Cheerios, and I still make a quick run to McDonald’s upon occasion. We’re all in different stages. But that’s why it’s a journey, and not an immediate life change.

So- how do you eat healthy when most of what’s available to you is processed in some form or another? Walk with me, and I’ll show you quick tips to good eating. Take what you can, and leave what doesn’t work for you. We’re all different; what may work for me may not work for you. I’ll also share some tips on things that may not work for myself, but they may work for your family.

This goes beyond just healthy eating. In the process, I’ll also show you how you can cut corners on other areas, as well. Stick with me, friend, and maybe we’ll both learn something new!

State assistance in the real world

Before I get into the meat of the series, I want to add some disclaimers. Many people have a warped view of those who live on “state assistance.” I can’t tell you how many comments I’ve heard about those who “bum off the government.” About giving up your toys, your gadgets, your fancy new cars. About how if you would just work hard, you’ll be able to make ends meet.

Let me tell you, it doesn’t always work that way. I didn’t grow up that way. Growing up, we hardly ever went out to eat- it was a treat that only came once in a while. When we did go, we got the economical meals. No happy meals from McDonalds- all the kids knew that the dollar menu was our limit. Often, we shared a drink- one large drink for all eight kids.

Oh yes, did I mention there were EIGHT of us? Eight kids on a single income that didn’t even bring in that much. Oh, I can’t even begin to tell you the comments I’ve heard on THAT one. Disparaging comments about the number of kids in a family, and how if we didn’t have so many, we wouldn’t need state assistance. Etc, etc, etc.

Let me tell you, I ENJOY every single one of my siblings. I couldn’t imagine life without them. Comments like that… they make me bristle. Just at the idea of not having my wonderful baby brother- you’re stroking the tiger now, just sayin’. (Did I mention I’m one of the oldest? Yeah…. protective big sister, you know.)

So. There’s a lot of really, really rude comments. A lot of misconceptions, a lot of assumptions. A lot of judgement. And quite frankly, it’s annoying. Worse than annoying. So I’m just going to get it out there right now- families on state assistance are doing the best they can. They’re working hard, coming home exhausted, cutting corners, and trying their best to hold on to everything. You’ve never seen “tight-budgeted” until you’ve seen a family attempt to live on less than $30,000 a year. And sometimes that’s the best that they can get.

These are the people I’m speaking to, directly. But I wanted the disclaimer that they’re not being catered to, they’re not bumming. So STOP making them ashamed for who they are. Don’t make them ashamed to pull out that telltale card at the checkout line. For some, it’s enough to swallow their pride and ask for help at all. So… just some understanding– or failing that, silence.

Rock-a-bye Baby

Ask any parent, and they will tell you- teething = fussiness. Some babies have less trouble with it than others. Mine doesn’t. My almost-4-month-old is teething. Some days are better than others. On her not-so-good days, she wants nothing more than to just sit and rock with me while we listen to music. (The music is important)

So we sit there, rocking… for an hour… while the rest of the house sits there… for an hour. I have chores to do, meals to cook. My articles won’t write themselves.

And yet I sit there. Some days, by the time Daniel gets home from work, I am very tired, worn out from a day of nothing. Amazing how unproductive days can make you feel so tired, isn’t it?

Sometimes it does drag on me. My little girl is a Daddy’s girl- except when it comes to moments like these. Times like these, all she wants is Mommy. She wants to sit in my arms, lying her head in my shoulder, where she’ll rock and listen to the random songs I find on Youtube.

It drives me ragged. I don’t remember the last time I had a girls’ day.

And she still wants me.

Despite all my shortcomings, she wants me.

Despite my frustrations and impatience, she wants me.

Despite the messy house, the chores yet undone- she wants me.

It doesn’t matter to her that the house isn’t clean enough or that things aren’t organized as they should be. It doesn’t matter to her that I don’t have all the right snacks ready to grab from the kitchen or that the bed (both hers and mine) is a colorful mess or that my pillows remain on the ground where they were tossed last night.

It doesn’t matter. All that matters to her is that Mama is there to rock her and has nothing better to do than to sing to her. She wants me… just me, just as I am. It’s all she wants.

And so we sit on the couch, mismatching pillows scattered around us for comfort. I balance my computer on the arm of the couch and keep ten Youtube tabs open in order to have the next song loaded and ready when the last one is done. And I sing to her, in my slightly off-key sort of voice- which she still doesn’t care about.  I go through every song I know, breathlessly hoping I don’t run out before she’s happy again. Sometimes I play the same song twice.

Because it matters to her.

Motivation

Some days, I just don’t feel like doing anything. There are mornings when the bed covers reach up, cocooning me in sleepy layers of cotton and polyester. The coffee fails at its appointed task of giving my slogging mind a jump-start. I go about the house in a daze of motion, heavy eyes refuse to comprehend the slurred words smeared across the computer screen.

But then I remember: This isn’t a competition. It’s not a race. It isn’t to see which mom can have the cleanest house, or whose kids have the cute little braids and matching outfits. It’s not to see which writer can write the most stellar articles or turn out the most pieces in a single hour.

It’s not about them. It’s about me… and my own family. It’s about my own little circle of hearts knitted together, bound by blood and love. It’s about doing what works for my family. If I take a little longer writing an article, it’s because I was distracted by a three-month-old who just wanted to be held, and so we went outside and sat on the porch for a while. If there are still dirty dishes piled in the sink, it’s because I rocked my baby to sleep for an extra hour.

It’s these things that make the difference. The little things. Not the house or the work. It’s the smile in my daughter’s eyes, that adorable accidental laugh that’s only just beginning to slip out. This is what keeps me going. This is my wake-up call.