Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Organic odds and ends

I am so excited that Jamie Oliver has a new television show coming out! So far, the only show that I have watched is Jamie Oliver’s School Lunch Project. I loved it and I have a feeling that a lot of his DVDs will appear on my next Christmas list. I truly believe in his mission and I am impressed with his efforts. For those of you that feel the same way, you can sign his petition here. If you aren’t familiar with him (or already love him) and get a chance to watch his upcoming Food Revolution (debuts Friday, March 26th 9pm – 10pm ET on ABC), you definitely should.

As I wrote in past posts, costs and budgeting are huge concerns of mine. In my household, as our family grows, it seems like the raises, bonuses, and opportunities to earn a higher income (like overtime) are becoming fewer and farther between. Especially in this economy. There just doesn’t seem to be nearly as much to go around.

I have really made an effort to buy primarily organic food since I started this blog. And, plain and simple, organic just costs more. I get frustrated at the grocery store when I see that my selection is reduced to a corner and the prices have risen considerably. I hope that once I receive the CSA share (just two more weeks!), that supplementing with meat and starches won’t be quite as pricey, but meat is the highest portion of the food budget, so I don’t have my hopes up too far. I have found a few tricks that I will share, and if anyone has anything else, please comment. Every little bit helps!

First, shop around. I know that isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially if your time is as limited as mine. I take one Saturday and month and meet a friend and travel out of town to at least one health food store. We can split the gas, it’s nice to have company, plus if there is anything else we need to do in the area we can do that, too. Health food stores aren’t necessarily always cheaper, but I usually find a better selection (especially with produce) and I have become so familiar with my grocery store corner, that I know when something is a deal. Eggs, for example, are ALWAYS cheaper at the health food store. And, come prepared. If you use your own reusable grocery bags, make sure to pack them, along with a cooler (you can usually get a bag of ice anywhere). I get a discount if I bring my own bags. And, one of the stores that we go to has a discount card program, which also helps.

Second, become familiar with prices. It’s difficult to recognize a deal if you don’t know what the item usually costs. My family has a few “go to” foods and dinners that I will purchase regardless of how much we have at home if I find a good price. I heard it referred to once as a “stock up price” which is exactly what it is. If I can find organic macaroni and cheese on sale for under $1, we stock up. The same with cleaning supplies. I have been lucky with coupons for the 7th Generation all purpose cleaner (spray and wipes) and have been purchasing them for 99¢*, so we have quite a few stored away right now. It retails for about $3, so I am saving 67% and that is worth it to me to buy a few extra.

Next, find out if your grocery store has an organic store brand. I shop at Kroger and just found out that they have a Prime Selection organic line. They sell various meats, pasta, and other things. These prices are much more reasonable than the name brand (even without a sale), so it has helped our budget quite a bit. Also, Kroger gets tricky with these items and doesn’t stock them in the health food section with the rest of the organic food, but along with the non-organic items (which is one of the reasons that it took me so long to find). Also, look at different ways to keep perishable food. For example, milk freezes really well. If I see about to expire milk on clearance (which is always a big yay! because organic milk is super expensive) then I stock up and stick the gallons in the freezer. Something like eggs is a bit tougher…

Lastly, use coupons and watch weekly ads. It’s not the easiest thing to do, but I did post links to a couple sites that pretty much give them to you. Check them weekly or monthly even. Sunday is coupon clipping day for me. I check the websites and the newspaper (except for Kroger which changes on Mondays). I have a small filing envelope (made specifically for coupons that is from the dollar store) that I keep in my purse, so I always have them with me. If you find an organic brand that you like, visit their website. The company usually has a coupon (especially for signing up on an email list) and some even post different ones regularly. Quite often I can get name brand items for less than the price of the store brand items by pairing my coupons with sales. Once I got my system down, it really only takes me about an hour. Everyone has different needs, so it may take you more or less time, depending.

Organic is just more expensive. But, I have managed on a very tight budget by doing these things and I still believe that for the health of my family and me it is worth it. It can be done; it just takes a little time and planning. I am interested to hear about how everyone else saves.

Also, check me out! Yeah, I'm that Mollie - yay!

*If anyone is curious about how I get a particular deal, just let me know.
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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sweet Potatoes and Avocados

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten you. And I did actually make some baby food since my last post. I had some personal stuff that needed tending to, but now I should be back to at least once a week posting.

Well, my little guy has progressed quite a bit since we first started with the solid food. I think the “beginner” food was just too runny for him. He had a lot of problems keeping it in his mouth. The second he would close his mouth, all of the food came out. I started thickening the cereal quite a bit and noticed that it was easier for him to eat, so he ate a lot more than the runny stuff.

I introduced avocados which he LOVES. I think that they may be his favorite. I just bought a couple organic ones, chopped them up and then popped them into a plastic freezer storage bag in the freezer. Now when I feed him, I just take out one of the chunks and in a couple of minutes it is soft enough to smash and feed. He really loves it. I usually give him that alone, but mix the sweet potatoes with the cereal (not in the bowl, but on the same spoon).

I found some HUGE organic sweet potatoes at a health food store, so since it was out of town, I stocked up and bought four. Here they are with the avocados.

To prepare the sweet potatoes, I used the recipe in my last post. I baked the sweet potatoes at 410 degrees for over an hour (somewhere between 1 hour 15 minutes and 1 hour 30 minutes). I don’t think they would normally need to bake that long, but these were humongous. When they were finished baking, I set them on the counter to cool and once they got to room temperature, I put them in the refrigerator. We had plans that day, so I couldn’t get back to them until the next day. Once I started making the food, I just peeled off the skins, which was super easy because the potatoes had baked for so long. I chopped up the potato and put it in the Magic Bullet* with some formula. After blending a couple of seconds, we had sweet potato baby food!

I used a smaller spoon to spoon the food into the trays.Once the trays were filled, I covered them with plastic wrap (mostly to make sure that no debris could get into them in the freezer) and stuck in the freezer.

Again, due to work and some commitments, I didn’t get back to the cubes for a couple of days. By then they were definitely frozen and kind of difficult to remove from the trays. I set them on the counter to thaw for about 30 minutes, which made them much easier to remove. Then I put them in a plastic freezer storage bag, dated, and put back in the freezer.

I did try some of this food, although I was nervous because I know how awful the formula tastes. It really wasn’t that bad and the sweet potatoes really overpowered the formula, which is good. I finally got through the jar of organic sweet potatoes, so I am going to give him the homemade stuff tonight. Of course with some avocado!

I know that this was my first try, but so far it really is super easy. Besides the baking (which I don’t count because you don’t need to be there for it), the entire process (including clean up, but we do have a dishwasher) took around 30 minutes. And I have a ton of food. I think that I got about 57 ounces out of the four potatoes. And I only spent $4 and some change on the potatoes. Of course we always have formula around, and I would say that I used about 15-20 ounces of it. The teeny, tiny 2.5 ounce jar of food cost about 59¢ (on sale). So, I can see how this can save money and it really wasn’t difficult and didn’t take up very much time. Of course, I also have the advantage of totally knowing what I am putting into my son’s body.

Next up, either green beans or bananas. I am still unsure, but I am leaning towards green beans.

*Hint on the Magic Bullet – always use the smaller bullet cup for baby food. The larger bullet cup was too big and would not blend the food on the top. The larger is pictured, but I learned my lesson.
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Saturday, March 6, 2010

The baby food begins

As planned, we started the little guy on organic rice cereal Sunday. He is a much better eater than I expected. Not that he is eating very much, but he knows to open his mouth and is really excited about the bib and high chair. Actually, I think that he likes the bib more than the cereal. He does get excited to put the cereal in his mouth, but usually makes a disgusted face once he tastes it.

For the first two days, he was only eating the cereal once every evening. I planned to introduce sweet potatoes next, but when I went to the grocery store there weren’t any organic sweet potatoes. I was forced to buy the jarred food (all organic, though). He started eating the sweet potatoes Tuesday night. He seems to like them a bit better than the cereal, but overall he seems unimpressed with solid foods. He does get excited about the bib and high chair every time.

I did find organic avocados that I hope will be ripe by the weekend. Also, this weekend I am traveling out of town anyway, so I am going to try to find organic sweet potatoes. If I can find them, I may just stock up.

If I do find the sweet potatoes, this is the recipe that I am going to use to make the baby food:

Sweet Potatoes
(age 6 months +)

1. Preheat oven to 410 degrees

 2. Wash and poke holes in sweet potato with a fork. Run under water again and then wrap in tin foil (do not peel potato)

3. Place on lower rack and bake for 30 – 60 minutes (until soft)

4. Remove skins (cut lengthwise and scoop out the “meat”)

5. When cool puree (or thin) with your choice of liquid (I am using formula)

And this is how I am going to prepare the avocados:

age 6 months +)
No need to preparation. Mash and serve with applesauce, peaches, pears, or bananas.

To freeze, cut into slices and freeze as a slice (mashing before freezing tends to turn the avocado browner).

I am not going to introduce any fruits yet, but when I do I will mix those mentioned above with the avocados. Very simple, easy recipes. The sweet potatoes should freeze nicely in the cubes (I plan to make it in bulk).

I read very mixed ideas about what ages certain foods should be introduced. Most of these only vary by a month or so, but I still don’t want to give my son a food that his stomach is not prepared to digest, so I always go with the highest age. In most cases Super Baby Food has the highest ages, so I use that as my primary resource.

These are the foods that (in my opinion) are safe to introduce at 6 months:

Sweet potato, Avocado (raw), Organic rice cereal, Homemade whole grain cereal, Apricots, Banana (raw), Mango (raw), Nectarine, Papaya (raw), Peaches, Pears (either), Plums, Prunes, Whole milk yogurt, Winter squash

All of the fruits and vegetables need to be cooked, strained, and pureed into a smooth, consistency free of lumps. Fruits that are safe to serve raw are indicated.

I have read a few different methods to introduce food and have also asked a few people for advice. The general consensus is to feed vegetables before fruits because after tasting the sweetness of the fruit, the vegetable isn’t nearly as appealing. So, I am a little bummed that there aren’t more vegetables in this list. Also, we know that my son has some difficulty with milk, so I am going to postpone the yogurt for a while.

I’m not sure which food I will try after the avocados. Right now, I would guess bananas because they are easy to find and prepare. I am going to check around this weekend to see what is out there and maybe I can get some of the other fruits, especially those that will be difficult to find in my town.

It looks like 7 months is when the fun will really begin. There are a lot more vegetable options and he will have eaten enough of the 6 month food that I can start getting creative with combinations. There are already a couple of recipes that I want to try.

Also, everything that I read suggested that when introducing a food to offer it four days in a row before introducing another food. This can help to identify any food allergies. I didn’t do this with the cereal because we had tried cereal before, but I plan to do this with other foods.
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