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When my daughter was old enough to start trying baby food, I was appalled at the prices. A dollar or more for a tiny jar? As a breast-fed baby, she had been relatively inexpensive up to this point, and I just couldn't stomach the thought of spending hundreds of dollars in the months to come.

Just before becoming cross-eyed from looking up and down the daunting aisle of a myriad of flavors and colored jars, I had the insight to read the ingredients on a jar of peas: peas, water. End of story. I grabbed another, to clarify the hint of an idea that was starting to form in my mind. Sweet potatoes: sweet potatoes, water.

While I'm no Betty Crocker or Martha Stewart, I figured I could steam and puree a vegetable or two. Before I knew it, I had a freezer full of freshly steamed and frozen vegetables in a variety of bright colors and flavors. I soon expanded to meats, as well as combination "meals,” and my daughter couldn't have been happier. The best part is, it was so easy!

  • Pick any type of vegetable; best fresh, but frozen works well, too. Peas, sweet potatoes, squash, broccoli, green beans, carrots, really, anything that can be steamed will work.
  • Steam until just beyond fork-tender, drain, and puree. The younger the child, the more smoothly pureed it needs to be. Initially, you can mix in extra water to make the mixture almost soupy, and as the baby is able to swallow thicker foods, less water is necessary. You don't need a fancy food processor, although it will make the job easier. A cheap hand mixer, or a manual potato smasher will be sufficient to get the job done.
  • Use regular freezer ice cube trays to divide and freeze the pureed veggies. Then pop out the frozen cubes and store in Ziploc bags. As the child's tastes mature and she starts to like combinations, you can freeze a variety of flavors together in one bag (carrots, peas, and sweet potatoes, for example).
  • To eat, just defrost in the refrigerator for a few hours, then heat gently in the microwave to the desired temperature. Make sure to test first prior to feeding.
  • Once your pediatrician gives the go-ahead to introduce meat, you can sauté chicken breasts, then puree and freeze as above. Combine a chicken cube with peas and squash, and you have a full gourmet meal!
  • Buy fresh vegetables in bulk at local farmers markets for the best prices and ultimate freshness, but make sure that your child will eat that particular flavor first. My best find was a forty pound bag of sweet potatoes for ten dollars!
  • Use coupons to find frozen peas, carrots, green beans, etc. at their best prices.
  • If you can plan far enough ahead, and are able to, plant a garden full of green beans, carrots, squash, or whatever vegetables grow well in your region.
  • I found that it was best to add any desired spices (pepper, cinnamon, etc) during the reheating stage, as this decreases the chances of overseasoning a huge batch, or discovering afterwards that your little one prefers bland.

Surprisingly, this all took very little time, no more than an hour every week, and saved me no less than hundreds of dollars.

This has been a guest post by Melissa from Whitney Point, NY
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