Saturday, June 11, 2011

Baby Food: The Cost of Convenience

For the past four months I have taken you on our baby food journey with April.  Now that she is basically eating everything, I’ve run out of material to post.  Except for a few additions to her diet that will come later (cow milk, honey, peanut butter, ribs, etc.), there pretty much isn’t anything she can’t or doesn’t eat.  But before I put this series aside until we introduce those foods, I’d like to take two more weeks to look solely at the financial savings of making your own baby food.

I started April on cereals first.  I made rice, wheat, oats, and grits.  I didn’t get to barley before she moved on to veggies, but she does eat it in soups now.  Rather than buying baby cereals, I went to the grain section of the WinCo bulk bins.  You can find all of these grains in the beans and rice section or the hot cereal section.  The average price I pay for any of these grains is $0.50-$0.60 per pound (remember, a pound is 16 ounces).  Keep in mind that this is per dry pound.  One pound of dry grain yields a couple to a few pounds of cooked grain.

Now let’s take a look at packaged baby cereals.

Gerber rice cereal:  8 oz. for $1.88

Gerber oatmeal:  16 oz. for $3.19

"Mixed grain" must be special because 8 oz.
costs $2.15.  Mixing grains at home is easy
and doesn't cost an extra $0.56 per pound.

Beech Nut oatmeal:  8 oz. for $1.69

Cheapest baby cereal?  Gerber oatmeal at $3.19 per pound!

Cardboard boxes taste good too.

Next we moved on to vegetables.  I made peas, corn, green beans, yams, butternut squash, acorn squash, and potatoes.  I generally pay $0.88 per pound for frozen vegetables and never pay more than $1.00 per pound for fresh.

Let's see what Gerber and Beech Nut have to offer.

Gerber peas:  7 oz. for $1.16

Gerber sweet potatoes and corn:  7 oz. for $1.16

Beech Nut corn and sweet potatoes:  4 oz. for $0.55

Beech Nut butternut squash:  2.5 oz. for $0.48

Cheapest baby vegetables?  Beech Nut corn and sweet potatoes at $2.20 per pound.

After vegetables we tackled applesauce and bananas.  First, I cannot believe people pay for baby food bananas...that's just bananas to me!  Second, I also mentioned that I do buy pre-made applesauce.  For me that is the most cost-effective way.  If you have an apple tree or can get them really inexpensively, it may be cheaper for you to make your own.

Let's see what I found at the store.

Gerber bananas:  5 oz. for $0.98

Beech Nut bananas:  2.5 oz. for $0.48

Beech Nut applesauce:  2.5 oz. for $0.48

Tree Top applesauce:  25 oz. for $2.19 (sale price)

Gerber blended fruits with oatmeal:  7 oz. for $1.16
Once again, I can mix things together at home pretty easily.

Cheapest baby fruit (without grain)?  Beech Nut bananas and applesauce at $3.07 per pound.

I can't possibly calculate how much money I have saved over April's solid-food-eating life.  But most of these pre-packaged baby foods cost 2-3 times more than my homemade baby food.  Plus my food was fresh!


StaceyN said...

And not only are you saving money, but homemade baby food doesn’t stink like the canned stuff. Have you ever smelled jarred baby food? Bleck! It’s wretched!

You are saving even more money on the pureed fruit and veggies because of water weight. The jarred baby food has water added to make the soupy consistency, so a good portion of the total weight includes added water. If you buy your veggies for $1.00 per pound and then have to add 1/2 pound of water (for free), then your total cost per pound would be about 66 cents per pound. The cost of convenience is HIGH (and the food smells so bad I can’t believe babies eat it!).

Robbie and your kiddos are very blessed to have such a frugalista!

Sumiko said...

Thanks, Stacey, for all your comments and contributions to our blog!! I love it when you give your tips!

As far as smelly baby food, yeah, gross! I don't understand why my peas smell like peas and their peas smell like pond sludge.

I imagine you grow a lot of your baby food veggies? That would make it even cheaper! If so, can you please share what you grow to make baby food? Thanks!

StaceyN said...

Really most things we grow can be made into baby food. Carrots are a real hit, especially if they are mulched and left in the ground throughout the coldest part of winter so they become very sweet. Peas, green beans, and any sort of winter squash, potatoes, you name it. Of course the tomatoes, lettuce, cucs and peppers don't make good baby food. Any of our berries that we grow (blueberries, strawberries, grapes, raspberries, boysenberries) make great baby food if pureed fresh and mixed with a grain to dilute acidity. I’m hoping our vineyard produces enough this year for us to make lots of raisins for our little people. Seriously, there are very few things that grow in a garden that a baby can't eat.

Are you gardening this year? I don't know if you have a yard, but if you have any patch of dirt that is available, then you can definitely grow some food! It's fun for the kids to dig in the dirt and harvest, too. If you live at a latitude of perpetual spring/summer, then you can grown salad year round (I’m a bit jealous of folks who live in that climate). I'm so busy with the baby and toddler that I have passed most garden duties this year to my older kids. They are doing a great job and loving every minute of it. At this point, I don't really care if it produces bumper crops or not, since I doubt I'll have much time for canning this summer.

Layne said...

First, I want to say that I'm SERIOUSLY not trying to sound snarky because I definitely agree with what you are saying. I make all of my daughter's solid food (and she breastfeeds so I guess I make that too ;-) and while I love doing it and knowing that it's best for her, it is NOT always the cheapest.

First, I almost always buy organic unless what I'm making is on the "Clean 15" list. For example, when I buy frozen peas, I'm always surprised by how much they cook and puree down to. I buy a 10oz bag of organic peas ($2.49 without a coupon) and I know I get less than that out of them (may 9 oz or so). AND she eats 2.5-3 oz PER FEED! I almost always find coupons for these, which can mean I pay under $1 per bag. But depending on what coupons I can find, I'm either way over ($0.24/oz) or just under ($0.11/oz) the price of the non-organic pea baby food ($0.17/oz). So I may pay more, but I guess that also means I should compare it with organic baby food which is more expensive so maybe that part evens out.

But if you take organic out of the equation, I don't think it's very accurate to compare oz on the babyfood container to oz in a package or lbs of produce. For example, if I bought bananas I would have to peel and puree them and the volume of the finished baby food is always less than the weight of the fruit I originally bought. Granted, some produces goes farther than others. For example, sweet potatoes are great because one giant sweet potato gets me about 1.5 ice cube trays worth (about 16 oz). And because it is so thick I have to add a splash of water or breastmilk to get it the right consistency. So even though I'm pealing the skin off I'm still getting about the same volume or more of actual baby food compared to produce.

I'm very budget conscious and always shop/compare with unit prices. But I'm also really careful to make sure I'm comparing apples to apples (pun intended). Since I've been making my daughter's food for almost 2 months and I've always compared the FINISHED amount of babyfood versus the jarred prices. I feel like it's "fairer" that way. Just FYI. :-) Sorry to be a pain, for all I know you were just trying to make things uncomplicated in your post and not worry about "before" and "after" weights. And, no worries, I don't plan on stopping making her food any time soon!

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