Starting Solid Foods – Allergy Advice

When you have that pediatrician appointment where the doctor finally okays starting solid foods, you know your baby is on the way to toddler-hood. It’s great, but also a sign of how quickly time passes with these adorable little munchkins. My son, Nacho, is just over a year old now, so I thought I’d post a bit of advice on this topic before I forget everything due to sleep deprivation.

Nacho has a ton of food allergies, which were a complete surprise, as there are very few in my family. So here’s my advice from a food-allergy perspective:

1) Before trying any foods, have children’s Benadryl on hand, just in case. Ask your pediatrician for the appropriate dose in case of a reaction.

2) At the doctor’s appointment, ask the pediatrician to review warning signs of an allergic reaction with you.

3) A new study just came out about preventing peanut allergies in the first year of your child’s life. I’m not a doctor, and reading articles on the internet is no substitute for personalized medical advice, so ask your pediatrician about this also.

4) Keep a baby food diary. You may already be tracking stuff like milk intake, poopie diapers, and whatnot, so start recording your baby’s foods also. Personally, I don’t worry about the amounts, just the items. And record each food your baby has every day. It can take several exposures for a food allergy to show up. Nacho had had eggs 3 times before he exploded everywhere, and I was fortunate to have children’s Benadryl on hand.

5) Have the number to a 24 hour nurse phone line programmed into your phone. This is useful for all kinds of things, not just food allergies. Your doctor’s office or health insurance may offer this service, so check with them first.

6) I’ve read that when you first start baby foods, you should start with a green vegetable. This supposedly helps prevent picky eating later in life by exposing them to different tastes early on. I don’t know how true this is, but we did this with Nacho, and he is a very good eater. There’s pretty much nothing he won’t eat, other than the many foods that try to kill him.

7) It’s incredibly easy to make your own baby food, and it’s insanely cheaper than buying store bought. That way you know exactly what goes into it. We were gifted a box of baby food, and had to pass about half of it off to a friend due to allergens. And it wasn’t anything obvious! There were pears in something like a beef and veggie dinner. Pears! So be sure to read all ingredients on everything.

There are plenty of articles online about how to get your kids to like and eat food. This article is the one I wish I’d had to warn me about food allergies. Keep in mind, not all food allergies are life-threatening. I do NOT want to add more stress for anyone! It’s just something to keep in mind when starting foods for the first time. Hopefully, you’ll never have to open that little bottle of Benadryl, and can pass it on to someone else. In the meantime, it will be comforting to know it’s available in an emergency.

March 20, 2015. Tags: , . Baby Stuff. 2 comments.

DIY Toddler Food

Once your kid can start feeding him or herself, there are a million pre-packaged, expensive foods you could buy. If you’re awesome and frugal like me you think “Surely, there have to be convenience foods I can feed this kid that don’t cost as much as lobster, ounce for ounce”. You’d be right! I have a few things I keep on hand or pre-make so I can hand food to Baby Nacho immediately, without spending a bunch of time cooking and whatnot.

1) Canned meats – Canned chicken is soft and chewable. It apparently tastes great, because my son goes crazy for it. It’s like those baby hot dogs, but cheaper, and less odorous. Canned salmon is great too. You can mix it in with veggies, a mashed avocado, olive oil, or mayo (if your kid isn’t allergic to eggs, which mine is).

2) Canned Fruit – mandarin oranges are a HUGE hit with my munchkin. Canned mangoes are a little mushy for self-feeding, but they’re fine to blend into other foods.

3) Cottage cheese – this and yogurt are wildly popular in my house. Once your kiddo can chew stuff, this is so easy to just pop open and shove in their tiny mouths.

4) Cereal – obviously a childhood staple. We have a hard time with this one, because Nacho has dozens of food allergies, so we tend to avoid normal boxed cereal. When you’re just starting out with self-feeding, those little baby puffs that dissolve are indispensable. I have yet to find a cheaper substitute. Now that mine can chew, he gets cornflakes occasionally.

5) Oatmeal – stores in the pantry forever. Just get the big canister and you can use it in overnight oats, or mix it with fruit or veggies for added fiber. You can even pre-cook some and store it in the freezer for later.

6) Puffs – Baby puffs are awesome, as I said, but pricey! Once your little one can actually crunch some snacks, and doesn’t need the dissolving kind, Pirate’s Booty is a cheaper substitute. It’s still not cheap, but my son freaking loves it (as do I). It comes in several flavors, but your kid probably needs a few teeth for this one to be feasible.

7) Cheese – small chunks of cheese are easy. You can even leave them out to warm up a bit to make it even softer.

8) Fresh fruit – really ripe bananas, peeled pears, peaches, and kiwis are great. Really any fruit that is pretty soft.

9) Bread, pasta, etc – Unfortunately, with my kiddo’s allergies, most carbs are off the table, literally. Bread, dried pasta, and tortillas can all be kept in the pantry, ready to be torn into little pieces for little hands. We do use corn tortillas, and some rice pasta.

10) Canned beans – these are great to keep on hand to add some fiber and variety to baby’s diet. Don’t go overboard unless you want to fog your house with toxic baby farts.

11) Food pouches – these are more expensive than regular baby food, usually, but I found them in another part of the store for about half the price! On the fruit aisle with the applesauce instead of getting them in the baby aisle. Also, applesauce is cheaper than buying apples and blending them up, FYI. Food pouches are so great for traveling. I keep a couple in the diaper bag as emergency back up food in case we’re out longer than I expect, or I fail to bring adequate supplies. We only use these for running around town and such, not for daily eating; they’re still too pricey for that.

12) Food dots – this came up on my facebook, so I don’t have an original blog post to give credit to (and I’m not sure there is one). If anyone has a link, please let me know so I can give credit. I haven’t tried this yet, but you can bet I’m going to!

food dots food dot instructions

If you have an idea for a self-feeding food, but aren’t sure, test it by mushing it against the roof of your mouth with your tongue. This is a great test for feeding your kiddo from your plate (which is all they will ever want). As always, if you’re cooking for yourself, you can make extra for the bambino, and just cook it a little longer, until you reach that easy-to-mush state. For this post I just wanted to focus on what you can keep on hand for those “oh-no-the-kid-is-hungry-right-this-second-but-I-just-walked-in-the-door-and-haven’t-even-set-my-stuff-down-where-are-my-keys-am-I-losing-my-mind-I-swear-I-just-had-them-great-now-the-dog-is-barking-too-what-is-happening-to-my-life” moments.

March 3, 2015. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , . Baby Stuff. 2 comments.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

I was goofing around on the internet, and I realized I was searching for something. Something beautiful, and deep, meaningful and profound. And I thought, “I should create content like that! I will do some artwork!” So of course that made me think of the burning hatred I have for The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Non-parents probably don’t have this level of passion when it comes to children’s books. They probably glance at them fondly at the store saying “Oh, I remember this! I love that book”, then they set it down, never to be opened again. I have an adorable little spawn, however, and I read several books to him every night. Even though we own about 30 books or so, there is a LOT of repetition, so minor annoyances in books become crimes against humanity. What’s wrong with the Very Hungry Caterpillar? Take a look:

very hungry caterpillar butterfly

The wings are UPSIDE DOWN. Are you kidding me?? Have you ever seen a butterfly like this? No, because it would die.

real butterfly
This is a real butterfly. Not enough evidence for you? Do a Google search. I’ll wait.

 

SEE?? WHY. WHY DID ERIC CARLE DO THIS TO MEEEEE.

 

So here is my contribution to the wonder, beauty, and excitement of the world; something parents everywhere have been begging for since 1969:

very hungry caterpillar fixed
Using my meager skills and MS Paint I was able to accomplish this wonder. Sure, the antennas got cut off, and the butterfly now has two legs growing out of his back, but this is a vast improvement. Feel free to print it out and glue it into your copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Maybe I can save a few people from rage aneurysms. I know I feel better just looking at this.

January 30, 2015. Tags: , , , , , . Baby Stuff, Book Reviews, Random typing. 7 comments.

Overnight Oatmeal

overnight oatmeal

If you google “overnight oats” or something similar, you’ll turn up tons of recipes, but they seem to be a little too granola for me, and I don’t mean the cereal.

“Go to your neighborhood oat collective and hand harvest 1 cup of organic, steel cut Irish oats, NOT regular oats. Add the milk from your household goat, some homemade, probiotic, kombucha yogurt, periwinkle zest, and foraged acorns. Leave it in the fridge overnight, and you’re done!”

Ok…that sounds great and all, but for those of us who get food at the grocery store, here’s how I made it:

  • 1/2 cup yogurt (this will basically be doing all the flavor work. I used vanilla)
  • 1/2 cup oats (I used “Old-fashioned oats”, not instant, cause you know, back in the 1500’s they microwaved oatmeal for FIVE minutes, rather than just ONE. Talk about the Dark Ages)
  • Dash of milk
  • Optional:
  • Handful dried cranberries
  • Handful pumpkin seeds (can also use walnuts, or whatever you have on hand)
  • Applesauce, or canned pumpkin
  • Fruit chunks
  • Ground flax seed, protein powder, whatever floats your organic, farm-raised, free-roaming goat

As you can see, this is YET ANOTHER of my what-do-I-have-laying-around-I’ll-do-anything-to-avoid-going-to-the-store recipes. Use up what you have laying around. Mix everything together in a small container, preferably a little tupperware you can just eat it straight out of tomorrow morning. You want the consistency to be a little like a runny stew, not soupy. The oats, nuts, and dried fruit will absorb the moisture overnight.

I love this stuff for those bleary mornings where you wake up, inexplicably starving, there’s no coffee ready yet, you were up to late, and you don’t want to think. AKA a typical weekday. It really takes the edge off before second breakfast.

January 11, 2015. Tags: , , . Cooking. 5 comments.

The Price Book

A friend of mine was recently asking how people save money on groceries. Me being the frugal guru I am, I of course had plenty of advice for her. As I’ve mentioned before, a price book can be a huge help with this. Here’s a link to mine, so people with access to HEB grocery stores can probably use this, but everyone else can use it as a template. A price book might seem like a lot of work, but it really isn’t. I generally add a couple items to it each time I go shopping. I didn’t run around the store with paper and pen writing down the unit prices of everything they stock. That would be madness!

  1. I don’t have to remember prices on everything.
  2. I can compare different items. For example, brown rice is waaaaay cheaper per pound than quinoa, so can I substitute that in some recipes?
  3. I can compare within items. How much cheaper are dried beans than canned? Is it worth the extra time required to cook them myself? (Hint: Yes)
  4. Is that sale item really a deal?
  5. Is the coupon worth it?

As you can see, I only shop at HEB and Costco. If I happen to find myself in a Target or Sprouts, I’ll glance around, but generally I’ve found that these are the two cheapest places, and they BOTH offer fantastic quality. Don’t forget to always look at the unit price when shopping. Often, the larger package is NOT more cost-effective. I noticed that with frozen corn this week.

If a price book seems too nit-picky to you, or while you’re in the midst of building one, you can use a few guidelines while shopping to reduce your costs:

  1. Produce for $1 a pound or less.
  2. Meats for $2 a pound or less (keep in mind if it has bones, you’re getting less meat).
  3. Only X number of snack items, or they can only cost X per ounce.
  4. If that thing you use all the time is on sale (For REAL on sale, not like a nickel cheaper) STOCK UP.
  5. Feel free to make your own rules. Only 1 item that’s not on the grocery list, or only 1 item under $5, or only items with <10 grams of sugar per serving, whatever you’d like.
  6. Keep an eye out for clearance or sale items you would normally buy anyway, or that will be a cheaper substitute for something you’d normally buy. If goat cheese is on sale for only $8, but you normally would have bought feta and only spent $4, you didn’t save money. You spent twice as much as you could have. However, if it’s on sale for $3, stock up!

Of course, dietary restrictions, personal preferences, and number of family members will all impact your spending. I’m shopping for 2 adults, 1 enormous baby, 3 ungrateful cats, and 1 spoiled corgi, so our bills are not as cheap as I’d like.

Other ways to save money on food:

  1. Use up what you have. Have a “clean out the fridge” buffet every 2 weeks or so. Maybe you’re eating cucumber slices, strawberry jell-o, and stir fry, but at least it’s getting eaten. Not every meal has to be beautifully plated or instagram-worthy. The important part is that it is getting eaten.
  2. Shoplift! Nothing’s better than free food! (I’m totally kidding, please don’t get caught shoplift).
  3. Use recipes that utilize cheaper ingredients, or substitute them yourself. Raisins are generally cheaper than dried cranberries or blueberries, so can you use them instead?
  4. Make from scratch when it’s more cost effective. A bag of dried beans is generally cheaper than canned beans, and it only takes water to make them. Look at some of your regular purchases, and consider reverse-engineering them.

Food can be pretty pricey, and it seems to take a lot of work to eat cheaply and healthily. Here’s a free, online cookbook for more ideas, and of course, my blog is chock-full of wonders and amazement. Can’t you just feel it radiating out of your monitor?? Good luck, Happy New Year, and stay frugal!

January 8, 2015. Tags: , , , . House Stuff, Thriftiness is Cool. Leave a comment.

Fruit and Barley

barley label

The minute we get the first wisp of cold weather, my brain goes into complete hibernation mode. And I live in Texas, so that means when temperatures hit 70 degrees Fahrenheit I am completely useless. I start craving hot cocoa, soups, biscuits, anything warm and heavy. This fruit and barley recipe falls right into that category. Barley is a great whole grain, with a somewhat chewy texture I really love. Like most of my recipes, this one is extremely easy to customize with what you have on hand.

The basics:
One cup of barley needs to be cooked with 2 1/2 cups of liquid for 40-50 minutes. You can also check the instructions on your packaging.

The options:
This is so much fun! I love to play around with stuff like this!

Liquids:
You can cook it in plain old water, or you can use some juice, tea (Chai would be so tasty in this), or even the leftover juice from canned fruit. I would use at least half water to make sure it doesn’t get too sugary. You can throw in a dash of bourbon or a liquor for fun.

Mix ins:
I cooked mine with dried cranberries and walnuts. You could use any dried fruit, nuts, or pumpkin seeds. You can use spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or vanilla extract. After it’s done cooking you can add a few chocolate chips, or some canned pumpkin, if you like that kind of thing.

This is one of those recipes where you can use up little bits of things you have laying around. I seem to gravitate toward any that let me use up things, and use what I have on hand, rather than going to the store. Yay for not going outside!

DSCN7705

November 25, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , . Cooking. 1 comment.

HALLOWEEN ALREADY

If your local stores are anything like mine, they’ve had Halloween candy out since April. You may have become so inured to the sight that you’ve forgotten Halloween is actually happening, and SOON. You have to start getting your costume together NOW. Fortunately, I’m a huge fan of Halloween, so I’ve built a huge collection of useful info for you!

Thrifty Halloween Costumes!

Bloody Halloween Decorations on the Cheap!

Steal my friends costume ideas!

Costume ideas!

More costume ideas!

Additional costume ideas!

Other cheap decorations!

Apocalyptic costumes!

Baby costumes!

More post-apocalyptic costumes!

Post-apocalyptic accessories!

Need more simple costume ideas? How about:

Arthur Dent from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Arthur Dent from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Cast of Scooby Doo

The Cast of Scooby Doo

 

The cast of Archer

The cast of Archer

Doctor Who and River Song (I have friends who did this last year and it was awesome)

Doctor Who and River Song (I have friends who did this last year and it was awesome)

Lydia from Beeltejuice

Lydia from Beeltejuice

There are so many options that don’t require you to go get a plastic costume from one of those Halloween stores. Just your natural assets and some random thrift store finds are all it takes for a unique costume. As you can see, I really just freaking love Halloween. It’s the greatest holiday ever! It’s all fun and creativity, with no obligations. It’s creepy and dark and wonderful.

 

 

 

October 13, 2014. Tags: , , , , , . Arts and Crafts, Nerd Stuff. Leave a comment.

DIY Onesie Extender

On my previous post about altering baby clothes, the most common comment I got was “You know there are these things called onesie extenders, right?” Yes, yes I do. Remember how I told you to keep your onesie scraps for a mystery project? Well here it is! DIY onesie extender!

 

clothes

Take the scraps from your onesie-turned-t-shirt, and pin them together. Make sure you pin it so the snap parts are facing the right direction, and will actually snap onto a onesie.

DSCN8099
I simply trimmed off a little extra, folded the raw edges under, and sewed it together. It’s a little wide, and round, but it doesn’t really matter. I made another one later that came out much nicer, now I have two!

DSCN8105

As you can see, my son is now enjoying an outfit he’d grown out of! He looks terrified, but that’s because the camera makes crazy lights and noises he can’t understand, yet.

DSCN8109

So with these two tiny sewing projects, you gain another baby t-shirt, and a way to make several outfits last longer. Pretty damn clever, if I do say so myself!

October 5, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , . Arts and Crafts, Baby Stuff. 2 comments.

Altering Baby Clothes

clothes2

Kids have an annoying tendency to grow out of things before they wear them out. My sweet baby Nacho is no different. He had these two adorable pirate onesies:

DSCN8068
And of course he outgrew them. But they’re so cute! So we’re going to alter one of these into a t-shirt! I opted to use the longer one for this, so there’s enough fabric to roll up and hem.

DSCN8080
Cut the onesie as low as you can, as shown above. Retain the pieces for an upcoming mystery project! Now roll the extra fabric up as little as possible so you can hem it. You want to leave as much fabric as possible for the t-shirt, but you need to cover up that raw edge so it doesn’t unravel.

DSCN8085
Once you have everything pinned in place, just sew the hem down. I did it by hand since my sewing machine has forsaken me, and it didn’t take much time at all.

DSCN8086
And now your little rugrat can look awesome for another few weeks, until his next growth spurt!

DSCN8090

October 3, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Arts and Crafts, Baby Stuff, Thriftiness is Cool. 3 comments.

Baby Costume Ideas

Yes it’s ALREADY OCTOBER. I know you’ve probably become inoculated to the sight of Halloween candy at your grocery store, since it’s been out since March, but seriously, October is happening RIGHT NOW. For real, go look at a calendar. See?? I told you. If you happen to have a baby who’s too small to voice an opinion on costume choice, take advantage of it and do what you want. Next year you’ll be acquiring parts for a ballerina princess veterinarian costume, so enjoy your current freedom.

You probably want a cool costume, and I have a few great ones that require a baby as an accessory:

Sarah and Toby from Labyrinth

sarababysit
All the baby needs is a striped romper for a costume! Easy peasy. This costume is the height of 80’s nostalgia, which makes it automatically awesome. Mom’s costume as Sarah is fairly easily built from thrift store finds. If Dad wants to be Jareth however…

bowieandbaby
…that’s going to take a bit more dedication. Maybe Dad can be Sir Didymus.

Let’s stick with the 80’s since they have the best movies. Yes, the best. Of all time. Ghostbusters 2!! Dana has baby Oscar, who again, wears a very simple outfit:

oscar ghostbusters

A yellow romper. Super simple to recreate. Dad can be Venkman and Mom can be Dana. Or…

janine ghostbusters

Janine and Louis babysit little Oscar, and look at the awesome outfits they wear while doing so! If I ever find a dress like that, I swear I will dress as Janine, even if I’m 90 years old. And that sweater-turtleneck combo is not too shabby, Dads. I’m sure you can find all this gear at a thrift store near you.

If you want to be more up-to-date, I still have an idea for you:

seamus

It’s the wee baby Seamus! Any baby with the name “Archer” written on his shoulder is instantly in costume. Otherwise, he just wears a blue romper! Simple! And then you can be any of the cast from Archer! That gives both Mom and Dad a wide range of choices.

I just realized all of these are for boy babies, which is what I have, which probably explains why my brain went that direction. My bad.

All babies can be animals, though. Crawling babies are perfect for things like turtles, alligators, beavers, echidnas, wolverines, basically anything that walks on four legs. Try to be creative. If your baby is toddling around, consider a monkey or velociraptor costume. If your baby is still young, and doesn’t move much, I think a potato or burrito costume would be hilarious. Try to think outside the typical pumpkin costumes that infest Google and Pinterest. Just remember to have fun, and make sure you get your way, since you won’t for the next dozen years.

October 1, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Baby Stuff, Nerd Stuff. 1 comment.

DIY Baby Food

baby food

Making your own baby food is super cheap and easy. Before my son started eating solids, I started squirreling away food for him in the freezer. Basically you take a food, run it through a blender or food processor until it’s smooth, then store it until you feed it to a baby. It’s seriously that easy. I do have a few hints and tricks to make it even easier. I mean, of course I do. I couldn’t call myself That Clever Chick if I didn’t, could I? Well, not without shame.

Cooking:

To start off, you want to keep each food completely separate from everything else, meaning no apple banana blends until you make sure the kiddo doesn’t have a food sensitivity. I’m sure you’ve read all about this in your baby books, so I’m not going to go into exhaustive detail. So the first ingredients in your baby food will be just the food and probably some water.

I never peeled anything, like apples or pears, that I would normally eat the peel on. I did cook these things, rather than just blending them up raw, at least at first. Bananas don’t need to be cooked, but I think everything else should be. You can steam, boil, or bake your foods. For apples and pears, I cut them up into chunks and put them in a glass baking dish with some water. I put this in the oven at 350 until they were mushy. Wait until it cools to run it through the blender.

For first foods, whatever you’re making for the baby, you basically cook it until it’s mushy and will blend easily. So instead of steaming broccoli until it’s still crisp, let it keep going until it falls apart when you push on it. Once the baby gets a little older and is ready for more textured food, you can cook it a little less. Eventually you can just mash up what you’re having for dinner, and skip the blender altogether.

Tips:

Make extra of whatever you’re eating. Are you making broccoli for yourself? Make extra (without any spices or seasoning) for the baby.

Once you have the blender or food processor out, make several things at once. You can microwave a sweet potato, or just blend up some raw bananas if you don’t have anything else prepared for your little munchkin.

Rinse the container out in between batches until you’ve established what foods your baby is not allergic to. After that, run them through starting with safe foods, and ending with new foods. So you know your baby can have bananas just fine, but haven’t tried peas yet? Blend the bananas first, store them, and rinse the blender. Now when you run the peas through, if there’s a tiny bit of banana residue left behind, it’s no big deal.

Something too runny? Add a little baby cereal to thicken it up.

Too chunky? Try adding water, then blending it some more. Still not working? Run it through the microwave a bit to cook those stubborn bits.

Need ideas? Check out the baby foods at the store. They have quinoa and stuff in them! You bet I made some quinoa for my kiddo. I mix it in with fruit or veggies to add protein, and he loves it.

Storing:

I used normal ice cube trays to freeze the baby food into small, ~1 ounce portions. Once these were frozen, I popped them out and stored them in freezer bags. The food cubes fit into baby food jars, so you can just grab one, pop it into a jar, and then store it in the fridge or put it on the counter to thaw. They’re so small, they thaw pretty quickly. I got baby food jars from a friend who bought her baby food, but you could also buy your first few jars. You can also use Tupperware. Nothing says you have to feed your baby out of those classic glass jars.

Note: If you’re going to make baby prunes, soak them until they’re soft first. I destroyed my old food processor trying to blend them up too enthusiastically. Also, they DO NOT pop out of ice cube trays, so when making prunes, freeze them in small, individual containers. They stay sticky and never freeze solid. I haven’t tried other dried fruits, but I would take the same precautions with them.

 

I hope you’ll try this. It seems like there’s some special process Gerber goes through to make their baby food, but there really isn’t. Making your own is surprisingly easy, and cost effective. By my rough estimation, homemade costs half as much as store bought, if not less. Think of all the toys you can buy with the savings! Or something boring, like college savings.

September 29, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , . Baby Stuff, Cooking, Thriftiness is Cool. 2 comments.

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