Babywoods surveys the scene in her baby shades
Babywoods surveys the scene in her baby shades

We’re almost eight months into this whole parenting gig and we continue to find Babywoods a rather inexpensive–and amazing–addition to our frugal lives. The overwhelming assumption and declaration is that babies are ridiculously pricey little beings. But there’s a frugal way to do just about everything in life and baby-rearing is absolutely no exception.

As a frugal friend of mine put it: babies are not expensive, parents are. Too true. We can choose to buy an absurd number of baby-related items, or we can abstain. Aside from the necessities, babies are relatively laid-back about their material possessions. Hand-me-down pre-chewed toys and pre-stained clothes are par for the course for our little nugget. She doesn’t mind and neither do we.

Thus far, I’ve chronicled our baby journey at each relevant stage:

Now that those nascent infant months have eclipsed, Babywoods’ personality is shining through as she learns, develops, smiles, grabs/eats toys, grabs/eats parents, tries to grab/eat Frugal Hound, and generally enjoys life as a small person who now knows how to sit up. Since we’ve graduated past the crying baked potato phase and into the “I look like a storybook baby” phase (every parent reading this knows exactly what I’m talking about… ), I thought an update on our frugal baby-rearing tactics was apropos.

I Eat Food!

Labeled baby food bags, ready to freeze
Labeled baby food bags, ready to freeze

One of the most substantial milestones at present is Babywoods’ newfound ability to eat food! She continues to breastfeed but also downs two meals a day. This child loves food (I wonder where she got that from… ).

When it comes time for babies to munch vittles, you can choose between essentially the same options as we adults have: pre-made or homemade. And the trade-offs are also essentially the same: pre-made is more convenient, but homemade is cheaper and delivers the benefit of knowing exactly what ingredients you’re putting in your baby’s mouth.

In light of these upsides, we’ve gone the homemade route (surprising exactly zero people), which is proving quite easy and thrifty indeed. My process for getting food on Babywoods’ tray is as follows:

  1. Cook/steam the desired food item
  2. Puree said food
  3. Spoon aforementioned food into ice cube trays
  4. Freeze
  5. Transfer frozen cubes of food into labeled ziplock bags (frozen peas and broccoli look identical as do, well, a lot of other things); put back in freezer
  6. Pop a few cubes into a glass tupperware the night before and let them defrost in the refrigerator overnight
  7. Feed to a baby!

Thus far, Babywoods has supped on carrots, sweet potatoes (slightly more labor intensive as they must be baked first), peas, broccoli, spinach, beets, black beans, chicken, avocado, strawberries, prunes (word to the wise: go LIGHT on the prunes, folks), and eggs… plus probably a bunch of things I’ve forgotten. We adhere to the school of thought that introducing commonly allergenic foods early on will portend fewer food allergies down the road. Who knows if this is accurate, but our pediatrician recommended this philosophy and it makes my life as bebe chef just that much easier.

My freezer of baby meals!
My freezer of baby meals!

What I like about my prep method is that I can cook up a huge batch of food once a week (or once every two weeks) and then assemble her daily meals in less than a minute. Furthermore, she gets loads of variety in her diet as I cook different things each week and have a wide array of frozen cubes to select from for each meal.

Since I have full control of the ingredients, I also add spices occassionally–such as pepper, garlic, onion, basil, a dash of chili powder–in order to expand her palate. Mr. Frugalwoods and I don’t want to get into the habit of cooking separate kids’ meals once Babywoods dines at the table with us, so we’re exposing her to our favorite flavors now in the hopes she’ll take to them. So far, so good… except for some extraordinarily garlicy hummus, which she did eat but let her disapproval be known through a series of Groucho Marx-worthy expressions of disgust.

I also keep a few foods on hand that don’t require any prep at all: bananas, yogurt, peanut butter, baby rice cereal, and applesauce (though she doesn’t seem to much like the applesauce… makes a terrible face; but kid, we have apple trees growing on our land!!!). I use these no-cook items to complement her meals if she’s especially hungry. They’re also super handy when mommy and daddy forget to defrost her food ahead of time… whoops. Just as we adults have the frozen pizza back-up system, I have the baby food back-up system on lock down. Periodically I blend up our adult meals for Babywoods, as long as it’s food that’s amenable to blending (and really, it’s more like if I remember before we eat it all).

Pureed sweet potato ready to freeze
Pureed sweet potato ready to freeze

I’ve found (through trial and error) that buying frozen vegetables often works best as: 1) they’re already chopped up/mushy, 2) the organic options are usually cheaper than fresh organic, and 3) this ensures I don’t waste any food since I can re-freeze anything I don’t cook immediately. Additionally since vegetables are typically frozen right after harvest, they’re likely to retain even more nutrients than fresh veggies that’ve endured a long trip/shelf life. Locally grown produce (aka what’s in my garden) is of course the exception.

Does my approach entail more steps than buying a jar and cracking it open? Of course it does. But you know what? Most worthwhile and frugal things in life do take a tad longer. And I’m thrilled to make her food for the cost-saving and preservative-free result. Jars of organic baby food are $1.38 each, which would run me $19.32 per week, or $77.28/month. There’s no way I spend anywhere near that on the raw ingredients for her meals. If I ever got organized enough to do some math, I could tell you how much I spend per meal on our homemade goodness, but let’s be honest here, I kinda doubt that’s going to happen in my imperfect world of parenting. A rough estimate is that her meals are probably circa 0.25 each.

Food Related Accoutrements

No need to rush out and stock up on the dozens of feeding-related “must haves” marketed for babies. I use regular old ice cube trays and plastic bags to freeze her food and she doesn’t even wear a bib–I find that dining au naturel yields the smoothest clean-up. I used a bib for about 5.4 minutes, after which I realized all I was doing was generating more laundry for myself. Hence, I use the post-meal patented wipe-a-baby or bathe-a-baby method.

Obtain Three Spoons

The parable of the baby and her three spoons: happy baby, happy parents, lots of eating. Why three? Babywoods likes to commandeer two spoons (one for each hand), leaving me one spoon leftover with which to conduct the actual feeding. Her favorite pose is the reverse warrior whereby she pounds both spoons on her tray, then drops them on the ground simultaneously in order to reach forward and grab the third spoon as it comes towards her laden with food. Because why not grab ALL the spoons???

All three spoons in action
All three spoons in action

Rather than tussle over a solitary spoon, we’re both happiest with this allocation of silverware. Plus, since I’m not fighting her for spoon dominance, she’s learning how to feed herself–sometimes the food goes into her neck, sometimes it lands on the floor, and occassionally it actually makes it down the hatch! Instead of special baby bowls or plates, I just put her food in the smallest of our glass tupperware collection (a key component of any frugal weirdo’s kitchen entourage).

I do greatly appreciate the fantastic hand-me-down highchair we have, but you could also feed baby in a bumbo seat or on your lap. Although I will say that Babywoods loves sitting up at the table in her chair so if you can find one used, it might be worth the expense! Additionally, the tray is convenient for placing bits of food on to encourage Babywoods to feed herself.

I had a plastic tablecloth under her highchair for about a week before I realized that, much like the bib conundrum, the tablecloth did nothing more than generate laundry. Now, I simply wipe the floor with a damp rag after each repast. The upside? That section of our floor is supremely clean. Maybe I should move her highchair around the house in order to slowly wash every inch of floor…

Sleep Sweet Baby

Every parent is obsessed with sleep: who is sleeping, who isn’t sleeping, why, how, and when???!!! I discussed our sleep-training methodology in greater detail in my infant post and I’m delighted to report that Babywoods began sleeping through the night a few months ago. I can’t tell you how fabulous this is for the entire family. SO fabulous.

Babywoods in our yard: took me about 55 shots to get a somewhat good one...
Babywoods in our yard: took me about 55 shots to get a somewhat good one…

To facilitate good sleep, we continue to utilize our white noise machine and black-out curtains (which are actually paper bags I taped over the window… ) in Babywoods’ room.

When Babywoods grew too large for her Miracle swaddle (that thing lives up to its name, by the way), we employed a Merlin sleepsuit for a few months, which served as a wonderful transition. For the uninitiated, a swaddle is essentially a baby straightjacket–it mimics the security and warmth of their erstwhile bed (the womb) and keeps them from accidentally thwacking themselves in the face all night long (the infant Moro reflex).

The Merlin sleepsuit is basically a baby sumo outfit that restricts excessive flailing/kicking, but allows baby a bit more range of motion than the swaddle. Babywoods has now graduated from the Merlin into a sleep sack, which is the recommended accessory for safe sleep (a baby could get tangled in a loose blanket and suffocate).

A sleep sack is a wearable blanket that prevents suffocation but also keeps the legs at bay. I’m betting my baby isn’t the only one with active leg/foot syndrome–anytime I try to put her to bed without her sack, I come in like 30 minutes later and she’s wide awake, gleefully sucking on her foot with wild abandon… so, we opt for the sack every time.

Entertaining Baby

Babies are easily amused. Empty oatmeal cans = marvelous toys! They roll, they bounce, they can be filled with rattling toys, and they apparently taste terrific. I’m now saving every empty food container I come into contact with. I have visions of creating an entire percussion section of oatmeal cans, peanut butter jars, and yogurt containers when she’s older. Another high dollar toy? Light reflections on the ceiling. Much like a cat, Babywoods loves to stare at prisms of light.

Just in time for strawberry season!
Just in time for strawberry season!

This is truly the age of grab-and-eat, so we have a bevy of hand-me-down toys for this express purpose. Trying to prevent a baby this age from mouthing everything is completely futile and also stymies development since exploration-via-mouth is an important cognitive milestone. Instead of engaging in a constant tug-of-war, I have age-appropriate toys within reach at all times. There’s currently a foam hippo hanging out in my dish drainer, a stuffed moose in my sock drawer, a crinkly bird in the car, a plastic lobster who lounges on the changing table, and a giraffe in the bath. Having toys scattered throughout the house (and car and diaper bag) means I don’t have to hunt for a way to occupy Babywoods at any given time and, she’s continually engaged with her environment. Don’t hand a baby an iPhone or car keys–those are some expensive teething rings, people!

Music is also quite popular with Babywoods and we listen to the free toddler stations on Pandora… that is until I can’t handle the chirpy, syrupy kids music any longer and we revert to my music (or NPR), which I honestly think she likes just as much. Books are also swell these days–especially if you can chew on them!

We venture out to baby play groups periodically so she can stare at other babies in wide-eyed, toothless wonder. There’s just nothing like another baby! Of course the baby who lives in our mirror at home is also pretty interesting. Free baby groups seem to abound everywhere–I found them in the middle of ultra-urban Cambridge and I find them here in ultra-rural Vermont. Yes, there are certainly groups you can pay to join but in my experience, there are so many free groups, there’s no need.

If you’re stumped on where these groups are in your area, start with your public library. Nearly every library has some sort of singalong or storytime for tots–even my local library, which serves a town of 700 people–so it’s likely you have one nearby. And once you find one group, poll the other parents on their favorite gatherings.

A Ridiculous Baby Thing I Bought

My failed frugal cart cover attempt
My failed frugal cart cover attempt

In my very imperfect iteration of parenting, I totally bought a ridiculous baby contraption this month. Babywoods and I do the grocery shopping alone together every week and we’re relatively decent at it (we haven’t had to run out of the store and leave a cart behind yet–though we’ve had a few close calls). Previously, I carried her in the Ergo through the store, but now that she’s a big, sitting-up baby, I pop her in the grocery cart seat. However. I quickly learned that the cart is made of hard metal and that my baby is made of soft baby.

During our first shopping trip with this new seating arrangement, Babywoods sucked on every part of the filthy cart, bonked her head on the handle countless times, slid to the side, and dropped her toys on the floor of the grocery store 9,867 times.

For our second trip to the store, I figured I was all hot stuff and outfitted the cart with a blanket tucked under her legs and another one for the cart handle. Well. That lasted all of 3 minutes before the whole thing was on the floor and she was again sucking on the cart and throwing her toys across the aisle.

So you know what? I bought one of those completely idiotic-looking cart covers (this one to be exact) for $13 and I freaking love it. Now, Babywoods can sit up in the cart with ease or rest her head on the handle and there’s plenty of soft fabric for her to suck on. Plus, it works as a net to hold in her toys as well as my grocery list. Basically, a dream come true. Is it an unnecessary luxury? You betcha. But do I love it? You betcha.

As with all purchases, I recommend trying out a situation (i.e. grocery shopping) and a frugal solution (DIY blanket contraption) first before dropping the dough on a new item. It’s also a case of frequent use–since we grocery shop every single week and will continue to do so on into the future, I figure we’ll get quite a few uses out of this little purchase.


Not a hand-me-down: love this cart cover
Not a hand-me-down: love this cart cover

Of course no discussion of thrifty kid-related life is complete without my heralding of hand-me-downs. The overwhelming majority of Babywoods’ items–everything from clothes to crib to carseat–came to us via the free, used market. If you’re in need of baby stuff, put out the word, join your local Buy Nothing group, and yes, scan the side of the road. There’s no beating free.

Concerned about the cleanliness of used? Concern yourself no more because everything for kiddos is designed to be washed. Everything has a removable cover and everything else can be wiped down. Still not convinced? It’ll take your kid about 8.78 seconds to get it dirty again.

Forget Perfect: Save Money, Love Your Kid, And Enjoy Life

Never has there ever been a more important juncture in life to let go of the patently mythical pursuit of perfection than while parenting. A kid is a messy undertaking and the notion that we can craft an idyllic little tableau–replete with brand new stuff–is nothing more than a farce. Surrendering to the very real, very imperfect existence of parenting makes life easier, less stressful, and of course less expensive. Perfection in all iterations is an endless arms race of material possessions and never is that more true than with children. So save your money, skip the expensive “must haves,” and enjoy this unique moment in your life–it won’t happen again (at least that’s what I tell myself when Babywoods screams and spits everywhere… 😉 ).

How do you frugally parent?

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  1. For sweet potatoes, instead of baking, I prefer to peel, chop into small pieces, and boil until done.

    Does Frugalhound ever clean up after Babywoods? 🙂

    1. Yeah I would think she (frugalhound) would lick everything up.

      Mrs. Frugalwoods it sounds like you have your whole process on lock down and that is great. Making baby food at home really is not that challenging specially when you are open to feeding the kids food you eat yourself.

      Actually I’m not sure if I have linked to it before but you ( or anyone else reading) might want to check out this site. They talk about baby-lead-weaning. Which just means you skip the baby food puree stage and just give baby very mash-able foods . Like I said it sounds like you have your process down but it might help by cutting out some steps. Anyways the premise is that baby’s did not eat pureed food until it was sold as convenience food. (also good to note that baby food is not purchased all over the world either) And it was pureed to feed into peoples fear of baby choking, therefore making it more desirable, and that is a fallacy ( of course it marketing)

      Anyways people should check out … also say no to sippycups .

      This is me personally but sippy-cups don’t teach your kids how to drink specially since most have spouts located in the center of the lid . Forcing babies/ kids to get use to over tilting cups to get a drink which is not what you do when you drink out of a real cup. ( I’m an engineer and can’t grasp the design of these sippy cup contraptions.) When you transition out of sippy-cups you will still need to deal with spills. So it’s not like you get to avoid that inconvenience it’s just pushed out to a later date.

      okay I’m done

      1. sister-in-law/speech pathologist advised me to stay away from sippy cups for offspring, encourages improper tongue positioning leading to speech difficulties

  2. My little one is now 3.5 years old…seems like yesterday I was bringing him home from the hospital. We love hand-me downs and have been provided with them from birth. We don’t buy special food for him, but he doesn’t always want what mommy and daddy are eating, so PB&J is always on standby. We, like you, did not go the cloth diaper route, so disposables were somewhat of an expense, but totally worth it in our minds. I can happily report that we are past the diaper stage as our little one is totally potty trained!!! Yay for that. We also did not use any kiddie potty chair, as we didn’t want him to be scared of the toilet, and I feel that has worked out great, plus no extra expense for us! We have an entire library of toddler books and almost every one of them were hand-me-downs or gifts. Like you said, kids are expensive, parents are!

    1. Our baby is just starting to eat solid foods, so we’ll see how funky things get, but cloth diapers have been great for us.
      As long as you have laundry facilities in your home, I highly recommend cloth diapering.

  3. Admittedly, the cost of having children is one of my biggest barriers to figuring out whether I really want to be a parent. Though, like you say, just like anything, parenting can be done frugally. The other big consideration for me is time cost. I LOVE my midday naps and last minute getaways 🙂

    1. Time cost and last minute getaways caused me to pause, too, however after having my child I seem to nap more often (2 years in and I still “sleep when the baby sleeps”) and have travelled just as much. I’ve even taken him to my beloved Vegas twice. he’s up for impromptu road trips and 5 hour flights across time zones. I think I just always assume he’ll adapt and be up for the adventure and he has!

  4. I love your approach to childrearing. 🙂

    It usually takes more time to take the frugal approach, but I’ve always found that it’s worth it! I have friends with kids who say it isn’t doable to make your own food. I haven’t gone on that journey yet, so maybe that’s true, but it’s good to see that people like the Frugalwoods are doing it effectively!

    We’re planning on starting a family in about two years or so, but I’ve gone through the motions with my 3 nieces and 1 nephew. I always laugh when people tell me how expensive kiddos are. You’re dead on the money that it’s the parents who are expensive. I like to take a minimalist approach with things in life, and babies honestly do not need a lot of stuff. Hell, even kids and adults don’t need a lot of stuff! Save that money and put it towards the child’s education instead. 🙂

  5. Love your post. My children are now older than you, 37/40 but I made my own baby food for them back in my hippie days. I did this not only to save money but back then prepared baby food was loaded with cereal fillers and unknown ingredients in the jars. I also had a plastic baby food grinder that I took with us on our dining excursions or vacations. We got strange looks at restaurants when we pulled this out and grinded food but we were able to turn any food from our meals into baby food. We fed our kids everything but they still have allergies so good luck with that theory! Sounds like you’re doing a great job for a new mom! We also had a third child 13 years later but by then, anything goes. The more, the merrier! Oh, I breastfed each child for 13 months while working a full time job and finally retired after 35 years! Life is good!

  6. Love your articles but just curious if anyone else is having difficulty reading due to the writing extending past the right margin?

  7. You can get rid of the high chair and the spoons as well to be really natural. They don’t usually throw stuff when they eat on the ground. They also have natural spoons in their hands:) And btw, you don’t need to feed them either – you could do the baby-led weaning method. So natural!

  8. I’m with Stefanie! The cost of having children really scares me. But it’s inspiring to see you and Mr. Frugalwoods make it work. I love the idea of making baby food. I know I’d want to have that kind of control over my child’s food.

  9. love sleep sacks! our little boy can’t sleep when it’s not chilly in his room, but he needs a blanket covering him. We have a room a/c so we crank it low but keep him in a sleep sack and if he goes to bed with a full tummy, he can sleep until 6 am which is wonderful!

    do you have baby friends with carpeted dining room? we have carpet so we do need to keep the floor covered when high chair time happens (he’s only 4.5 months now). I think we my need to invest in a few thick sheets to cover the floor below the carpet. if you hear of tips with keeping it clean, I’m all ears.

    Also–something I figured out in my neighborhood regarding free gifts from other moms—not all neighborhoods have established Buy Nothing Groups. I tried establishing one but it never took off. Then I learned there are other non-BN free groups in my area. Delco Moms helping Delco Moms is a free-trade group I found in my area that I’ve since scored a few free or trade items. Then once I got in one group, I found tons of others that I occasionally skim and/or search for things when I’m in the market (now I’m looking for a high chair). I recommend searching “free/trade” groups in a person’s area if there is no established Buy Nothing group.

    1. what about a vinyl table cloth or shower curtain? Either of those would be easy to wipe up after.

  10. Love the shopping trolley seat cover – wish they’d been around when my boys were younger (14 and12 now) I once dropped my youngest into the trolley whilst trying to get him into the seat – he was wriggling, I’m under 5′ tall and the trolley was big are my excuses – luckily it was winter and he was wearing a hat but it still gives me nightmares!! He still goes shopping with me so I haven’t emotionally scarred him too badly. When babywoods a little older give her a bagel to munch on whilst shopping – easy to hold, no mess and I guarantee happy memories for her as both my boys mention bagel chomping on occasion when we shop together!! Loving your posts, keep em coming. Xxx

  11. We haven’t given our 13 month old the first drop of baby food. She doesn’t eat everything we do but she eats a lot. Sweet potatoes, cheese, hamburger meat are some of the things. We make sure our food is nutrient-dense and organic.

  12. I joke that my mother should have patented her home-sewn shopping cart covers back in the 80’s. Who knew they’d be essential baby gear today!

    With our second I thought diapers would be our main expense and even that has not turned out to be too bad. There are so many inexpensive store brands that are just fine for daytime wear. I actually prefer some of the thinner types as they don’t interfere as much with an older baby’s/toddler’s gait so there’s a win-win. Amazon has 30-50% off diaper deals which can be combined with subscribe and save from time to time so that’s when I stock up on more absorbent nighttime diapers. Also, the big packs are not always the best price per diaper if you combine coupons and sales in store.

  13. I’m so happy for Little Miss Frugalwoods. Eating healthy food, loving parents, wonderful environment–hearty congrats to you folks.

  14. I mostly agree with you. My kids are 4 and 7 now and I am not at all sad to still have the money we could have spent on baby beds, clothes, diapers, strollers, car seats, food, etc (all hand me downs or used) but there is one cost to raising children that you really can’t side step and it’s not at all trivial: your time. Even if you don’t buy all the “stuff”, you really can’t get around spending your time. I’m not suggesting that they aren’t worth it. But I am saying that they are not really frugal.

  15. Interesting, we never did so called mush “baby food” for Baby T1.0. What we did was this thing called baby led weaning ( Essentially you just make things that you’d eat and give it to your baby in finger size chunks. So for Baby T1.0 we started with mango, avocado, and cooked broccoli. He’d suck on it and eat it. Eventually he learned to feed himself when the food is in front of him.

    I have to say it has made our lives A LOT easier. Best of all? He eats what we eat so he eats everything. We’ve had received a few comments from people that Baby T1.0 is such a great eater. We plan to do the same thing with Baby T2.0.

    Just a thought, you might want to look into this. 🙂

    1. Yes. That is so cool. it’s great to find out baby led weaning is starting to become a thing. With my 1st we did baby food…. but when I read about baby led weaning before my second it made sooo much sense. Mush food is not necessary at all. Just one of those traditions passed down that people are just recently starting to question.

      We also have very diverse eaters (both our kids). I feel like picky eating is something parents encourage and that it’s very western problem ( or 1st world) I cannot or did not understand when people said stuff about kids having their own separate meals. I’m latina and 1st generation american and we ate what everyone else ate. We didn’t like everything of course but we didn’t have a separate meal prepared for us.

    2. I loved baby led waning too, but I admit that our son only ate pulled pork from 7-8 months, and only chicken from 9-11 months. We worried that he would never choose fruits or vegetables (thankfully around 1 year he did).

  16. I wrote about how we did Baby Led Weaning with both of mine (3.5 and 16 months) but I think the Internet ate my comment ???? Best decision ever! Easier and less work plus he kids eat everything!

  17. Great post! Sounds like you all are doing so well. 🙂 It’s always clear how much you delight in your adorable daughter and motherhood. And you have a great combo of a good eater and good sleeper, hurray! I make all of our 11 month old’s food, too, but we’ve gone the baby-led weaning route so I’ve never made purées or spoon-fed him. He just eats solid food adapted a bit for his ability (for example, breakfast this morning was a large portion of homemade banana cinnamon oatmeal, a sliced boiled egg, large chunks of steamed sweet potato, one half of a peeled pear, blackberries, and blueberries). He is a voracious self-feeder now in addition to his breastfeeding sessions. And you are so right about non-toys being a source of enjoyment– our little guy prefers large wooden spoons and other kitchen items as playthings to the hand-me-down toys we have. Go figure!

  18. Do we need to be concerned about peanut butter until a certain age due to possibility of peanut allergies? Our 2 child was twin girls who were born two days after our first born son turned 3. We made our food similar to your style & they were both breast fed. Fun*

  19. Sounds like a great system you have in place for the food prep. If you have the time, that is a perfect solution. We tried to do as much of that we could as well. My little guy is two now and I am surprised how inexpensive it has been so far. It has become a lot easier feeding now that he is basically eating mostly the same meals as we do.

    I’m afraid the expenses will pick up eventually, but we are enjoying this years.

  20. We are also doing baby led-weaning (10.5 months)… we tried purees at first but he wasn’t into them. The aha moment came during a hike when he was 7 months old. We sat down for a snack and after he finished breastfeeding, he grabbed the apple out of my hand and chomped down. Even with no teeth, he was hooked. Since then, we just give him a little of what we’re eating and always have fruit and rice cakes on hand. I find when he’s teething he wants crunchy things and other times will eat just about anything. Fruits are a favorite. We’ve just started giving his some nut butters in small amounts (pediatrician said to go ahead) and he seems to like those. During the heat of the summer, I’ve been blending yogurt and fruit and freezing for our own frozen pops. Those are a big hit (although a huge mess too).

  21. “A kid is a messy undertaking…” I have a 17-year-old heading off to college and a 14-year-old starting high school next month. It’s STILL messy, albeit perhaps in other ways (and still with the eating and the floor!). You’re always on the next FIRST day of the first child’s life, and when you think, ah HA!, I’ve got this now, with the second one…guess what?! They’re a totally different kid!

    Makes life interesting, keeps us being creative and attentive. It’s all good!

  22. Yeah – APPLES.

    Tree-ripened apples are as sweet as candy. For dealing with large quantities my favorite is dehydrated, peel-core-slice and dry is a lot of work though, and very very sticky. Apples hate the freezer, so if it is applesauce you want the work can be reduced to peel-core and freeze. When thawed your apples will be totally mushy! Add cinnamon and heat for a tasty applesaucy treat. Most recipes call for using lemon juice to prevent browning but if I did it again I would do a test first to see and taste the difference. Not sure it’s worth the trouble. Once dried I suggest storing in ziplocks in the freezer long-term, or in glass jars short-term.
    Another choice is peel-core freeze, stir or blend, then spread out on dehydrator sheets for fruit leather (also called roll-ups). Always a kid pleaser and easier on small mouths than dried apples.

    Once you work out an assembly line to deal with it production is not so bad, but beware that this process will definitely attract lots of insects, especially flies. Once you start raising chickens the peels will attract lots of tasty insects for them to eat!

  23. In my experience, children *are* pretty cheap …unless you have to use daycare. That’s when things get really expensive. Avoid it if you can!

    It’s the parents that are expensive. Kids don’t eat a lot, and all the rest of the baby stuff you can get from a local Buy Nothing Group. It’s the parents and their expectations for children that makes things expensive.

    1. Agreed! I spend more on daycare than any other child related expense! Sadly once I’ve reached FI my tot will have just reached school age

  24. Interesting post. Boiled or steamed sweet potatoes are good and easy to spoon. Not all varieties are sweet enough though.

  25. For a faster sweet potato, we scrub them then microwave them damp in paper towels (8 minutes for two sweet potatoes) then grill them if desired. Much faster than baking! I’m not a fan of the microwave oven mostly, but this is one instance where I am!

  26. Lots of good ideas here and in the comments!

    I agree with the suggestions to check out baby led weaning. We did a combination because my son slept better if he really got food actually in his stomach instead of just gnawing on it. I’d feed him several bites of whatever we were eating fed through my food mill at the table, then give him finger-sized foods to go to town on and not stress about whether he actually ate them. He tried a ton of foods that way and it really seemed to influence his hand-eye coordination. Love your 3 spoon solution, too!

    Kudos for getting so many veggies in early. I really think that influenced my son’s palate–he’ll eat anything I’ll eat at 4 years old and prefers combination pizza (something I wouldn’t have touched at his age for a plethora of reasons!).

    My favorite frugal toy was a plastic paper towel stand and canning jar rings. He’d occupy himself in the bumbo for my whole dinner prep!

  27. All good stuff!!

    As a pediatrics professional, baby led weaning freaks me out a little. I’m
    Sure the incidence of choking is very low, however it’s critical that parents/caregivers know how to perform Red Cross infant choking and CPR.

    1. yes, this made me very wary of it, so I pureed for quite a while, then gradually made it increasingly textured and ”lumpy” (soft lumps obviously) and never left the baby to eat alone, ever!

  28. I did the make my own baby food hoping he wouldn’t be picky but at almost 4 he is. He ate everything until he was 2, then he stopped eating things he used to love like bananas and anything that is mixed together like casseroles or soups. I can get him to eat about 4 veggies so that’s good. And the apple thing, he didn’t like applesauce either as a baby but loves it now so don’t worry about that! I think ages 2-4 are just the picky stage of life. A lot of kids I know are but they will grow out of it if you tell them to “try” new foods even if they don’t want to….at least I hope!!

  29. What a wonderfully relaxed mother you are!! I think that one reason people used to have & enjoy more babies, is that they went simple on raising and they didn’t buy mountains of stuff. $100 afternoon dresses (don’t laugh, I have seen them at baby stores!) for a 2 year old is crazy. The same kid will be happy in a Goodwill tshirt and pants. If a parent simply must spend $100 on baby-then put $95 in the college savings and go look on Craigslist. I had a friend’s daughter who wanted a Kate Spade diaper bag. “It is $180, and no I won’t buy it for you.” It really put a damper on our friendship! It is as if having a first baby qualifies for mindless spending. You already know that enough was never enough for this young lady.

  30. this is pretty much what I did for all three of mine – they never had jarred food beyond the odd fruit one that would have been more expensive to buy and do myself than to buy pre-made (and then it was only ever the plain, simple, pureed fruit, never any kind of ”meal” concoction).

    Do also look for frugal recipes for actual meals. By now Estelle is probably needing more protein in her diet and a really, really inexpensive one is to get some white fish (such as hake but not necessarily, whatever is local and cheap to you), steam it till it’s done with a few herbs, or even poach it in a bit of milk, and then flake it and mix it in with mashed potato and puree to whatever consistency you need. The addition of cheese sauce for older babies also works well, and then you have Baby Fish Pie! Delicious and makes about 30000 meals from one set of prep work. Another one my babies loved was a mix of red lentils, chickpeas (approx. a cup of each, get the chickpeas soft first or use canned for the recipe, red lentils take about 20 mins), mix with chopped sweet potato, butternut / pumpkin, a little finely chopped onion and any other root veg such as carrot or parsnip… and a good helping of water or veggie stock or chicken stock… and cook for about 30 mins and there is food for months!

  31. And just one thing… babies are cheap indeed, for sure. Children can be very pricey. Yes frugality is a good way to keep costs lower but things like orthodontia, any required OT, remedial stuff and other ”medical” things that generally tend to be largely out-of-pocket are hard to frugalise beyond a certain point. My oldest – for example – has quite severe ADD. He’s a lovely kid and did not need medicating for quite a while, now he does, and it comes from our medical aid… and it smacks it completely. So now if anyone else needs anything like, oh, a dentist visit or anything, guess how much is left? Not much. And in our case, it’s non-negotiable. Obviously most kids don’t have that need, but things like asthma, epilepsy, vision issues, hearing problems can and do crop up, learning difficulties, all of which can totally be helped and remediated… but ca-ching! It’s not ALL negotiable, and when there’s more than one child involved… it can add up, making living frugally even more imperative!

  32. Yay! Babywoods seems to enjoy eating vegetables! I think it would be easy for you to let her eat vegetables when she’s a little bit older.

  33. Our babies are about the same age. My little girl is about 8 1/2 months right now. I’ve been giving her more food with chunks in it and surprisingly she doesn’t gag every time a whole bean or lentil gets spooned in her mouth. It’s a lot less work and hopefully we will transition to picking up food on her own pretty soon. Right now we are at the stage of eating where she’ll gladly eat from a spoon, our fingers, or what ever mommy is putting on her toast. She dramatically pokes her food with her index finger (I like to imagine that she is a little giant slowly making impact with a boy stealing eggs from her golden goose).

  34. I love seeing Babywoods grow up! She looks so happy. It also looks so warm over there right now! (I’m in the southern hemisphere, and looking forward to some warmer weather in a few months.)
    My son is 20 months, and I have hardly bought anything for him so far. My mum buys him dozens of toys and books, which he barely even plays with most of the time, and which I’m constantly donating (sorry mum, but I do warn you that he doesn’t need anything). I did spend a bit taking him to see an osteopath a few times just after he was born, at 6 months and one year, just to iron out anything that needed ironing out from the whole birth process. I’d much rather spend money on that than on toys that he doesn’t need or want. My husband and I put $20 in a high-interest account for him each week so that he’ll have a decent amount in it by the time he’s 18 and wants to go to college or travel the world, or something. Just like Babywoods, he also likes playing with empty food containers. His absolute favourite toy is a cardboard guitar that was a freebie at the local supermarket. I’ve had to tape it together again several times, but he still “plays” it.
    There’s a Facebook group for people in my neighbourhood where you can buy and sell used baby clothes, toys and equipment. I use it a lot.

  35. Aww, she’s so cute!

    I remember making some baby food for Big Brother. I was too lazy to make oatmeal and would buy the instant baby oatmeal, then mix it with homemade fruit purees or jarred applesauce.

    When Little Brother started eating food, we were eating our dinners in the dining hall, so I would just, ummm, slip him pieces of adult food. This is not the approved method for feeding a five-month-old baby. (I will never forget the look on the faces of the first-baby parents across the table when I started giving him tiny pieces of steak.) Happily, he is allergy-free, so I got away with it. Surprisingly, he has turned out to be a picky eater. I do not make him special dinner, so sometimes he dines exclusively on broccoli and hummus, with perhaps some bread or cheese if Mommy happened to put those on the table. Then when it’s spaghetti night, he evidently eats all his calories for the week in one setting.

    Side note: excessive interest in solid food such as that showed by Little Brother is a sign of low milk supply. Oops. Had to put the kid on formula, which I bought at Costco for a good deal.

    FRUGAL BABY TREAT: Take some whole milk yogurt and mix in a little pureed fruit, homemade or storebought. Drop by baby-spoonful onto a cookie sheet covered with wax paper. Freeze until hard. Serve frozen. Teething babies especially like! (Actually, my preschoolers would probably still love this. I should make some!)

  36. We made all of our own baby food for both of our kids when they were younger (now 2 and 3 years). People told me multiple times we were crazy and that it was “so much work”. Not at all. If anything, is saved me a boatload of time and money. Literally spent maybe 15 minutes a month making food — less time than it took to go to a store and back. Best part was I knew exactly what my kids were eating and they had a wider variety of foods to try (some worked better than others). If you come up with one Babywoods doesn’t like, just try mixing it with some no sugar added applesauce. Always worked for my kids. By the way, as I read this post with my 2 year old son on my lap, he kept pointing to the pictures of Babywoods and saying “Baby!”.

  37. So glad that you are enjoying your time with your little. Our family found that the most expensive part of child rearing was childcare. To combat this, we set up regular date night swaps with friends of ours. It has saved us a ton!

  38. We feed our 1-year-old homemade food and have found that our grocery bill is only about $10 a week more. And it is easy to make.

  39. I remember a time when I thought buying used things for your child made you a bad parent. Low point: I actually paid $70 for ONE outfit from Baby Gap for my oldest’s one year pictures. SMH. Now I have three kids and I will take used, free, whatever you can give me will be fantastic!

    As far as frugal parenting hacks go, we’ve discovered that a diaper subscription through Amazon has helped save money on good quality diapers. Plus they deliver it to our door once a month, so no more runs to Target that might acquire additional impulse purchases and wasted gas for one item. If you’re not going the cloth diaper route, I’d highly recommend this subscription. I wish I’d known about it for my first two kids!

  40. Just echoing what others have said about Baby Led Weaning… it’s simplier and just as cost effective. Before adding lots of spices or salt, I’d dish up dinner for my babies. Once they were about a year old, I just started giving them whatever we’re eating without too much concern over the salt (since we eat lots of home cooked meals, it’s good to know they’re still getting good stuff!). I have photos of my 8 month old gnawling on a chicken leg. With my first, I did steam veggies for him and whatnot, but with my second, I planned our meals around things he would also eat (like having steamed carrots as a side dish). I’ve never spoon fed my kids. Too lazy for that. 🙂

    PS Such a cutie rocking those shades!

  41. Adorable photos! I didn’t even bother with the ice cube trays (because we didn’t have any) and used small containers to store a few days’ worth of a food. I’m sure the ice trays would be even more convenient.

    We loved the Miracle swaddle blanket, too.

  42. I like the assembly-line-ness of the frozen ice cube baby food idea. I could see us going that route if only to get a good handle on what kind of food goes in to baby.

    Thanks for all the tips, as always. Keep on living that dream.

  43. Some great ideas here. About the plastic bags you use for the homemade baby food. I reuse ours over and over by using a masking tape label I can then easily remove. I find the blue masking tape that’s made for painting comes off most easily. It’s even more frugal that way. Thank you for all your great insights and help. Raven

  44. With our first baby, I was working, so we bought baby food for the convenience (fruits and veg only- none of those gross meals). With our second and third babies, we just fed them from our plates (sending it through the ninja when necessary) and I would make purees in the slow cooker on the weekends and freeze in pint size bags when we were trying single foods. I was way too lazy/tired to freeze in cubes by the time we had three kids. Thankfully our youngest was eating off our plates exclusively by 10 months. We eat a lot of vegetarian dishes, so it made it easy to mush up some lentils or roasted veggies for her.

  45. We basically just fed our babies small portions of whatever we were eating as soon as they got teeth, but for just baby snacks outside of mealtime we often made them a bowl of frozen peas/carrots/corn mix, a dollop of butter, and a decent sprinkle of powdered garlic. A baby sized bowl only takes about 45 seconds in the microwave, and then you can dump a bit at a time onto their tray and let them feed themselves.

  46. Cloth diapering is definitely the ultimate frugality when it comes to baby. We’ve spent a kit $200 on cloth diapers in over a year. Plus we won’t have to buy any diapers for the second baby. It’s perfect and simple

  47. We also went the baby-led weaning route at home, but daycare wasn’t cool with it, so we pureed a lot of our own food to send to daycare – Daughter Person was the first baby in the “baby” room that was eating the entire school menu before she was in the early toddler room – the same can’t be said of her walking… Daycare isn’t a problem for you, so you might as well just go baby-led weaning, and they get used to the textures of “real” food. Just learn the difference between gagging and choking – she *will* gag at first, no cause for concern, but you still have to watch out for choking!

  48. Yogurt containers were a huge hit with our son once he got to the “put things in-take things out” phase. Also, cardboard tubes (from a paper towel roll, for instance) taped to the wall that he could drop things through. Over, and over, and over…. I recently made maracas out of some small plastic bottles half filled with dried beans. He loves them, and no toy store trips needed!

  49. Dear Mrs Frugalwoods,

    I find your baby tips extremely useful…I would love to hear what you think about having a second child or even a third one …

  50. Super late on reading this post, but we JUST got the same high chair as a hand-me-down and I found there was a recall on it. I had to order the fix from Graco’s website (free!), and it was super easy to do. Hopefully yours has already been fixed! Love reading FW and am so inspired by your posts!

  51. First of all, I can’t stop gushing on how adorable your little girl is! I loved the part of this article when you talked about making your own baby food! I feel so silly for not thinking about it earlier but I can see how you can save a lot of money doing that! Thanks for all the great tips, I really enjoyed reading this wonderful article!

  52. My wife and I have a child on the way and this is exactly what we plan on doing eventually – making our own baby food. I’ve heard it’s so much cheaper than buying baby food. Thanks for this blog post!

  53. I realize this is an old post, but I keep wanting to see an answer to the question that keeps coming to my mind. I haven’t seen it discussed anywhere here and it seems to be to be a big budget killer: diapers. Do you use disposable diapers or are you cloth diapering your two little ones? I have two in diapers now and drop about $50 for two giant boxes of diapers and wipes every two weeks. I assume cloth diapering to be more frugal but have never done the numbers or the comparison myself. Is this discussed somewhere and I’ve just missed it? If not, what is the Frugalwoods (and community) consensus? Thanks!

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