FW-91 -- Homemade Baby Food: Fast, Frugal, and Fun

* * * * * * * * F R U G A L W A T C H * * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of how to be frugal in the world's most
expensive country to live (unless you read this!), written
and compiled by Wendy J. Imura.

Regular edition, March 28, 2006 Issue No. 91
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- Homemade Baby Food: Fast, Frugal, and Fun
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*** Homemade Baby Food: Fast, Frugal, and Fun ***

Dear Frugal Readers,

Greetings, and apologies for a long delay - Frugal Watch is now
a (mostly) biweekly publication, and I've had a busy month. I
appreciate everyone's patience with the late (and fewer) issues.
I hope to be back on schedule next month.

Today's topic is (as promised) a baby-related one. Although I like
to concentrate on frugal issues that affect a larger segment of
the population, I felt it time to introduce what I consider
to be one of Japan's greatest cheap secrets: homemade baby food.
Wait a minute, you say, generations of mothers in my family were
a whiz at the mortar and- pestle! It's true: homemade baby food used
to be the norm around the world, and in many cultures still is.
However, for those (and I date myself) born and raised in the 60s
and 70s, I think the trend was more towards formula feeding and
prepared jars of baby food.

However, in Japan this does not appear to be the case. Legions of
young mothers still turn their nose up at "BF" (beebi fuudo in
katakana) to prepare homemade concoctions artfully arranged in
lovely ceramic dishes. (At least, that's what the pictures in the
Japanese parenting magazines I read tell me!) Truthfully, Japanese
baby food ("rinyushoku," or weaning foods) appears as varied and
palate-tempting as a kaiseki meal.

Initially, I was very turned off by what I thought was an excessive
attention to detail and preparation. Japanese parenting websites,
books, and magazines feature elaborate menus and recipes for dishes
your little darling will probably only consume a teaspoonful of.
However, after scouring my English sources for concrete advice, I
was discouraged by the lack of the detailed instructions. As my
son approached the age of starting solids, I thought: why not
give this Japanese method a whirl? Here's what I learned:

Japanese weaning foods are divided into five basic stages: the
early (5-6 months), middle (7-8 months), and late stage (9-11
months), the "finishing" stage (12-15 months), and toddler stage
(16 months and on). It is an earlier start than recommended by
many Western books, but as with anything, your child's development
should be your guide, not his/her age. The Japanese also recommend
"practicing" feeding your baby with a spoon (either watered-down
fruit juice or vegetable broth) from about four months on - the
goal not being to feed your child, but to get them used to a spoon
and tastes other than breast milk or formula

So, what do you feed your baby, and how? Well, the basic staple is
rice - in the form of okayu, or rice cereal (some translate it as
gruel). You can, of course, buy prepackaged packs at drugstores, but
it's also very easy to make. They recommend starting out with
10X diluted rice cereal, and then moving down to 7X, 5X, and 3X.
I use a special "baby rice cooker" that fits inside our regular
rice cooker: the Dream Collection "Okayu Cup" for 839 yen from
BabiesRUs online (http://tinyurl.com/evn79). Very handy, and cooks
while your family rice is cooking.

Once your baby gets used to eating about 1-2 teaspoons of okayu,
you can move on to the vegetables and protein sources. For
vegetables, carrots, kabocha (pumpkin), spinach, and others are
good starters. For protein sources, either tofu (mashed) or very
finely mashed white fish is recommended. Worried about assembling
all the right tools (strainers, mortar/pestle, juicers, slicers)?
Then I heartily recommend the "Chori Set" from Pigeon: this set
of rinyushoku cooking implements is reasonably priced, compact,
and just the right size for baby food. The Pigeon "Chori Set"
is 2,099 yen at BabysRUs online: http://tinyurl.com/zjkyq. It
has everything you need!

The above advice is suitable for a baby just getting started on
solids, but what about older babies? In these cases, I recommend
looking either online or in books for ideas and recipes. The basic
book I use is "Hajimete no Rinyushoku" (First Baby Foods) by
Shufu no Tomo. The full-color pictures and great descriptions
make it easy to understand even with limited Japanese skills. The
step-by-step instructions are also very helpful, and there are
hundreds of recipes. You can buy it here (http://tinyurl.com/l4gbx)
from Amazon.co.jp for about 1,400 yen. Another great, and free, resource
is the Wakodo Rinyushoku homepage:
http://www.wakodo.co.jp/world/babyfood/
Tons of recipes here as well, all divided by age group and ingredient
with photos (note: these recipes include promotions for Wakodo baby
food products, but you can easily substitute with homemade).

So, finally... is it worth the time and effort? Well, after only
two months of practice, I can say it has been fun, and we've made
good progress. It takes about 20 minutes a day (usually less)
to prepare two meals. Instead of cooking completely separate menus,
we simply use ingredients from our family dinners for our son's
meals. Judicious use of the freezer (freezing individual okayu
servings in ice cube trays, portion-size servings of fish or
bananas) also helps cut down on the time. And it is cheap:
other than the initial outlay for the items mentioned above,
it's practically free. And the food tastes pretty good too (I
definitely sample!).

So, if you've got a young baby, or are expecting one soon -
why not give homemade baby food (Japanese style) a try? You mind
find it (like I did) both frugal and fun.

Frugally yours,
Wendy J. Imura

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Written by: Wendy J. Imura (frugalwatch@japaninc.com)
Edited by: JI

Copyright 2005 Japan Inc. Communications Inc.

Comments

hi ,love your articles,am in africa kenya advice me on weaning a 6month old baby on recipes,ingredients and anything else i should know incuding precations.

It is quite important not to invest too much of yourself into making baby food. If the baby doesn't want something you have slaved over or are particularly proud of, you may be tempted to try anything to make her eat. And in due course it is a fun game to control Mommy that way, and eating problems may become ingrained.

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