THE BLOG
08/29/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Tips for New Parents Who Want to Make Organic Baby Food on a Budget

The recession has caused many to think about ways to cut back on spending, as families face loss of income, lower returns on investments, and the necessity for a reevaluation of their household budgets.

As a dietitian, nutritionist, and nutrition adviser to a small organic baby and toddler food company, parents frequently ask me how to ensure that their children are eating healthy and nutritious foods. And today, as budgets get smaller, the question has become: how can parents reduce costs without sacrificing the quality of the foods that they feed your children?

While to some new parents, making baby food seems like a daunting task that will require too much time and effort; it is hard to deny the cost savings. Moreover, when you make homemade baby food with high quality organic ingredients you not only save money but you ensure that your baby is eating the healthiest possible.

First, I recommend using organic fruits, vegetables, and grains because these foods reduce your baby's exposure to potentially hazardous substances. Organic foods are produced without synthetic chemicals like chemical fertilizers and pesticides, antibiotics, and artificial growth hormones and they contain no genetically modified organisms or GMOs.

The good news is that organic produce and grains are no longer isolated in natural food stores and farmers' markets. You can find organic foods at most supermarket chains, local farmers' markets, CSAs (community supported agriculture), natural foods stores and even some "big box" stores. However, although organic fruits, vegetables, and grains are generally a healthier choice, and better for the planet, they are not always the least expensive option.

I have a few tips for parents when it comes to saving:

First, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes a list of the 12 conventionally grown fruits and vegetables that are highest in pesticides. They call it the Dirty Dozen. You can use this list to prioritize which produce you need to buy as organic. For example, you'll want to splurge on the organic carrots, pears, apples, and peaches.

The EWG has also posts a list of the fruits and vegetables with the lowest pesticide residues - they call it the Clean 15. So, to save money, you can choose the conventionally grown versions of these foods - like sweet potatoes, avocados, and asparagus.

Before you make your next trip to the store, look up these lists online at www.foodnews.org.

Buying foods that are in season, and grown locally is another great way to save money. Seasonal produce is more abundant, so it's often cheaper. And buying local foods supports local farmers and smaller farms, many of which use organic farming practices. The Natural Resources Defense Council's website, www.nrdc.org, features a page listing seasonal fruits and vegetables by state. It is a great resource for learning about local and seasonal ingredients in your community.

My last savings tip has to do with smart food storage. While it is more affordable to make your own organic baby food, the savings diminish if you only make one meal at a time. Our recipes typically make up to 48 1-ounce portions (babies tend to eat 1 to 3 ounces of a food per meal). Once prepared, you need a good way to store it. I recommend using a basic ice cube tray (covered with freezer-safe plastic wrap) to freeze your food and then, once frozen, transfer the cubes into a freezer-safe container with a tight fitting lid. You'll be able to keep it safely in the freezer for three months.

I encourage new parents, especially those on a budget, to explore the world of homemade baby food.

For recipes, complete with organic fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, and packed-with-nutrients grains like amaranth and quinoa, visit our web site -- or send an email to recipes@happyfamilybrands.com.