Making Your Own Baby Food with a Food Mill

If you don’t already own a food mill, don’t necessarily rush out and buy one. In The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, we warn against buying something that you’ll use just a few short months—and really, babies graduate from pureed mush to bite-sized chunks relatively quickly. However, if you think you might get some use out of a food mill once your baby food days are over, then now is the time to get one. It’s one of the best tools for baby food cookery you can find. Why? A food mill saves a lot of work. No peeling and seeding—just steam some apples or sweet potatoes or green beans and run them through the mill. All the seeds, peels, and stringy bits get filtered right out–and it doesn’t even need any electricity to work!
rsvp international rotary food mill
RSVP International food mill

What else can you use a food mill for? I needed one to make gnocchi several years ago. The recipe warned that any other contraption would render the potato dough gluey and unworkable. Now I use it all summer to make gazpacho. (Here’s a recipe from the Gluten-Free Gourmand. Notice I plug the food mill throughout the comments!) No need to seed and peel those tomatoes and cucumbers—just feed them through the mill and they come out silky smooth. Ever try to press berries through a strainer with a spatula to make a coulis? I use a food mill for this task now.
cuisipro deluxe food mill
Cuisipro Deluxe food mill

I have something similar to this RSVP International Veg-3 Rotary food mill—though I remember paying just $12 instead of $25 for it! (Mine is a Moulinex, which I did not find online.) If you’d prefer a stainless steel device, try the Oxo Good Grips food mill ($44.99) or the RSVP Endurance Stainless Steel food mill for $34.95. There’s also the Cuisipro Deluxe food mill for $104.95, but I’m not sure what makes it so much more expensive than the other brands.

Some parents buy a mini food mill for making baby food on the go. Theoretically you could take it with you to restaurants and blend up what you’re having for baby. I think this would be a waste of money; you already know how I feel about limited-use baby gear. Of course, I’m really not one to talk considering the number of gizmos that reside in my kitchen.

Making Your Own Baby Food with a Food Processor

You’ll be happy to know that pulverizing steamed vegetables is an easy culinary skill to master, whether you use a fork, food mill, or your own mouth (as one reader suggested). We went over the various tools in this vintage post, and we still recommend making your own baby food if you want to save money. In The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, we show you just how much you can save by cutting back on jarred foods.
cuisinart food processor

Kara over at Just Simply Live was kind enough to review our book. She loved the whole thing but walked away wishing we’d reviewed some food processors. Great idea! We didn’t do it in the book for a reason: We didn’t want new parents to feel like they had to rush out and buy something before they could make their pureed delights. Now, what I’m about to say may be shocking, but I’ll go ahead and say it: Joy does not even own a food processor! That’s right. Yet she managed to make a lot of her own baby food in something she did own—a blender. A blender is the worst appliance for this task, in my opinion, but that’s a topic for a future post.

A food processor is your greatest ally in the art of whirring mushy food into even mushier food. Why? Unlike a blender, you don’t have to add water to blend everything up. You’ll also get a smoother consistency more quickly than you would with other tools. You can also use it to blend dry goods; for example, I blended rolled oats into a powder so I could make my own baby cereal. I never bought boxes of rice or oat cereal, which can cost $5 a pound or more. The best thing about the food processor, though, is that it does much, much more than make baby food. It kneads, it mixes, it slices, it dices, it grates—it does everything but babysit.

So what food processors do I recommend? I have the Cuisinart DLC-10S Pro Classic 7-Cup Food Processor, which costs just under $100. It comes with everything you see in the photo. I use almost all of the attachments regularly, though it’s been years since I’ve needed to make baby food with it. The Cuisinart Prep Plus costs $133 and offers a larger (9 cup) capacity. Or, if you don’t think you’ll use it for much other than small projects, you could get the Cuisinart Mini Prep Plus for just $32.99.

Kitchenaid food processors may appeal to you if you do a lot of cooking and want special features, a variety of bowl sizes (from 3-12 cups) to choose from, and a lot of color options. The KitchenAid 7-cup food processor costs just under $100 and appears to be the equivalent of my Cuisinart.

Have you used a food processor to make your own baby food? Stay tuned for reviews of food mills, immersion blenders, and more!

Naturepedic Organic Crib Mattress Giveaway

no compromise organic cotton classicWe’re ending our series of giveaways with a bang!  You could win a Naturepedic No-Compromise Organic Cotton crib mattress in this week’s giveaway.  That’s a $359 value!  You’ll also get a copy of our new book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide: Down-to-Earth Ways for Parents to Save Money and the Planet.  (Although it’s far less expensive, we think you’ll find it just as helpful.)

Since most mainstream crib mattresses contain vinyl and polyurethane foam which off-gas some nasty chemicals, buying organic is a comforting option.  Naturepedic’s No Compromise Organic Cotton crib mattress has a waterproof surface and is certified to meet GREENGUARD’s high standards for child safety.  The mattress also happens to be hypoallergenic and  is covered with a non-toxic fire protection system. How reassuring to lay your sleeping babe down on this gem and know that she’s safe and comfortable!

This is our very last in the series of large giveaways, and we hope that you are our winner.  See below to find out all the ways you can enter!

Nine Ways to Enter the Giveaway

How do you enter?  Guess what?  You can enter more than once! Each way listed below gets you one entry.  All comments have to be posted BEFORE Tuesday the 18th of April to win.

Remember, leave a separate comment on this post for each entry you want.  If applicable, please leave the link to your Facebook/Twitter/Blog in the comment you leave here.

  1. Leave us a comment on this post.
  2. Visit Naturepedic’s web site and then post a comment telling us what caught your eye!
  3. Email a friend about this giveaway.
  4. Join our Facebook fan club
  5. Link to this giveaway post on Facebook or Twitter–tell all your friends to stop by!
  6. Link to this post on your blog!
  7. Add The Eco-nomical Baby Guide to your “to read” shelf on Goodreads
  8. Go read our post on Five Ways to Score a Free Copy of  The Eco-nomical Baby Guide and leave a comment there if you’d like to review our book on your blog.  (Make sure to read the post for more details!) Leave a comment here as well to make sure we can keep track of your entries.
  9. Does your library have copies of the Eco-nomical Baby Guide? If not, request a purchase! (Then come back and post your comment to let us know!)

***The contest ends on Monday, April 19th, 2010***

Winner will be randomly selected.

We will notify the winner via email and will get you in touch with these companies who will ship your products directly to you. Please Note: This contest is open only to U.S. readers.

Have fun everyone!

The Best Eco-friendly Dishwasher Detergent: Biokleen!

Okay, to be honest I haven’t tried that many dishwasher detergents. The reality is, I didn’t have a chance: the very first detergent I tried after getting a dishwasher two months ago worked miracles! My mom recommended Biokleen dish powder to me after  trying a few different brands with little success. She actually thought she had a subpar dishwasher because her dishes came out caked in food particles. Once she started using Biokleen, however, her dishes emerged shiny and clean.
biokleen automatic dish powder

With that promising testimony, I bought the canister of Biokleen. It seems expensive at $11.99 for 32 oz., but you use just one tablespoon per load, and one canister promises 64 loads. (So that’s $.187/load.) I wish it came in a cardboard box instead of a plastic canister, but I’m guessing that one canister will last over half a year. I’ve been using it for over two months now, and my dishes are spotless.

But let’s compare the cost of Biokleen to other brands. You can get a 12-pack of Seventh Generation Auto Dish packs for $51.21 on Amazon, and each pack will wash 15 loads. That comes to $.28 per load—and you have to buy in bulk! And how does the Biokleen compare to something like Cascade dishwasher detergent? It looks like even the bulk options on Amazon will run at least $.21 a load. So, while the small canister of Biokleen dish powder may seem really expensive at first, it’s actually more cost-effective than even conventional detergent! (We found the same thing when we reviewed laundry detergents.)

If you try this detergent and it doesn’t produce satisfactory results, this may be because your water reacts differently to it than mine. (I have soft water in Portland, by the way.) I’ve read that what works wonders for one person hardly works at all for others. Have you found an eco-friendly detergent that leaves your dishes sparkling? Let us know!

More information:

Post Partum Exhaustion and Coping with Less Sleep

I’m experiencing temporary insanity.  The  culprit is a twenty pound tyrant who has been hounding me for three straight nights.  Have I dealt constructively with the challenge?

sleepy momNot quite…

I’ve consumed approximately one pound of cookie dough and a third of a chocolate bar.  She’s been crying off and on for forty five minutes and I’m trying to block it out while typing this.  Despite diaper changes, temperature adjustments, teething tablets, soothing songs and her total lack of sleep over the past two days, she seems to be up for the challenge of a good wail for hours to come.

On top of that, my three year old didn’t nap today and was having constant meltdowns all afternoon that coincided perfectly with the baby’s hysteria.  Did they concoct this torture plan ahead of time?

No—the truth is it’s all my fault.  I wanted a dishwasher.  For the last two miserable nights we’ve been visiting my mother because our kitchen is being torn apart and remodeled.  My baby, who normally slumbers in her crib pretty well, reminds me at regular hourly intervals that she’s not happy with the transition. On top of that my three year old isn’t napping well, nor is he coping with being away from home.  Neither am I.

At times like these, when my very bones ache with exhaustion, I’m not so chipper about hanging out the laundry or blending up homemade baby food.  ( or EVER traveling ANYWHERE again!)  So—honestly, I have to say that for me sleep is an essential part of being a good parent and a greener parent.

Did you end up traveling anywhere with baby for spring break?  Did you experience the same nocturnal misery?  I sincerely hope you didn’t!

An Electric Egg Cooker Saves Water and Energy—Just in Time for Easter Egg Dyeing!

The perfect hard-boiled egg. I’ve baked croissants from scratch, concocted dozens of mouth-watering tarts and quiches, and made my own yogurt and ice cream without incident—but somehow the perfect boiled egg alluded me. If I wanted tender  whites and a delicate, bright yellow yolk without a greenish sulphur ring, then I could barely pry the shells off the eggs. But if I over cooked them (or just let them boil away unattended as many people do), the eggs ended up rubbery.
henrietta hen egg cooker
Henrietta Hen Electric Egg Cooker

I followed directions from Julia Child and Cook’s Illustrated. I used gallons of water and shocked the eggs in ice baths. I sat hunched over the stove and watched the pot because I knew one should never, ever let the water actually boil.

Finally, after all this angst, I bought an electric egg cooker.  This simple device delivers perfectly-cooked hard-boiled eggs and uses just a few tablespoons of water. It saves energy, too. Using the stovetop method I had to bring three quarts of water to a near-boil to cook just four eggs (because you should use an inch of water over the eggs to ensure proper cooking once you turn the water off and let them finish setting). The egg cooker takes just fifteen minutes or so to cook up to seven eggs at a time.
Kalorik egg cooker
Kalorik 7-egg cooker

If you eat hard-cooked eggs just once a year for Easter, you can probably just use the stovetop method. We use the egg cooker about once a week and eat the eggs for snacks and on salads. Our egg cooker also delivers soft-cooked and poached eggs, but I haven’t had the opportunity to test these features out. Best of all, the eggs are always perfectly cooked, and the shells come off easily.
west bend automatic egg cooker
West Bend Automatic Egg Cooker

I have this basic West Bend Automatic Egg Cooker ($29.61). This Kalorik 7-egg cooker is cute and costs  just under $25.00! The Henrietta Hen egg cooker costs just $19 from some sellers. I’m intrigued by this Nordic Ware microwave egg cooker. It costs just $8 and wouldn’t require you to buy another plug-in appliance! Hm . . . maybe I could get my hands on that microwave cooker in time for Easter egg dyeing season . . . because I really need yet another gadget!
nordic ware microwave egg cooker
Nordic Ware Microwave Egg Cooker

The Great Green Baby Giveaway

To happily welcome our newly published book and reward those of you who are in the trenches of green parenting, we have yet another green giveaway this week.  One reader will win ALL of the quality eco-friendly baby gear listed below! Here’s what you could win this week:

  • An Eco Cradle from Green Lullaby.  A $69 value! This ingenious product can be assembled in minutes without tools, is completely fire retardant while remaining non-toxic, and is designed for a real human baby!
    eco cradle by green lullaby
  • 1 pair of organic cotton tights from hessnatur. This company makes adorable organic garments for baby (and adults!) that are just as fashionable as they are functional.
    hessnatur organic tights
  • Speesees crawl turtle teether. We love the spunk and style Speesees and recommend this organic baby and kids clothing  in our book.
    crawl turtle teething toy
  • 1 pair of girl baby shoes from Pedoodles, in the style and size of your choice. We used Pedoodles for our own children. Read our old review of them here!
    pedoodles ruby shoes
  • 1 organic teething toy from Momma’s Baby. Dip it in water and freeze it to soothe your baby’s sore gums. Unlike plastic teethers, this cute little mouse doesn’t contain BPA or other harmful chemicals.
    organic teething mouse
  • 1 Fuzzibunz one-size pocket diaper. These fabulous diapers contain a moisture wicking layer between baby’s bottom and an absorbent insert.  Plus this one diaper adjusts to fit babies between 7-35 pounds!
    fuzzibunz diaper
  • A HappyBaby gift pack, including organic baby food samples, an Eric Carle growth chart from YoBaby, an Infant & Toddler Nutrition guide co-authored by Dr. Sears, and a set of HappyFamily recipes. HappyBaby is the company behind this fabulous organic baby guide, and their organic foods are available in supermarkets everywhere.
    eric carle growth chart
  • 1 Snugglebottoms w/Velcro diapers (unbleached ‘green’ cotton flannel) in the size of your choice from Baby Bunz & Co. Baby Bunz & Co. is a great online source for cloth diapers–they’ve been selling them since the ’80s!
    snugglebottoms diapers
  • Green Dragon Pest Solutions. an eco-friendly product that will hurt household bugs such as roaches and silverflies without harming baby.  It comes in a gel so that you can avoid toxic sprays with baby nearby.
    Green Dragon Pest Solutions

Nine Ways to Enter the Giveaway

How do you enter?  Guess what?  You can enter more than once! Each way listed below gets you one entry.  All comments have to be posted BEFORE Tuesday the 30th of March to win.

Remember, leave a separate comment on this post for each entry you want.  If applicable, please leave the link to your Facebook/Twitter/Blog in the comment you leave here.

1. Leave us a comment on this post.

2. Email a friend about our book, our blog, or this month’s giveaways.

3. Subscribe to our blog (look right under the search bar) Again, be sure to comment about it below!

4. Join our Facebook fan club

5. Link to this giveaway post on Facebook or Twitter–tell all your friends to stop by!

6. Link to this post on your blog!

7. Add The Eco-nomical Baby Guide to your “to read” shelf on Goodreads

8. Add our blog to your blogroll

9. Go read our post on Five Ways to Score a Free Copy of  The Eco-nomical Baby Guide and leave a comment there if you’d like to review our book on your blog.  (Make sure to read the post for more details!) Leave a comment here as well to make sure we can keep track of your entries.

***The contest ends on Monday, March 29, 2010***

Winner will be randomly selected.

We will notify the winner via email and will get you in touch with these companies who will ship your products directly to you. Please Note: This contest is open only to U.S. readers.

Have fun everyone!

The Friday Question: What Are Your Favorite Baby Shower Gifts?

homemade baby food basketOut of all those colorful booties, soft blankets, and various contraptions, what baby gift was the most thoughtful or useful?  What gifts do you now give expectant families?

Among our favorite presents was a bag full of carefully selected, gently used baby garments.  Many people may shirk at receiving or giving hand-me-downs, but my sister-in-law knew that I ardently love recycled goods and bought me a huge bunch of clothes for the same price that she would have paid for one new outfit.   Another favorite gift was a copy of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree that was presented along with an young apple tree.  (It died later, but it’s the thought that counts!)  We were also gifted with items to borrow which included two slings and an Ergo carrier.  Being able to just use these items temporarily worked out perfectly!

My husband and I are still especially appreciative for the gifts of support we received.  Friends volunteered to baby sit for our eldest son, prepared meals and refinished our table for us. Those acts of service were incredibly helpful and low cost.

What gifts do I give?  While I truly believe that our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide: Down-to-Earth Ways for Parents to Save Money and the Planet is a great shower gift, it’s pretty presumptuous for me to foist it upon others without giving them some other goodies.  Baby baskets are always good bets and the one in the picture features tools for making homemade baby food.  I also love buying practical stuff that will be used many times like cloth diapers, crib sheets or eco-friendly baby toiletries.

Please share your gift ideas with the rest of us!

Green Baby Gift Basket Giveaway

One lucky reader is going to get ALL of the following loot from today’s post!   These fantastic green prizes were generously provided by eco-friendly companies we love. The best news about this generous giveaway is that you can enter multiple times!  We’ll pick one winner who will get all of these green goods delivered to her doorstep just for entering.  Read the end of this post carefully for directions and thanks for visiting today!

  • A copy of our book! Of course, we think the best prize is The Eco-nomical Baby Guide: Down to Earth Ways for Parents to Save Money and the Planet. It’s packed with hundreds of ways to save money while going green with baby.The-Eco-nomical-baby-guide1-300x300
  • A HappyBaby gift pack, including organic baby food samples, an Eric Carle growth chart from YoBaby, an Infant & Toddler Nutrition guide co-authored by Dr. Sears, and a set of HappyFamily recipes. HappyBaby is the company behind this fabulous organic baby guide, and their organic foods are available in supermarkets everywhere.happybaby organic baby food
  • A Snugglebottoms Velcro diaper (unbleached ‘green’ cotton flannel) in the newborn size from Baby Bunz & Co. Baby Bunz & Co. has been selling cloth diapers since the ‘80s—before they made their comeback!snugglebottoms diapers
  • A Diaperaps sample pack, including a cover, liner, and an infant size hemp/organic cotton fitted diaper. Diaperaps are adorable, waterproof, Velcro closing diaper covers that can be used with cotton prefolds.  They’re easy to use and very affordable.diaperaps
  • One pair of baby boy shoes from Pedoodles, in the style and size of your choice. You’ll love the style and durability of Pedoodles shoes!  Made from recycled leather, they are eco-friendly and adorable.large-red-bowlerPedoodles2
  • An Under the Nile Veggie Crate. Under the Nile is known for their high quality organic Egyptian cotton, and this veggie crate will inspire hours of creative play as your baby grows. This cute organic baby toy is provided by The Clean Bedroom, which sells organic mattresses and other products “because you deserve a healthy night’s sleep.”veggie crate organic cotton
  • One organic boiled wool coverall ($88) from hessnatur.  This company makes adorable organic garments for baby that are just as fashionable as they are functional.

hessnatur boiled wool coverall
organic wool coverall
organic wool coverall

  • One Crawl Turtle Teether is being provided by Speesees, a fun organic clothing company for young ones that we also featured in our book.  speesees turtle crawl teether
  • One container of Green Dragon Pest Solutions, an eco-friendly product that will hurt household bugs such as roaches and silverflies without harming baby.  It comes in a gel so that you can avoid icky sprays with baby nearby.                                                                        Green Dragon Pest Solutions

Nine Ways to Enter the Giveaway

How do you enter?  Guess what?  You can enter more than once! Each way listed below gets you one entry.  All comments have to be posted BEFORE Sunday the 14th Tuesday the 16th of March to win.

Remember, leave a separate comment on this post for each entry you want.  If applicable, please leave the link to your Facebook/Twitter/Blog in the comment you leave here.

1. Leave us a comment on this post.

2. Email a friend about our book, our blog, or this month’s giveaways. (and don’t forget to leave us a comment telling us what you did.)

3. Subscribe to our blog (look right under the search bar)large-red-bowlerPedoodles2 Again, be sure to comment about it below!

4. Join our Facebook fan club

5. Link to us on Facebook or Twitter.

6. Link to this post on your blog!

7. Add The Eco-nomical Baby Guide to your “to read” shelf on Goodreads

8. Add our blog to your blogroll

9. Go read our post on Five Ways to Score a Free Copy of  The Eco-nomical Baby Guide and leave a comment there if you’d like to review our book on your blog.  (Make sure to read the post for more details!) Leave a comment here as well to make sure we can keep track of your entries.

***The contest ends on Saturday, March 13 Monday, March 15, 2010***

Winner will be randomly selected.

We will notify the winner via email and will get you in touch with these companies who will ship your products directly to you. Please Note: This contest is open only to U.S. readers.

Congratulations to Rose, winner of last week’s gift basket!

Have fun everyone!

The Best Green/Eco-friendly Strollers for Baby

A green stroller?  Does such a product really exist?  There are certainly strollers that are eco-friendlier than others, but it’s pretty tricky to find a bamboo buggy for your new baby.  From our collective experience, the best way to go green is to select a multifunctional stroller that you’ll love through your years of talking your children for walks.

Regretfully I have to confess that we fell into the trap of having too many strollers.  Our tiny garage is loaded up with four separate contraptions for wheeling our babe along the sidewalk. We will try to save you from the same fate!

infant car seat carrierIf you want one for an infant:

What should you do with a newborn?  Honestly, newborns tuck into a sling or an Ergo carrier so nicely that we almost never used our strollers.  If you do want one, however, you might want to look into an infant car seat carrier. Simply snap your car seat into the frame and you’ll essentially have a travel system without all the chunky plastic.  You can choose from Kolcraft, Maclaren, Graco and many others.

If you want an extremely compact stroller:

We love Maclaren strollers for their design, function, and lack of plastic.  Some of their larger strollers (such as the Maclaren Quest) work from birth onward, but the Maclaren Triumph works after ten weeks and the Volo works for children older than six months. The whole line of strollers are light and collapse compactly for bus travel or to throw into the trunk of your car.  If you’re looking for a less expensive option, check out Chiccos strollers or Kolcraft strollers.

If you’re a runner:

While they are a bit big, Bob strollers are wonderful for running with baby.  They adapt to fit infant car seats and also come in double strollers.  They have ample storage and a nice cover to protect baby from the sun.

honey-bee-bike-trailer-2009If you want to bike with baby:

One of our favorite multifunctional choices is the Burley Bike Trailer.  While somewhat clunky, it works as a bike trailer, a running stroller, and a double stroller.  Baby won’t be able to ride in it until she’s a year old, but it can be used for years on family bike commutes.  If the price seems a little steep, you could opt for the similar In-Step bike stroller for much less.

You’ll find even more detail about eco-friendly, budget-friendly baby-toting devices in our new book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide: Down-to-Earth Ways for Parents to Save Money and the Planet.  You’ll also get options for making your own sling and tips on saving money by purchasing a gently used stroller.

What is your favorite baby-toting device?  It may not even be a stroller! Do you own a stroller that you wish you had never purchased?