Quick & Easy Baby Food Organization Tip

Does anyone else get overwhelmed by the vast selection of baby food at the grocery market? I know I do! Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that there are so many options, but it's definitely a lot to think about. I only recently started my journey into solids with my daughter two months ago, when she turned 6 months old, and it started off well while I was introducing the "first" fruits and vegetables. It was a pretty straightforward/basic plan of introducing fruits (apples, bananas, peaches, and pears) one at a time, for 3 consecutive days, at two feedings and then introducing vegetables (carrots, peas, squash, green beans, and sweet potatoes) one at a time, for three consecutive days, at two feedings. However, once my daughter graduated to the "second" foods I was in a different ballgame. There are a whole lot of food options in this category and it didn't take me long to decide that I needed to come up with a system for selecting and organizing the multitude of flavors and meals available. Not only was I feeling overwhelmed choosing the foods at the market, but I was also feeling overwhelmed when I got home and unloaded all the tiny containers onto my kitchen counter! The Type-A in me couldn't take it, so I came up with a plan to facilitate this mealtime mess.

My plan was to organize the containers so that I wouldn't repeat the same foods over and over and so that the meals would be easy for me to grab-and-go or leave behind for a babysitter at a moment's notice. Here's what I came up with...

Guidelines for selecting the foods...

1. Choose a mix of green and orange/yellow foods.
When my pediatrician first explained how to introduce solids, specifically vegetables, she advised me to alternate introducing the yellow/orange and green vegetables because if I fed my daughter the yellow/orange vegetables back to back it could cause her skin to gain a slight yellow tint. So, I continue to follow this advice when selecting the "second" foods.

(*NOTE: My methods for introducing solids were based on my pediatrician's recommendation. I am sure every pediatrician has their own advice and recommendations for introducing solids so if you are introducing solids for the first time, please consult your pediatrician about the way/order they would like for you to do so.)

2. Choose fruit/vegetable mixes that contain ingredients you have previously introduced. 
Many of the fruit and vegetable mixes are made of the basic "first" fruits and veggies (i.e. apple, banana, pear). However, there are some mixes that contain other foods such as banana, carrot, mango that you may not have introduced before (i.e. mango). In such a case, I always try to find a container that sells that ingredient in isolation or buy the fresh fruit or veggie and introduce it for 3 days before I feed my daughter the mix containing it. It's a simple precaution to rule out any food allergy.

3. Choose a mix of "lighter" and "heavier" meal options.
This a preference I have in order to differentiate between lunches and dinner. For example, I try to give my daughter "lighter" foods such as a pear, zucchini, corn mix for lunch and a "heavier" food such as vegetables and chicken for dinner.

Organizing your child's foods for the week...

If you follow the guidelines above for selecting the foods, it becomes pretty easy to organize them once you unload them from the grocery bags by using the following 5 simple steps:

Step 1: Group all of the same flavor foods together. 
Create a group of vegetable based foods (which I consider the "meals") and a group of fruit based foods (which I consider "desserts"). Within each group, organize the same flavored foods together (i.e. stack all of the garden vegetable containers together and all the pear + pineapple containers together, etc.).

Step 2: Grab one "light" meal and one "heavy" meal per day from the vegetable based foods.
As I previously mentioned, I try to give my daughter a "lighter" meal that doesn't contain a meat for lunch and then a "heavier" meal that includes turkey, chicken, or beef for dinner. There's no real science to this, it's just my way of mimicking adult eating habits where typically the dinner is heavier. I also like to give her the heavier meal for dinner to fill her belly more since she won't eat for another 11 or so hours until breakfast. Once I have selected the two vegetable based foods, I stack them on top of each other with the lunch on top and dinner on the bottom and line them up in a row (Monday through Sunday).

*Remember to keep colors in mind when selecting your lunch and dinner foods. Try not to pick two very orange or yellow foods for both lunch and dinner. Alternate between greens and yellow/oranges, beiges and greens, or beiges and yellow/oranges.

Step 3: Label each vegetable container by day and meal. 
Now that your meals are organized, all you have to do is simply label the containers. YAY! Just grab a sharpie and go to town. I usually label the containers with the day, meal, and flavor. I write the flavor because although Gerber does have the flavor printed on the container, it is in very small font so I write it to make it easier for me and others to see.

Step 4: Grab two or three "desserts"per day from the fruit based foods.
When my pediatrician gave me the instructions for feeding my daughter from 6-9 months she told me to start incorporating a breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day and she told me to include a fruit at each feeding. My daughter often suffers from constipation so I always give her 2 oz. of prunes for her breakfast feeding. However, for lunch and dinner I give her 4 oz. of individual fruits or fruit mixes. Once I have selected the two fruits or fruit mixes per day I add them to the stack they belong in. For example, I add the fruits I selected for Monday to the stack of meals I already labeled for Monday.

*Just like when I pick her meals, I pay attention to the colors of the fruits and fruit mixes I choose to make sure they vary. For example, I try not to give two purple fruits/mixes a day or a very orange fruit mix at dinner if her dinner is also orange in color. Also, I try not to give two of the same fruits a day. If I am giving her apples or an apple mix for lunch I try to select a fruit at dinner that does not contain apples.

Step 5: Label each fruit container by day and meal.
Okay, now that ALL the brainwork is done (PHEW!) grab your sharpie once more and label your fruit containers. Similar to the way I label the vegetable containers, I write the day, meal, and flavor of the fruit. I also write the word "Dessert" on the lip of the cap covering the food container. This just helps set it apart from the lunch and dinner meals.

TADA! Here you have it.

If I haven't scared you off already, which I hope I haven't, I'm happy you're still reading. The explanation of this process sounds WAY more complicated than it is. Honestly, this process takes me about 10-15 minutes once a week. I usually organize my daughter's meals on Sundays so that way I feel good about having her food ready for the week before I go back to work.

This organization system has been really helpful for me and for my mom who takes care of my daughter while I am at work. It does take a little effort to prepare, but it facilitates mealtimes so much! When your baby is wailing from hunger or you're simply in a rush you don't have time to sit and search through food containers for a well balanced meal. Using this system, all my daughter's meals are pre-selected and organized, which makes them easy to grab and go or grab and feed by anyone.

 I hope you found my organizational system to be helpful. I would love to hear from you. How do you organize your baby's food or how do you facilitate mealtime? Please feel free to share your organization tips and ideas in the comments below.

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What does "being a mom" mean?

Having recently celebrated my first Mother's Day, I decided to reflect on what "being a mom" means to me. As a new mom, every day I learn a little more about what "being a mom" really means. Although I'm no expert, here are some things I have learned so far...

1. Being a mom means being SELFLESS.
Once your little bundle of joy enters the world, life isn't ALL about you anymore. That is not to say that I think once you become a mom you should no longer make yourself a priority. In fact, I think taking care of yourself is very important because at the end of the day if you do not take care of yourself how can you take good care of your little one(s)? Rather, what I do mean is that once you're a mom you can't JUST take care of or think about your needs. Motherhood entails making sacrifices for the benefit of your kid(s). The sacrifices can be small such as giving up time to watch your favorite TV show to spend time with your little one (after all, the beauty of DVR is that you can always watch it later) OR big such as choosing to remove someone from your/their life that you know could bring them heartache. Above all, being a mom means putting your kid's needs first and concerning yourself with making decisions that are not only in your best interest, but most importantly in theirs. I'm not going to pretend that this way of life is a piece of cake. Being selfless is definitely easier said than done, but I think the benefits my daughter can reap from me approaching motherhood with a selfless attitude will far outweigh the costs of what I will have to sacrifice.

2. Being a mom means being RESTLESS.
Motherhood is very rewarding, but lets be honest...you can't deny it is tiring work. Whether your kids are babies that require feedings every three hours, diaper changes in between, and constant entertaining (like my little ball of energy) OR your kids are older and need help with homework or transportation to extracurricular activities, there isn’t a lot of downtime in the life of a mom. Life can get pretty busy. Ever since I returned to work,  finding downtime has been even more challenging than it already was because when I get home all I want to do is spend as much time with my little one as I can before she goes to bed. In turn, that means I postpone all of my chores until later. Luckily, I have an amazing support system that helps me with many of these household duties so that I can dedicate more time to my baby, but even so there's always something to do. Thankfully, my little one is a pretty good sleeper, so when she is finally sleeping I take advantage and use that time to try and finish off my chores around the house or catch up on my blogs. However, sometimes I'm so exhausted I simply put my feet up, relax, and watch some TV or just plain fall asleep.

3. Being a mom means being WORRIED. 
From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I began to worry. Throughout my pregnancy, I also worried. Why is she moving so much? Why isn't she moving enough? Was it okay to eat that? etc. Now that my little one is here, the worrying continues. Like many moms out there, I only want what is best for my daughter and want her to be happy and healthy at all times. That means I often worry at the sign of anything. I worry when she starts to feel warm, gets a cough, sneezes, gets a rash, sleeps too short/long, doesn't eat all of her food, doesn't drink "enough" milk or water, etc. The list goes on and on. Sometimes it may just be new mom craziness (lack of knowledge or experience), but I know that once you're a mom the worrying never ends. I used to see my grandma worry about my mom and us all the time and to this day I still call my mom every time I get to work and get home from work to let her know I arrived safely so she won't be a nervous wreck. As a teenager I used to find it bothersome, but now I get it. The worry comes from a place of love and I appreciate that she cares enough to worry. 

4. Being a mom means being a MULTITASKER.
Mothers wear many hats in their every day lives. Not only are mothers "moms", but many are also wives, daughters, sisters, aunts, employees, volunteers, caregivers, etc. and with each of these roles are a slew of responsibilities attached. As I mentioned earlier, I'm still learning how to try and effectively balance it all together.  Who knows, maybe I'll never perfect it, but I'm going to try my best to figure out how to make it all work for me. I feel that oftentimes us moms put a lot of pressure on ourselves (myself included) to get everything we need to do done and do it perfectly, but what I'm slowly learning, despite my Type-A craziness, is that there is no "perfect" and sometimes it's okay to put things off. Not everything has to be done in ONE day. There are some essential tasks that need to get done, but there are other minor ones that can wait. The dishes can wait to be unloaded from the dishwasher and the laundry can always be folded the next day. Too busy to cook dinner? Take-out or food for delivery is always an option. It's all about prioritizing what MUST be done and what CAN be done. I've also learned not to be afraid to ask for help. I am lucky to have amazing parents that will drop whatever they're doing to help me out when I am struggling to get it all done. I know that is not the case for everyone, but there are always other family members or friends that may be willing to lend a helping hand if you need one. Simply ask. At the end of the day, you aren't any less of a mom if you ask for other's help.

5. Being a mom means being an EXAMPLE.
As young as months old, children watch and imitate the actions of their parents. They look up to them and want to be like them. That being the case, I feel that it is important to be someone worthy of imitating. I strongly believe that "actions speak louder than words" and therefore feel that being a good example to your kid(s) is one of the most powerful ways to help raise them into the kind of person you hope they will be. I can't promise there won't be days where I won't say or do the wrong thing because I am HUMAN. I recognize that I am going to make mistakes along the way, and that is OKAY. In fact, I think it's important for kids to see that we as adults are not perfect. It's an opportunity for us to teach them that they can use mistakes to learn and grow. However, I am going to strive to show my daughter an example that teaches her to be a compassionate, ambitious, and humble human being. I pray that I can raise her to be a beautiful person.

Overall, being a mom is PRICELESS. The sacrifices, exhaustion, worry, and responsibility are all worth the precious moments and love of your child. I look at my daughter every so often and still can't believe how lucky I am to have been blessed with such a wonderful gift. I cherish being a mother, HER mother, and wouldn't trade it for the world. Each day I try to take in as much as I can because as I have come to realize, time passes by way too quickly. In the blink of an eye, 8 months have passed since I met my little cupcake, and before I know it, her 1st birthday will be here. As much as I hope time slows down a little, I greatly look forward to all of the adventures and memories that are to come.

Thank you for sticking around to read what "being a mom" means to me. I would love to hear what "being a mom" means to you. Feel free to comment below.

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