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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