How Baby Led Weaning starts

While chatting with a friend about weaning, it occurred to both of us that we can’t remember much about our what our first children did when. It seems a bit ridiculous that I’ve forgotten all about it. After all, I did blog about it (Oh my, I can’t believe how much like Ophelia Talitha looks in that post! I’m actually trying not to tear up, knowing that my little baby will be a “big girl” in no time at all).

Even so, I wish I’d kept a closer record. I’ve had a few emails in the past couple of months asking about baby led weaning and though I can offer solid information (like the pun?) from reading and breastfeeding support training, I’m amazed at how little I remember from personal experience.

In an effort to answer some of the questions I’ve been asked and to keep better track this time, I’m going to try to blog a bit more about it this time around.

baby-led-weaning

Baby led weaning involves offering family foods for babies to feed themselves from the start instead of spoon feeding them pureed “baby food”. It’s amazing what happens when we wait for babies to grab food and shove it in their own mouths. Yes, it may be messy, but they can do it, they love it and it can be a lot of fun for us too.

As with Talitha, I waited until Ophelia was six months before introducing solids (she’s seven months old today!). I wanted to be sure she was physically ready to get started. She was sitting up unsupported, was developing her pincer grasp, was no longer pushing everything out of her mouth with her tongue and was breastfeeding a lot. I’d also started to have a tough time keeping her away from food. I reckon she’d have got the process started if I hadn’t.

That’s been an interesting difference to observe between Ophelia and Talitha. Talitha loved experimenting with food but didn’t seem to consume that much of it until into her second year. Ophelia, on the other hand, actually eats quite a lot. In fact, I need to keep reminding myself to breastfeed her before offering solids. Milk is their main source of nutrition for the first year.

baby-led-weaning-2

What does she eat? Anything I do, as long as it doesn’t contain added salt or sugar and isn’t a choking hazard (like nuts). We limit bread because of the salt. I’m avoiding giving her dairy products because I suspected she was sensitive to it in my milk as a newborn but can’t be sure.

She’s eaten chicken, rice, potatoes, beans, lentils, all manner of fruit and veg – to name a few bits. Sometimes I take the skin off things and other times I leave it on and she just manipulates it out of her mouth after a good munch.

She’s gagged at times and thrown up a couple of times. That’s a normal part of the process as they learn to manage food. I remember it freaking me out with Talitha. I just kept a watchful but significantly calmer eye this time.

The mess has bothered me more this time than it did the last but I’m trying to just let her get on with it, remembering how quickly Talitha became skilled with a spoon. I’m really enjoying recording this process a second time.

For more information:

My other BLW posts
When should my baby start solids, La Leche League International
Gill Rapley’s book, Baby-led Weaning: Helping Your Baby to Love Good Food*
The Baby-led Weaning Cookbook: Over 130 delicious recipes for the whole family to enjoy*
Rapley’s BLW guidelines

*These are affiliate links which means I get a few pence if you buy these books. I own these books and find them helpful so it’s a genuine recommendation.


Eight ways to save money on your toddler grocery bill

Every now and then, the media gets all excited about how much it costs to do the family thing. Usually, I scoff at the figures: “You can do it for less, surely!” Other times, I do the maths and feel reassured that there’s a reason we never have much money.

According to the NCost of Raising a Child Calculator, the average toddler costs £40. Well, blow me down! Really? I guess that’s really possible, even with a three-year-old like mine who doesn’t seem to eat that much.

Anyway, I did a shop (NatWest sent me some vouchers), and I honestly don’t think I spend £40 on my toddler, in groceries anyway. Here are a few reasons why plus a few I want to try.

Ways to save money on toddler food-3

1. Make from scratch
I don’t manage it every week but most weeks we do at least one session of baking. If you’d told me this would be part of my routine a few years ago, I would have rolled my eyes at your barefoot-and-pregnant vision of my future. Yet now baking is something I really look forward to doing with Talitha. She gets so much out of it that it’s worth any mess and effort. It also means that we end up with healthy snacks at a fraction of the cost. One of our favourites to cook and bake from is the River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook. It’s not gluten and dairy free friendly, mind, so we don’t share these treats with Laurence.

2. Buy the adult version
Although I’ll buy the odd Organix tomato whatever, I don’t usually go in for toddler snacks. I really resent spending five times the amount on toddler rice cakes when I could just get unsalted adult ones. As for things like breadsticks and biscuits, I think people often expect these to contain less salt and sugar than their adult counterparts but they don’t always! It’s always worth reading the ingredients. You might be better off just buying the adult version and limiting how many you give your child.

Ways to save money on toddler food-2

3. Buy big and divide
I totally get the convenience of those child sized raisin boxes and yoghurt pots but they’re so expensive, you’re basically paying for packaging. On more organised weeks, I’ll buy just your normal bag of raisins and divide it into little tupperware containers. I’ll also spoon out a bit of yoghurt to take in a plastic tub with us if we’re going out. Talitha’s hardly ever had yoghurt that wasn’t natural so she hasn’t really acquired a taste for the kiddy fruit flavours, anyway, though she’ll definitely opt for them if they’re available!

4. Lay off the juice
Leading on from that, I’m also really glad that we haven’t got into the habit of having juice all the time. We recently had a few juice boxes in the fridge from her birthday last month and I couldn’t believe how quickly she got into asking for juice all the time! Now that it’s gone it’s gone, though, and apart from avoiding the sugar on teeth worries, water is free!

Ways to save money on toddler food-5

5. Go fresh
It can also be cheaper to just go fresh. An apple is a fraction of the cost of those dried fruit bear things, for instance. And, if I had a child who would eat carrot sticks (she’s always expanding what she’ll eat so I imagine this is in our future), I’d certainly opt for dipping them in houmous over breadsticks. Bananas are also a perfect snack because they’re grab and go. You don’t even need to wash them.

6. Grow your own
And so, if you’re doing the fruit and veg thing, the cheapest way, hands down, is to grow your own. I’m really looking forward to the blackberries in our garden ripening and Laurence has promised me an apple tree this autumn. Easy options for growing food with toddlers are cucumbers and tomatoes. They make such easy snacks too.

7. Set up a fruit and veg co-operative
If gardening isn’t an option right now (and fair enough, different seasons of our lives for different things), then setting up a fruit and veg co-operative is a great way of getting the good stuff cheaply for you and a few friends. I haven’t done this yet but I so want to give it a go.

Ways to save money on toddler food

8. No second options
As I mentioned, I have a bit of a selective eater. Ever since she had a bout of tonsillitis at fifteen months, Talitha has been a bit picky about what she’ll eat. I don’t know if it was the illness or just something that was going to happen anyway. She has gradually branched out and now all the food groups are covered, to my relief. For a while, however, it seemed like I was spending extra money trying to make sure to have something on the table that she’d eat.

Nowadays, though, there are no second options. I’ll always include something in the meal that I’m sure she’ll eat but what’s on the table is what’s on offer. It’s saved both my sanity and money and it’s even meant that she’s tried and discovered she liked a number of new things.

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Is there anything I’ve missed? What do you reckon you spend on your child’s groceries? I suppose if your child is in disposable nappies that adds a cost too.


Blackberry jam recipe

Here’s me ticking number 4 off our Summer bucket list: make blackberry jam. We have loads of brambles climbing over our garden fence and they are heavy laden.

Blackberry jam-3

I also picked a few more blackberries on our weekend walk. They need to be completely black and to come away from the plant easily.

This is basically the laziest way to make blackberry jam. Still, the end result is lovely. It made two jars of jam. I’m sure we’ll make some more.

Blackberry jam-2

What I used:
550g blackberries
225g white granulated sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice (I used the bottled concentrate)

What I did:
Stick it all in a pot, mash it together with a potato masher, bring it to a boil, lower the heat a little bit and test it after 30 minutes by sticking a spoonful in the fridge. Meanwhile, wash up the jars and let them dry in the oven at 160C to sterilise them. Take the jam off the hob and pour into your jars.

Blackberry jam-4

I know, it’s very unscientific without thermometers and pectin but our jam tastes marvelous. I am really pleased with the outcome and looking forward to doing more experimenting.


Guest post: Summer holidays – relaxed tea times mean quick and easy is a must

This is a collaboration post

Day to day, getting dinner on the table has been one of my greatest challenges with two. Sometimes being able to just stick something in the microwave one-handed is a saviour, while I balance a fussy four-month-hold on a hip. With this in mind, I’m welcoming the tips in this guest post:

It’s that time of year again when parents everywhere are preparing to have the kids at home for 6 weeks over the summer.

With the kids off school and long summer evenings keeping us in the sunlight for longer, tea might get served up a little later than usual – so how do you find a quick and nutritious tea that can be cooked in a jiffy?

Nutritious potatoes

Potatoes are available everywhere, from the farm shop to supermarket; buy in bulk or in small packs of new potatoes. They count as one of the five a day, so we can feel fine giving them to toddlers. It’s an easy win isn’t it?

Tired little ones

Perhaps you have a menu planner, but sometimes just when the kids are getting restless and hungry you’re thinking what’s for tea? McCain ready-made jacket potatoes from the microwave can cut the prep time down even further because the cooking is already done for you.

Team the potato with some yummy filings which will stimulate the taste buds and tea’s done and dusted for another night! It keeps us calm and mindful to know that a simple carbohydrate with a tasty filing has hit the spot and you can always serve the jacket spuds as a lunchtime treat too if you and your little ones are growing tired of sandwiches!

Quick fire recipes

If you’re not sure what to serve with your jacket spud then many supermarkets and magazines offer jacket potato filling suggestions to help you on your way. Here are a few common favourites:

Cheesy Beans: a classic combo, all you need is a little grated cheese and a tin of everyone’s favourite baked beans. It might be a little messy but it’ll hit the spot. You can always use spaghetti hoops or alphabet letters instead of beans too

Chives and sour cream: a healthier option, just pop a handful of chives into some soured cream then dollop on top of a McCain ready baked jacket for something filling and tasty.

Holiday hot dog potatoes: a variation on the classic hot dog, this makes a really substantial supper and all you need to do is combine sausages with a sweet honey glaze and a little mayonnaise. You can find the full recipe here and even get your kids involved with the cooking!

Garlic mushroom jacket potatoes: as many families are opting for meat-free meals as a way to stay health-conscious, this subtly flavoured garlic mushroom filing is a perfect sister to a jacket potato. It takes just minutes to pan fry some chestnut mushrooms in butter and add in a little garlic but you can also throw in a handful of chopped lardons for extra flavour if you want.

These are just a few ideas of amazing dishes you can make for kids but why not experiment with others? Little Dish has compiled a list of great recipes too so you can find plenty of inspiration to feed your own cooking exploits!

This is a collaboration post


Much Needed Bank Holiday Rest & Beef Pelau

It’s been really quiet around here lately – not because there’s not much to blog about. In fact, every day life is throwing up any number of things to think about, to chat through with you. Night time is my time to blog, though, and by the time one of the girls has been handed over to Laurence (usually the baby), one is in bed (the older one), one is asleep in the sling (the baby) and dinner is had, I scarcely feel like thinking, let alone writing.

Instead I’ve ended up working through three and a half seasons of Game of Thrones at impressive speed (and ended up annoyed because I’m pretty sure they’re about to kill off my favourite character). Three times I’ve sat down recently and began to blog, then I re-read what I’d written and it just sounded grumpy. Who wants to put something grumpy out into the world?

So the theme of this Bank Holiday weekend was rest. Rest, because without it, the days get loud and frantic. I forget how to be still, to think, to pray, to listen. Rest, because I am not a good mother to my children without rest. Rest, because otherwise I get angry and impatient with Laurence and myself. Rest, because nothing is insurmountable but without rest I can’t figure out where to start with anything.

It was a relief to go spend some of the weekend with my in-laws out in the countryside. Staring at a large body of the water while someone else entertains your children for a while can’t be beaten.

Good food made it complete. Morrisons gave us vouchers to shop for the Bank Holiday weekend. We actually tend to shop there anyway whenever we’re doing an in-person shop because they make a real effort with their layout, have a wide selection of gluten-free and dairy-free products and maintain reasonable prices.

Little Morrisons shopper

Morrisons impressive cheese counter

Though the free from goodies didn’t stop me looking over longingly at the cheese counter!

Morrisons vegetable section.jpg

Their fruit and veg section and meat counter always feel more marketplace, less supermarket which makes for a less stressful shopping experience overall.

morrisons butchers

I also love that it’s pretty easy to find what I need for Caribbean cooking there. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised to see the plantain.

Morrisons exotic fruit

I had a real craving for pelau this weekend. It’s a rice dish from Trinidad that my mother often cooked on public holidays when I was growing up there. Mine doesn’t even nearly match hers but one day. In the meantime, I can pretend to my British family that it’s the real thing. It’s still pretty good even though it’s not. Let’s call it super easy beef pelau (for about £1.50 per serving from Morrisons).

Beef Pelau

Beef Pelau

I don’t make this using exact quantities. I just go by what feels, looks and tastes right. If you want to make this vegetarian, omit the meet. You could also add pumpkin and/or carrots.

Pack of chopped beef
Bag of brown long grain rice
2 tins borlotti beans
olive oil
1 tsp brown sugar
handful of fresh coriander
1 tsp dried thyme
1 stock cube
2 crushed cloves garlic
1 chopped onion
soy sauce
1 tin coconut milk
1 hot pepper
salt and pepper

Season the meet with coriander, soy sauce, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large pot (we’re making A LOT of pelau here – some to freeze for later). Brown the sugar using this method. Throw in the seasoned meat, getting all the browning all over it. Cook until no longer pink, stir in a little water and simmer. Add the beans and onion and cook for a few minutes longer. Mix in the rice, coconut milk and stock cube and drop your pepper in whole. Add enough water to cook the rice. Mmhmm.

So, what did you get up to last weekend?


Fish Creole Recipe with Flora Cuisine

Talitha and I loved our big lead-up to Christmas so much that I’ve begun thinking about what family traditions we’ll be starting for Lent this year. Fish on Fridays seems an easy one to weave into our lives.

I also figured it would be fun to get creative with a different style of fish each week. So, I’m revisiting a dish I haven’t made in a while: Fish Creole.

As with most Caribbean cooking, everyone has their own way of making Fish Creole and this is simply mine. I cooked it for our Valentine’s supper last Friday and we’re both glad I did.

Flora Cuisine - Fish Creole Recipe

It’s a deceptively simple dish, really. Flora Cuisine made it even easier as I could just brush it on to the fish without worrying about breaking up its flesh.

Normally you’d eat this with rice and fresh salad or maybe ground provisions. We had it with steamed vegetables for extra warmth with the storm threatening to blow Bristol away outside.

Fish Creole Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients - Fish Creole Recipe with Flora Cuisine

Here’s what you need:
2 slices white fish
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried oregano
½ small onion
20g cornflakes
½ tsp paprika
2 stalks celery
1 pepper
1 tin chopped tomatoes
sea salt
black pepper
1 tbsp Angostura bitters (you can replace this with rum or omit altogether)
Flora Cuisine

Brush gently to coat the fish with Flora Cuisine

Here’s what you do:
Pre-heat the oven at 200°C
In a bowl, season the fish with thyme, oregano, onion, a pinch of sea salt and black pepper to taste
Add two generous squirts of Flora Cuisine to the fish, brushing it to gently coat the fish
Coat the fish with cornflakes mixed with paprika

Lay the coated fish in a glass dish - Fish Creole recipe with Flora Cuisine

Lay out the fish and the bowls contents in a glass dish
Cover in chopped celery and pepper
Season chopped tomatoes with a pinch of salt and more black pepper to taste and pour on top of the vegetables and fish
Drizzle on Angostura bitters if using
Pop into the oven for 20-25 minutes

Fish Creole Recipe with Flora Cuisine

Smell it, eat it and lick your plate after when no one’s looking.

This post was brought to you by Flora

Link up your recipe of the week

Polenta Banana Bread with Molasses – Gluten-free and Dairy-free

The beauty of this recipe is that it’s not really a recipe. I mean, you can take these ingredients in their quantities and pretty much just let your child do what they will, decide what order it’s all going to go in – that kind of thing. It did remind me that I need to get a child-sized masher. Talitha had a good go with the bananas but I needed to finish the job. She’s also still working at cracking eggs but we have a do-it-together system at the moment, which just about gets them in.

Recipe for Polenta Banana Bread

I opted to include black strap molasses as it’s one of the things I credit with getting my iron levels back up. It really is wondrous stuff. Actually, speaking of wondrous stuff, my cousin-in-law shared this post on the benefits of bananas the other day. Said cousin-in-law has just started a blog about giving up sugar, Death of a Sugar Monster. It’s worth a look if you’re sugar-free curious.

Molasses polenta banana bread

So! On to the recipe…

What you need:

4 large seriously overripe bananas
8oz olive oil
4 medium eggs
2 tbsp honey
4 tbsp black strap molasses
250g polenta
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 pinch sea salt
50g chopped pecans
50g chopped pitted dates

What you do:

1. Preheat the oven to 180C
2. Go for your life. Mix it all together however you like. If it really makes you feel better, you can do wet, dry then nuts and fruit but it’s honestly fine if you don’t. For ideas on how to encourage independence in the kitchen, check out How We Montessori’s In The Kitchen post.
3. Pour it into a bread tin greased with dairy-free spread. Stick it in the oven for 45 mins or until a toothpick in the middle comes out clean.
4. Eat on its own or with your butter alternative. Magic. And it tastes good for you.

Gluten free dairy free banana bread