As a parent, you want the best for your baby. So when it comes time to start solids, you might naturally look to your local supermarket’s supply of baby food. But in some cases, that jar of pureed carrots could be older than your little one. So if want to make your own baby food but don’t know where to start, you might want to take a page from Christine Albury. As the creator of Homemade Baby Food Recipes, Albury wanted to share how easy (and healthy) it is to make your child’s main meals. She spoke with Celebrity Parents about how the British-born mother of 5 took her passion and turned it into a profitable business, why her family is now loving life in the Bahamas, and the secrets for making homemade baby food a breeze.
Let’s talk a bit about your background.
I was born in England. I spent several years working in catering management, then met my husband and married in 1993. One year later, our first child was born – then, after the birth of our second child, I decided to give up work and become a stay at home mom.
Throughout this time, my husband was making repeated trips to the Bahamas, the country in which he was born and where his father still lived. This meant lots of time apart – so, after the birth of our third child, we began to talk about moving permanently to the Bahamas as a family. We sold our house in England and began making preparations to emigrate, during which time I discovered I was expecting baby number 4! We stayed in England for the birth, and then moved to the Bahamas for good in 2004. Baby number 5 was then born on New Year’s Day 2009!
Did you always prepare fresh baby food for your children?
I’ve always loved to cook using healthy ingredients, so I always made my own baby food. Back in 1994 (when my first child was born) it was actually quite unusual to make your own baby food and friends jokingly referred to me as everything from ‘hippy’ to ‘Earth Mother’! But I’ve continued to cook for all my children and have been delighted to be able to turn my passion into a business!
There were several reasons, really. I’d always enjoyed sharing my baby food recipes and tips with friends and family members and encouraging parents who were reluctant to make their own baby food to give it a try! I often thought it would be wonderful to be able to communicate with a wider audience of parents, but until the move to the Bahamas I’d never given serious thought to how I might do it!
One thing I quickly discovered about living in the Bahamas is that it’s VERY expensive, especially for a large family like ours, so I started to think about ways in which I could boost the household income. Our island is very tiny (there are only around 400 permanent residents) so opportunities for employment are few and far between. And – truth be told – I didn’t really want to work outside the home anyway, as my children were still so young.
One day, it occurred to me that the internet (now my main form of communication to the outside world!) might also provide an opportunity to earn an income, so I began looking into ways in which I might be able to work online. I then came across a company called SBI (Site Build It). Unlike the countless other companies I’d researched – who promised huge wealth for doing very little work (!) – SBI explained that it was possible to create a website about a subject you’re passionate about, providing that you are prepared to work hard at doing so. It did not promise that you would ‘get rich quick’, but instead gave thorough technical assistance and support to those (like me) with no previous web experience, making it possible to build a solid website that would – hopefully – be able to provide a future income.
Of course, this was just what I needed to be able to share everything I knew about raising healthy eaters from the moment that solids are introduced – and the Homemade Baby Food Recipes website was born!
What were the first baby foods that you made for your children?
Sweet potatoes, avocados and bananas have all been firm favorites as first foods in our house! Not only are they excellent foods in terms of nutrition, they are also incredibly easy to prepare! Avocado and banana come ‘ready made’ so to speak, whilst a sweet potato can be baked in its skin, then just scooped out, mashed and served. Fast food – but in a good way!
What would you say to parents who say they have no time to prepare food for their babies?
It would be easy to say “Well, it may take a little time, but the benefits to your baby and the satisfaction of making your own baby food make it all worthwhile.” Whilst these statements are true, they may be little consolation to busy parents who are already trying to juggle the need to work with the need to care for their children, leaving precious little time available for anything else.
So from a practical standpoint, I would say that there are ways in which to prepare healthy, homemade food for your baby relatively quickly and easily. For example, the answer to my previous question shows just how simply the very first foods can be prepared – it almost takes longer to open a jar of banana baby food than it does to peel a fresh banana! Other fruits and vegetables require cooking, of course – but even then, we’re talking just a couple of minutes preparation and then around 5-10 minutes steaming time (depending on the food concerned).
Parents can save time by cooking in ‘bulk’ and freezing their creations – in the early days, when baby is eating only small portions, it’s possible to prepare a whole month’s supply of baby food in only one afternoon!
Another consideration to take into account is that you can cook baby’s food right alongside the food you’re preparing for the rest of the family. For example, if you’re cooking butternut squash for everyone else, then separate baby’s portion before adding any salt. That being said, I’m a firm believer that baby food doesn’t have to be unseasoned. Our little ones have always enjoyed a variety of herbs and aromatic spices in their food, which has given them sophisticated palates and prevented them from becoming picky eaters. It’s an issue I mention often in articles on my site and many of the recipes for older babies are so full of flavor that they’re suitable for the whole family. Spending extra time cooking separately for baby is not always necessary!
What are some must-have foods to have stocked in your pantry to prepare baby food?
That’s a little difficult to answer, because it depends on some extent to baby’s age and stage of development. But once your little one is ready for them, it’s a good idea to keep a supply of healthy, whole grain foods like brown rice, whole grain pasta, oats, barley etc, which you can combine with fresh veggies (or even fruits) to create nutrient dense and satisfying breakfast, main meals and healthy desserts!
What was the transition like from living in England to moving to the Bahamas?
Much smoother than I expected! The children adapted immediately to their new environment – they were always happiest in England when running around barefoot or climbing trees, so island life suited them perfectly! Knowing that the children were happy and settled made it easy for me to adapt, too – and, of course, the glorious weather (so different from rainy England) certainly helped. The pace of life is slower, which actually could be frustrating at first, but we’ve all learned to adjust and enjoy it.
We’ve also learned to appreciate things that we took for granted in England – city water, for example! Here, we catch rainwater in a tank under the house and it is pumped up to the faucets. Which brings me to the second thing we value – power! The power here goes off on average twice a week, sometimes for hours on end. No power means no pumps – and no water (not easy with five children).
The nicest thing about being here is the sense of community – it’s such a small island that everyone knows everyone else and going to one of the few restaurant/bars here is rather like an episode of ‘Cheers’! The children can play freely – there are extra sets of eyes everywhere looking out for them (which the children don’t always see as such an advantage, since they are unable to get away with any bad behavior!).
What successes have you achieved since the launch of your site?
I feel that my two biggest successes have been that my site has inspired many parents around the world to make their own baby food instead of turning to the jarred variety. Also, the fact that I am able to earn an income from doing something I love, whilst having the luxury of being able to stay at home and care for my family is wonderful. I receive heartwarming messages every day from parents who tell me that the information on my site has given them the confidence to really ‘take charge’ of their babies’ nutrition and that these babies, as a result, have never eaten commercially prepared baby food.
What’s more, many parents have told me how the information on my site has influenced their OWN eating habits and their diets have become far healthier as a result. Receiving one of those messages always makes my day and each one feels like another little success!
What are some of your goals for the future?
On a personal level, I’d like to have one more child (motherhood remains my greatest passion!) and continue to be able to help support my growing family by working from home.
On a professional level, I’d like to become the ‘Gordon Ramsey’ of the baby food world!
Seriously, though, it would be wonderful to bring some of the recipes and information on my site to even more households via television! It might be a lofty goal, but who knows what’s around the corner? After all, if someone had told me back in 2005 (when I started my site) that millions of people would be reading and preparing my recipes, I wouldn’t have believed them – but that’s what’s happened!