My Favorite Things
Here are some items I've found to be helpful along the way.
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Glasslock -- These are awesome glass containers that can go from the freezer to the microwave and they are airtight and spillproof! I use the 17oz square containers for all my soup, and use them to store single-serve containers of kid meals in the freezer. I also use them in the lunchbox so that when it gets banged around, nothing leaks. These are available at many major retailers and often can be picked up at discount retailers like Ross and Marshalls.
Wean Green -- These are my favorite little containers! They work just like glasslock, except they are only 4 ounces. They are perfect for lunchboxes since they are tiny and spillproof. They would be great for salad dressings too, but we use them for trail mix, hummus, sunbutter, crackers, etc. I wouldn't recommend them for baby food storage because of the cost, but they would work for that as well.
Thermos -- Oh how I love Thermos! What would I do without you? There are several stainless steel beverage products available for kids on the market, but Thermos wins out because of the double-wall vacuum insulation. We have several Thermos products in our home, but I suggest the following:
- Food storage -- keeps food warm for several hours
- Foogo Vacuum Insulated Drink Storage -- The Foogo line has sippy cups and straw cups. I am not a fan of the sippy cups, but the straw cups have worked great for us and keep liquids cold for 12 hours. They do not have a spill-proof valve though, so, you may find your child needs to grow into this product. I did take my Foogo straw cup and attach a Munchkin-brand straw with a valve to the bottom. It is not a perfect solution, but it helps slow the milk flow if it turns upside-down. My son was never a big liquids drinker, so the little he did drink I wanted him drinking milk, not water, for the fat and calories. These are a great way to keep milk cold for on-the-go. Skip the milk and juice boxes. Use a Thermos and if your child doesn't drink it all, it comes home instead of going to waste.
- Funtainer Drink Storage -- These are also straw, but hold more ounces. I prefer the Foogo size, most kids don't need 12oz of a drink for lunch.
- I even use an 18oz Thermos for me! I can't stand drinking warm water, so I love that they keep drinks cold for so long. Mine is double-walled insulated, just like the kids' versions so they don't sweat. I can throw it in my purse and it won't leak either. They are just super-convenient.
- You'll need a baby bottle brush to keep them clean, and a very small brush to keep the straws clean (try Dr. Brown's baby bottle brushes). If you are using them for milk, be sure to do a 50/50 water and vinegar soak on the plastic parts occasionally.
- Thermos sells replacement parts for VERY cheap if you contact them directly.
- Thermos' are designed so they are protected from temperatures. That means if you stick it in the fridge, the fridge temp won't affect the thermos! Remember to flip the lid open so that the milk doesn't spoil inside the thermos.
Le Crueset -- I decided to invest in the enameled cast-iron cookware. I do not like non-stick cookware, I easily ruin stainless cookware, and I'm not comfortable with being able to clean cast iron cookware enough to handle allergens. Le Crueset is not cheap, but I spent a lot of time thinking about what pots I actually need, and I have managed to buy only 3 and it accommodates all my cooking needs. I have a 9-qt Dutch Oven. I use this for large soup batches, pot roasts, browning ground beef, and anything my large skillet used to do. I also have a 3 3/4-qt Multifunction Pan which I use for veggies and boiling pasta most often. This came with a dual-purpose lid. It is a lid for the pan, but when you flip it over, it is a small skillet. I use this for pan-frying small batches of veggies or making just one or two burgers. I was able to keep the glass lids from my old cookware for these pots for when I want to see through the lid. I bought my Le Crueset as seconds from the Outlet store (their only issue is paint splatters on the inside), and then got an additional 30% off the outlet prices, so I got a great deal!
- I have one small skillet for eggs and I kept one or two of my old pots for that rare occasion I'm cooking tons of things at once and I need another pot.
Vital ID -- These are medical alert bracelets for kids. I like them better than an engraved bracelet because you can change the information anytime, and add as much as you need. It fits very tiny wrists. I filled out the information and laminated it, and it fits snugly in the bracelet. We use it anytime we are out somewhere where my son could get lost. One of my biggest fears has always been if something happened to me, or if my son was separated from me, that someone would give him food (like ice cream or candy) to calm him down. That would be terrible, so this bracelet gives me some peace of mind. On a related note, be sure to attach this same information to you child's car seat. If you are ever in an accident and are unable to speak, allergy information would be available to emergency personnel.
Avery Fluorescent Sticky Labels -- We use these for anytime someone else is watching my son and put the label on his back. Most often, the church nursery. Even though I tell the teachers about the allergies, it can be easy to forget when they are busy with a group of active kids. Plus, if the teacher ever has to leave in an emergency, the label is there for the replacement to see. The label reads in large letters "I HAVE FOOD ALLERGIES" and in smaller letters "Please feed me only my own food and drinks".
Dehydrator -- I recently acquired a food dehydrator. I had been trying to locate dried fruit that my son could eat and was unable to find reasonably priced fruit that was not cross-contaminated with nuts. So, I decided to do it myself! Since purchasing it, I have dried fruits, veggies, fruit leathers, and beef jerky. It is also a way to save money! When your produce is about to go bad, just dry it! The fruit makes great snacks, and the veggies can be re-hydrated for use later or thrown into a soup or smoothies.
- I use the Nesco Square Dehydrator. Reasonably priced (shop around!) and big enough for the casual user. You'll want to pick up a fruit leather tray and "clean-a-screens" as well.
- If you are going to get a dehydrator, I also recommend a Mandolin. A dehydrator is wonderful, but it does take time! You could spend hours cutting up fruit to dehydrate and some foods like sweet potatoes are very difficult to cut thin enough without a Mandolin. It will speed up the process tremendously.
- If you are going to have a Mandolin, get some safety gloves. If you don't, you WILL LOOSE A FINGER AT SOME POINT!
- Apple Corer. This is just to save some time. I use it for pears and apples.
- Beef Jerky Kit. If you're planning on making jerky with ground meat, this will just make the process easier.
- Cherry Pitter. If you will be dehydrating cherries, you will need this.
Breadmaker -- A breadmaker is definitely not a necessity, I don't use it that often. But, if you have one already you may find new reasons to use it. Pizza dough is a great example. Make a huge batch, and then split it and freeze it.
Babo Botanicals -- These are my favorite personal care items for kids. Lotions, shampoos and washes. My favorite is the Cucumber and Aloe Vera wash/shampoo.
Cleaning Products -- Since many children with allergies are sensitive to chemicals as well, you may need to reconsider the cleaning products you are using. I prefer Babyganics products (wait for BOGO sales at Babies R Us) and BioKleen products (I generally buy deal-a-day deals for websites that sell BioKleen, or am often able to buy them at 30% off on drugstore.com and their related sites). My son has shown drastic differences in his skin and itching based on the laundry detergent I use. I have had the most success with Mountain Green Baby Free and Clear (I buy at Kroger) for both cloth diapers and clothing. I have not used dryer sheets in years, and recently began using wool dryer balls from Stoney Mountain Farms.
Ice Cube Trays -- Ice Cube Trays are not just for babyfood! Look for silicone trays and freeze anything! My favorite is baby spinach. I buy a huge batch, blend it with only as much water as I have to for pureeing, then freeze in cubes. I add cubes to nearly every soup, to smoothies, to spaghetti sauce. I also use the trays for pizza sauce! I never use a whole bottle before it gets moldy. So, I freeze it and just pull out what I need each time we use it. Avocado is another example! It turns a yucky brown very quickly. So, I often buy several at a time, mash them, then freeze them in cubes. My kids eat it mixed in oatmeal or by itself with a spoon.
Popcorn Popper -- Since most popcorn is layered in butter, and studies suggest microwave popcorn is a horrible choice anyway, a popcorn popper may be a good investment. For under $20, you can pop your own in an air popper and have a cheap snack for the whole family.