Feeding therapy: minimizing waste and cost at home

This blog’s been quiet for a couple weeks because my mood’s been too unstable to write or even read much. I’m waiting on an appointment with a new psychiatrist and some med changes.

Most of my spare energy lately has been going into reading about and obsessing over my son’s eating issues. I was pleased to see that one book that I checked out from the library, Helping Your Child with Extreme Picky Eating, mentions the issue of food insecurity: “If you struggle to get enough food, or are concerned about spending money on foods your child is not likely to eat, we will address this in later chapters.”(55)

But then they don’t. Unless you count this:

“If you are concerned that what you buy won’t get eaten […] buy one Asian pear or zucchini, or a snack pack of a new cracker rather than an entire box. Know that wasting food is part of the process – for a while. Redefine waste – if you don’t offer new or challenging foods, that’s a wasted opportunity!”

Spoken like someone who’s never experienced food insecurity. (And apparently low-income moms aren’t smart enough to figure out that they can save money by buying less food…)

I want to address this issue, because I’ve thought about it a lot ever since Monkey started refusing food, around 8 months of age. Then we started feeding therapy and were expected to play with food constantly with no expectation of eating it, with no acknowledgement of the financial effect on us. If you’re already paying for formula, Pediasure, Duocal or another expensive supplement to replace the foods your child isn’t eating, this makes it that much harder to buy food that won’t be eaten.

Food insecurity creates a lot of anxiety around food. Having a child with food aversions also creates a lot of anxiety around food. Put the two together and you have SO MUCH ANXIETY ABOUT FOOD. Which can make your child’s aversion to food worse as they pick up on your anxiety.

So, here are some ideas for saving food and money if you have a child with clinical feeding problems.

Ask your child’s feeding therapist to give you any leftover food that was used for your child during a session and would otherwise by thrown away. For instance, if she opened a small container of applesauce or used part of a tangerine, you might be able to take the rest home, refrigerate it, and use it during the week.

When possible, use food that you are eating to play with with your child, but give tiny amounts. So for instance, say you made chicken soup; give your child one or two small pieces of carrot from the soup, or a shred of chicken. (And then play therapy games with it.) If you boil an egg, give him a thin slice or cube and eat the rest yourself. Buy those bulk tangerine things and give him a slice or two every day while you eat the rest of the tangerine yourself. Etc.

If you make something specifically for your child, refrigerate it and use tiny amounts throughout the week. For example, last week I cut up one baby carrot into matchsticks, parboiled the sticks, and refrigerated them. I got a week of therapy stuff out of one baby carrot. (I ate the rest of the package, or chopped them up for soup.)

If you buy something for your child to try and it just completely doesn’t work out, and you don’t want to or can’t eat it, ask a mom friend if her child might like it – then you can swap the remainder for something of hers (like one of those snack packs she bought 50 of because her toddler loved it for a week but now the toddler hates it).

One therapy game involves having your child feed you, with a spoon or his fingers depending on comfort level. This has a lot of different benefits – he gets to feel in control, he gets to observe you eating close up, and he might even touch the food. It’s also a great technique for not wasting food, because the food being “played” with is being eaten – by you. Yum! (Note: do this when you’re slightly hungry. If you’re too hungry, you’ll get impatient with your child for feeding you too slowly. And if you’re not hungry at all, it feels kind of gross.) (Disclaimer: I’m not a therapist and I don’t know your child; if he’s in feeding therapy ask his therapist about this technique.)

My estimate is that, on average, I spend less than $0.50 per week on uneaten therapy food. So that’s not so bad.

Anyone else have tips to share?

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