Saturday, August 20, 2016

We were warned about how expensive baby food is, and we opted for convenience over cost savings when he started eating solids. Has it been ridiculously expensive?

It's a bit difficult to determine exactly how much the food costs so I'm breaking it down into:
  • Formula cost
  • Specific 'baby' food cost
  • Estimates of other food he eats
  • Estimates of the additional costs we would have incurred if we didn't breastfeed


Formula Cost

Since just after birth, we've supplemented with formula. Since he started daycare at 12 weeks, he's switched to a roughly 50/50 breastmilk/formula split. I've written about formula costs previously, but just as a quick recap:
  • the formula we use runs ~$0.60 per dry ounce
  • 1 dry ounce of formula ~= 6.3 fluid ounces after preparation
We could spend slightly less if we used Wal-Mart's formula but we shop there rarely, and we could spend slightly more if we used something like Similac, so this is probably a reasonable estimate of what it would cost for a typical user. It's also worth noting that our baby has historically eaten slightly more than recommended. That being understood, below is the total cost of formula for our baby:

This is actually not as bad as I'd expected. Compared to other expenses, this is still quite low. Possibly interesting a typical size of 4 fluid ounces per bottle, this means we've prepared ~800 bottles of formula so far.

Baby Food Cost

Starting at around 6 months, we've been adding solid foods to his diet. We've had a mix of food specifically branded as baby food (jars of pureed vegetables, dissolving baby crackers, etc.) and regular food that babies can eat (apple sauce, peanut butter, etc.). We opted to save time by buying pre-made baby foods, and sample costs are:
  • $0.60 per jar of pre-made pureed vegetables
  • $3 per container of baby crackers
  • $2 per container of baby yogurt (the only difference I can see is that it's high-fat/low-sugar compared with regular yogurt)
Below is the total cost of this pre-made baby food:

This is also quite low compared with other costs. If we made all of this ourselves, the opportunity cost would be much, much higher, so I'd definitely recommend doing this for someone in our situation (dual-income with both incomes above median).


Estimated Cost Of Other Foods

This is where it starts being speculative. We feed him other foods constantly. For a few examples of what I mean by this:
  • I do Sunday meal prep. I will typically make two extra servings per week to feed him.
  • We buy fruits and vegetables each week. I will typically buy two servings of each to feed him.
  • Whatever snack item I pick for the week (e.g., mozzarella cheese), I will get extra for him.
There's no reasonable way to track this cost exactly, so I'm just going to estimate it at $5/week. This is roughly 5% of our total food budget each week and feels like a reasonable estimate.

Below, I have plotted the tracked costs from above with this cost and filled the area between. The actual cost likely falls somewhere in that red area.


Estimates If We Didn't Breast Feed

As I mentioned above, he was breast-fed primarily at the beginning and has been roughly 50/50 since then. There's no way to know exactly how much breast milk he gets, but based on previous analysis of breast milk production and number of daily feedings, I am estimating it as 16 fluid ounces per day on average. In the earlier section about formula we had the dry->fluid ounce (fl oz) conversion + the cost per dry ounce (dry oz). Combining those, we get ($0.60 $/dry oz)*(1 dry oz/6.3 fl oz) =  ~$0.10/fl oz. Using the 16 fl oz of breast milk per day estimate, we get that not breastfeeding would result in an additional average cost of $1.60 per day.

All of our estimates are then combined in the plot below estimating the actual cost of feeding a baby for 10 months. Note that this plot increased the y-axis to $1000 in case you're comparing it with the other plots.

Overall...if you are in our position (both parents working and using daycare), food cost will be a non-negligible expense but will definitely not be your largest expense.


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