If you’ve ever been to the baby food aisle you’ll notice what seems like a wide array of different flavors for baby food. These small containers don’t seem to be expensive at around $1 each for brands like Gerber, but if you get into the organic line or the fancier baby foods (like the ones in pouches) you can easily spend $1.50-$3 for 1-2 servings of baby food. It adds up ! I read about this one woman whose older infant went through 5 jars in one sitting. That’s $5-$15 for one meal of baby food !
The reasons I got into making my own :
1) I know what’s in it. Any food that has a shelf life of over a year has some chemical in it that preserves it. I’d much rather have wholesome ingredients and no fillers. (Many baby food makers add potato to their foods to “stretch” it and since potato doesn’t have a distinct flavor, it doesn’t affect the flavoring of the food, just lowers the intensity.)
2) I can make flavors that aren’t available pre-made. You even seen avocado, papaya, mango, or parsnip baby food ? Many people believe that babies won’t like such rich flavors and don’t expose their children to them. The key to raising an adventurous eater is exposing them to foods that enrich their palate.
3) I can gradually introduce a new flavor. If I know my baby likes apple, I can make an apple/blueberry or an apple/mango so that the new flavor isn’t too shocking. Then I can give a flavor at full intensity with a higher success rate of being liked.
4) I can save lots of money. I have a chart where I keep track of the food I made, how much the ingredients cost me, and how many servings I got out of it. I bought 1 cantaloupe that cost me $2.50 (it was per item, so I got a big one) from the grocery store, it made 11 servings of baby food (2.5oz) which means that each serving costs approximately 22.73c. The most expensive one per serving was when I made blueberry- the container was $3 from the grocery store and it made 4.5 servings (2.5oz) which is 66.67c per serving. That’s still cheaper than pre-made baby food, has little to no waste (I recycle all produce containers), and I know what’s in it.
5) I can save on packaging waste. Call me a hippie, but I recycle anything and everything I can. We take as many means possible to reduce and reuse waste, then recycle what doesn’t fall into that category.
6) I can make as much or as little as I want. If baby loves root veggies, I can keep a stock of those baby food flavors to mix in with other newer foods or always have back-up in case baby doesn’t like the newest one we’re trying.
7) I save myself from so many grocery trips for baby food. I buy the foods I plan on making into baby food on my normal grocery shopping visit and usually make the food same-day or the following day.
8) I save time by making 3-6 batches of baby food all in one afternoon. Instead of getting everything out and ready just to make 1 batch, I just make as many batches as I’ll need back-to-back and then I’m set for at least a week or so. The active time (prep) is usually very minimal, something like 20-40 to make 5 batches.
—How to Make Homemade Baby Food—
-2+ cup Food Processor or Blender or Baby Food Chopper (I have a Béaba Baby Cook)
-Lid for Medium Saucepan
-Ice Cube Trays or Silicone Baby Food Tray with Lid (the latter is preferable- buy used)
-Freezer Bags (quart size is suitable, but you may need gallon size)
-optional : Baby Food Cookbook (I love “Top 100 Baby Purées” by Annabel Karmel and “Bébé Gourmet” by Jenny Carenco). These can give you ideas and suggestions for pairs of things you wouldn’t think of. (buy on Ebay or Amazon for 1/2 price!)
The cookbooks are designed in categories by age and so the ones in the beginning are the ones to make first. They’re mostly root veggies, green beans, apple, pear, peach, plum, etc. I believe our son’s first flavor was sweet potato and he loved it. I have a supply of pre-made ones just in case he doesn’t like the homemade ones quite yet (mine aren’t as smooth as the pre-made ones).
In order to keep track of the flavors he’s tried (as well as liked or disliked) I created the following document to make it easier on myself to keep track. Purée Preferences It can take as many as 13 times of trying a new food before a baby will like it. Sometimes you get lucky and your baby will like everything. So far, that’s our son. But he hates peas- must get it from me ! What we do with the chart is simple. Each time our baby tries a flavor, I give him a few bites of it and then I can tell if he likes it or dislikes it. For a “like” I put a checkmark and if it’s a “dislike” I put an X. This way I can keep track of how many times he’s tried something and at what point he started liking it. I printed this document double-sided and have it in sheet protectors near his highchair, on our dining room table.
If using fresh produce : Choose to peel or not to peel the skin (obviously for a banana you must remove the peel but for plums, apples, peaches, etc it’s up to you. The peel in these fruits contains many nutrients and fiber). Cut up the fruit or veggie into small/medium pieces and put in a saucepan. Fill water up to 1/3 the height of the items in the pot. Over medium heat, cook for 10-20 minutes, until the item is soft and easily pierced by a fork.*
If using frozen produce : Put the items in a saucepan and cover 1/4 the height of the items in the pot (frozen veggies have stored water and will release some while cooking). Cook 10-20 minutes, until the item is soft and easily pierced with a fork.*
*Transfer solid items AND residual water into a food processor, blender, or baby food chopper. Purée until smooth, about 10-45 seconds. Check the consistency and adjust it to your baby’s preference (add water for a more liquidy purée better suited for young infants; add rice or other ground “cereal” to make thicker purée better suited for mid-older infants). Pour or spoon out the puree into the silicone freezer trays. If making more than one batch of flavors, write down what flavor is in what color of tray (or find some other system to identify the flavors).
Freeze for 12 hours or until solid. Remove frozen baby food by inserting a butter knife at the edge and loosening each compartment a bit, then turning the tray upside-down and pushing each section till the baby food pops out into a medium bowl. Label a freezer bag (quart size is usually suitable, otherwise gallon-size bag) with the item’s ingredients (banana/apple, plum/pear, raspberry/rice cereal), and date made. These can keep from 6 weeks to 6 months depending on your freezer. The sooner they’re used, the better.
It’s really that easy to make your own baby food. Many people think that it’s complicated or hard, but it’s honestly easier for me to make our son some age-appropriate food than to cook ourselves dinner.