Today, more and more moms are choosing to make homemade baby food, passing by the vast array of conventional choices in our supermarkets. To recap Monday’s post, homemade baby food is simply better for your baby, your wallet, and the planet!
Today, we will expand upon this topic by showcasing a variety of time and money-saving tips to create delicious homemade goodness for your little ones.
Preparing your own baby food is quite simple, despite its daunting reputation. It does take a bit of planning and a few hours of your time, but the benefits far outweigh the sacrifice. The result will be a great sense of pride, and more importantly, a happy and healthy baby!
I start with timing because this is where I lose most moms. However, you only have to set aside a maximum of an hour per week to prepare homemade baby food. Some recipes take as little as ten minutes. Most recipes are designed to yield a large amount of food (literally dozens of servings for baby), therefore, your will have a delicious variety of age-appropriate, homemade goodness within a few weeks time. This works well considering you only introduce one food a week to your baby in the beginning.
You might be tempted to invest in an expensive, all-in-one baby food maker. While this tool can be helpful and convenient, you likely already have all the equipment you need to prepare homemade baby food in your own kitchen.
- Large stock pot
- Steamer basket or metal colander
- Medium saucepan
- Blender or food mill
- BPA-free ice cube trays for food storage
- Silicone cupcake tins (optional) for food storage
- Freezer bags
When starting solids, it is best to peel the fruits and vegetables, as the fiber in the skins can be difficult for young babies to digest.
While fresh, seasonal produce is optimal, frozen fruits and vegetables are a close second. These fruits and vegetables are frozen at the peak of freshness which locks in flavor and nutrients; plus, they are more convenient and less expensive than fresh ingredients.
There are several preferred methods to cook homemade baby food: steaming, baking, roasting and stewing. These cooking methods ensure the highest nutritional value. While boiling seems logical, nearly half the nutrients can be lost in the process, as many vitamins and minerals are water soluble and discarded along with the boiling liquid.
Steaming is the preferred cooking method when starting a solid regimen, as it is the best way to preserve fresh flavor and the most nutrients. If you do not have a steamer basket, simply place the food in a metal colander, cover, and place over a pot of boiling water. Do not overcook the vegetables, as nutrients can be lost. Cook just until tender and add some of the steaming liquid to the pureed food for a smooth texture. Adding the steaming liquid will fortify the puree with any nutrients lost in the cooking process.
Baking and/or roasting baby food is a convenient and nutritious way to get the most out of your time. Just set the timer and forget it! Get the most out of your oven’s energy consumption and bake extra food for your baby while cooking other foods for the family. Baking holds on to most nutrients and intensifies the flavor of the food.
Stewing can be done in a saucepan or even in a slow cooker! It’s an easy “one-pot-wonder” solution, as the food and cooking liquid can be served (or pureed) together. Therefore, stewing holds onto most of the nutrients as the cooking liquid is consumed along with the food itself.
Once the food is cooked, wait for food to cool a little before adding to the food processor/blender. The steam can cause the food to expand when processed, and if you don’t let the food cool, you might have a big mess on your hands!
For babies 4-6 months, add a little cooking liquid and puree until completely smooth. As your baby grows and shows readiness for chunkier foods, puree the food a little less. Experiment with the different speeds on the processor for a wide variety of food textures.
A food mill is less convenient, but ideal for smaller batches of food.
Storing and Freezing Safely
Cool food as quickly as possible and place immediately in the freezer. Adding hot food to the freezer can make other foods in the freezer susceptible to bacterial growth as it can bring the temperature of the freezer down.
Once the food is frozen, pop cubes out of trays/tins and store in a well-marked and dated freezer bag. Food in freezer will store for about 3 months.
Do not re-freeze cooked meals that have already been frozen, as this will make the food susceptible to bacterial growth.
However, you can freeze food if one or more of the ingredients were previously frozen in a raw state. For example, it is okay to freeze a “one-pot-wonder” meal prepared with raw, frozen chicken. Or, you can freeze a cooked fruit puree made from frozen mangoes or blueberries.
You can reheat frozen food in a microwave or over a saucepan, just make sure that the food has cooled adequately before offering it to your baby.
More Homemade Baby Food
For a variety of age-appropriate homemade baby and toddler recipes, as well as useful nutritional information, check out NurtureBaby. For additional information on homemade baby food, you can also check out Nicole Bennett’s post on Simple Organic.
Have you experimented with homemade baby food? If so, what ideas could you share that worked for you and your baby?