Homemade Baby Food 101 for the Modern Mom – Part II

[really_simple_share]

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!

Timing

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.

Equipment

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

Preparing Food

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.

Cooking Methods

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

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/Roasting

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

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.

Pureeing

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


The most efficient way to store homemade baby food is in a flexible, plastic (BPA-free) ice cube tray. For older babies, I like to use silicon cupcake tins to yield larger portions.

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?

[really_simple_share]
Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakable Peace

Comments

  1. “The most efficient way to store homemade baby food is in a flexible, plastic (BPA-free) ice cube tray. For older babies, I like to use silicon cupcake tins to yield larger portions.” Oh, I never would have thought to use those silicon cupcake tins, but you’re right – they would be perfect for larger portions for older babies. Great tip :-)

    Thanks for the series, Christen! Homemade baby food really can be simple and the benefits are so great, I hope readers who are considering making their own baby food will give it a try.
    .-= Kara Fleck´s last blog ..Homemade Baby Food 101 for the Modern Mom – Part II =-.

  2. I have made baby food for both of my kids and it’s really easy! I typically take one day every second or third weekend and make a ton of stuff. When my first was born we relied heavily on the book Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron (http://www.amazon.com/Super-Baby-Food-Ruth-Yaron/dp/B001PB6SRM/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1274291009&sr=8-2). She talks about other stuff too, like arts and crafts and housekeeping, but the baby food was the really good part of the book. I liked her super porridge a lot.

    I have since found a great blog called Weelicious (http://weelicious.com/) When baby three comes along I will be trying lots of weelicious recipes.

    Making baby food is so easy and healthy I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t! You can even have baby in the highchair next to you while you work!
    .-= Tessa´s last blog ..Kindergarten Orientation =-.

    • Christen says:

      Thanks, Tessa! I love the book Super Baby Food and I also agree, Weelicious is a great site! I like how there are foods for a little more “grown-up” pallete – tailored for the transitioning toddler (and grown-ups, too!).

      Congratulations on your upoming third! I have a two month old and I’m so excited to start making him baby food in a few months. Made it exclusively for my daughter (she’s now three) and she will now eat almost everything I put in front of her. Some call it luck, but I attribute it to her eating a wide variety of fresh, tasty foods when she was a baby.

  3. Oh, this is wonderful. Well done.

    I think if women felt more empowered as mothers making baby food at home would be a non-issue.

    As it is, we find ourselves impacted by the sophisticated pressure of slick advertising campaigns from baby food manufacturers chasing our dollar by making moms feel insecure about providing good nutrition.

    I read recently that the global baby food market is forecast to be worth a staggering US$37.6 BILLION within 4 years. [http://www.marketsandmarkets.com/PressReleases/Global-Baby-Food-Market-worth-US$37.6-Billion-by-2014.asp]

    That’s a lot of people raised as babies on processed, factory-made, commercially-sold food. Let’s not let that happen. Home-made is always best, at least it’s got some love in it! LOL
    .-= Flora´s last blog ..How beautiful is your world? =-.

    • Christen says:

      Thanks, Flora!

      Agreed, it is discouraging that the majority of babies’ first tastes are that of overly processed, commercially prepared foods. It’s no wonder why many children grow up preferring artificial flavors as opposed to natural ones. I believe it’s so important to share just how EASY it is to make homemade baby food….perhaps many more moms would then give it a try.

      Here’s to decreasing the commercial global baby food market one homemade cube at a time!

  4. Jennifer says:

    We made most of our meals for our first child & I plan to expand my recipe repertoire with baby #2 when he’s ready for table foods. Thanks for the preparation tips & resources for recipes! For anyone just starting out don’t forget about foods like bananas or avocados that don’t even require cooking–just a good mashing with a fork! We also steamed a lot of veggies until tender enough to “gum” when we got past the puree stage (he was a huge fan of cauliflower). This made it easy to integrate whatever my child was eating with the rest of the family’s meal.

  5. I’ve always thought it’d be super easy to make baby food, and you have confirmed my suspicions! I’ve asked a couple of people if they make their baby food, but gotten looks like I’d grown alien tentacles or something! I think a lot of people just would never even think of it.

    We don’t have kids yet, but I do love the idea of having them eat the same stuff we do…and they get more variety, and fresher food too.

    Do you have little jars or something you put it in when you travel? Also, what about using some kind of canning process to keep the food good, say, for long trips? Do they make tiny canning jars with teensy little pop-up lids? Is this even a valid question? :)
    .-= Nikki Moore´s last blog ..cooking dry beans =-.

  6. Christen says:

    Hi Nikki –

    I love that you are interested in homemade baby food before you even have kids!

    As for your question about traveling with homemade baby food, that is a common concern and rightfully so. I personally did not go on many long trips while my little one was on pureed food, but I took a few short car trips and would pack cubes of baby food in a ziploc bag and store in a tightly sealed cooler. If I had to feed my daughter on the way, I would pop out a few cubes and microwave at a restaurant or service station. Once I arrived at my destination, I would quickly move that food into a freezer – (whether in someone’s home or a hotel). You don’t want the food to slightly thaw and refreeze again, as that creates the perfect breeding ground for bacterial growth.

    I personally would ere on the side of caution by doing these things:

    * Bring foods like plain oatmeal, avocados, peaches, mangoes or bananas that can be served up anytime.
    * Have backup shelf stable baby food in case food is compromised.
    * Consider offering your baby healthy table foods if she’s ready.

    As for the canning, I have not tried that, though it’s a great idea! Keep in mind, once you open up the can, you would have to make sure to store it at the proper cold tempurature to ensure food safety – that is if there’s more than one serving in each can. And if you find those little tiny jars, let me know…the smallest ones I’ve found are the little jelly jars. Great questions!!

  7. When traveling- I loved my Baby Food Mill- add whatever was being served to some liquid and hand grind it to make instant baby food.

  8. Forgive my ignorance: Why do we cook fruit and vegetables before pureeing for babies? If it’s possible to control the texture of pureed food, as I can with my masticating juicer, is there any other benefit to cooking the food first?

    • Christen says:

      I have always cooked foods first to get them to the proper texture. However, if you have the equipment to puree raw foods to the right consistency, I’m sure that would be even more nutritious for your baby. Great tip!

      The only downside to the raw method is that you would have to serve the food right away and could not make ahead in larger portions to freeze. I’m a sucker for convenience, but I think it’s a fabulous idea nonetheless!

      • I’m curious as to why you wouldn’t be able to freeze the raw food?
        Or is it possible to freeze it, but will you have to serve it heatened up after you thawed it?
        Or do you have any concern about bacteria?

        • From the reading I’ve done, it seems that freezing and thawing raw food for baby would be fine, and that fresh pureed food could be kept in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 48 hours without spoilage (I think I would rather thaw frozen food every day than keep over fresh puree, though, just like we can’t keep opened commercial baby food for long).

          At the moment, we freeze many sauces, pastes, fruit and vegetables in ice cube trays and silicone muffin pans, and since we don’t have a microwave, I pour over a little boiling water if I want to thaw a small portion of food in a hurry. Provided the water and food is well-mixed, I think the temperature would be just right for young children. Otherwise, I don’t see the problem with thawing raw food, covered, in a refrigerator. Does anyone else have experience with this?

          Many of the resources that I have found are for parents feeding their children exclusively on raw food (no meat, don’t worry). Most of us probably wouldn’t go that far, but I suppose this shows the idea of raw baby food is developed already.

          • Thank you for sharing your knowledge Paula!

          • Christen says:

            Joke – my concern would be bacteria growth, but I think if you make sure to maintain proper tempuratures, it would probably be fine. As Paula said, thawing in the refrigerator or heating over boiling water would probably do the trick. (Thanks for the tips, Paula!)

            I hesitate to comment as I personally do not have any experience using raw fruits and vegetables to puree baby food; I have only used them for fresh finger foods. I have always cooked (and reheated) my baby’s food to ensure that it is 100% safe, but per Paula, it sounds like there are other safe methods to incorporate raw foods as well.

  9. Jennie L says:

    I tried making baby food once with my first child. I steamed carrots but when I blended them they were just tiny hard bits. I gave up, but when I had my third I started trying to make my own baby food again-with much more success this time! I realized the first time I didn’t cook the carrots enough and I should have added water. I have felt so good about all the healthy food my baby is getting and I figure the amount of time I save by not going to the store is worth it!

    Thanks for all the great tips!

  10. Fantastic series, Christen!! I’m almost nostalgic for these days…
    .-= Aimee @ Simple Bites´s last blog ..What You Need to Know About Cast-Iron Skillet Cooking =-.

    • Christen says:

      Thanks, Aimee. I hear you! I am looking forward to making baby food again for our newest addition to the family. :)

  11. I think this post is great but I don’t think it’s clear just how easy avoiding conventional baby foods is. I didn’t buy a single jar of baby food for my son – NOR did I spend any work sessions making any. Instead, I would cook leftover steamed veggies from our family meals just a little longer as we sat at the table to eat. Mash them, scoop the portions into the ice cube trays and pop them out into a communal zip lock once they harden. Sometimes I had enough to make a tray’s worth and sometimes I only had enough to make a couple of cubes – either way I was avoiding waste and additional work/mess!

    A side note: tofu was a primary source of protein for my son in his first few months of solids. I’d just cube it and serve. It keeps great in Tupperware in the fridge and they can practice their pincer reflexes while eating. I would, however, caution you against serving it accompanied by watermelon…the tofu is the clear loser in that taste battle;)

    • Christen says:

      Thanks Beth! I think I would lean towards the watermelon in that pair as well! ;)

      You are right, baby food is incredibly easy to make and you have pointed out an even simpler method – using your family’s healthy leftovers. Either way, whether you batch cook for several weeks worth of food or puree family’s leftovers on a regular basis, it just does not take that much extra time.

      Another note on the tofu, or other “slippery” finger foods, I would sometimes coat the cubes (say of fresh peaches, mangoes, or avocados) in dry baby cereal. My daugher initially had a hard time with her pincer reflexes and this seemed to help, as it added just enough texture to keep it slipping from her teeny fingers. :)

  12. We’re just starting making foods for baby #2. I made nearly all the food for my toddler when he was a baby and it was/is SUPER easy. Just last week, I made 3 batches of different foods in one day by simply cooking extra of whatever was on the stove for our own meals. I always put 2-3 days worth of the puree in the refrigerator for the the next couple days and freeze the rest. This time, I’m finding that the cubes are great for daycare as well – pre-measured portions and I just toss a bag with a weeks worth of “meals” in the daycare freezer on Monday and I’m done for the week!

    About travel: when we hit the coast this weekend, the baby’s “meals” will be the ice that keeps our other food cold in the cooler. (Though we also always travel with a few back-up store bought items. I think that’s the real purpose of commercial food – to use when the convenience factor trumps all.)

  13. Hi,

    I always made my baby’s food at home.. I did pretty much everything of what you’ve suggested and continued in a similar way when I was introducing her to solids and semi-solids. I would take out her portions from our own meals, before I added salt. Puree or mash them and have food ready for her in next to no time. As a result, as a toddler, she loves homecooked meals, veggies and fruits.
    .-= Prerna´s last blog ..Five Simple Ways to Get Motivated and Stay Motivated =-.

  14. I want to make my baby food from fresh veggies and fruit when they are in season. He is 2 months old and won’t be eating them for a while. By the time he starts eating eating most produce will be out of season. But, everything I read says you can only freeze food for 6 weeks. Should I freeze the fresh produce raw and then make batches of food every so often? Any other ideas?

    • I think you will be fine making the baby food now. I have always kept homemade baby food in the freezer for 3 months. If you have a deep freezer, the food will last for 6 months. My newest little one is 3 months old and I am going to make him some baby food with the produce we’ve picked this Summer. I probably won’t feed it to him until he’s at least 5 months. However, it’s a great idea to go ahead an prepare the raw fruits and vegetables for cooking later. I think you could go either way on this one. Happy cooking!

  15. April Montgomery @ Blendtec Blenders says:

    Baby food needs to be prepared with care. I find that blenders really help with that. Using a good blender to puree everything nicely will produce a nice meal for the little ones, that they may even want to repeat. There are so many different blenders available that it isn’t too difficult to find a really good one.

  16. I realize this post was awhile back, but I had a question for you. My son has been eating jarred baby food for about 3 months now but I’ve just started making my own (I got a Magic Bullet processor for Christmas). I’ve made green beans, carrots, and peas and he won’t eat them. THey are a pretty smooth consistency and he acts like he’s choking and throws a fit. He loves those same vegetables in the jarred food. Have you ever heard of this happening?

    • Hi Erin –

      Thank you for your note. I would imagine that he is refusing the food because he’s not used to the taste yet (?). The fresh foods taste wildly different than the jarred, so maybe it’s a function of letting him get used to this new tastes by continuing to offer it? Or – while this might be a lot of trouble – you could combine a little bit of the jarred with the homemade for a short time – just until he learns to like the new taste.

      I would love to hear feedback from you if you decide to continue offering the homemade variety. Good luck and thank you for your comments!

  17. How old is your son, Erin?

  18. Michelle McKie says:

    Rather than add water to the puree, what has been your experience with adding breast milk instead? I would think it would be fine as it’s freezable as well. Have any of you tried this?

Trackbacks

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Susan Heid. Susan Heid said: RT @simplekids Homemade Baby Food 101 for the Modern Mom – Part II http://bit.ly/aU03jB [...]

  2. [...] Homemade Baby Food for the Modern Mom (@SimpleKids) [...]

  3. [...] Homemade Baby Food 101 for the Modern Mom – Part II [...]

  4. […] Baby Food for the Modern Mom Part 1 and Part 2 :: Simple […]

  5. ??????? ?? ????

    Baby Food 101, Part II – Homemade BabyFood Cooking Methods for the Modern Mom | Simple Kids

Share Your Thoughts

*

CommentLuv badge