Starting solids foods with baby is one of the most memorable milestones in parenting. Everyone loves to capture the memory of that first bite of cereal (which usually squishes back out through those little lips) and the big accomplishment of the first time she picks up the finger food and actually gets it in her own mouth.
If you’re looking to save a few bucks and offer your baby the freshest and healthiest possible food options, the best thing to do is make your own baby food.
We’re going to look at the why and how of homemade baby food. You’ll see a glimpse at how homemade baby food worked for my family and also some great resources (and recipes) for getting started.
Many of us cook our own adult food from scratch, so why not baby’s as well?
Most of the name-brand baby food options not only include the fruits and vegetables in these cute little containers but also fillers like water, tapioca, and chemically modified food starch. This food has also been industrially processed, which means it is less fresh, and therefore has probably lost some of its nutrients.
I’m also uncomfortable with all the plastic packaging that is a new trend. At least the cute glass jars have a seemingly-infinite amount of ways to be repurposed. But anyway you look at it, making your baby food will cut down on waste significantly if you’re using reusable containers and silverware.
There are healthier options for store-bought baby food, like organic brands (they are also still sold in glass jars), but these can be expensive. Making your own baby food is much cheaper, as is most scratch cooking compared with store-bought processed options.
The process might intimidate you but with a little practice and planning, it’s a very simple way to feed your baby. We’re going to talk about a batch-cooking method which saves time, and allows you to store up small servings that can be prepared in a pinch for a hungry babe.
As far as baby’s first food goes, powdered or flake-based cereals are also pricey, more processed, and provide more wasteful packaging. A much cheaper and more wholesome method is to make baby cereals from real grains (check out the resources below for cereal recipes).
Photo by mrs. bennettar
The Simplest First Foods
Once you move on past cereal, you’ll find that some of the first foods your doctor recommends don’t require any cooking, just some simple mashing skills. Avocado and banana are favorites that don’t take any special recipes.
And don’t be fooled into “baby applesauce”– the only difference from normal applesauce is its texture might be a bit smoother, which your blender or food processor can easily achieve.
In a Nutshell
Most baby foods that are not served raw are simply made by cooking and pureeing the food of choice.
In a pinch you can simply blend up a plate of vegetables that the rest of the family is enjoying for dinner for a more mature eater, or with a little planning you can batch-cook your baby food, which is the best method for younger eaters who will stick with one food at a time in the beginning.
Batch-Cooking for Baby
Here are a few easy steps for preparing, storing and serving cooked baby food.
1. Wash, prepare and if necessary, peel your food of choice.
2. Cook the fruit or vegetable, using the method of your choice (bake, steam, stove-top cook or microwave).
3. Puree in a blender, baby food mill or food processor to desired consistency, adding small amounts of water if necessary.
4. Pour into ice cube trays (check out this old-school stainless steel option!).
5. Once frozen, transfer to freezer bags labeled with food type (carrot and sweet potato look very similar in cube form!) and date made.
6. When baby is ready to eat, simply remove a cube or two from freezer and reheat in microwave or on stove-top to a safe temperature. Bon appétit, bébé!
Figuring Out What Works
Batch-cooking worked great for my family. I usually kept three or four types of food in the freezer so that once my daughter was accustomed to them I could trade off (pediatricians recommend introducing foods one at a time to check for and avoid allergies).
Don’t feel like it has to be all homemade or nothing. Start small if you’re fairly new to scratch cooking. With my daughter I used store-bought cereal, but next time around I plan to try making my own.
I also kept some store-bought options on hand for emergencies or travel. I’d love to hear your thoughts on traveling with homemade baby food if any of you have done it.
Resources for Homemade Baby Food:
- My baby food-making bible was the book Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron. She goes through every step of preparation and batch-cooking and the book is basically an encyclopedia for how to cook any kind of fruit or vegetable that is helpful for any kitchen, even if you’re done with baby food.
- A helpful, free resource is the website Wholesome Baby Food, which has lots of recipes, tips and FAQs.
- And don’t miss NurtureBaby, a community and awesome resource for everything related to making baby food, including recipes, nutrition and techniques, founded by Simple Kids contributor Christen Babb.
Do you have any tips for making your own baby food? Any new or second-time moms feeling inspired to go for it? Let’s hear your thoughts!