When I was pregnant with my first child, a friend of mine mentioned that she had made most of the baby food for her own children. I was working full-time and she was too, but I thought she was nuts to even suggest that I would spend hours in my kitchen making baby food I could so easily buy at the grocery store!
Then I started browsing the offerings at my local supermarket, and that made me think. First stage baby food offerings encompassed bananas, apples, pears, prunes, carrots, etc. The second stage foods included more vegetables, such as peas, green beans, sweet potatoes (where the heck is broccoli by the way?). Then I closely looked at the price tag and did some math. For Gerber baby food, I could get 2 packs of 2.5oz each for $1. Organic food jumped to 70 cents for one jar of 2.5oz. That’s $3.20 and $4.50 a pound respectively! Ouch, I thought, trying to calculate how many jars of food my baby would go through in his first year. I can see now why people say having a baby is expensive!
Before I gave birth, I had also decided I would exclusively breastfeed my baby, so I saw the possibility of making my own baby food as a natural extension of the gesture of nourishing my child with my own resources and not resort to a food manufacturer to do so.
Finally, there’s the environmental aspect of premade baby food. Can you imagine how many glass jars and plastic containers you could go through by the time your baby is ready for table food? My personal goal didn’t intend to take the baby food manufacturers and the makers of glass and plastic out of business, but gee, I had to consider the alternative… making my own baby food.
Well, guess what, I did it and you can too! You actually don’t need that many utensils, and if you follow my advice, it’s super easy to do and won’t take that much of your time. Trust me, I’ve got a full-time job and I continued making my own baby food for my second baby, even when his brother kept me ridiculously busy and often out of the kitchen.
Here’s what you need to do this right:
1) Make full use of naptime:
Use naptime to do all of the food prep, cooking and freezing. Shop in the morning with your baby, and make use the outing to show him all of the nice fruit and veggies you’re buying just for him. Always take advantage of a teaching lesson when you see one!
2) Start small:
Don’t buy five pounds of each fruit and veggies in one single weekend. You’ll be cooking for hours, and unless you have a separate freezer, it won’t all fit. Buy one or two pounds of each, and maybe two or three kinds of produce at once.
3) Find some good fruit and vegetables:
Go to your local produce market and buy regular or organic. I purposely bought as much organic produce as I could, because even at $2/pound, it was cheaper than the $4.50/pound for organic jars. Don’t hesitate to also look in the frozen department. Vegetables are frozen fresh and it’s a great way to locate good veggies at all times of year (e.g. green beans, peas, cauliflower, etc).
4) Make use of the kitchen utensils you already have:
– A large cooking pot and/or a steamer and/or a microwave
– A food processor or a blender (don’t buy a special baby food blender, what you already have in your kitchen will work just fine!)
– Ice cube trays (regular trays work just fine, so don’t waste your money on fancy ones)
– Freezer bags and a freezer
Now, you’re ready to go and in less than an hour, you’ll have many, many baby feedings available:
1) Wash your hands! Wash all produce very carefully. Peal if necessary and cut in small pieces so it cooks quickly.
2) Cook the food in a pot, an electric steamer (or a steamer basket in a pot), or even in your microwave with some water at the bottom of the dish. I used my steamer a lot to preserve as many of the nutrients and vitamins as I could. Don’t season anything until your baby is a little older (8 or 9 months old). Then you can add vanilla and cinammon to fruit, and parsley, garlic, onion powder, olive oil, etc to vegetables. Just like us, babies love food that tastes good!
3) Cook thoroughly until soft. As your baby gets older, you don’t need to cook it as long. Keep the water in the pot or container and let things cool a little.
4) Use a blender or a food processor (you can buy a handheld blender for really cheap if you can’t afford a Kitchenaid) and blend everything well. If it needs moisture, add water to it. As your baby gets older, blend less and leave more chunks. Eventually, you may be able to just mash everything with a fork.
5) Fill the ice cube trays with the blended food. Each cube equals about 1oz, so you know how much to feed your baby.
6) Store the ice cube trays in your freezer until frozen solid (overnight). Empty the cubes into small freezer bags and store back in the freezer as soon as possible. Don’t forget to label the bags with the food name, as well as the date!
7) To defrost, take the cubes you need out of the freezer the night before, or reheat in the microwave on low.
The great thing about making your own baby food, besides the financial and environmental aspect, is that it allows you to mix the various foods to create your own combinations (banana-apple, apple-pear, pear-peach, sweet potato-green beans, squash-broccoli, etc). This is very convenient when you want to introduce a new food. Use a food your baby is familiar with as a base (e.g. sweet potato, and mix the new food with it (e.g. broccoli).
I’m sure you’ll find plenty of baby food recipes on the web and you may feel overwhelmed with all of the options. My advice to you is, KEEP IT SIMPLE! Babies like to taste a lot of things, but not at all once, so enjoy the learning curve with them and take plenty of pictures and videos as they say hmmm, or they make funny faces and spit it all out!
You can download a printable chart of baby foods you can introduce to your baby and at what age on the Wholesomebabyfood website.
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