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Before I got pregnant with Miles, you would have never caught me talking about making my own baby food. I mean, I had been a nanny for years and had used the pre-made jarred food with all of the kids I had watched.
Then I started with the family I am currently with. Without getting all sappy, the boy that I watch went through a lot when he was younger, and there was a point when he stopped eating and we had to find a magic formula of tastes to get him to eat again. His mom and I both spent time each week making large batches of crazy mixed flavored baby food, and never thought a thing of it. I realized then that making baby food at home isn’t the most time consuming thing, and that I really wanted to make food when I had kids.
Fast forward a few years. Miles was ready to start with solids and I was ready to make them for him. I did use boxed rice cereal, but I now know you can make your own rice (or Quinoa) baby food powder!!
Get a book
I started off by buying a book called The Everything Cooking For Baby and Toddler Book. (I love their entire series!!)
That’s a great way to start if you can find a book that suits your wants and needs. It was nice to just have a reference when I needed it. The book I had split up foods by age, and even gave yummy recipes to mix up food which helps if you aren’t confident in your own mixing skills. If you plan on staying organic, there’s also an organic version of the same book!
I went out and bought baby food freezer trays. A friend had given us a tray and I bought a few other brands to test out. I liked having the trays because they had measurements of the ounces right on the sides of the cups. After using different brands, my absolute favorite was Especially For Baby brand.
It’s sold exclusively through Babies R Us and will set you back $10.99 for a set of two trays. We got by just fine with only four trays. They are awesome, and come with removable labels to write the food and date on each jar. The reason they are so much better than the others is that they were the ONLY brand I found where the plastic containers didn’t break. I am still using them two years later to keep veggie purees in (I add veggie purees to my food all the time).
A great economical way to freeze baby food is to buy some cheap ice cube trays, freeze the baby food in them and pop them out into freezer bags (make sure you split up the foods into separate bags and label/date them).
Don’t give in to the gimmicky baby food makers if you can help it. You don’t really need an all-in-one that costs you $100 (although if you want to spend the money, I’m sure it makes baby food a BREEZE to make).
You really only need a stove, oven, and either a food processor or a blender … all things most of us have, and if you don’t already own one, a food processor (my preference) or a blender can be bought for under $30.
Make that food!
I started off by buying a few different mild vegetables like squash, zucchini and sweet potato. I sliced up the squash and zucchini and boiled them in separate pots for a few minutes until soft, and I cut the sweet potatoes in half length wise and baked in the oven at 350 for about 45 minutes. I put each separately into the food processor and pureed until completely smooth. I added a little hot water (or cooking water from boiling) to help smooth out the veggies that were too thick. I didn’t ALWAYS buy fresh though. A bag of frozen veggies is just as nutritional as the fresh food, and will only run you about $1-$2 for a regular-sized bag. One bag of frozen veggies could yield about 24 or so jars of food! What a savings.
Same thing goes for fruits. Boil or bake and puree in the processor or blender, adding water as needed for desired consistency. Some fruits like strawberries, mango and bananas can be pureed raw. If a fruit is soft enough to puree, then go ahead and blend it raw.
For meats, bake or boil until FULLY cooked. Do not undercook meats. Puree in the blender or processor, using water or a chicken or beef broth to help smooth it.
As your little one gets older, you can start to mix the flavors. This was my favorite part of making baby food! We mixed beef with mixed veggies, strawberry and mango, and my favorite, sweet potato and apples. Mmmmmm! We would also puree whatever we were having for dinner all together for him, and puree all of the leftovers to freeze. Miles LOVED eating beef stew and chicken and vegetables too!
Once your food is pureed, divide it into plastic jars (do not close lids yet) or into ice cube trays and let it cool off. Once cooled, close lids on the jars and place into the freezer. If you are using ice cube trays, freeze for about two to three hours and pop into Ziplock bags. Don’t leave them in the open trays for too long.
Take out the jars or cubes of the food you want to use, and let thaw in a bowl, or do like my impatient self did and place in the microwave for 30-second intervals until slightly warm.
Making your own baby food isn’t for everyone, but for me it was a cost-effective way to feed Miles. Despite the fact that I had previously thought it would be an extremely time-consuming task, it would take me an hour to make enough food for a week, and sometimes if I bought enough food, I could cook for three weeks in the same amount of time! If you are thinking that making your own baby food is something you’re interested in, then go to your local book store or library to find a book to read, and feel free to ask us any questions, too! A few of us moms made our own food, and would be happy to help out!