I was super excited when I found our ice cube trays hiding in the back of our cupboard....
Because I was getting really sick of only being able to make a 4 day supply of baby food.
The honest to goodness truth is that making your own baby food doesn't take a ton of time (I usually only need 10-15 minutes), but that 10-15 minutes is true regardless of if you're making a 4 day supply or a 10-14 day supply...so it will be nice not to have to make baby food every week.
Are you interested in making your own and don't know where to start? Are you worried about the time it takes? Keep reading, you just may be pleasantly surprised by how easy it is (I'll give you some tips and tricks I've learned along the way). You may also be shocked by how much money you could be saving by taking 10 minutes one day to make a supply of food to store between your freezer and fridge. Read further and I'll give you a few recipes to get you started. :)
Yesterday, as I was a baby food making machine, I spent some time trying to streamline my process and make it a bit cleaner. I'm lucky because I have the Baby Bullet. Its really quick to rinse out and prepare for a different batch of food and it purees everything beautifully...so that helps. I'm not sitting waiting for a blender to get all the "chunks" out, a food processor to cream the food, or killing my arm to use a manual grinder. If you have the extra cash, I'd highly recommend the Baby Bullet.
I've written a blog about baby food before, but I'm too lazy to link it right now...so I will reiterate some of my points from that blog that explain why making your own baby food is such a great idea. For starters, making your own is SO MUCH CHEAPER! Yes, you have to take the 10-15 minutes to do it (an amount of time easily found during a naptime or after they're in bed...) I've done the math, and even at a minimum we save quite a bit making our own...When veggies are on sale at the store, or if you're buying things that are in season, the amount you save will get better and better (I also have several friends that will buy a bountiful basket and they swear that it ends up being even CHEAPER. Bear in mind that the idea of a Bountiful Basket is that you're getting fruit and veggies that are in season, if you look online, you can easily find a chart of what's in season and go by that if you're looking at saving more and either Bountiful Baskets isn't available in your area, or you're late to get one - they go fast in some areas!) Cheaper is good...especially once you get to the point where your pediatrician is asking you to feed your baby solids 3 times a day.
I also utilize frozen and canned produce. A bag of frozen peas at our grocery store costs about $0.80...but it will make 9-12 servings of peas (depending on how thick you make your food). Say we only get the 9 servings of peas out of the bag... $0.8/9 works out to be just $0.088 a serving...not even a dime...compare that with $0.35 (if you find it on sale)-$0.63 a jar at your local store.... So...say you're feeding your baby 3 times a day, 7 days a week...that's 21 x $0.088= $1.8666 a week compared to (being generous and giving you the sale price) 21 x $0.35= $7.35...makes you wanna spend that 10-15 minutes, right? I use canned peaches and pears... just make sure they are canned in juice or water NOT syrup. If you end up in a situation like I did (I sent my husband to buy them because we were out and forgot to mention the no syrup rule), and end up with canned fruit in syrup, don't despair. Rinse them really well to remove the syrup and use water as your blending agent. Baby will be fine. My husband grabbed the GIANT cans of peaches, they cost about $1.50...but made just shy of 15 servings... so you're looking at $0.10 a serving as opposed to what you would pay in the store. (A serving for my baby is 4-6 TBS...your baby may only eat 2 TBS at a time, so you may get more.)
Beyond being cheaper...there are other benefits- baby will get used to the flavors that you ACTUALLY USE in your own house. Granted, as you do stage one foods, it is suggested that you don't really add anything to the food...but once you hit the stage two foods, you can start experimenting on foods that baby hasn't shown an allergy to...Here is my take on it...if you wouldn't eat it, why would you expect your baby to? I've tasted the processed baby food...YUCK! There is NO FLAVOR at all...and people wonder why our kids end up being picky eaters... they have taste buds people! Yes, they need to be exposed to flavors slowly so they aren't overwhelmed, but imagine going from eating a non flavored paste to being asked to eat a small piece of roast beef with potatoes from the crock pot...that would be overwhelming for anyone...but if they've been given a chance to experience the flavors that you actually use in your own home, it seems to make sense to believe that they will eat it when they are toddlers and its placed in front of them because it will already be familiar to them.
I will say that even at stage one, as I tasted what I was giving my daughter it had 10 times the taste of anything Gerber or Beech Nut would give you... and I didn't feel guilty for not being able to add salt or butter to it.
If you're just getting started with baby food- and are interested in trying to make your own, you don't have to have anything special...just a blender at the most (just be aware that it will take a little more time to get a puree free of chunks.) and ice cube trays for storage. If you're not sure what the stage 1 food are, you can either go to your local store and see what the companies can...or you can just follow this link HERE...because I like you so much, I did the Bing search for you. :) If you buy a Baby Bullet, it will come with a small recipe book and a suggested guideline for when to introduce certain foods. They list Avocado, Yellow Squash, Bananas, Sweet Potatoes, Peas, Zucchini, Pear and Apple as the best foods to start a 4-6 month old on, at 7 months they suggest adding asparagus, carrot, green beans, white potatoes, and peaches... I will admit that I introduced most of these foods with no problem at 6 months because I was out of options for new foods and I was out of baby food, had no car to go to the store, and happened to have them in the house...my pediatrician said that by 6 months (if they're handling textures well) you can start adding pureed meats into their diet and a few other proteins, and move on to stage 2 type foods...the baby bullet suggests introducing yogurt and cottage cheese at this point, but again, talk to your pediatrician to get their opinion. My pediatrician was okay with the idea of yogurt, but said to hold off on the cottage cheese. Many websites will suggest certain foods that are listed as high allergy in the Baby Bullet manual...so my big thing has been, when I've been in doubt, I've asked. For example..tomatoes are listed on one of my favorite baby food recipe sites as a stage 2 food, but as you click on the link it suggests waiting until after 10 months to introduce them and talking to your pediatrician first because they can cause severe allergic reactions... another website I've found with recipes suggests putting peppers and foods that are on the "no no" list in stage 2 purees...I simply use the recipe and omit them...if it seems fishy to you, don't do it until you've asked.
I am lucky...my baby is NOT picky. In fact, she's kind of weird. She takes after her mamma and will eat a good veggie over fruit any day. She HATES apples and loves apple juice (although, I am beginning to wonder if she has a similar apple allergy to mine. I can drink apple juice, but eating them raw, in a pie, or in applesauce form makes me nauseous. She spits up a lot if I manage to get a few bites of apples down her.)
She is now 7 months old. She gets really frustrated when mom and dad are eating and she doesn't get any. If she happens to be in my lap or my husband's, she tries to steal our forks and spoons, and finger foods off of our plates so she can eat it too... so we have to watch her closely when we've got her with us at the table so we can avoid a choking spell.. I did break down at lunch a few weeks ago and puree some mac and cheese with peas and chicken that I'd made for myself for lunch. It was much thicker than the food she was used to, and I was surprised that she handled it so well. She just couldn't eat much because it was sooo heavy. She probably got down a tablespoon or two before she was full...
She LOVES yogurt, but sadly she has a milk intolerance and spits up the majority of it after she's done... (funny thing, the mac and cheese didn't cause a reaction at all...but it was also boxed and we only have 1% milk in our house right now. I've talked to other mommy friends with kids who have a milk protein intolerance, and they've said that their kids are usually okay with mac and cheese too.. go figure...) So we can start introducing protein, I've slowly started introducing meat proteins into her diet...one easy way to do this, if they are still struggling a bit with thicker textures (and my baby is), is to add chicken or beef stock to the puree instead of water or formula. It adds a lot of flavor, and if you cook beef or chicken in your house a lot (and unless you're a vegetarian, you probably do...) it gives baby a chance to experience those flavors.
So...how did I streamline my process yesterday? I'd read some complaints from fellow blogger mommies that ice cube trays are a huge mess when it comes to making baby food because its hard to get the food into the little surface area that you have to pour into...I, my friends, come to you with a solution!
Do you have a quart ziplock bag???? Snip a corner off of it, load the bag, keeping the food against the un-snipped side, then tip it towards the snipped tip over the ice cube tray. Yes, it will likely pour out, but once one cube is full you can simply move your hand over slightly and fill the next. I found that if you kind of slam the tray down a few times lightly after all the receptacles are full that it will flatten the food out and then you can take a spoon or knife (or your finger) and put the food that is on the "in between" spaces into an adjacent cube receptacle. Simply cover the ice cube tray first with saran wrap, and then tin foil to prevent freezer burn...stack them in the freezer and once they're frozen, you can move them into freezer safe bags that are labeled with what they are. Use 2 -3 cubes (depending on the size of your ice cube tray and your child's appetite) at a feeding. Simply pop the cubes in the microwave for 25-30 seconds (I usually err on the side of 25 seconds and then do 5-8 second spurts to get it to my desired warmth) and stir, stir, stir to get rid of any "warm pockets" that may have developed...I suppose you can melt them in a sauce pan and avoid the warm pockets, but if you make it a point to displace ALL the food in the bowl and scrape the sides,etc. you will eliminate any "warm pockets" that could possibly exist.
So...I figured I'd share a few recipes to get you started... I'll give you 2 recipes for 4-6 month (stage 1) and 2 for 6-9 month. Again, I make it a point to taste EVERYTHING that I give my baby. If I won't eat it, I won't expect her to. If a combination sounds weird to you and like something that wouldn't go well together, then I wouldn't even waste your money...but if you're feeling bold...go for it, just be fair- if you think its gross, what do you think they are going to think?
4-6 months...a serving size for a 4-6 month old baby could range from 2-4 TBS (my daughter got to 4 TBS quickly!) :
Avocado (this one is easy- and almost every book I've read actually agrees that avocado is the PERFECT first food. In fact, many pediatricians I've read works by, and moms agree that they would introduce avocado INSTEAD of boring and tasteless rice cereal... We started on oatmeal because we were worried about constipation with my baby (my pediatrician suggested it)...but as soon as we found avocado, I can honestly say that the oatmeal has been sitting on the counter collecting dust. She welcomed the avocado, and we had to fight with her to get her to eat the oatmeal (even with adding fruit juice to it)...it has EVERYTHING- protein, fats, and carbohydrates... and its SUPER easy...Let me tell you what to do...) Open the avocado, take out the pit and take the flesh out of the skin...put it into a blender/food processor/grinder with 1/8-1/4 cup warm water, formula, or breast milk...grind until smooth...that's it! One avocado should make 4-6 servings (depending on if you buy small, regular avocados or the giant ones.) You don't have to add anything...baby will love it as is. Its still one of my daughter's favorites, even with all the fun flavors she's been getting lately. :) Avocado can also be used in mixed purees with bananas, apples, or pears after you know that they aren't allergic to each of the foods being blended. Just be sure to follow the 3 day rule...only 1 new food at a time, and they have to prove for 3 days that they aren't going to have an allergic reaction before you introduce something else.
Peas- (again, this one is easy, and is one of my daughter's favorites.) 1 cup of peas, steam/heat. Put in your pureeing apparatus with 1/4 cup water. Puree to desired creaminess, and serve/store.
* Note- any homemade baby food stored in the fridge will keep for 3 days before going bad. The avocados will turn a little brown. Stir them and if the brown doesn't disappear, or if there is a lot, they were likely a VERY ripe avocado and spoiled faster. Foods stored in the freezer can last up to 3 months.*
6-9 months- ( You can add rice to any of these recipes or actual cooked and shredded meat if your baby handles textures better than mine. The best part about the way that my recipes are done is that I can mix cubes of food to get an even more complex flavor. I will make only 1 type of stock for my recipes of the day and split it between all of the recipes. )
Yummy Sweet Potatoes and Carrots- 1/2 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed, 1 cup carrots diced, or 2 large handfuls of baby carrots. Steam/boil until tender (usually takes about 12 minutes. I will set the timer for 6 minutes and then go do something else while they steam. Come back and stir them, and do it again...see you can do housework while you make baby food! Isn't multitasking wonderful!?) Drain the veggies (if you boiled them) and pour into your pureeing apparatus. Add 1/2 cup chicken or beef stock (can use Boullion cubes...ie 1 cube to 1 cup of water... to make stock) and 1/4 cup water (to cut down on salt content) Puree until desired thickness/creaminess. If desired, add 1 TBS of butter or margerine (I find the stock adds more than enough flavor so you likely won't need it). This recipe filled 1 ice cube tray completely and 2 baby bullet containers (they hold about 4-5 TBS)...so it makes A LOT! * You can use 1 cup peas instead of the carrots if you want something different. I made both. because I had the whole other half of the sweet potato to use. The best part is that you can use half of each and give your baby a real treat of taste complexity! :)
They'll Eat It- I Swear, Green Beans: 2 cups green beans, steamed/heated. Put into your puree apparatus with 1/4 cup stock, 1/4 cup water, and 1 TBS butter or margerine. Puree until desired thickness and creaminess. Taste it...add a sprinkle of salt if you think it needs it.
You can add rice to any of these recipes if your baby handles the texture well, or even puree it it with the rice to break the rice down a bit. If you're going to add the rice, just be sure to add more water or stock to thin out the mix and make it easier for baby to swallow. In my experience, you usually want about 1/4 cup liquid for each cup of solid that you use.
Here's to happy babies! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to leave comments or email. I will respond, I promise! :)
Hugs and loves until next time.