14 years ago, as I was cuddling my first baby, who was about 5 months old at the time, and visiting with a friend who also had her first baby in her arms we began discussing baby food. At that time our diet still consisted mainly of things that come from a box or can because I didn’t know any better. In my eyes, baby food obviously came out of a jar. I was surprised to hear my friend talking about making her own baby food. What? Make your own baby food? Doesn’t baby food come from a jar?
As I often do, I went into research mode. I wanted to learn more about this. As a new stay-at-home mom I was anxious to find anything that #1 kept me busy, #2 stimulated my brain by teaching me something I didn’t know, and #3 saved my family money since we were now surviving on one income. Interestingly, this became a repeating state of being for me over the last 14 years, and thus we now have a full homestead where we raise our own livestock and grow our own food. It all occurred mainly because of those same three points….but I digress.
I was excited to find that making your own baby food is not only easy, it is also much healthier for baby, AND it saves SOOOO much money over the jar version. So I began making my own baby food with my first baby, and here I am 14 years later, still making it, with my 5th baby.
I like to make my baby food all in one day, and then not have to deal with it until my next major baby-food making day. But it is also easy to make a little each day. The basic premise for most foods is #1 cook the food in whatever way is appropriate for that food, #2 buzz the food up to a good consistency for the baby in a food processor or blender or both, #3 freeze the food in ice cube trays, then pop out the cubes and put them all into a labeled freezer bag, #4 thaw and/or heat and serve! Pretty darn simple!
One of the great things about making your own baby food is that you have control of the consistency. All baby food from jars is the same, very runny, barely any texture, consistency. While that is good for a 6 month old that is just barely learning to eat, after a few weeks they are able to handle more and more consistency up to the point of being able to chew on soft table foods. With jar food you can’t work them up in consistency as easily, whereas with homemade you can make it more or less chunky as you see fit.
This last week when I was making food for our little guy I made yams and butternut squash in the oven, then scraped them out of their skins and mashed them up just a little bit with a fork because Mr. Smiles is old enough to do a small amount of chewing on soft things. I cook the peas, green beans, and spinach by steaming them. I used the food processor on the green beans and they turn out quite chunky, but when he was littler I would add the cooking water to help make them smoother. The peas always end up watery, so I usually mix them with something else. I like to boil carrots, beets, apples, and pears separately and put them through the food processor one at a time with some cooking water if necessary as well to get them to a good consistency for his needs.
Meats can be a bit harder to get a good consistency. We usually boil the meat and use the cooking water or some homemade stock to help smooth it out. However, the best thing with meats is to mix them in with veggies. The watery peas blended up with beef makes for a better consistency. As do yams blended with any of the meats. Mr Smiles LOVES ham with yams.
Once you get the hang of it you can start making all sorts of mixes and medleys. I like to mix them together in the blender before I freeze them, but it is also possible to take out a couple cubes of different types of food and mix them when you thaw/reheat them. There are some great baby food making books out there if you find yourself lacking in inspiration for what to mix together.
Once the baby gets older you can start using the food processor to get whatever you are eating to a consistency baby can eat. Like if we are having a soup or stew I will put some in the food processor or blender and buzz it up to a consistency the baby can handle and then he can eat what we are all eating. I usually try to buzz more than he needs and freeze a few cubes so that if later that week we are having something he can’t have I can thaw/reheat the cubes I made from that dinner.
As for traveling or eating away from home with homemade baby food – that is almost as easy as taking the jar food from the store. I have some baby bowls with lids so I just put the cubes in there and throw it in the diaper bag. Depending on where we are going and how long it will be until we eat they can thaw while in the bag, or I sometimes put them on the dash board when we are driving to let the heat from the car and/or the sun through the window thaw them out (veggies & fruit – not meat). You can also reheat them wherever you are going.
Homemade baby food is so much more cost effective than store-bought. You can buy produce on sale, or get it from your garden, and make the equivalent of many many jars of food for less than half the price. Even if you buy the produce at full price you will be saving from the price of it store-bought in a jar. And the nutritional value will be higher because the high temps they use to can the baby food decreases it’s nutritional value more than freezing your own homemade baby food.
I am so glad my friend brought up making my own baby food all those years ago! It has saved us so much money through 5 babies, and been much better for them nutritionally and in its varied consistency.