Baby food is expensive! Raising a child is expensive enough without purchasing baby food for months. I always try to buy and provide my child with organic solids because I am concerned with the potential effects of chemicals on my young child.
Even if you don’t worry about organics, you are sure to realize the cost of baby food quickly. A typical jar costs close to one dollar. A baby can eat anywhere from one to nine jars in a single day. When your child is eating the third stage foods, they can easily cost $1.50 per jar.
If you are on a budget like our family, spending $5 to $8 per day on baby food seems ridiculous. That equates to $150 a month. You can make your baby food for much cheaper.
Reasons Why Parents Love to Make Baby Food
There are other reasons that parents may opt for homemade baby food instead of store bought varieties.
- You know exactly what you are feeding your baby. If you have a garden, you will know where it is grown as well!
- Parents can create their own fun, unique blends. While companies do have interesting mixtures, making your baby food allows you to put together flavors, you think could be delicious. For example, it is hard to find avocados in baby food. Most of the time, you will not find any melons in baby food either.
- Baby can get used to eating foods that your family eats.
- Homemade baby food preserves all of the nutrients and vitamins. Store-bought varieties are cooked at extremely high temperatures to make sure there are no bacteria. This process can also eliminate many of great benefits of the vegetables and fruits.
Foods Not to Give Your Baby
Before you learn about making homemade food, you have to know what you cannot give your child. There are just a few that you will want to wait until your baby is older before introducing. Most of these items are higher on the allergy list.
- Whole milk
- Fish and Shellfish
- Berries (wait until six to eight months before introduction)
- Honey – DO NOT give before one year old
What Do You Need to Make Your Own Baby Food
Some parents like to purchase special tools to create their purees. However, there is a wide variety of things you can use to make the recipes!
- Baby Food Maker: Yes, you can purchase specialized tools designed just for parents who make their baby food! They are tools that steam, cook and puree the foods. You can use them for fruits, vegetables, and meats. There are even some makers that can defrost and reheat previously prepared baby food!
- Blender or Food Processor: Some parents, such as I, prefer just to use a standard blender or food processor. They may require extra cleanup for smaller batches, but it is an economical choice.
- Hand Blender: Instead of a larger blender, you can even use a hand blender to make baby food!
- Baby Food Grinders: If you want a portable option, there are manual and inexpensive baby food grinders available. They can break down large pieces of food. However, they don’t allow you to pick different textures which are important for younger babies.
- Cube Tray: You don’t want to make baby food every single day. Instead, you want to make large batches. The best storage method is freezing them in portions. An ice cube tray or a cube tray designed for baby food. Once they are frozen, you can store in a freezer bag until you’re ready to give it to your child.
- Container for Feeding: There are a lot of airtight containers you can purchase to hold portioned servings of food. If you like the baby food pouches, you can buy refillable pouches. They are perfect for on the go times. All you need is a few since you will wash them after each wash.
Making Homemade Cereal
You don’t have to start off with baby cereal. Rice cereal is flavorless, and many babies have no desire to taste it. However, some parents like to try with their little ones. You can make your rice cereal in a few steps!
- Put ½ cup of rice into a blender or grinder. Grind until it is a powder form.
- Place the rice powder into water and gently heat.
- Depending on your child’s age, you might want a thin cereal or a thicker texture. Adding breastmilk or formula to the rice cereal makes it more likely that your baby will eat it.
The Simple Way to Make Vegetable Baby Food
Getting your child used to vegetables is important. You want your child to learn to like a huge variety of food, not just the sweet tasting ones. Remember, you shouldn’t introduce any food until six months old. This age is when the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends introduction.
- You should always start with fresh vegetables. Canned vegetables aren’t recommended because they are a higher level of sodium. Babies need a tiny amount of salt in their daily diet. Never add any salt to their food. The best choice is organic vegetables. Frozen vegetables are also an option, especially if you grow your own and freeze the surplus. Most are flash-frozen at their peak ripeness.
- Wash the vegetables thoroughly and peel them before preparing. This step is necessary even for organic vegetables.
- Steam the veggies instead of cooking. You should leave them in large chunks and steam them. This method is best for the preservation of nutrients. However, you can also boil or microwave them if you are unable to steam.
- Puree once steamed. Don’t let the veggies go cold. Transfer them directly to whatever tool you will use to puree.
- Add water or breastmilk as needed. In the beginning, your child will need a thinner texture. You can use water or breastmilk to thin down the baby food. Gradually add it to the mixture to get the right consistency.
There are a lot of great choices for first vegetables. Many babies love peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, green and yellow beans, pumpkins, parsnips, and zucchini. If your child is younger than three months old, you should avoid carrots, spinach, squash, broccoli and beets.
Making Fruit Baby Food is Just as Easy
If you thought making veggie baby food was easy, you will be happy to know that fruits are just as easy. In fact, many fruits don’t even need to be steamed, so it could be easier for you to prepare fruits.
- Purchase fruit, organic fruit to prepare for your child. Some canned fruits are ok because they don’t typically have added sodium levels. Many fruits you can find frozen as well.
- Wash all fruit before giving it to your child. Each produce item comes in contact with a variety of people before it ends up in your child’s stomach. It also could be coated in dirt or dust from transportation.
- Some don’t require pureeing. Foods like bananas or avocados can be mashed with a fork. Then, you can mix it with water if you think it needs to be thinner.
- Steam is ideal for harder fruits. Apples and pears, for example, are better steamed before pureed. You could also microwave them if you need another choice. Always try to do this is whole or large
- Puree after steaming. Once you are done heating the fruit, puree it immediately. You can use water or unsweetened fruit juice to thin it down. Breastmilk can be utilized as well. Parents need to remember that younger babies need a smooth, thin consistency.
Babies love fruits! My kids enjoy at least one or two fruits each day. You can mix fruit with some oatmeal for a delicious breakfast. There are a lot of choices, but some of the best choices for first fruits are prunes, plums, pears, peaches, mangoes, papayas, bananas and apricots.
Making “Stage One” Baby Food
When you are at the store, you will notice baby food jars listed by stages. There are three steps available. Stage One are baby foods that are highly pureed and strained. They are perfect for babies who are just trying out solids for the first time. If your child is four to six months old, you should aim to create this consistency.
At this stage, you want to avoid mixtures. Single ingredients, introduced four days apart, are ideal. This spacing allows you time to see if your child has any reactions. The best foods for this stage are low on the allergy scale such as:
- Sweet potatoes
Essential Tips and Tricks to Remember
- Try to use the freshest fruits and vegetables possible. Frozen is okay, but canned is not recommended. You should try to make the baby food within a day or two after purchase.
- Get the dirty dozen in organic. Certain fruits and vegetables contain higher levels of chemicals. Apples, for example, can have traces of over 20 chemicals, in just one apple! If you can’t afford to purchase all of your child’s food in organic, you should try to get organic produce if it is on the dirty dozen list. These items have the highest level of chemicals.
- If you wait until the recommended age of introduction, there is no need to worry about nitrates. However, if you decide to offer solids to a baby under four months old, you need to consider them. Nitrates are a chemical found in water, soil, and foods such as spinach, carrots, beets, squash and green beans. High levels of nitrates can be toxic for young babies. Waiting for your child to be between the ages of four to six months before feeding them baby food eliminates this concern.
- You can warm up baby food but never make it warmer than body temperature. You don’t want to burn your child’s mouth. Always stir the food before giving it to your baby. Microwaves can create hot spots that can burn your baby.
- Never, ever sweeten your homemade baby food. Babies are better off with little to no sugar. Honey cannot be given to children under the age of one because botulism poses a health risk. You shouldn’t put any salt or sugar in the recipes.
- Only give your child the amount you think they will eat. Typically, I defrost a container of baby food and then put some of that into a bowl. Once your child eats off of the spoon and you place the spoon back into the baby food, you won’t be able to save it. Saliva can lead to the spread of bacteria.
Making Fun Mixtures
Once your child is past stage one, you can get into creating different mixtures and blends of baby food. This time is fun! You can start to introduce more foods that your family eats on a regular basis. You may be surprised what your baby loves! Typically, between six and eight months is when you can start to give some blends. Here are some of my kids’ favorites!
- Bananas, blueberries, and oatmeal
- White peaches and bananas
- Potato, green bean and kale puree
- Apple and pear butter – uses cinnamon so watch for a reaction!
- Beets and Blueberries
- Apples and cinnamon oatmeal
- Chicken with carrots and apple puree
- Turkey with potato and zucchini puree
Don’t overthink making your baby food. It is an easy, simple, fun process that you can do for your child. I always select one day a week when I make a few varieties of baby food for my child for the upcoming days. Remember always to use fresh fruits and vegetables. Don’t add any sugar, honey or salt to the recipes. Once you have covered the basic, single ingredient recipes, you are ready to give your baby some fun blends. Learning what your child loves is one of the most exciting times during their first year of life!