DIY: Baby Food

Learning to Eat Baby Food is a Challenge

The price of a jar of baby food in America may not seem like much, especially when Junior is six months old and eating only a few bites of solids at a time.  But as he grows and his system learns to digest solid foods more efficiently, he will eat more and more until you suddenly realize he just finished an entire jar in one sitting.

Prices vary based on brand and store, but a 12-pack of four-ounce Gerber baby food is around $12 US, totally approximately $1 per jar.  If your child eats three jars a day (including meals and snacks), that’s only four days’ worth of food, making your monthly expense for baby food around $90 US.

This, plus a reading of the contents of a jar of Gerber baby food, made DIY baby food an easy decision for Husband and me.

I’m not typically a “crunchy” (all organic/natural) mama, but when it comes to starting a child’s body on solids, I see no reason for preservatives going into baby food.  Plus Husband and I are on a relatively tight budget, so anything we could do to save money was ideal.  So we decided to make our own baby food.

While this may seem daunting, especially to someone who may not be as comfortable in the kitchen as some, it’s really quite easy, especially if you have a good blender, like a Magic Bullet.  In addition to understanding that baby food is incredibly simple to make, it is important that you know that babies like flavour, too.  Would you eat potatoes without salt?  Most people don’t, so don’t expect your baby to love flavourless food, either.

That said, please note that salt is not an appropriate seasoning for baby food.  It hinders/prevents the absorption of water into the body and diets high in sodium are known to be related to several common health issues.  Instead, explore other means of flavouring your child’s food.

Not sure where to start?  Try some of these combinations, or mix and match in your own style.

  • Sweet potatoes with nutmeg
  • Peas with basil
  • Avocado with garlic
  • Potatoes with parsley and garlic
  • Celery and potatoes with oregano
  • Squash with allspice
  • Potatoes and broccoli with rosemary
  • Zucchini with oregano and onion powder
  • Carrots with nutmeg
  • Potatoes and onions with cumin, coriander and turmeric
  • Broccoli and rice with celery seed
Homemade Baby Food - Carrots

To prepare blended vegetables, steam or boil the veggies until they are soft enough to blend smoothly.  For more flavourful food, add any seasonings during the cooking stage so the vegetables have time to soak up the taste of the spices/herbs you choose.  When they are cooked through, remove them from the stove, drain them if necessary, and, if your blender is plastic, wait for them to cool.  Reserve a small portion of the cooking water and add it to the vegetables in the blender, then blend until the proper consistency for your child.  (Older children can tolerate chunks in their food; beginner eaters need things quite smooth.)

NOTE: Always make sure the food is cool enough for your baby’s mouth before serving it to her.  Test it by touching a spoonful to your own lips.  If it is at all hot, wait before feeding Baby.

Also, if you add too much water to the vegetables and the blender makes them soupy, simply add enough baby rice cereal to thicken it again.

Aside from blended fruits and veggies, there are other easy foods you can prepare in your own kitchen that your child will love once she does well with finger foods.  Try some of these:

  • Elbow macaroni with oregano
  • Cucumber chunks tossed in a salad with cheese cubes, chopped tomato and sliced olives
  • Cubed tofu fried in olive oil with cumin, coriander and fresh cilantro
  • Black beans and corn with garlic
  • Whole peas
  • Chunks of wheat bread spread with peanut butter
  • Kidney beans and green onions

To cook beans yourself, there are several methods, including one that allows you to begin preparing them the day before.  The method I use takes two hours:

  1. Boil beans in water on stove.
  2. Turn burner off and allow beans to soak for one hour.
  3. Ensure there is enough water in the pot, then boil the beans again.
  4. Once they are at a rolling boil, reduce the heat to low and add any seasonings.
  5. Allow beans to simmer for one hour.
Aguacate / Avocado

Image via Wikipedia

Cooking your own beans means you can control how much sodium your child ingests, but if you prefer the canned beans, try to purchase low sodium varieties and rinse the beans before serving them.

I happen to be a vegetarian, so you may have noticed that none of my suggestions listed here include meat.  If your family eats meat, feel free to introduce Junior to whatever meat you eat, just make sure it is cooked thoroughly.

The bottom line is this: As you introduce your child to solids, start moving in the direction of feeding her whatever it is your family eats at the dinner (or breakfast or lunch) table.  If, like me, you have the issue of your child being virtually toothless, making chewing certain things difficult, you may have to make exceptions from time to time.  But do your grocery shopping based on your menu for the family, and use whatever food you would normally have in the house to feed Baby.  That way, you avoid creating a picky eater who needs his/her own menu for years to come.

If you’re like me, you don’t have time to blend food for your child every day, so the ability to conveniently store prepared baby food is important.  I was fortunate enough to get a donation of about two dozen glass baby food jars from a babysitter who purchased all of her baby food.  She washed them and removed the labels and gave them all to me.  I put blended food in them and used masking tape and a black marker to write what it was and the date I’d blended it (it is ideal to keep food in the fridge like this for no more than 3 days).

freezing baby food

Image by brungrrl via Flickr

For extended storage, however, plastic is your best bet, and there are many options out there.  My recommendations are to consider stacking portion-sized freezer safe containers and/or the ice cube tray route.  Simply place your blended food into the compartments of an ice cube tray and freeze them.  When they are frozen solid, pop them out and store them in plastic freezer bags marked with the type of food and the date.

While the suggestions in this blog are ones I recommend, there are hundreds of moms out there who have done this before me – and longer than I have – and who have their own methods, recipes, tactics and routines.  And since my daughter’s mouth currently only hosts two teeth, we’re still in the blending stage, in spite of the fact that she’s 14 months old.  So any suggestions you have found to work well for your family, feel free to leave in the comments below.  I look forward to trying new things.

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