I do not consider myself to be a “green” mama. Sure, I want the best for my baby (who doesn’t?) but I never even remotely considered making my own baby food. I don’t even eat organic myself, so during pregnancy I never thought I’d be spending my weekends bonding with my stove, dozens of ice cube trays, and my food processor.
I had preconceived notions about making my own baby food: it is hard. It’s time consuming. It’s expensive. It requires equipment I don’t have. And mainly…. I just don’t wanna. Let me tell you – all those things are true. Yet here I am, a “green” mama with a freezer stocked full of enough baby food to last me at least three months.
Mama, where are my Mums?
Listen up y’all: if I can do it, you can too. WORD.
I started off by reading Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron. This book is a great resource just for starting out, but please be warned it does contain some inaccurate information. Be sure to check the AAP website for up to date recommendations on when to start certain foods. I did love that this book had great lists of when to introduce what foods, how much food your baby should be eating for their age, materials you need for food preparation, the benefits of each food, and detailed recipes.
Then I discovered www.wholesomebabyfood.com. This website is the place to be! I love that is has detailed information on the best way to prepare each individual fruit and vegetable. I consult this website every time I make a new food for Cooper.
So far I’ve made avocados, apricots, pears, mangos, nectarines, peaches, plums, prunes, pumpkin, winter squash, green beans, carrots, peas, and sweet potatoes. Cooper has also had bananas, watermelon, cantaloupe, and applesauce. I have not made homemade applesauce because I had a jar of unsweetened applesauce in my pantry that I didn’t want to waste.
I won’t lie: making your own baby food is time consuming. However, if you make it while you are making your own meals, it isn’t so bad. I spent a few weekend afternoons making huge batches of food, and sometimes I would pop veggies into the steamer while I cooked and then puree later.
What You Need To Get Started:
Of course, you’ll need food. Some I got from the Farmer’s Market, some I got from Whole Foods, some I got some Sam’s Club (bulk produce is the bomb.com!), and some I got from good old Walmart. Don’t tell my other green mamas but… you aren’t a bad mom if you don’t buy all organic. Shh… I won’t tell.
Disclaimer: This is how I cooked each food. It isn’t the only way you can prepare it.
Bananas, avocados, and mangos can be mashed. Simply peel and mash to the consistency of your baby’s preference. I chose to run the mangos and avocados through the food processor – Cooper just liked the consistency more. If you freeze avocado, be warned that it must be eaten immediately when thawed or it will turn green.
I baked the apricots, peaches, nectarines, and plums. Clean the fruit thoroughly. Cut in half, twist, and pop open. Remove the pit and place the fruit facedown on the jelly roll pan. You can peel the fruit, but I found that either the skins slipped off after baking or they absorbed into the fruit. I never peeled the fruit. IMPORTANT: add 1-2 inches of water to the pan. Bake at 400 degrees. The time will depend on your fruit – apricots and plums cook very quickly (15 minutes or less) while peaches and nectarines can take up to 40 minutes. Check them often. The fruit is done when it is soft and mashable throughout. I simply ran the fruit through the food processor until it was smooth. Save the fruit juice and add to the processor if needed (I never needed to do this with these particular fruits).
Making your own prune baby food is absolute torture. I highly recommend buying this particular food, or be a smarty like me and belatedly figure out that prunes are simply dried plums. Hence, if you make plum baby food, there is no need to make prunes. Duh. If you must make prunes, buy prunes without pits, else you will spend 2 hours attempting to de-pit the prunes before cursing and throwing the whole pot away.
Pears can be steamed. Wash, peel, and de-core. Cut into chunks and place in a steamer basket for about 7 minutes. Run it through the food processor with a bit of the leftover water.
Winter squash and pumpkin are best baked. Wash thoroughly, and then cut in half. Scoop out the seeds and place cut side down in a jelly roll pan. Add 1-2 inches of water, and bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes to one hour. The squash/pumpkin is ready when you can pierce the shell easily with a fork. Run through the food processor until you reach the desired consistency.
Green beans are best steamed. Don’t cut the ends off the green beans – simply wash them thoroughly and steam for about 10 minutes. I found that I got the best consistency using a blender on green beans and peas. I don’t know why, but when I used the food processor, the green beans and peas were slightly grainy. I ran them through the blender and they were perfectly smooth.
I boiled the peas. Confession: I used frozen peas because I couldn’t find any peas that were already shelled. Judge me if you must. Add them to a saucepot with a little water, and boil until they are soft and mashable. Again, the peas do best in the blender.
Sweet potatoes are best baked. Wash, wrap in foil, and bake at 400 degree for about an hour. When they are done, remove foil and peel off the skins. You will need to add a little bit of water to get a smooth consistency.
There is quite a bit of controversy on preparing carrots at home. Some recommend you should purchase carrots because big baby food companies test for the amount of nitrates in carrots. I did make Cooper some carrots, but do your own research and decide. I recommend steaming your carrots – I baked them and they took forever. Simply wash, peel, (or be lazy like me and buy prewashed and peeled carrots) and steam for about 10 minutes. Carrots, again, do best in the blender.
Here’s what worked for me (although it is a bit wasteful, I’ll admit). Once each fruit/veggie had been run through the food processor or blender, I’d pour the contents into a gallon zip lock baggie. Then I would snip off a corner and use the zip lock as a makeshift piping bag to fill each ice cube tray.
I find ice cube trays to be the best method for freezing and storing. Simply fill with food, freeze, and then pop out into individually labeled zip lock baggies.
Serving The Food:
For breakfast, Cooper has 1 tablespoon of rice cereal (my next step is to make my own rice cereal, but right now we use Happy Bellies) mixed with formula and 2-3 cubes of fruit. I mix up the rice cereal, add the cubes of fruit, and heat for about 40-45 seconds.
For lunch, Cooper has 4 cubes of veggies. According to his daycare provider, he is still hungry, so I am going to start sending him 2 cubes of fruit as well. I heat the veggies up for 45-60 seconds.
For dinner, Cooper has 1 tablespoon of rice cereal (made with formula) mixed with 2-3 cubes of fruit, and 3-4 cubes of veggies. I also give him 2 Mums crackers at dinner, as well as puffs or fresh fruit in the mesh feeder if he’s still hungry.
Your baby’s formula/breastmilk intake will change when you start feeing them solids. Discuss how much they should be drinking with their doctor. Babies should still get the bulk of their calories from breastmilk or formula. Cooper drinks about 4-5 six ounce bottles a day.
I figure that 2 cubes of fruit/veggie equals a stage one jar of food, and stage 2 is about 4 cubes of fruit/veggies.
Why Should I Make My Own Food?
There is a variety of reasons to make your own food, and I’ll leave it up you to decide what’s best for your family. I don’t think I’m “better” because I make his baby food. I don’t think it is bad to serve jarred baby food. Believe it or not, Cooper gets Earth’s Best Organic (gasp!) when we’re out and about. I started him on jarred food before making my own food.
For me, I like knowing what is in the food and how it is prepared. Plus, it tastes great! I am not the healthiest person in the world, and it is really important to me to do every single thing in my power to ensure that my son isn’t overweight and unhealthy like his mother. I believe I’m teaching him early to love pure fruits and veggies – and it is my hope in the future he’ll choose those foods over other, less healthy options.
A lot of people will tell you that making your own food is cheaper. I don’t know if that is necessarily true, particularly if you buy organic. I purchased four different types of winter squash from Whole Foods (organic) and spent well over $25 on the lot. I did buy a half bushel of peaches from a nearby plantation, and I figured out that each serving costs roughly 25cents. That was a bargain! However, if you have a garden, you can really save a lot of money!
Questions? Leave me a comment or shoot me an email! I’m happy to help!