When you tell people you're making your own baby food, they usually assume you're one of those moms—you know, the ones who throw elaborate birthday parties with handmade piñatas and show up to every playdate perfectly coifed and manicured. I sort of felt embarrassed to tell people about my baby food making adventures because I didn't want people to make those assumptions, but I feel the need to announce to the world: making your own baby food is super super easy! It's not an uppity thing, it's not something you need to devote hours to doing, it's something you can literally do in 5 minutes—and it's so much cheaper than buying food at the store.
Why make your own baby food?
Well, as I mentioned above: it's economical. Those pouches and jars start to add up when your little one is eating a few a day. It's also nice to know exactly what's in the food your baby is eating. You can customize your purees to the exact consistency your baby needs and instead of thinning the purees with water, you can use breastmilk or formula for added nutrition. Oh, and it tastes better too!
Do you need a lot of expensive equipment?
Nope! There are baby food machines like the BEABA Babycook, which are awesome, but not necessary. The easiest purees of all are banana and avocado, which don't even need to be cooked—just mash them up with a fork and stir in breastmilk or formula to reach the right consistency. Most other purees are made by either steaming or baking fruits and vegetables, then pureeing them. So basically, you need a pot, steamer basket, and something to do the pureeing—a food mill, food processor, or blender. I bet you already have everything you need!
What fruits and veggies can you use to make baby food?
Just about anything! I'm not a pediatrician or a nutritionist and there are dozens of different recommendations on which foods to serve at which stages, so I'm not going to give recommendations, but some of our favorites have been apples, pears, butternut squash, roasted peaches, and baked sweet potatoes. I try to stick to in-season local produce, but since my daughter's solid food eating coincided with the end of summer, I also use frozen organic produce too—I steam it until it's heated through and soft, then puree it like any other produce. Because our pediatrician gave us the go-ahead, I include pinches of herbs and spices too—one of my biggest hits with my daughter was a baby samosa puree that combined peas, Yukon Gold potatoes, and a little bit of curry powder.
When first starting out, you'll want to feed your baby single-food purees, but after you've introduced several fruits and veggies, you can start mixing and matching them. I make batches of single-food purees and then combine them before serving.
How do you freeze & store homemade baby food?
I freeze all of the purees I make—they don't last more than 2-3 days in the fridge, and since your little one's immune system isn't as strong as yours, you don't want to risk it. You can use a regular ice cube tray, or get a silicone one. (I like this silicone tray because I know each square is 1 ounce.) Once the purees are frozen solid, I pop them out and put them in a freezer bag labeled with the puree name and the date it was made. Frozen purees will last in the freezer for 2-3 months.
How do you heat it up?
Frozen purees can be heated on the stovetop or in the microwave, but my favorite method is not heating them at all, but thawing instead. I transfer the cubes to a small glass baby food container and pop it in the fridge until the puree has thawed—because the cubes are so small, it doesn't take long. If the puree is something best served warm, like potatoes or peas, I put hot water in a bigger bowl, then place the smaller bowl with the puree inside the big bowl and gently heat it with a hot water bath.
Homemade Baby Food Resources
Here are some of the websites and cookbooks I used to get ideas for purees:
Wholesome Baby Food // This website is a great online resource for nutrition, recipe ideas, and tips.
Weelicious // Weelicious has ideas that span from baby's first foods to finger foods to toddler favorites.
201 Organic Baby Purees: The Freshest, Most Wholesome Food Your Baby Can Eat! // There's no shortage of ideas in this book! It's a great reference for those just starting to make their own baby food.
Top 100 Baby Purees // If the last cookbook is for beginners, this book could be considered Baby Food 102. It's another with a lot of recipe ideas, many of which can be tweaked and customized by swapping out ingredients.
The Amazing Make-Ahead Baby Food Book: Make 3 Months of Homemade Purees in 3 Hours // If you didn't believe me when I said it's quick and easy, here's your proof—you can make 3 months worth of purees in only 3 hours time!
Super Baby Food // I received a copy of this book to review and what I love about it is that it goes beyond just recipe ideas and really digs into nutrition.
Baby food image via Shutterstock.