One of my favorite parts of feeding our daughter was when she was old enough to begin eating solid foods and I was able to cook baby food for her. Today, more companies are making organic baby food, which is helpful if you are on the go and aren’t sure when you will open the container. But I still think homemade, fresh food is tastier and healthier.
The topic of cooking baby food came up again recently when one of my friends asked for suggestions on how to make baby food from scratch. I directed her to this blog post. Today I am sharing those tips for cooking homemade baby food, how to make it, what supplies you need along tips for storage and use.
Cook Baby Food
Why Homemade Baby Food?
As our daughter approached her six-month birthday I began to think more seriously about what kind of solid foods she would eat, and if I would cook baby food. The pediatrician gave us the OK for her to begin trying solid foods, along with suggestions on food groups but there was no strong directive on brand or variety of food.
As someone who is already an avid DIY-er, it didn’t long me to decide I would cook baby food from scratch. I’ve had a few other moms (and expectant moms!) ask me about how I cook baby food, which is how the idea for this post was born. For me, cooking baby foods allowed us to have more control lover the type of foods our daughter ate.
It also allowed us to save money, select organic or conventional food, create our own recipes and easily store food for future use. While the pre-packaged jars and containers are popular for parents on the go, they are sealed and you simply open them when you are ready, I also found ways to easily travel with homemade baby food.
Again, reasons you might consider making baby food:
- You already enjoy cooking
- More control over what foods the baby eats
- Option to cook organic food using organic produce
- Easy to do (batch cooking helps)
- Saves money
- No preservatives or strange ingredients
What Foods I Cooked
My cooking began when our daughter was six months old. I continued to cook all types of baby food until she reached 12 months old. Then after her first birthday I continued to cook her favorites.
She began to learn how to pick up more of her own foods and eventually to use utensils. I kept making some of the homemade recipes, namely prunes and lentils for a very long time.
She loved eating the cooked baby foods with a spoon, they provided great nutrition for her and were incredibly easy for me to make and store. I finally stopped making the baby foods once she was happy to eat dried prunes by themselves.
Other foods I cooked included:
- Green Beans
- Sweet Potatoes
- Prunes, Peaches and other Stone Fruit
- All Types of Cereal (oatmeal, rice, barley)
- Lentils (green, yellow, red)
Baby Food Books
First of all, it was extremely easy and fun to cook baby food! Second, I have to attribute most of my education on how to cook baby food from one book: The Wholesome Baby Food Guide.
When I decided I wanted to make baby food, initially I checked out several baby food books from the library. While there are many wonderful resources on how to cook baby food, I found The Wholesome Baby Food Guide to be my favorite.
The book is a small paperback and contains recipes for each developmental age, has tips for cooking and preserving and charts about what age babies can try different foods. Really it was a wonderful resource and I highly recommend purchasing the book.
The book is easy to read, has a helpful introduction and even includes reference sheets such as what foods are typically in season at what time, age appropriate foods and sample menus. The book is based off the Wholesome Baby Food website, but I really liked having the book so I could write in it, highlight recipes and so I wouldn’t have to look every recipe up on my smart phone.
Baby Food Tools and Gadgets
The baby food book gave me the basics of how to cook foods and some recipes. As I gained confidence I experimented with my own recipes. I also picked up a few tactics along the way which helped with preparation and storage of the baby food. Other essential tools I used to cook baby food included:
Food Blender or Food Processor: We have the NutriBullet and it has worked wonderfully! Best of all you do not need a specific kitchen appliance just for baby food. We continue to use the NutriBullet for making smoothies, chopping nuts and more. There is also the Baby Bullet branded for baby food making, but they are all the same. You could also use a food processor, blender, hand immersion blender or other tools that can puree food.
Pyrex 1-Cup Containers: For storing the baby food I would store some of the fresh food in small 1-Cup Pyrex containers in the refrigerator. These containers are glass which I find safer for storage and heating. I would remove the lid and reheat the food in the microwave. I also used these containers for travel. They work best if you do not tip them over, instead keep them upright.
Silicone Ice Cube Trays: Then I would freeze the bulk of the baby food for future use. I recommend the 1 oz portion silicone ice cube trays. The flexible trays make it simple to remove frozen cubes of baby food. Each 1 oz cube is the equivalent of 2 Tablespoons, making it easy to portion out food for your baby. I recommend having at least two to three trays. Hint: The trays with a small indent around the base are easiest to remove!
Slider Quart Freezer Bags: After experimenting with a few other bags I found quart size freezer bags worked best for storing the frozen cubes of baby food. Usually I would freeze the cubes overnight or roughly 12 hours. Then I would remove them and pop the cubes out onto a plate. Have the bag already labeled with the name of the food and date. Each bag will hold 20 cubes or 20 ounces of baby food. They also stack nicely in the freezer and can even be washed and reused.
Sharpie Marker: These markers are helpful with labeling the bags after you cook baby food. Label each bag with the contents and date it was cooked. Carrots and sweet potato look eerily similar once frozen! If you cook in bulk you an easily rotate the food and know which frozen baby foods are oldest and should be consumed first.
Narrow Spoon: This last item isn’t necessarily essential but it worked well for me to have a spoon that fit into the cubes. Our regular spoons were a bit sloppy. I found the cubes freeze best (and pop out easy) when they are not overflowing. We had grapefruit spoons already and that’s now my go-to spoon for scooping the baby food into the ice cube trays.
Travel Options with Baby Food: One of the biggest draws to using store-bought baby food is it comes in a container that you can easily throw in a diaper bag and open whenever you want. We tried this option and while I agree to some extent, I also found the containers to be too large. If there were leftovers they could easily go to waste.
With making your own baby food in cube form you can more easily control the portion. When our daughter began eating she would be served one cube, over time we increased the portions to two, three or four cubes. For travel I purchased the Wean Green Glass Baby Food Containers with a leak-proof seal. These worked great in a small cooler or insulated diaper bag pocket.
Another option, which I did not personally try but that is popular is to put your baby food in pouches. Some pouches you can even wash and reuse and some can also be frozen.
How to Make Baby Food
More Baby Food Making Tips
In general I would advise following recipes from The Wholesome Baby Food Guide, or any other baby food book you decide on. The tools above are what I used to refine my process.
Other recommendations I have for when you cook baby food are:
- Buy fruits and vegetables when they are in season and on sale for the biggest savings.
- Cook several foods at once. This was most time efficient for me. Usually I would batch cook on Sundays.
- Make sure cubes are fully frozen (sometimes overnight) before placing them in freezer bags.
- Avoid overfilling the cubes. I usually tried to make 20 cubes to have a full bag of baby food. I would feed my baby any leftovers (that were stored in those Pyrex containers in the refrigerator) within two to three days of cooking.
- As baby gets older, make the purees thicker. You can puree half the mixture to give it more of a “Stage 3” texture. Another option is to puree the food for only a few seconds or puree half (such as with lentils).
- Don’t add too much water to your purees! You can add more if needed, but it’s hard to take away. Juicy fruits such as pears and peaches usually do not need added water.
- As the book explains, you can try to freeze grains but it did not work well for me. I would cook baby food cereal (rice, barley, oatmeal, etc.) once a week on Sundays so it’s fresh. Those could also be stored in the fridge and reheated. Or you can just puree them dry and have a powder on hand to cook as needed.
Cooking Baby Food
I could probably talk all day about my experience with learning to cook baby food, but those are just a few things I learned from trial and error. It was a wonderful experience cooking the food, having control over the ingredients and enjoying watch our daughter try new foods.
As my baby became more and more comfortable with eating table foods our use of baby food began to decline but I made a few of her favorite purees for many months. I found homemade baby food helped us save money and the convenience of pulling a few cubes of fresh food from the freezer to reheat could not be matched!
Do you have any questions on making homemade baby food?
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