When Levon and I were expecting our first baby, he mentioned to me that he wanted to make our own baby food. (Translation: I would be making all our baby’s food.)
At first I laughed at the idea. Until that point, I didn’t even know people did that anymore. The only baby food I knew about came in the little Gerber jars at the store.
Making all our own baby food sounded like a lot of work to me, and I thought he was being a little unreasonable.
When I mentioned it to my mother-in-law, she said, “Oh yeah! It’s so much better, and it’s not very hard to do!”
Because I tend to be a pleaser, I agreed to try it, purely out of a desire to gain their approval.
At least, that’s how it started.
As it happened, the more I looked into the hows and whys of making my own baby food, and the more foods I tried, the more hooked on it I got! It was cheaper, better for the baby, and actually kind of fun! And it really wasn’t as difficult or time-consuming as I had initially imagined.
If you’re at all interested in making your own baby food, here are a few things you’ll want to know!
(By the way, read the first post in my baby food series to learn why we don’t start solid food before six months.)
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Why I Make My Own Baby Food
It’s not processed.
I try to avoid highly processed food as much as possible, and that definitely extends to what I feed my kids. That was the case when Aidan was a baby, and it’s even truer now that we’ve (well … I’ve …) made a commitment to eating mostly whole foods.
Related Post: How to Cook Real Food on a Budget
I make my baby food from fresh (or frozen – which can actually be more nutritious than fresh) fruits and vegetables, and feed it to my babies within a few days. Once they start eating larger amounts several times a day, I make food in bigger batches and freeze it. That frozen baby food is consumed within a couple weeks. Compare that to jarred baby food, which can sit on a shelf for up to three years!
More nutritional value
Jarred baby food loses nutrition during the preservation process. In order to extend its shelf life as long as possible, jarred baby food is heated to extreme temperatures to ensure that all bacteria is killed. Unfortunately, that kind of heat means that a lot of the vitamins and minerals can’t survive, either. Homemade baby food, especially when steamed or roasted (or cooked in the Instant Pot!) preserves much more of the nutrients than its jarred counterparts.
Greater control over contents
There are no fillers, preservatives, added sugars, or any other hidden surprises. Just good ol’ fruits, veggies, grains, and legumes!
It’s also nice that I can control how thick or thin the food is. I can do smooth purees, mashes, chunky textures, or soft finger foods.
Finally, I love that I can add my own spices and flavors. I don’t subscribe to the theory that baby’s first foods should be bland. I don’t like bland food, and I won’t be cooking bland food for him, so I start adding mild spices fairly early on.
(This does NOT include any kind of added sugar, which I avoid feeding my kids as long as possible.)
For more information about adding spices to Baby’s food, read this helpful article!
At my local grocery store, the store-brand 4oz jars of baby food are the cheapest option at $0.50 per jar, or $0.125/oz.
In comparison … I can get a 16oz bag of frozen veggies for around $1 at ALDI. That’s $0.0625/oz – a savings of 50%. I can also get 3lb bags of apples at ALDI for $2 or less when they’re on sale and make a couple weeks’ worth of applesauce. And then there’s the produce from our own garden that’s organic and free!
Using our garden and shopping sales at the grocery store provide me with weeks’ worth of food for a fraction of the cost of store-bought. And added up over months of eating, we’re talking a good chunk of money saved.
Greater Food Variety
One of my favorite things about homemade baby food is that it gets the baby used to eating the foods that we’re eating and exposes them to a greater variety of foods.
There are more flavors and textures in homemade baby food and more options to offer (melons and avocado come to mind).
Research shows that introducing them to a greater variety of tastes and flavors and expanding their taste buds early on reduces pickiness later. Plus, it’s just plain fun to teach them to enjoy food from an early age!
How to Make Your Own Baby Food
Choose your equipment
Here are a few tools you may want to consider:
Baby Bullet – this is by far my favorite baby food tool. It’s the perfect size for making small batches of baby food, plus the 2oz “bullets” make portioning, storing, and transporting a breeze. My favorite thing about it is the included Nutritional Guide. That thing is a gold mine of information about what to feed your baby and when to introduce certain foods. I highly recommend this tool.
Immersion Blender – if you don’t want to go the Baby Bullet route, consider a hand immersion blender instead. This useful tool has LOTS of other practical purposes besides baby food, so it might be a more economical option if you’re trying to cut costs.
Food Mill – Some people use a food mill for their baby food. I do love my food mill, but it’s not my go-to option for baby food. However, it is an option.
Steamer – Steaming fruits and veggies is a better option for cooking than boiling, as some nutritional content is lost into the water during boiling. If you don’t already have a good microwave steamer, this might be something you want to consider. (By the way, this is yet another thing I love about my Instant Pot – I can steam vegetables with minimal loss of nutrients!)
Freezer Trays – The Baby Bullet comes with a nice easy-pop freezer tray, but once Aidan started eating more, I needed more trays for freezing! I got this silicone baby food freezer tray from Kiddo Feedo and loved it! There are more spaces, the spaces are larger, and when you order they send all kinds of valuable information about baby food preparation and storage. I really enjoyed my experience with the company.
Choose your foods
As much as possible, choose fresh, in-season or frozen fruits and vegetables. Shop sales (or grow your own!), try new things, and have fun with it!
Here are some of our favorite first foods:
Applesauce (Unsweetened!! Here’s a ridiculously easy way to make homemade applesauce.)
Once Aidan started eating combination foods, I really started having fun with it. I’ll be writing another post in this series about the non-traditional foods I made, so you’ll want to be on the lookout for that!
Prepare the foods
Some foods, like bananas or avocado, can simply be mashed or given to baby in small pieces.
Others you may have to steam to soften and then puree. A regular blender works just fine for this, but I find it much easier and convenient to use my Baby Bullet to puree the smaller batches. A hand immersion blender would also work nicely for pureeing.
Store and preserve the food.
You can keep baby food in the refrigerator for about 3-4 days.
If freezing, portion into freezer trays. You can use a regular ice cube tray, but I definitely recommend a silicone one for baby food. Not only are the portions more ideal for baby’s meals, they are SOOO much easier to pop out of the tray. (I’m speaking from experience here!)
Once frozen solid, remove from the trays and store in freezer bags or freezer containers. Baby food will keep in the freezer for up to 3-6 months, though ideally you should use it within 1 month for optimum nutritional value. Don’t forget to label it! And always follow the 4 day rule.
My Best Time-Saving Tips
As I said, I really love my Baby Bullet. I would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to make her own baby food. It’s the perfect size, it comes with two blade options (one for pureeing and one for milling grains, rice, and oatmeal), and the guide book is extremely helpful. Yes, you can use a regular blender, but I really think the Baby Bullet is worth getting.
Use what you’re already fixing for the rest of the family
The most common reason I hear for not making homemade baby food is, “I don’t have time for that!” To which I respond, “Are you cooking for the rest of your family anyway? Use that!”
Homemade baby food doesn’t have to be anything special or extra. When you plan your meals for the week, think about what you can have that baby could have too, in mashed or pureed form.
Fix sweet potatoes for the family and mash one up for baby. Steam some peas or green beans as a side dish and throw some in the blender. Grab a banana in the morning and mash a piece for your little one.
When baby eats what you eat, there is little to no extra work involved.
Make it in batches
Whenever you’re making some food, make a batch of it and portion out several meals’ worth. Making baby food doesn’t have to mean a lot of extra time.
Simply use the time you already spend cooking more efficiently. It takes less than a minute to blend and divide a couple days’ worth of food when you use what you’re already fixing.
Freeze for later, especially once they start eating more
Save even more time by making a big batch and freezing it in freezer trays. Once Aidan had passed the 4 day rule with all his foods and was eating a lot of it every day, I started making big batches of whatever we were eating and freezing them.
On any given day, I could pull out a variety of yummy foods for him. This way, he didn’t get stuck eating the same thing for days on end, and I didn’t get stuck making a new baby food every day. Win-win!
A FREE Resource for You
If you think making your own baby food takes way too much time, or you’re struggling to make it work, my biggest piece of advice is this: feed your baby what you’re already cooking for the rest of the family, as much as possible.
That way you don’t have to do any extra planning or cooking. It only requires a minimal amount of extra effort to puree, mash, or assemble!
To help you get started, I have created a “Baby & Me” meal plan to show you how easy it is to incorporate homemade baby food into your family dinners.
This meal plan includes 7 dinner ideas and a bonus breakfast, complete with recipe links, that will make it simple and easy for you to plan a week’s worth of baby food.
To download the FREE Baby & Me meal plan, simply follow the link below!
Maybe you’re like I used to be and making your own baby food sounds like way too much time and effort. I get it! However, I hope you see now that with the right tools and a little planning, homemade baby food is not as hard as it sounds and totally worth the time!
You Might Also Enjoy:
- Why We DON’T Start Solid Food Before Six Months
- An Epic List of Breastfeeding Tips & Resources
- Freezer Meal 101: Tips & Tricks for Efficient Freezer Cooking
- The Perfectly Easy Way to Make Homemade Applesauce
I made my daughther’s baby food too when she was younger. I love the fact that I know what ingredients I’m actually putting in her belly 🙂
Lisa Mullen says
Yes! Me too.
I had some sort of contraption that looked like a food mill. It was so easy and much cheaper. And I did exactly what you did – whatever I cooked for the family I would then set some aside for her. I couldn’t believe it but her favorite vegetables were squash and pumpkin.
Lisa Mullen says
Neat! I tried something like that for my first, and he didn’t like the texture that it produced. But I’m glad it worked for you! 🙂
My older son loved pumpkin, too. We haven’t tried it with Andrew yet, but I’m sure he’ll be a fan as well.
Lisa Kelper says
Nice post. My friend makes a blend with rice, potato and a little butter. The baby loves it
Lisa Mullen says
Oh, that’s one I haven’t heard before! I’ll have to keep that in mind for next time. 🙂 Thanks!