Duo Ventures

Sunday, May 15, 2016

DIY Baby Food: The Basics


Let me preface this post by saying that I am by no means an authority on baby food & there are tons of great websites out there that are dedicated to baby & toddler recipes.  That being said, I've had several requests on how to make your own baby food and there is something encouraging & real about seeing a 1st time mom being able to make all their baby's food at home with no prior experience.  #ificandoityoucandoit  :)

SAMI'S 1st YEAR:

Before Sami was born, I did some basic research and decided to exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months.  At that time, we introduced foods like avocado, sweet potato, squash, & banana.  We gave him veggies first, followed by fruit.  Over time we slowly added meats, legumes, grains, & dairy (he ended up having allergic reactions to both egg whites & dairy...but that is a whole other story for another time).

We also made the decision to forego the store-bought rice & oatmeal cereals.  Although his pediatrician advised us to add a little iron-fortified rice cereal to his food, I never did, & Sami's iron level at his 9 month check up was still perfect.


We decided to start with purees at the 6 month mark & then began incorporating "baby led weaning" when he was about 8 months old to help Sami develop his pincer grasp & allow him to become a little more independent & exploratory with his food.  I started with blueberries (cut in half) & slowly added soft veggies or fruit cut into bite size pieces.  Around 11 months, we started giving him pieces of shredded grilled chicken & he has loved chicken ever since!


Sami turned 1 year old last month, so we've actually been in the phase of transitioning out of purees & into more solid food over the several months.  I won't be making any more veggie, chicken, & bean purees (since he's eating them their original form now), but I will continue with the fruit purees as they are very convenient to add to Sami's oatmeal in the morning or to use in baby feeders as popsicles & teething soothers:



SAMI'S FOOD INTRODUCTION TIMELINE:
I'm sure I forgot to include certain foods, but these are the main foods we introduced to Sami over his 1st year:

1-6 months: exclusively breastfed (continued to breastfeed until today)

6 months: avocado, yellow squash, sweet potato, green beans, peas, carrots
7 months: apple, pears, plums, peaches, nectarines
8 months: boiled chicken, mango, quinoa, spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc)
9 months: brown rice, hard boiled egg yolk, blueberries, coconut oil & olive oil
10 months: scrambled eggs, chickpeas, lentils, broccoli, whole wheat pasta & homemade tomato sauce, plain yogurt, strawberries, grapes
11 months: grilled chicken, ground turkey, ground beef (limited), raisins, rice with veggie mixed in
12 months: whole milk, almond milk



CONVENIENCE:

Personally, this is the most obvious & singular downside for me.  While not difficult, it does require some extra effort & time from your already busy schedule.  I will say though, that once you get a system down, it becomes easier & easier.  Before you know it, you are introducing regular foods & don't need to make as many purees.

On the flip side, these frozen cubes are convenient in the sense that I couldn't always prepare fresh purees every single day (either I was too tired or lazy, or didn't have the time or the ingredients).  So, always having a freezer stocked with a rainbow of puree options made my life much easier.  You have to figure out what works with your lifestyle.

Storing, packing, & traveling with homemade baby food is definitely more challenging.  You have to consider ways to keep the food cool and/or have a way to heat it up if needed.  I usually throw a few cubes into a small Glasslock container & heat it up at our friends' or families' homes.  I usually had no need to worry about refrigeration, as the cubes were frozen & the food was not left out for very long.  Reusable food pouches are another great option to use as well.

COST SAVINGS:

I never calculated the exact amount of money we saved by making our own baby food, but I know we saved a nice chunk of cash - even when buying mostly organic.  One of my favorite baby & toddler recipe blogs is Baby Foode.  Michele wrote a great post on the cost difference between store bought & homemade baby food ---> check it out here.

ORGANIC?
I always try to buy organic produce when possible, but there are times when the organic option is not available.  As a general rule of thumb, if the produce is on the "Dirty Dozen" list, I always try to buy the organic version.  Also, I try to buy most of our produce fresh, but I find it more convenient to buy the organic frozen version of certain foods, and simply thaw & puree them (mango chunks, cherries, & peas for example).  When it comes to meat, eggs, or dairy - I always buy organic (for the whole family too).  Added antibiotics & hormones are not something I want to mess around with.

CONSISTENCY OF PUREES:

This is a personal preference of course - I always made the purees very smooth in the beginning & progressively made them chunkier for more texture as Sami got older.  It really depends on what you & your baby are comfortable with.

I initially used breast milk to thin out the purees.  Now, I use mostly water.  I try to add JUST enough to help the puree thin out if needed, but never an excess of water.  After all, one of the perks of homemade baby food is your ability to control the food to water ratio and ensure the puree is primarily food...and not added liquid.

KITCHEN ITEMS:
-metal steamer basket (I prefer to steam, as opposed to boiling in water)
-large pot
-food processor or blender (personally, I prefer the food processor)
-ice cube trays
-freezer safe containers or bags to store the food cubes (someone suggested using freezer safe glass containers instead of plastic - I totally agree that anything is better than plastic, but I never got around to buying large enough glass jars to fit all the cubes.)



BASIC PREPARATION:
1.  Rinse produce
2.  Steam or roast until tender (depends on type of produce)
3.  Puree to desired consistency in food processor (or blender)
4.  Spoon into ice cube trays & freeze
5.  Once frozen, store in freezer safe containers or bags
6.  Reheat on the stove top in a sauce pan (or microwave)

As I mentioned before, we are using less & less purees nowadays.  At the time of writing this post, I didn't really have a need to make any more baby food, as our freezer was pretty stocked.  However, we were getting low on green beans, so I decided to make 1 more batch of green beans before we made the final switch over to regular veggies.


Here's everything I use:


After rinsing the green beans, I pop them into the pot & steam until desired tenderness:




When I first started making baby food, I tended to steam the food until very tender & puree very smooth.  As time went on, I didn't cook the produce quite as long & made the purees chunkier.  Once cooked through, I transfer the produce into a food processor:


Then I simply puree or pulse until I get the consistency I'm looking for.  Also, don't forget that you can add some of the cooking liquid from the pot to thin out & help combine the purees if necessary.  *Please keep in mind that I made this batch of green beans much chunkier than I normally would have in the past.  This is not a "typical" puree consistency:


Afterwards, I spoon the puree into the ice cube trays:




Once I finish transferring the purees into the trays, I slide on the lids & pop them into the freezer - typically leaving them overnight:

Once completely frozen, I store the cubes in freezer storage bags which I label:




That's it!  There are a few exceptions to this particular process.....

SWEET POTATO:

I roast about 5/6 sweet potatoes @ 400 degrees F for about an 60-90 minutes (make sure to pierce the skin with a fork or knife too).  It depends on the size of the potatoes, but I like to wait until they are super tender.  If I remember to, I turn them over halfway through the baking process.  After they cool down a little, I remove the skins, cut into chunks, & puree them in the food processor with a little breast milk or water if needed:

BUTTERNUT SQUASH:

I use a 9x13 baking dish filled with about an inch of water.  I cut the squash in half & placed it in the dish - flesh side down.  Bake at 350 for about 60-90 minutes.

AVOCADO:
This was Sami's first food.  Plain avocado is a little "blah", so I added some breast milk to help...it didn't help THAT much to be honest, but Sami ate most of it.  Obviously, if you have fresh avocado that is perfectly ripe, you can just smash it with a fork & serve.

I constantly ran into the issue of having either under-ripe or over-ripe/rotten avocados when I needed one.  To solve this issue, I would puree 5 or 6 perfectly ripe avocados with a little breast milk or water, spoon into ice cube trays, & freeze.  You can either defrost them in the fridge or on the stove-top on low heat. 


The top of the cubes may turn slightly brown due to air exposure, but it does not impact the taste or color once you mix it up (FYI: I didn't experience any discoloration the few times when I added breast milk to the mix):

CHICKEN:

I would boil chicken breast in water with carrots, onion, cinnamon stick, garlic, & bay leaf (of course, you can add anything you want to).  Once cooked through, I puree it in the food processor, adding the cooking liquid as needed.  Once Sami was about 11 months, I began grilling the chicken on a grill pan & shredding it into small pieces that were easy for Sami to pick up & eat himself.

FRUIT:
I prep fruit using the same method as with the green beans.  As Sami got older, I did not steam the fruit as long, or did not steam it at all if it was already a soft fruit (strawberries, pears, etc).  In the beginning, I peeled the skins of apples & pears before steaming.  Once I knew he could digest everything easily, I started leaving the skins on.  Here's a batch of gala apples:




OATMEAL:

We also made the decision to forgo the prepackaged oatmeal cereals.  Instead, I would pulse raw rolled oats & store in a glass jar:

In the mornings, I simply throw a couple of frozen fruit cubes in a small sauce pot & simmer on the stove with the oats & a little water or unsweetened coconut milk.  Once cooked through, I just add the fruit & oat mixture to some mashed banana in a bowl - that's breakfast!


IN SUMMARY:
I realize this is not for everyone - BUT, if you have the time, I would definitely recommend making your own baby food!  Not only can you save money, but you know exactly what you are feeding your little one.
Some people have asked me if I will do it again for our next baby...and the answer is YES!  While it may not be the most convenient option, it is the most rewarding one for both Sami & myself.

Again, this is just a basic guideline for DIY baby food from my own personal experience.  I'm no expert, but I hope this post inspires someone else to try it - the possibilities are truly endless.


For more recipes, check out Top Reveal's 21 Easy DIY Baby Food Recipes to get some more ideas to make your own DIY baby food combinations!

Please let me know if you have any questions!


Mel

:)

4 comments:

  1. In the Military,, in Germany, in the 70s, in need of baby food, cheap, I took what we had for dinner(I learned to cook without salt growing up), popped it in the blender, puréed everything, froze it in ice cube trays. For all three of the kids. Helped a lot when we only made $600 a month.

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    1. That's great that you figured out a way to make it work for your family! Babies & all their "stuff" can get pricey, so it's nice to save money where we can! :)

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