Many parents are concerned about the unknown ingredients that can be in commercial baby food. A great alternative to buying commercial baby food is to make it yourself.
This is not as hard as one might think. Making your baby’s food ensures that you know exactly what is in the food that you are feeding your baby. There is no worry about unknown ingredients that can cause allergic reactions and stomach upset.
The supply you will need to make homemade baby food is not long at all. You will need cookware to cook the food in, a blender or food processor, ice cube trays, freezer bags, a black marker and the food you want to cook.
There are several steps that you will complete when making homemade baby food. None of the steps are difficult and they don’t take very long so you will not have to be in the kitchen for hours on end. You can make batches of homemade baby food and freeze it for use as you need it. You can use a baby food maker, but it is not hard to make baby food without this specialty item so the choice is yours as to whether you get one or not.
Pureeing the Food in Preparation for Freezing
We have outlined the easy-to-do steps that are involved in pureeing and preparing the baby food for freezing. You can use a blender, a food processor or hand mixer for the pureeing. Prepare the food for the age that your baby currently is. If you want to make food for your baby when he is older now during your cooking session, or you can wait and prepare it accordingly as he or she gets older. The older your baby is the more they can handle lumpier food.
Don’t be afraid to try different combinations of foods such as sweet potatoes and apples or pears. Keep in mind that a young baby can have food allergies and if there are food combinations in their food it can be more difficult to figure out which they are having a reaction to.
- Cooking the food – Once you have gathered the types of food you want to make for your baby, begin by cooking the food thoroughly. The most nutritious way to cook most of the food prior to pureeing it is to steam it. Baking it is another excellent method and retains a lot of flavor as well. Steaming the vegetables, fruits and/or meats preserves the most nutrients. Steaming is also an excellent way to cook large batches of baby food.
- Place cooked food in the blender – Once the food has been cooked, retain the liquid that was used to cook the vegetables and put the food in the blender so you can puree it. The liquid that you have set aside is what you will be using to add to the puree as you cook it. The benefit to doing this is that any nutrients that have leached into the water will be put back into the food during the pureeing process. The only exception to this is carrots and other high nitrate vegetables. Don’t retain the water from those types of foods.
- Puree or grind the food – Once the blender has been loaded up with the steamed or baked food, put the top on the blender and press either grind or puree to start mashing the food up. As you’re pureeing the foods, add some of the liquid in that you have retained from cooking. It is possible to puree or grind the food without adding additional liquid if you choose.
If you choose this method, you will add the liquid during the heating phase before you give the baby their food. You can also add formula or breast milk during the reheating process as well. This can add a familiar taste to the baby’s food that they will recognize and can make it easier for the baby to accept the new food and texture. This decision is up to your personal preferences and you can try a couple of different ways to see which you prefer.
Remember that adding the liquid you cooked the foods in during the pureeing process adds nutrients back into the food that was lost during the cooking process so this might be the best choice overall. Make sure that you don’t add too much food to the blender to be pureed at one time. The recommended amount is to fill the blending container about halfway full and add less liquid than you think you need. You can always add more liquid if needed but you can’t take liquid away if you add too much.
Freezing the Pureed Baby Food Properly
Freezing the baby food once it has been cooked and pureed is very easy. While there are many ways you can freeze baby food the simplest easiest to store is the ice cube tray method.
Fill each ice cube section with the puree and then cover it with plastic wrap that is freezer safe. Once all the ice cube sections are filled and the whole tray is covered in plastic wrap, place the tray into the freezer.
Repeat this process until all the puree is used up and in trays. This is an excellent way to gauge how much food you will need at a setting. Each ice cube section typically holds about 1 ounce of baby food. Leave the ice cube trays full of baby food puree in the freezer until they are frozen through. Once frozen, take the baby food puree cubes out of the tray and place them into freezer Ziploc bags. Label the bag and put the date it was made on the bag as well.
Frozen baby food cubes should be used within 30 days of preparing them so be sure not to make too much at one time. When it is time for your baby to have a meal, take out the number of cubes that you will need for the meal, thaw them out and the heat them through so the baby can eat. Be sure not to heat the food up too much or the baby could be burned. Test it from the baby spoon against your lower lip before feeding it to the baby. Pureed fruits do not need to be heated prior to feeding unless the baby prefers the warmed food.
Storing Baby Food Puree Safely and Properly
Baby food can be stored in the refrigerator or the freezer. If you store it in the refrigerator it will only last a couple of days before there is a danger of bacteria growing.
This goes for jarred baby food as well. If you don’t want to freeze the baby food, make only what you need for the day or n a meal by meal basis. This prevents any possibility of bacteria growing in the stored food.
You should put the baby food in the refrigerator or the freezer within two hours of cooking it. If the temperature is higher than 90 degrees this time frame drops to within one hour of cooking it. Don’t transfer hot, cooked foods directly to the freezer as this can affect the overall temperature of the freezer. At first, transfer the food to the refrigerator and then once it has cooled for 2-3 hours, transfer it to the freezer.
If you are unsure as to how long you can safely store baby food cubes we have provided you with the following chart.
- Fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator – 48 hours
- Meats and Chicken in the refrigerator – 24 hours
- All foods in the freezer – Max 3-6 months but ideal usage is 1-3 months.
Important Tips and Information About Making Homemade Baby Food
- Frozen vegetables and fruits can be used to make baby food puree. Since frozen foods have been flash frozen, the nutrients of these vegetables and fruits have been preserved. You must cook the frozen fruits and vegetables before making the puree and you should not thaw frozen vegetables and then refreeze them. If you choose to use frozen vegetables for making your baby food, make sure that they are not fully cooked first. ONLY use the ones that have not been cooked prior to freezing,
- Never refreeze baby food that has been thawed. Once you cook, puree and freeze the baby’s food you can safely thaw and reheat it but you should nit refreeze it. This is why the cubes are so good. It prevents taking out too many at a time since thawing and heating is so easy on such a small amount.
- If you choose to freeze the baby food puree in a container, you should thaw it, spoon out the amount you need for the baby’s meal and then plan on using the rest of the food within 48 hours because it will not be able to be refrozen at that point. Don’t feed the baby from the container as saliva from the spoon can get into the food that is in the container and contaminate it. Always take out the amount that you will be using and store the rest.
- Label the puree cubes clearly. This is why freezer bags are such a good idea when it comes to baby food storage. They usually have a spot on the front of the bag that is designed for labeling. You can easily see what is in the bags and won’t have to go on a hunt every time you want to serve a meal.
- Give your baby time to get used to new foods. There are many different trains of thought when it comes to how long it takes a baby to develop a like or dislike for a particular food. Give them the chance to try the new food as many as 15-20 times before deciding they either do or do not like it. When you are trying a new food with your baby, watch for allergic reactions. This can be in the form of rashes, upset digestive systems, diarrhea or vomiting. This is why it is always better to feed your baby one new food at a time so you can identify the culprit when certain issues arise.
A Few Words About Freezer Burn
There is a difference between ice crystals and freezer burn. Improperly stored food of any kind can be subject to freezer burn. When an item has freezer burn it will have gray/brown spots on the item that has been frozen.
Freezer burn is not the same as spoiled food. Foods that have freezer burn will taste exceptionally dry and without quality. The parts of the food that contains freezer burn can be cut away and the rest should be fine.
If the food is stored properly in the freezer in bags or containers that are designed for freezer storage, the chances of freezer burn are lowered significantly. Make sure there are no air pockets in the food that you are freezing.
Cooking Methods and Their Benefits
There are several different ways that you can cook the food that you want to use for your homemade baby food. Some methods are better than others due to the nutrients that remain in the food even after the cooking process.
- Steaming – Steaming is the most preferred method of cooking and provides leftover water that can be used in the pureeing process. Nutrient loss during this method is minimal.
- Boiling or Stewing – This method results in a significant loss of nutrients unless the amount of water used in the boiling process is reduced.
- Baking or Roasting – this involves cooking in the over and large amounts of food can be baked or roasted at one time. The food that is baked or roasted is easily digested and loss of nutrients is limited.
- Microwaving – This method should be avoided if possible. Microwaving food can lose nutrients at a very rapid rate especially when cooked in small amounts. It does limit the amount of food that can be cooked at one time and some feel that using a microwave at all is unsafe. If you don’t have any other way to cook the food than by using a microwave, do your best not to overcook it.