Thursday 26 June 2014

Homemade Baby Food

Originally, I thought of making baby food as a mom skill, but I guess providing food is really an essential skill for any parent! Premade food from the grocery store is great and very easy, I’m sure. I keep a few jars in the diaper bag in case of an emergency.  Plus it comes in cute little jars that could be reused. (Canning? Crafting?) Since I am on maternity leave, and should have extra time (yeah, right!) I decided to make my son’s food.  I started for various reasons – to know where my son’s food was coming from, to reduce the amount of “extras” in his food, and to be budget friendly. What I didn’t know is how easy it is.  Other than the time element, it is SO easy!

All you do is buy fruits and veggies, and then cook ‘em, blend ‘em, and freeze ‘em.

Really, it’s that easy, and you get nutritious food for your baby – fresh and no “extras”. It just takes a little time.

This is how I do it:

1) Peel and roughly cut up fruit or vegetables. I started with orange veggies (squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots,) because I read that they were good vegetables to start with.  For fruit, I made apples and pears.

2) Steam or boil – I cook them all separate, so I have the flexibility to create different “combos” at meal time. I think this is also important when you’re first starting out, so you can control exactly what they’re getting and watch for allergies and intolerances. 

3) Drain liquid, but keep it in a bowl.  

4) Using a blender (I used a Magic Bullet) puree in small batches. (I think small batches are key. I tried to stuff the Magic Bullet full, and it exploded on me when I opened it up, and it hurt!) If it needs to be thinned down, add some of the cooking water, until it is blendable and a good consistency for your child. You can also thin it out with breastmilk or formula. Each week, I was able to let it get thicker, and as he got better at chewing and more teeth came in, I moved away from the blender and just started mashing. From what I’ve read, you want to expose babies to as many textures as possible, and as a bonus, getting rid of the blending step made the whole process much faster.

5) Measure small amounts into ice cube trays.  I usually put one or two tablespoons in each section.  I used a tablespoon size cookie dough scoop to measure the food into ice cube trays.

6) Freeze food cubes. Once they are frozen solid, empty into Ziploc bags or a container that is labelled with the date, name, and the amount in each cube.  Labels are important, because some vegetables look a lot alike once pureed. Sometimes the cubes get really frozen in the trays, but running the backside of the trays under hot water for a few seconds is enough to loosen them enough to pop out.

That's it! At meal time, I just take out the number of cubes I need, pop them in the microwave, and I’m ready to go!

How much time will it take? The first time I made baby food, it took me the afternoon.  I was able to prepare more than a two week supply that day. Now I try to do a few different items each week or two. Today, I did a lot.  I had bought two bags of pears, a bag of carrots, and three small turnips. It took me about half an hour to peel and chop, half an hour or so to cook, and then another half hour to mash and divide into cubes.  They’ll freeze over night and I will pop them into the bags tomorrow.

I think it more affordable than purchased baby food, and easy to store. Tonight’s batch made about 125 food cubes.  These alone would last about two weeks, and it cost less than $15.  As an added bonus, there was virtually no waste. The food scraps went into the composter, and everything else could be reused.

Once my son was introduced to single foods, we could start playing with different mixes – a squash, sweet potato, and spinach combo seems to be a favourite.  Pears are his favourite dessert, but apples cooked with cinnamon would be a close second.

Here are some suggestions on what to prepare for the freezer:
  • Squash (I like butternut, because squash is tricky to cut and this type has the most “meat,” in my opinion.)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Spinach (I still blend this, because it can get stringy)
  • Carrots
  • Peas
  • Green Beans
  • Carrots
  • Pears
  • Prunes (I used dried pitted prunes, poured boiling water over them, and then simmered on low for quite a while to soften and let the water plump up the prunes. I thought it looked pretty gross and had a funny smell, but my son loves them!)
  • Apples (I prefer using Royal Gala, because they are naturally sweet. I’ve also been adding cinnamon.)
These are foods that I also use, but don’t cook.  I simply mash or cut up small:
  • Bananas
  • Avocado
  • Pears
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon
  • Honeydew Melon
  • Blueberries
  • Meat – I have tried to blend meats, but my son didn’t like it, so now I cut/tear it up REALLY small. He’s still not a big fan of the texture or consistency, so I just try little bits.
  • Eggs – scrambled and fully cooked

Making your own baby food is a way to control what your baby is eating while saving money.  I highly recommend, even if you just try for some of the foods your baby eats the most and mix with store bought food.

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