I am not going to lie to you. I was that pregnant woman who said that she would never have enough time to make homemade baby food because honestly, who has the time? It seemed like such a daunting, time-consuming task that only people with more than 24-hours in their day could tackle.
I was wrong. You heard it here first. I. Was. Very. Very. Wrong. And I am so glad I was!
We started giving our son solids when he was about four months old. Disclaimer: our son was, and still is, a big boy! He has consistently been in the 97% for height and has always had a serious appetite. He was drinking 8oz bottles of formula multiple times a day when he was only a few months old. Our pediatrician said it was fine to start dabbling in solids because of all these factors, and because he kept trying to steal food off our plates. So please, consult your pediatrician before starting your baby on solids!
I decided to make all of our son’s baby food homemade after about five days of trying the store bought Gerber foods. I remember the thing that finally pushed me over the edge was when I gave him Gerber carrots one night. He was wearing a light-colored onesie and like all babies, spilled carrots all over it. I put some blue dawn dish detergent on it, let it sit, then washed his clothes. The stain was still there once it was dry. Dawn has always removed every stain on clothes that I have ever put it on. Even nail polish. So the fact that it couldn’t remove this orange stain caused by the food that I was feeding my son was extremely disturbing to me. I said enough and told my husband I was going to start making all of his food myself. I figured he was going to laugh at me and tell me I was crazy, but he thought it was such a great idea because he wanted our son to eat the healthiest that he could to help with his overall health and development. So, off I went. I did a ton of research, talked to friends and acquaintances who I knew made their kids food, bought the necessary items, and went to work.
I started off just doing the basics. Applesauce, sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, potatoes. But I felt like I was letting our son down and not being creative enough. So I decided to get a baby food cookbook to expand on my recipes. The book I finally settled on was The Big Book of Organic Baby Food. One of the main reasons I settled on this book, besides the fact that it gave simple step-by-step instructions, was that it labeled each recipe DF (Dairy Free), GF (Gluten Free), NF (Nut Free), V (Vegetarian), and Vegan (Vegan, duh). Our son had a cows milk allergy that we discovered at the age of six weeks so it was huge for me to find a cookbook that easily identified which recipes were dairy free.
After getting this book and taking a look through it, I loved that it had a whole page dedicated to superfood combinations. It allowed me to pair up items that I would have never thought to. Apricots and pears? Avocados and black beans? We as adults eat that combo all the time for taco night but it never crossed my mind to puree those two items together for my son, since most of the time I eat mine separately. I added in some garlic and it quickly became one of his favorites!
After ordering my meal prep items (those are outlined below), I picked out a few recipes from the book and to the grocery store I went. Sundays were my meal prep day. It was perfect because my husband was home and able to spend undivided time with our son while I prepped in the kitchen for a couple hours. Depending on how many different recipes I was making for that week it would take me anywhere from 1-3 hours. Which, when you think about it, you probably spend 45min to an hour prepping dinner for yourself each night. Seems worth it for a week’s worth of homemade, healthy food for your child.
Advice and items you need to succeed
- Supportive husband. I cannot stress enough how important this is!! Between the shopping, prep work, cooking, pureeing, storing, and clean-up, I absolutely wouldn’t have been able to dedicate my time to making all of W’s baby food without my husband. He was a rockstar when it came to making sure I was not bothered while “in the zone.” He also always came to help me with whatever I needed if W was down for a nap while I was cooking. Whether it was prepping the potatoes or cleaning the dishes, he was (and still is) always there to help if and when I needed him.
- The Correct gadgets. I started off with this little ninja smoothie machine that I borrowed from my parents. Eventually, I realized that I wasn’t using my time wisely enough since I was having to puree my sixteen apples in six different batches since the container was so small. My husband saw my struggle and again came to the rescue. He ordered me this Hamilton Beach 10-cup Electric Food Processor & Vegetable Chopper with Bowl Scraper. Yes, it is true. You do not actually have to use a dedicated baby food maker to make your child’s food. Shocking, I know. But I found that a lot of baby items on the market are just gimmicks to get you to spend more money than you really need to.
- Storage Containers. this was big for me because I wanted to be able to store three-days worth of food in the fridge (which is the typical timeframe homemade baby food is good for), then freeze the rest. When I would have one days worth of food left I would simply move some of the freezer food to the fridge. I always cooked six days worth of food at a time then the seventh day was my Sunday prep day again.
- For use in the fridge, meaning the portioned food I was going to use within the next three days and was never going to be frozen, I used 4oz plastic Rubbermaid and Glad containers with snap-on lids. You can pick them up at the dollar store.
- For use in the freezer, I used glass Pyrex bowls I already had as well as Ball 4oz glass jars that I picked up from my local Target. I chose these because they had plastic twist-on lids which were easier than the 4oz canning jars.
- For on-the-go use, I ordered Baby Brezza Reusable Baby Food Storage Pouch System – Set of 10. These were absolutely phenomenal. Kind of annoying to clean because they have some deep corners you really have to put effort into cleaning, but I loved the ability that they could be used in the freezer and fridge, had a screw top so my son could eat it himself (like regular store-bought pouches), but also opened from the side for easy filling and ability for me to spoon it out and feed him if needed.
NOTE! If you have leftover breast milk bags, you can use those for food storage as well! I had a ton leftover since I had to stop breastfeeding due to our son’s allergy, and I didn’t want the bags to go to waste. Since they are freezer and fridge safe and have measurements on them, they were perfect for storing baby food.
- Lists, Lists, Lists. If you know me personally, especially if you worked with me at Core-apps (shoutout!), you know I absolutely love making lists. My boss told me on a couple different occasions that I was one of, if not the most, organized and efficient employee he had, and I really think that is because I loved making lists so much. It keeps your organized and on task. I make lists for literally everything. Daily to-do’s, things I need to buy, books I want to read, things my husband needs to do around the house, Netflix shows I want to watch. You name it and I probably have a list for it. I even have a list of blog topics I eventually want to do!
List making for baby food is no different. You need to carefully plan out all the things you need and hit the store with a plan. Know exactly what you want to buy and how much of each item. If you go in without a list you’re likely to get overwhelmed and leave without everything you need.
- Have a plan! I always had my list and/or cookbook open of what I was making readily available to reference. I got out all the ingredients, pots and pans, storage containers and utensils I needed before starting. I needed to be able to visually see what I was working with. I typically prepped everything first, then steamed or cooked everything at once, then pureed each item as it finished, since not everything took the same amount of time to cook.
- Don’t be afraid to try spices. One of the other things I liked about my cookbook was that it always suggested spices to go with each of the recipes. Garlic was the first thing I tried, but then I felt like garlic was seeping from his pores because he was eating so much of it, so I branched out and started using different spices. Most people are hesitant about doing different spices with their babies, but I have found that it has made my son like a lot more food than I thought he would, especially spicy foods.
- Enjoy the journey! Turn on some music and enjoy the process. I always found cooking food for our son to be very therapeutic. I was by myself, which was a rarity for me as a new mom, and able to completely concentrate on the task at hand. I loved knowing that I was doing something that was going to benefit our son in more ways than one. The first thing our son reaches for on his plate, unless there is steak or pasta present, is his vegetable or fruit. He absolutely demolishes broccoli and green beans when we give them to him. He will even ask for more! I truly believe that he loves fruits and veggies so much, and will eat practically anything and everything because we did not give him that preservative-filled store-bought food.
- I tried to use organic produce and food as much as possible and found that even with buying organic produce I saved money compared to if I was buying the prepared store-bought baby food.
- I did use frozen veggies sometimes. Mostly for green beans because for some reason it is the one food I hated prepping. They were still organic frozen, so does that count as still being healthy?
- I kept my portions at 4oz, which is why I used that size container. As I said above, our son had a big appetite. He always ate 4oz at each meal, but most of the time he ate 8oz.
Below are a few of my favorites recipes that you can find in the Big Book of Organic Baby Food that our son absolutely loved:
- Sweet Potato and Spinach puree
- Black Bean and Mango puree
- Avocado, Black Bean and Brown Rice puree
- Zucchini, Yellow Squash and Chicken puree
- Ground Turkey and Sweet Potato puree