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Homemade baby food 101

by Karen on June 3, 2011

All-natural, organic whole food is all the rage these days. If you’re introducing your baby to solid foods, you’ve probably wondered how you can avoid feeding him pricey, pre-packaged, preservative-laden baby food. Well, I’m going to tell you.

Here’s what you need:

  • Fresh, organic fruits and vegetables
  • A food processor, food mill, or blender to puree them

That’s seriously it.

The best thing about making your own baby food is that there is no tutorial necessary. There’s nothing to learn. If you can buy produce and puree it, then you can make baby food.

Of course, some foods are just a little more complicated. If you want to feed your baby something that easily oxidizes, like apple or banana, you’ll want to add a little vitamin C to the mix so you can freeze or refrigerate some. If you don’t want to mess with all of that, you can do what I do: cut the banana or apple in half, puree one half for baby, and eat the other half or serve it to an older child immediately. That way you’re not wasting any of it, but you don’t have to store it.

Judah hasn’t tried many foods yet. We’ve given him bananas, apples, carrots, and mangoes. We steamed the carrots before pureeing them, but the apple, banana, and mango were served raw. We tried to freeze half a pureed apple, but without vitamin C, the brown gook that we thawed was pretty inedible. Steamed carrots and fresh mango didn’t look or taste any different after thawing.

In addition to being healthier for baby, homemade baby food will save you a ton of money. At $1 or $1.25 each for two 4-ounce jars of organic baby food, it may not seem like you’re spending a lot. But when you consider the fact that you’re paying a whole dollar for a small amount of processed produce, it’s a lot more expensive than you think. Not to mention the environmental effects of the packaging and shipping.

We can get four 4-ounce jars of baby food out of one organic mango for $1.50. That’s 37 cents per jar. Organic mango is one of the fancier, more expensive foods. Organic bananas usually sell for around 69 cents a pound at my grocery store. A rough estimate is about 25 cents per banana. I feed half the banana to Judah and eat the other half, so 4 ounces of homemade mashed banana costs about 12 cents. Apples and carrots cost about a quarter per serving. Based on these very rough estimates, you can cut your baby food costs by 50 to 80 percent.

You can save even more (and be greener) by growing the food in your garden. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to plant my garden this year, but my next baby will eat organic produce from my own backyard.

If you plan to make large quantities of baby food, buy some small mason jars or Tupperware containers. Freezing or refrigerating excess will make homemade baby food almost as convenient as the store bought stuff. To thaw frozen baby food, put it in the microwave for a minute or so. Be sure to stir the puree well and test the temperature for “hot spots” caused by the microwave before serving to baby.

If you’re like me and you don’t have a microwave, put the jar of frozen baby food into a bowl with hot water and place a coffee mug on top to keep it from floating. Leave it on the counter for 10 minutes. If there’s still a frozen chunk in the middle 10 minutes later, stir the puree, refill the bowl with more hot water, and leave it for another 10 minutes. If you just want to warm up refrigerated food, it will obviously take much less time.

I found a lot of great ideas and instructions on this wholesome baby food site. But honestly, once you get the hang of it, it’s as easy as perusing the organic produce section at your grocery store, buying whatever looks good that week, and buzzing it up in the food processor. No further instructions necessary.

What are your baby’s favorite homemade baby foods?

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