If you’re committed to making tasty nutritious meals for your family, don’t forget about the baby. Parents know that taste is one of the biggest challenges they’ll face as they begin introducing their infants to solid foods. One of the best ways to introduce your infant to the foods you love is to make homemade baby food right along with the rest of the family meals.
Why Homemade Baby Food - Cost, Nutrition, Taste, Convenience
Homemade baby food costs less than store-bought baby food. One busy mom did an experiment and found that she saved $438 in a year by making her own baby food. On the average, store baby food costs $0.61 per serving, compared to homemade baby food at $0.31 per serving. Whether you choose organic or nonorganic foods for your baby, you could save as much as 45% per serving by making baby food in your own kitchen. This is a great way to save on one of the most vital essentials for your newborn.
If you’re concerned about what goes into the jar or pouch, making baby food at home gives you more control over the ingredients in your baby’s food. With homemade baby food, you can choose the type of food your baby eats. You can choose organic foods as well as introduce your baby to a vegetarian or vegan diet early in life. Pre-packaged foods come in limited varieties. You can include meats, fruits, and vegetables not commonly included in most brands of baby food. You can also choose produce grown without pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, hormone-free and responsibly raised meats, as well as seasonal fruits and vegetables and special ingredients in regional and ethnic foods.
Commercially prepared baby foods are cooked at extremely high temperatures to kill bacteria, and some contain preservatives to enhance shelf-life. These manufacturing processes often 1) cook the nutrients and flavor out of the food and 2) expose your baby to concentrated levels of chemicals from additives, growth hormones and pesticides. When you prepare baby food at home, you’ll use the same cooking techniques you use to maximize flavor and maintain the nutrients in your family meals.
You never run out of baby food when you make your own. You can fix your baby a fresh meal or snack right along with yours. All you need is a few minutes in the blender or food processor, and your baby can enjoy a tasty treat with the rest of the family.
The Downside - Time, Storage
Is there really any downside to making homemade baby food?
You might think that you don’t have time to prepare, package, and store baby food. But you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that you can make a week’s worth of baby food in about one hour. But if you prepare your baby food alongside your family meals, you really won’t need any extra time. Simply turn on the blender while you get the get everyone settled at the dinner table.
Homemade baby food will need to be refrigerated or stored in the freezer until you’re ready to use it. This means you’ll need small storage containers and a dedicated shelf in the fridge or space in the freezer. How much space you need will depend on how much food you make in advance. Many busy moms and dads keep one or two weeks of food in the freezer in case of emergency. You’ll also want to freeze your baby’s seasonal favorites.
Tools and Equipment Needed
You’ll need to cook, puree, and store your baby food. But do you need special items for that? There are many baby food makers on the market. Many are multifunction products that gently steam cook foods then mash or puree to the appropriate stage for your baby’s digestive needs. Many are kits that include baby food storage containers with the right portion sizes for babies at different ages.
You can also buy smaller size food storage containers along with your regular size containers. Choose freezer to microwave-safe plates and bowls with compartments, especially for older babies when they’re ready for advanced meals.
Before you spend time and money shopping for a specialty product, take inventory in your own kitchen. If you have a blender, food processor, juicer, or steamer (and a stove, of course) you have everything you need to cook your homemade baby food. You can cook in the same pots and pans that you prepare all your family’s meal in.
Do's and Don'ts
- Follow the same hygiene and safe handling guidelines that you follow when making your meals
- Wash your hands and utensils, and keep countertops clean
- Wash and peel fruits and vegetables thoroughly
- Follow safe handling instructions for meats, including storage and cooking to proper temperatures
- When preparing baby foods, you’ll want to follow these extra guidelines
- Eliminate salt, spices, honey, sugar, butter. Let your baby experience the natural flavors in foods
- Use breastmilk or formula to add liquids and make foods smoother for babies just starting out
- As your baby gets older, begins teething, and can handle more texture reduce the amount of liquid and time in the blender or food processor
- Steam or microwave vegetables to preserve flavor and the most nutrients
- Cook fruits to make them easier to digest
- Steam or roast meats to make them tender and remove bones, fat, and connective tissue before pureeing
- Start with single ingredient foods, then work your way to blended foods with fruits and grains, or meats and vegetables
Baby Food Stages and Recipes
Introduce your baby to solid foods in three to four stages. In the first two stages, focus on smoothly pureed foods with plenty of added liquids. For stage one, use single ingredients like fruits, vegetables, and grains for babies 4-6 months old. In stage two when your baby is 6-8 months old, try mixed fruit and vegetable, vegetable and grain, or fruit and grain combinations. You can begin reducing the amount of liquids but you’ll still want to make sure the foods are pureed smooth. At 8-10 months, move to stage three and start adding more texture. This is when many parents introduce meats and leave a little more texture to fruits and vegetables. You’ll want to make sure your baby gets plenty of liquids in the bottle. Stage 3 is also a great time to introduce baby to more than one item in the bowl or plate. When your baby is ready to hold a spoon and pick up small pieces, move to stage four with softer easy to chew foods.
Making homemade baby food can be simple and fun. Here are some favorite stage one baby food recipes you can make with foods you probably have in your fridge or pantry right now. Here are some other ideas to make quick and easy baby foods at home.
Brown Rice Cereal
Many people choose brown rice because it’s more flavorful and has a different texture than white rice. It’s also known that brown rice is less processed and retains more nutrients. Learn how to grind, store, and cook brown rice for your baby.
Lentil and Apple Puree
When you’re ready to introduce your baby to more complex flavors and spices, try this stage two fruit and grain combo. Remember to adjust the amount of liquid and puree to the right consistency for your baby’s pallet.
At stage three and four, try this veggie lasagna baby food recipe. Substitute the ingredients your baby loves and tries adding some meats. You can modify this recipe to eliminate dairy and spices if your baby has a sensitive digestive system. This is also a great recipe to get your baby used to multiple textures and flavors.
Here are some other creative baby food recipes you can try.
Homemade Baby Food Made Easy
Remember, the best baby food recipe is your own. Make sure you introduce your baby to the family favorites early on. Cooking your favorite meals with fewer fats, salt, and sugar with your baby in mind is good for the entire family. Whether you’re a brand new parent looking for the healthiest option or struggling with getting your infant to eat homemade baby food is a great choice for you and your baby.