Creating a New Normal | Efficient Homemade Baby Food

Unlike cloth diapering, making my own baby food was something I have known I would do for years. I have a “system” (you’ll see this theme with me) for making, carrying, storing & feeding the baby food I make and it is easier than you probably think. Would you believe me if I told you that I have only made baby food about 8 times? Well, you heard it! I am a master of efficiency when it comes to this subject & I want to show you how simple it really is. So, here it goes. Baby food made EASY!!

WHY WOULD YOU MAKE YOUR OWN BABY FOOD?

I want my baby to grow up thinking it is totally normal to eat five different fruits and veggies a day. It’s my responsibility to cultivate my kids taste buds & let them experience anything & everything they can, so there is a better chance at liking the healthy stuff. I like to think I am doing my part to help fight the child obesity epidemic by making it very easy to like what is green & fresh and by only offering REAL food! Seems like feeding a baby from a jar is normal these days & that’s fine, this is not for everyone. However, I can tell a distinct difference between jarred & fresh food and I just think that I’d rather have my baby like the fresh over the jarred. I really don’t want to start feeding my child broccoli when she is two, then battling with her because it’s something new. I want her to already be very familiar with the flavor. So, we started right away.

Getting my baby used to different textures is also a big part of why I make my own baby food. Real food textures (like banana, sweet potato, cauliflower) are not found in jarred baby food. (Is there a cauliflower baby food?) Some foods are not jarred, and I don’t want to limit her exposure to only what is available on Aisle 5. One HUGE part of my decision is being able to regulate my daughter’s bowel movements by giving her a diet with all the fiber she needs. On a recent road trip, I had no choice but to use some packaged food (I chose Plum Organics pouches) and within three days of having three pouches a day, she was writhing in pain due to constipation. I cooked up a head of broccoli, and she gobbled it down as fast as I could get it in her mouth. After a glycerin suppository (boo) and a BUNCH of broccoli, she was back to normal. This is now a really big part of why I am so passionate about this choice!

Some may say it is cheaper. I am not so sure of this, as I buy mostly organic. Maybe it is, but cost is at the bottom of the list of reasons why I do it.

WHAT DO I NEED TO MAKE BABY FOOD?

There are a lot of fancy tools out there as companies are now capitalizing on the home made baby food market. I have experience with a lot of these fancy things, but here are the basic essentials you need:

  • stock pot & lid with a vegetable steamer basket
  • blender (a good one. I shredded the rubber spinner thing [easily replaceable BTW] on my high end blender, so invest well!)
  • spatula #1 (could not live without it–Le Creuset make the best spatulas ever)
  • spatula #2 (could not get into cube trays efficiently without it, nor scrape down the blender sides.)
  • Tovolo Perfect Cube Ice Trays (x6) (each cube is exactly 1 ounce, making portioning a cinch)
  • ziploc freezer bags
  • a chest deep freezer is really nice
  • *a note on the BEABA BABYCOOK. I was gifted one. I have used in on occasion. I have found that it kills my efficiency since I cannot make big batches with it. If you plan to cook for your baby daily, it might be a good investment because it is far less cleanup, but I much prefer giant batch cooking. Complete non-essential. Save your $$ on that & buy organic food!

HOW DO YOU MAKE IT?

One of the big myths about making your own baby food is that it takes FOREVER. There is certainly a time commitment, but if you cook efficiently, it is pretty simple. Not as simple as unscrewing a jar, but there is an easier way to go about it than making baby food every day. (I would go crazy if I made it every day) Oh, and here’s a tip: does your mom come to visit? Mine does & she loves to cook. She has helped me SO MUCH with making baby food & I pretty much have made it from trip to trip with no additional cooking…and she lives 2000 miles away! So, use your help! This is a super easy thing that grandma can do when she comes visit!

SHOPPING: I typically buy the fruits & veggies in bulk, many at my local Costco, as they have a wonderful organic selection. I often buy broccoli & cauliflower already cut into florets just to make it easy. Fresh foods that I buy weekly & don’t cook include blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, peaches, plums, bananas, mangoes, avocados, cherries. Foods I buy in bulk and cook are apples, pears, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, cauliflower, asparagus, broccoli, corn, beets, zucchini & carrots. I am sure there are some I am forgetting.

COOK BOOKS: I only have two. This one & this one. I believe in keeping it simple, so I really only have made the single food recipes & baby stock for cooking quinoa, couscous & rice. There is also a GREAT blog, if you are looking to same some money, called Wholesome Baby Food. Not only does it give you a bunch of recipes, but there are food charts and it has a plethora of important & credible information.

COOKING: I steam or bake just about everything. The only ingredient I have ever added is Butter.  Oh, and cinnamon to the apples & pears. The first two or three batches I put in the blender to puree. Then I began making it chunkier & by about 10 months, all I had to do was mash everything.

HOW DO YOU STORE IT?

Best thing to do is watch the video at the end of this post. FULL info on freezing & storing + some tips better demonstrated than written down.

Short answer: everything is frozen in the Tovolo Cube because a cube is a very efficient use of space. I tried a regular ice cube tray & it was a disaster. I have a chest freezer that I have larger stacking cubes in that are actually meant for hanging files that I found at my local Office Max. By using the stacking cubes, I actually have nice compartmentalized space in an otherwise horribly designed freezer. Below the top cube is my stash of (adult) soups & meats. It works really well. Once I have my batch of baby food frozen in the trays (usually freeze them all in my refrigerator freezer) I put them into gallon size Ziploc freezer bags, perfectly lined up & flat. Smaller portions (on the right) I put in the hanging basket (comes with most chest freezers) in quart Ziploc freezer bags. Each bag is labeled with the contents & date of packing.

HOW DO YOU MANAGE MEALS?

Each of these cubes takes about 1 minute to defrost in the microwave. For each meal, I grab her plate & head out to the freezer, select the mix of foods for that meal, then take it in & put it in the microwave. I prefer these plates, which I actually found in pink at our local Homegoods. I have six of them, so I can run the dishwasher every other day. I like them because I can mash bananas + oatmeal in the big section, the medium section holds 2 cubes, and the small section holds one cube. The smallest section holds a half cube, so I rarely use it.

ON THE GO: This is a whole different story. I always take a soft cooler (I have & love this one) w/ icepack with me & use the following tools with great success:

  • *AMENDED 10/1/10–this is my new system for taking food on the go: The ZoLi OTG Feeder. Below is what I used before I found this
  • Boon Squirt Food Dispensing Spoons (I have three, but only need one. I used them more when she had smoother food. Now the chunks don’t fit through the squirt hole, so all I use it for is yogurt but I LOVE them!)
  • *edited to add: we are now using LunchBots Lunch System exclusively, now that the kids are eating real lunches!

WHAT IS A TYPICAL MEAL?

Of course this varies over time, as the child grows up & nutritional needs change. I exclusively breastfed until last week, so as per the American Academy of Pediatrics I did not start my daughter on solids until she was 6 months old. However, right from the start I always offered at least 3-4 different foods at each meal. I never gave up any foods she didn’t like, and so far she will still eat anything I put in front of her. I’ll give you a glimpse at a normal daily menu for her at 11 months old:

BREAKFAST

  • 2 handfuls of blueberries OR 3-4 large strawberries (or some of each!)
  • 1 piece of buttered toast with cinnamon OR an organic pancake
  • 1 egg, scrambled with organic milk
  • 1/2 banana OR 1-2oz of apples/pears/mangoes/peaches fed with
  • 2 TBSP whole grain organic cereal & cinnamon
  • 1/3 of a yoBaby yogurt (we call it her Yogurt Dessert!)

LUNCH

  • 1 oz cheese
  • 1 oz torn chicken or organic beef bites
  • 3-4 cubes of veggies, all different (often she eats a serving of chopped veggies instead of a cube for lunch & dinner)
  • 1/3 yogurt dessert

DINNER

  • 1oz cheese
  • 1 oz torn chicken or organic beef bites (opposite what was eaten at lunch) OR sometimes I give her a bit of what I made for dinner
  • 3 cubes of different veggies
  • 1 cube of fruit fed with
  • 2 TBSP whole grain organic cereal & cinnamon
  • 1/3 yogurt Dessert

WHAT ABOUT “OTHER” FOODS?

So of course my daughter does consume foods other than the baby cubes. I fed Caroline the yoBaby yogurts right from the beginning, along with the fruit & multi-grain cereal to start. Our progression towards self feeding began with organic Happy Baby banana/apple puffs. I broke them into thirds and she could get them to stick to her hands & gobbled them right up. Within a week we moved on to other solid foods & I never went back to using the puffs. I only used a bottle & a half total. The other nice “trainer” food was the Baby Mum Mum. A couple of my mommy friends turned me onto these & they are truly no mess, no choke. Typical teething biscuits are a disaster & definitely become choking hazards at the end. These were really great to help get the hand-mouth coordination down. Toast is another good option, but I try to keep her diet mostly protein, dairy & produce.

Caroline ate only egg yolks for breakfast until recently, as the whites tend to be quite allergenic. (healthy mommy tip: I am a big egg white eater, and my morning standard breakfast is 1 full egg + 3 egg whites, so I just used my yolks for my baby! EFFICIENT!!) She also eats bits of cheese and a serving of meat at lunch & dinner. I introduced meat at 9 months, and because I began the transition to chunkier food within four weeks of solids, I never had to do any grinding of meat. (which kind of grosses me out!!) I simply tore little bits & she picked them up & ate them without any problems. I cooked my own chicken (to control the sodium content–babies should have ZERO salt) for the first five months and have just recently began offering rotisserie chicken & small servings of what we’re eating for dinner. For her introduction to beef, I used the organic ground beef (Costco) that I roll into one ounce patties, cook on the stove then freeze. Each patty defrosts in 15 seconds in the microwave.

Caroline also eats a lot of Quinoa (it’s mixed with pureed asparagus & looks like green & white balls in the cube pictures!) which is very high in protein and so good for you! I buy it in a giant bag at Costco, but you should be able to get it in any good grocery store. It’s very tasty & reminds me a lot of brown rice, but better.

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED FROM MY DAUGHTER’S DIET

Since I began cooking Caroline’s food I have certainly learned a few things about how tasty “naked” food can be. I tend to add a lot of seasonings and extras to food when it is pretty darn delicious on it’s own. So many vegetables, like carrots and sweet potatoes, need absolutely no seasonings when cooked well. Since I am now feeding Caroline bits of the meals I cook nightly, I have cut back on adding any salt I am am surprised at how little I miss it. Sometimes the easiest way to make something simple is to just eat it straight out of the earth. Plain old fruit & veggies are pretty tasty!

 

 

THE FULL ‘HOW TO’ VIDEO

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Hi! Hello! I am Shawna, the founder of Styleberry Blog. This creative corner of the internet has become a learning haven for moms and creatives, offering a warm and encouraging nudge to those who wish to be better and do better, but often don't know where to start. From Decorating to DIY to Diapers and Paleo-ish Dishes, I strive to make the complicated simple and empower women to take action beyond their personal comfort zone. I subscribe to the Shine Theory & so strongly believe that we shine when the women around us shine and mutual support—lifting up instead of tearing down--will always be the culture here. Are you in? I hope so! Beyond the computer, I run Styleberry Creative where I work with clients to create low fuss, high function spaces that are pretty and practical in San Antonio, Texas and beyond. I LOVE making a house a home. My own studs out renovation is now complete and I am now back to working with clients. Please don't hesitate to drop me a line if you'd like to work together! I hope you’ll join me on this fun new adventure! Xo.