Making nutritious, simple baby food from scratch

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About Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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Photo by Martin Rittmeyer

We make our own baby food. At one to three dollars a jar where we live, it’s a no brainer decision. But even if it weren’t so expensive, I’d most likely make my son’s baby food anyway – it’s healthier, cheaper, and it’s very easy.

I thought it would be really difficult and time-consuming to make baby food, but that was before trying it with our firstborn. I was floored with how easy it was.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s a convenience to store-bought baby food. But if you take the time to spend about a few hours once a month in the kitchen, you’ll quickly store up a stockpile that will last you the time that you need pureed food (which isn’t long).

You should puree baby foods well, but I find that it’s okay if it’s not perfectly smooth. In fact, if your baby doesn’t grow accustomed to super-smooth food, they’ll most likely be more open to finger foods early on. We only pureed food for our daughter from around six to nine months – after that, it was almost exclusively finger foods.

The Tools

All you need to make baby food are the following: a food processor or blender, appropriate knives (depending on the food), a spoon, ice cube trays, plastic wrap, ziploc-type baggies, and a permanent marker.

The Basic Method

When the food is blended, simply spoon the puree into ice cube trays. Each cube is approximately one ounce. Make sure and cover each tray with saran wrap before freezing. When they’re done, pop out the cubes and store in well-labeled freezer bags (I label them with the type of food and the date of puree).

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Photo by Leesa & David McClelland

Homemade baby foods can stay in the fridge for up to 72 hours, or they can be frozen indefinitely.

Starting With Rice Cereal

Most health experts recommend introducing solids somewhere between four to six months of age. Our son will be six months this Sunday, and we started rice cereal this past week.

Recipe for Rice Cereal: Cook whole-grain (brown) rice without salt or seasoning and puree. You can also process the rice into a powder before cooking, and then cook 1/4 rice powder into 1 cup of boiling water for about 10 minutes. Add breast milk, formula, or other food if desired.

Other Cereals

After a week or so of rice cereal, you can move on to other grains.

Recipe for Oatmeal Cereal: Process oats (not instant or quick cooking) into a powder. Cook 1/4 oat powder into 1 cup of boiling water for about 10 minutes, and add breast milk, formula, or other food if desired.

Recipe for Barley Cereal: Process barley into a powder. Cook 1/4 barley powder into 1 cup of boiling water for about 10 minutes, and add breast milk, formula, or other food if desired.

Buckwheat is also a good choice if you’re looking for gluten-free alternatives (like if your family has a history of food allergies or sensitivities).

Moving on to Fruits and Veggies

You can bake, steam, or boil with scant water almost any fruit or veggie. Then simply puree, spoon into ice cube trays, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze.

There are some really good resources on the internet for more information on which foods are best at what age, if it matters in which order you should introduce food, and creative ideas for presenting foods to your baby. Here are some that I’ve bookmarked and have found helpful:

There’s also a little movement called Baby Led Weaning, which is essentially eliminating pureed foods all together and going straight to finger foods. The idea is that the baby will eat what he or she needs at the right time, freeing the parent of the stress that goes into “introducing” foods. I’m still not sure what we’ll do, but I’m open to this idea.

There’s something beautifully natural about providing the same food to your baby that you do the rest of your family. It may initially seem more complicated to make your own baby food, but in the long run, it’s just another ingredient for creating a simply-run home. It saves money, it’s wholly nutritious, and it increases the odds of having a kiddo willing to try new foods.

A good majority of Simple Mom readers have children under 5. How did you feed your babies? Do you find it easier or more time consuming to make your own food? If you haven’t yet tried homemade baby food, what’s keeping you from trying?

Join the Conversation

Comments

  1. I’m so happy to see you mention baby led weaning! We don’t strictly do BLW, but we use a lot of the ideas, and our little girl loves it! She loves being able to feed herself, and for the most part, she does a great job of it. Its so much fun to watch her enjoy eating.

  2. We made our baby food from scratch right from the very beginning. I just couldn’t justify spending all that extra cash on those little jars of what looked like gloop and I was a stay at home Mum. Being able to introduce different veges and fruit and having the ability to control the level of smoothness was a good thing for me. I really enjoy cooking, and it was something I could control in our life of new baby chaos :o)

    We still did rely on store bought from time to time, and as our little boy got older I didn’t mind so much. It is easy to pick up a jar at the grocery store, especially if you’re out and about longer than you had planned or packed for…

    Does it worry/intrigue anyone else that the store bought purees almost always seem to be the same colour, not matter what’s included in the ingredients list?

    Meegans last blog post..The view from up here – a Squirt update of sorts

  3. I do a mix of homemade and store bought organic. I did exclusively homemade with my first son, and then my second son hated all purees, so he just went directly from the breast to table food. Now, on the third baby, I find that I have a little less time to make baby food, hence the mix.

    Kelly from My Small Centss last blog post..Cool Your House Frugally

  4. @Claire – You know, I just heard of the term “baby led weaning” recently, but I’m pretty sure that’s what we did with our daughter a few years back. It’s pretty intuitive, isn’t it? Let them decide when they’re ready for what foods, and provide it in easily manageable bite-sized pieces. It’s so easy, really.

    @Meegan – I know what you mean about feeling more in control of your baby’s nutrition. And yeah, it is a little weird that so many foods have that same bland color at the store. Hmm…

  5. This is exactly what we did. I was glad to keep away from store-bought foods that almost always have added sugar. Our favorites were sweet potatoes, peas, brussel sprouts, and carrots. We even pureed and froe chicken this way. Of course, nothing beats just smooshing up a banana with a fork.

    Rachels last blog post..Plant Therapy: Leafhoppers

  6. We have done our own baby food. I have not made it a ‘project’, but after the baby has gotten to about eight months, I just mush up or put some of what we are eating in the blender, esp the vegetables. If it is particularly strong in flavor, I mix it in some rice cereal to help make it a bit more bland. You are right, it is very simple and saves a lot of money. I do like to keep a few containers of store bought baby food on hand for when we are rushed or out of the house for meal times.

    Tami@ourhouses last blog post..Russian movie viewers can now flock to Moscow Flix website for renting russian DVD’s

  7. There’s also far less waste when you make your own, both in food and containers. The cost savings are incredible.

    My “baby” is 7, but we did BLW when we didn’t know what it was called. She just was not interested in solid food until about seven months. By then she had teeth coming in, so we continued to sit her with us as we ate, and let her munch on soft mushy veggies and potatoes.

    I’d advise skipping the jarred meat too. That stuff is nasty.

  8. We made our own baby food purees just like this until the babe was about 9 months and she wanted more texture. So I started feeding her whatever we were eating, but if it needed to be more baby-friendly I put it through a little hand-crank food mill we found. This was especially great for meat. It was a lifesaver.

    One of my friends told me that her pediatrician is from Spain, and he said that in Europe nobody introduces foods every 3-5 days like we do here. They just eat off their mom’s plates. He said in general, babies can pretty much eat anything except nuts and honey from six months on. That removed a lot of stress for me. We’ve followed that advice and had no problems!

    Katies last blog post..budgeting software giveaway

  9. I also made my baby food although my daughter didn’t like my fruit so for a while we used jarred fruit. My daughter had a really bad gag reflex so we had to do really smooth food and gradually advance to finger food.

    No jarred meat here…it’s gross.

  10. One great book that goes into depth on this is called Super Baby Food. As with any book, I don’t agree with every single thing. I don’t microwave my baby’s food to heat it up, and I don’t feed my babies any soy at all, not even tofu. But the rest of the book is very informative and has great ideas for foods to give your baby at different ages.

    I love that you posted this. Mommies get so busy that I don’t think it even occurs to many of them. And if it does, they probably think it is too time consuming to try. I hope it encourages some mommies to do it!

  11. At home I make all my baby food, but while we’ve been on vacation it’s been mostly store bought (organic if I can get it). I don’t mind the store bought now that my little one is 9 months and eating lots of fresh finger foods. I must confess I never made my own cereal though. I really like the Healthy Times organic brand and decided homemade cereal was just too much for me. I couldn’t have done it without the Wholesome Baby Food website though!

    Jens last blog post..9 Months

  12. Its so funny that you posted this today- I JUST put my food processor away after making a batch of sweet potatoes for my 6 month old. We’ve made our own baby food from the beginning and can’t think of why we’d do it any other way. It really doesn’t take that much time, and if you use ice cube trays to freeze it, you have perfect servings ready for later. Plus, you save SO much money and you get to know for sure what’s going in your baby’s food (and it doesn’t loose the nutrients from freezing and drying, you’re more eco-friendly by not using all that packaging, I could go on and on)!
    Other good resources are http://www.wholesomebabyfood.com and my site: http://www.greenmommyguide.com.

    Thanks for writing about this!

  13. I always knew I would make my own food. The longer I can keep him off of processed foods, the better! I lived off of the Wholesome Baby Food site. It has great recipes for when Baby is on table foods. We make the broccoli cheddar casserole all the time! There is also a toddler site, http://www.wholesometoddlerfoods.com
    Making your own purees may take a bit longer, but it really is easy. And the colors are much richer and brighter than jarred stuff. I think my husband got really sick of my “Isn’t this so pretty?!” comments! Andy definitely thought I was crazy, but really appreciated my efforts when he found the food was tasty, so he didn’t mind tasting for temperature or showing our son how yummy it was :)

    Katharines last blog post..Say what?

  14. Sounds like a lot of Simple Mom readers make or made their own baby food and did BLW to some degree!

    @Katie – We live in Europe, too, and yep, they don’t do the regimented food thing here, either. People just feed their kids off their plate.

    @Tiffany – I do like Super Baby Food, though it’s almost TOO much information, if you know what I mean. It can intimidate the average parent just wanting to make food. I like Better Baby Food the best, so far.

    @Suzi – Thanks for letting us know about your site!

  15. We do a little of it all – I decided not to tackle homemade baby cereal and just use the storebought organic stuff – of course, for us, one box of rice and one box of oatmeal has gotten us through so far – my little one is only 9 months old but we started cereal at 5 months and we still have lots left.

    I’ve found that for us it is cheaper if I buy the jarred fruits and make my own vegetables so that is what we do. (except for bananas of course – those are the ultimate beginner baby food!)

    As for the BLW method – I’d love to try it, unfortunately at meal time (but fortunately the rest of the time) my baby doesn’t automatically put things in her mouth so she likes finger foods but I have to feed them to her – she just picks the food up and plays with it then looks at me says “bite” and opens her mouth wide – if anyone can tell me how to teach her to put that food she is holding into her mouth that would be great! And yes, I’ve picked up her hand and guided it to her mouth while she was holding something and tried to push the something into her mouth but she just looks at me like I’ve lost my mind… :)

    Blesseds last blog post..How to Have a Good Retriever – Part 2

  16. Thanks for visiting my site. Glad you enjoyed. The baby food looks yummy. We all loved the times we made our baby food – with Twins it wasn’t all the time. ;)

    CarolinaMamas last blog post..4th of July Preparation

  17. We did store bought for our first because I worked but now I am staying home with our second and I am really interested in trying this…not to mention the need to save some $$. I made some homemade applesauce and got to thinking I could do this. Especially if it’s as easy as cooking and pureeing it. What could be simpler? I’m really going to give it a try.

    care-ins last blog post..Homemade Slushees

  18. My family (including myself) has tons of strange food allergies as does my husband’s, so we breastfed and waited to introduce solids until he was a year. There’s some controversy on that, so if you have allergies ask a pediatric allergist, but one large Harvard study thought it might help to wait. We’re definitely delaying peanuts until he’s, what- maybe in college?

    The nice thing about waiting until he was that old was hardly having to puree anything because he had lots of teeth and the ability to chew was quickly mastered. I remember doing a few batches of lumpy sweet potatoes, which he still likes, and bananas I just mashed on the spot. I used to think we probably saved money with all the breastfeeding as opposed to solids feeding, but I think I was eating more than the difference. ;-)

    We plan to do the same with our 3 month-old, but I bet he’ll really be grabbing for things earlier. And our first is 2.5, so I expect he’ll try and slip him some snacks just to get my attention… sigh.

    Miriams last blog post..The Crappening

  19. I bought baby food for the first foods. I didn’t consider anything else because I was never exposed to anyone making their own. We bought it (organic and non) at W@lmart and it wasn’t that expensive. It was a time saver for me, I guess. If we had another (which I don’t believe we will) I think I would make some because I’ve since acquire a food processor that I use to make purees to sneak into recipes.

    Omaha Mamas last blog post..A Fresh Coat of Paint

  20. I tried making my own when my little man was first eating “solids.” I enjoyed it, but with just a hand-powered food mill (no food processor), and not a lot of experience with steaming, I was spending several hours a week for a couple of days worth of food. I also figured out how much it was costing per day (just the price of the veggies, not taking my time into account) and compared that to the price of store-bought. At the time, my son was eating enough that I was saving only about $1 a day and his appetite was only going to increase, meaning that my savings would only decrease. If I weren’t working from home (and therefore paid for the hours that I work), I would _definitely_ do that again, but the savings didn’t pan out for me. We’ve stuck primarily to the plain fruits and veggies, so unless Gerber lies about its ingredients, I don’t think my convenience has been paid for in my little man’s health.

    Through my cost analysis (yes, I’m an engineer, why do you ask?), I determined that sweet potatoes are BY FAR the most cost effective of the veggies to puree as only a very small amount (basically just the skin) is lost (and they’re dirt cheap). Squash are very wasteful in terms of roughage, especially the butternut variety. I never tried fruits, but I did hear a great tip which was to buy canned fruit for pies (not pie fillings, but just plain fruit canned in its own juices). No steaming required.

    So if your full-time job is home economist, this is _DEFINITELY_ the way to go. If you work from home or outside of the home, you may want to do your own cost/benefit analysis (taking into account the health benefits, etc.), especially with prices on everything (baby food and produce both) rising as much as they have been lately.

    Princess Leias last blog post..Works For Me Wednesday: Not Couponing (for now)

  21. @Princess Leia – Good points. For us, $1 a day would be enough for me to make homemade food. That’s $365 a year, which I’d love to put elsewhere. But you do bring up a good point! It’s important to weigh cost, the value of your time, and the nutritional value in deciding what you do.

    • avatar
      shirley Perez says:

      what is the most especial menu you made everyday to your children? and wat makes your child happy every time you cook?

  22. With my first (born five years ago), we did mostly homemade purees and some baby led weaning (though didn’t know what it was at the time).

    With my second (born almost two years ago), I realize now that I did not make one puree, and that we did all baby led weaning. He absolutely loved it and is a very robust eater. We avoided the main allergens and gave him pieces of what we were eating.

    Now, that’s simple! :)

    Thanks for this topic and all the info!!

    Stacy (mama-om)s last blog post..Glow In the Dark Germs

  23. Thanks for the great post. We also made some of our daughter’s food ourselves, but also did some feeding baby-led weaning style. She knows how to use a spoon and feed herself, too. :)

    Jenns last blog post..Baby 2, Hubby 0

  24. Hi. We used the Super Baby Food book to some extent. I used jarred food for my twins, but none with our 3rd son. I would puree cans of vegetables (no salt, etc). I also fed him lots of bananas, avocado, applesauce- things that needed little to no prep. I’m sure it saved us tons of money!

    Luras last blog post..Heard Around Here

  25. I loved making both of my daughter’s homeade baby food, it did save us lots of money and it was fun! I felt good about what I was feeding them too. I am so glad I decided to do this, I have had quite a few new moms over to show them how.

    Vanessa’s last blog post…Wednesday: Mid Week Ramblings—Ideas for School Lunches

  26. Just thinking about how long a jar of baby food can stay on the shelf is enough motivation for me to get the blender out. Making baby food can be as simple as pulling out unseasoned meat and vegetables from the evening meal, and blending it with some cooked water. Once you start, it’s hard to stop.

  27. When feeding your baby, make sure to introduce one food per week to note any possible allergic reaction. Nice post! Thanks.

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