The Benefits of Homemade Baby Food & 6 Easy Steps for Batch Cooking

Starting solids foods with baby is one of the most memorable milestones in parenting. Everyone loves to capture the memory of that first bite of cereal (which usually squishes back out through those little lips) and the big accomplishment of the first time she picks up the finger food and actually gets it in her own mouth.

If you’re looking to save a few bucks and offer your baby the freshest and healthiest possible food options, the best thing to do is make your own baby food.

We’re going to look at the why and how of homemade baby food. You’ll see a glimpse at how homemade baby food worked for my family and also some great resources (and recipes) for getting started.

Why Homemade?

Many of us cook our own adult food from scratch, so why not baby’s as well?

Most of the name-brand baby food options not only include the fruits and vegetables in these cute little containers but also fillers like water, tapioca, and chemically modified food starch. This food has also been industrially processed, which means it is less fresh, and therefore has probably lost some of its nutrients.

I’m also uncomfortable with all the plastic packaging that is a new trend. At least the cute glass jars have a seemingly-infinite amount of ways to be repurposed. But anyway you look at it, making your baby food will cut down on waste significantly if you’re using reusable containers and silverware.

There are healthier options for store-bought baby food, like organic brands (they are also still sold in glass jars), but these can be expensive. Making your own baby food is much cheaper, as is most scratch cooking compared with store-bought processed options.

The process might intimidate you but with a little practice and planning, it’s a very simple way to feed your baby. We’re going to talk about a batch-cooking method which saves time, and allows you to store up small servings that can be prepared in a pinch for a hungry babe.

As far as baby’s first food goes, powdered or flake-based cereals are also pricey, more processed, and provide more wasteful packaging.  A much cheaper and more wholesome method is to make baby cereals from real grains (check out the resources below for cereal recipes).

Photo by mrs. bennettar

The Simplest First Foods

Once you move on past cereal, you’ll find that some of the first foods your doctor recommends don’t require any cooking, just some simple mashing skills. Avocado and banana are favorites that don’t take any special recipes.

And don’t be fooled into “baby applesauce”– the only difference from normal applesauce is its texture might be a bit smoother, which your blender or food processor can easily achieve.

In a Nutshell

Most baby foods that are not served raw are simply made by cooking and pureeing the food of choice.

In a pinch you can simply blend up a plate of vegetables that the rest of the family is enjoying for dinner for a more mature eater, or with a little planning you can batch-cook your baby food, which is the best method for younger eaters who will stick with one food at a time in the beginning.

Batch-Cooking for Baby

Here are a few easy steps for preparing, storing and serving cooked baby food.

1. Wash, prepare and if necessary, peel your food of choice.

2. Cook the fruit or vegetable, using the method of your choice (bake, steam, stove-top cook or microwave).

3. Puree in a blender, baby food mill or food processor to desired consistency, adding small amounts of water if necessary.

4. Pour into ice cube trays (check out this old-school stainless steel option!).

5. Once frozen, transfer to freezer bags labeled with food type (carrot and sweet potato look very similar in cube form!) and date made.

6. When baby is ready to eat, simply remove a cube or two from freezer and reheat in microwave or on stove-top to a safe temperature. Bon appétit, bébé!

Figuring Out What Works

Batch-cooking worked great for my family. I usually kept three or four types of food in the freezer so that once my daughter was accustomed to them I could trade off (pediatricians recommend introducing foods one at a time to check for and avoid allergies).

Don’t feel like it has to be all homemade or nothing. Start small if you’re fairly new to scratch cooking. With my daughter I used store-bought cereal, but next time around I plan to try making my own.

I also kept some store-bought options on hand for emergencies or travel. I’d love to hear your thoughts on traveling with homemade baby food if any of you have done it.

Resources for Homemade Baby Food:

  • My baby food-making bible was the book Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron. She goes through every step of preparation and batch-cooking and the book is basically an encyclopedia for how to cook any kind of fruit or vegetable that is helpful for any kitchen, even if you’re done with baby food.
  • A helpful, free resource is the website Wholesome Baby Food, which has lots of recipes, tips and FAQs.
  • And don’t miss NurtureBaby, a community and awesome resource for everything related to making baby food, including recipes, nutrition and techniques, founded by Simple Kids contributor Christen Babb.

Do you have any tips for making your own baby food? Any new or second-time moms feeling inspired to go for it? Let’s hear your thoughts!

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19 Comments

  1. Mab

    I did some homemade baby food with my first and I am a huge fan of the baby food mill especially when you can take it to a potluck or something and grind up some baby food out of anything! I didn’t do very much with my second son but it was understandable with two boys 20 months apart and a husband deployed- I did what I could. But I am sooo excited to make baby food this time around that I even got a little food processor and plan on start puchasing those metal ice cube trays and any other storing ideas people may have.

  2. Nikki Moore

    I don’t have kids yet, but I’ve always planned to make my own baby food. It seems incredibly simple, and since I already cook from scratch 95% of the time, it just makes sense. Thanks for these tips!
    .-= Nikki Moore’s last blog: eating healthy + saving money =-.

  3. melnola

    I am a first time mom and my baby just turned 6 months old. I have to say, I was very nervous about introducing solid foods since nursing was going so well. I bought the Super Baby Food book, which was very helpfull and answered alot of my questions. I definately think making your own baby food is the way to go. I love it and I know my baby is getting fresh unprocessed food. He started with Avacado’s, then moved on to sweet potatoes, butternut squash (which was a hit), today we are going to try pears. I just steam and stick in a coffee grinder (which was never used for coffee) it just the perfect size for a serving. I have yet to make in bulk, but will probably start when he starts eating bigger portions more frequently.

  4. Alissa

    Making my own baby food was SOOO EASY. That being said, when I first got “Super Baby Food,” I found it to be a bit overwhelming and intimidating. I appreciate that the author is trying to get as much “good stuff” in all the baby food, but some of her suggestions seem to make things harder than they need to be. I much preferred the book “Blender Baby Food” by Nichole Young and all the books by Annabel Karmel – her books go from baby through childhood.
    .-= Alissa’s last blog: Things that bring us joy =-.

  5. Katie

    Great post, Nicole! I loved the wholebabyfood.com website – used it a lot! I would usually freeze everything in ice cube trays and then once frozen, transfer to a different sealed container. Pureed mango was a favorite! 🙂

  6. Stephanie P

    Great post!!! I love getting to know these things before the babies are around!

  7. nopinkhere

    I made a lot of my first child’s food and am doing the same for my second. For her I’ve even made my own rice cereal and oatmeal. I’ve been reading/using Simply Natural Baby Food by Cathe Olson. This time around I’ve been freezing some things in smaller portions (heart shaped ice cube tray) which makes it easier to combine two things without having way too much food. One of the things I like is my ability to control the runniness-level. You can add more water, but it’s hard to take it away. I find many of the commercial foods to be too runny. (Sprout excluded)
    .-= nopinkhere’s last blog: Why? =-.

  8. Lindsey@ Mama Sews

    I made baby food for all three of my kids. I remember my mother in law was shocked that I was giving them “table food”. I tried to patiently explain I was giving the tiny thing cut up steak and potatoes, but pureeing fruits and vegetables. By the time the third one came around she began to understand, I think! 🙂

    I froze mine in ice cube trays and then stored in ziplock bags. (which I know many people want to avoid the plastic though) It’s so simple to steam/cook your fruits and veggies and then puree. Don’t bother with baby food cookbooks unless you just plan on borrowing one from the library. Once you get started, you’ll get the hand of it.

    With my first one my doctor actually told me not to bother with making my own food b/c it would take too much time. I didn’t think much of him after that. Don’t ever let someone tell you it’s too hard or time consuming! It’s not and would gladly offer advice to anyone who wants it. 🙂 One taste of jarred baby food and you realize how it’s worth the little effort it takes to make it. Great post!
    .-= Lindsey@ Mama Sews’s last blog: toxicity =-.

  9. Jennie L

    This is my third baby and the first that has been fed using homemade baby food. I found Nurture Baby’s website to be helpful. I have kept it really simple. I saw what vegetables they used in the jar baby food, bought some, cooked them and blended them up in my vitamix. I am adding a little more variety now.

    I LOVE it! It is much healthier and easier than buying it at the store.

    My first baby I tried once but didn’t cook the carrot long enough, it didn’t blend properly (I also had a much cheaper blender) and gave up after one try.

  10. Jessie

    Gotta say… If feeding babies is really as complicated as “Super Baby Food” makes it out to be, the human race would not still be around! Also, Ms. Yaron’s aversion to — nay, fear of — meat makes it a no-go for me.

    We do this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baby-led_weaning
    .-= Jessie’s last blog: Garden Update 2010 =-.

  11. Megan

    Super Baby Food was a great help for me! But I did find it to be a little overwhelming at times. Wholesome Baby Food was probably my very favorite resource. With my older daughter, we did lots of baby food. Our younger daughter was convinced she was a big girl from the time she was six months old and pretty much refused anything on a spoon (too babyish? hee hee). She got cut up pieces of regular food MUCH earlier than our oldest did, but in the end, that ended up being the easiest option of all!

    Great article, Nicole!

  12. RaisingZ

    This post came at the perfect time for me. My little one is almost 5 months and I was going to start making food for her in the next few weeks. I bought Earths Best for my son and although it was easy, it was so expensive! I look forward to making my daughters food, especially with all the great produce we should get from our CSA and our own garden this summer. Thank you!!!
    .-= RaisingZ’s last blog: Happy "Leprecod" Day! =-.

  13. Sondra B.

    WoW- this post came at the perfect time. I’ve been needing some inspiration to come up with appealing and creative meals for my seven month old son. I have fallen in love with the NurtureBaby website and cannot wait to try out some of their recipes!

  14. Elizabeth

    I made all of my son’s baby foods (even cereals) and plan on doing the same thing this time around. I didn’t find it hard or time consuming at all. I did borrow Super Baby Foods from the library and I also found the foods she suggests to be complicated and there are often too many ingredients. I realize she is trying to make everything healthier by packing as much “super foods” into each recipe as possible, but some are a bit over the top. I much preferred WholesomeBabyFood.com as a simpler resource that allowed me to use my own creativity.

    For travelling (on trips shorter than 4 days or so), we packed a small cooler full of frozen cubes of food and also foods that didn’t need cooking, like bananas and avocados. I also used to make little cubes of apple, baked with just cinnamon until soft enough to mush with gums and would pack that too. These were messy but handy. We also packed yogurts, cooked cereals, etc., depending on age.
    The frozen cubes would melt over time and would keep us going for a while on our trips.
    .-= Elizabeth’s last blog: The Ultimate Vegan Brownies =-.

  15. Wendy

    One of my nephew’s favorite foods was pureed quinoa. It’s nice in that it isn’t linked to any allergies and is super nutritious.
    .-= Wendy’s last blog: Kenzie and Kam =-.

  16. Aimee

    I found the book “Petit Appetit” at the library and it was a wonderful resource for making baby and toddler food…super easy primer and interesting toddler recipes.
    .-= Aimee’s last blog: Why I Don’t Like Couponing =-.

  17. Baby Food

    Outstanding blogpost. Really, this information is one of the best guides for newly parents. This article is very helpful to overcome all the doubts regarding to foods for babies. I appreciate this well detailed informative content.

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