Even though I knew bottle-feeding was the “easy” portion of a child’s long career of eating, I still couldn’t wait till my daughter was old enough to eat something other than formula. Oh, the faces she’ll make! I thought to myself. Oh, the textures and flavors she’ll experience! I got excited enough for the both of us.
The excitement began to wear off when I looked at the cost of tubs of baby food and the fact I had to dirty a dish just to feed her the stuff anyway, not to mention having to drive all the way to another store just to buy her food. Yes, in this day and age, even the most devoted of parents have to take into consideration the cost of every little thing so as to ensure the needs of tomorrow. And that’s when I started thinking about making my own baby food…
Not Rocket Surgery
Admittedly, the idea came about when I was talking to my brother. He told me that he and his wife started making their own baby food to save on cost– all you need is a baby food maker. Not a single jar or tub of baby food to be found in their house! Since we’re siblings, the natural line of thought was that if he could do it, I could do it, too! In fact, I could probably do it even better! And so it began.
When you think about the first foods your baby will eat, it’s basically just natural, solid foods mashed up into goo/paste/etc. That’s all it is. Many guides and experts warn against manufactured foods that include preservatives or additives. When you make your own food, you already know that it’s going to be free of such things because you control what goes in. No wasting time reading ingredients and labels!
All you need is a food processor of some sort and your choice of food. We had a mini-chopper processor that a relative of my husband’s had given to us for our wedding but never saw use. Until now. It’s important to keep in mind the capacity of your utensil of choice. The last thing you want is to overload a tiny food processor with too much stuff. Not that it ever happened to me, of course.
Fresh and Frozen: All Delicious!
When the grocery store is well-stocked with reasonably priced produce, fresh fruits and veggies are always the way to go. The downside is the fact that you can’t buy, for example, one ounce of broccoli or cauliflower. It always comes in non-baby-sized quantities. Fresh foods won’t be fresh for long and your baby will only eat a little bit at a time on a given day, especially at the beginning of introducing solids to her. Her tummy is still small, after all. Before you know it, your well-intentioned grocery run has become compost. One solution is to match what you eat during the week with what can be mashed up for your little one to eat. For example, one portion of green beans will be dedicated to the baby’s diet, and the rest can be used for a quick stir fry or side dish.
The other solution is to buy frozen. This comes in handy during winter when there’s hardly any produce (that isn’t citrus) to be found, too. That way, you just make what you need whenever you need it without worrying about keeping track of your inventory.
Making the Best of Your Resources
I’m a fan of making baby food in batches. For veggies, the first step is to cook it. In the beginning, don’t try anything fancy: just water and your choice of one (1) type of food like peas or green beans or carrots. Boil ’em till they’re soft enough for your food processor to grind it up easily. One good indicator is to try and eat it without using your teeth (essentially, eating like you were a baby!). Drain off the majority of the water, saving some to help the mashing up process. Put it all into your food processor and let it whirl till its all ground up. Store untouched (that is, straight from the food processor, not anything the baby hadn’t eaten during a meal) leftovers in plastic containers and freeze (for long-term storage) or store in the fridge, if you know you’re going to use it up in a few days. And that’s all there is to it!
As your baby gets accustomed to more foods and can eat more things, you can start getting creative like adding herb seasonings to the peas before grinding them up or stir frying the veggies with a variety of flavors. I’ll post a couple of recipes and techniques below– you might even want to try them for your own plate!
Flavorful Veggie Stir-Fry
Broccoli and cauliflower heads, cooked until soft and parboiled
~1tsp freshly chopped ginger
a pinch of garlic powder and pepper (depends on how much broccoli/cauliflower there is)
~ 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
– Boil veggies until they’re soft enough to be easily chewed and swallowed. Drain completely and run cold water over them.
– In a skillet, put a small measure of olive oil to heat. Put in ginger and allow the flavor to infuse itself into the oil for a couple of minutes. Shaking off any excess water, add the veggies. Season with garlic powder and pepper. Finish off with lemon juice.
– Toss a couple of times to allow for even coating of flavors. Let cook for about five minutes, tossing every so often so the veggies don’t get burnt. Enjoy!
An assortment of frozen fruits or just one type of fruit (strawberries and melons cubed up work well for this!)
100% apple juice
– Do any prep work for your fruits as needed (e.g. cutting up the melons into smaller pieces). Place it in the food processor. If fruit is frozen, allow desired portion to thaw in the fridge for a few hours.
– Add juice a splash at a time to help the processor along, until no sizeable chunks remain.
– Mixes well with baby cereals or to be eaten alone as a cool treat.
– Store in individual portions divided into plastic containers. Freeze the portions until you’re ready to use them, allowing at least four hours to thaw in the fridge.