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Are you tired of paying lots of money on baby food? Do you want to create tons of baby food on a tight budget without preservatives? It’s simple and easy to make your own food in a single day and be set for months!
Will This Actually Save Money?
Yes! Sure it may take more time (though you can do work in one day to feed your baby for months!), but you can definitely save money! I can spend $1-$1.50 per container of sweet potato jarred baby food OR I can buy a whole sweet potato for about the same price of one jar. A single sweet potato can make 10-20 jars of baby food (depending on the size potato you buy)!! I just spent $25 on food that will save my family hundreds of dollars over jarred food! Here are the ingredients I was able to buy for $25:
- 1 Sweet potato
- 1 Butternut squash
- 1 bag carrots
- 6 apples
- 1 small head of broccoli
- 1 bag frozen peas
- 1 avocado
- Strawberries (no allergies here!)
I already had baby oatmeal, bananas, brown rice, beans, plain yogurt, cans of pumpkin, chicken and beef broths, a jar of pureed green beans and a few other things I could add to the combinations. Check your cupboard before you go shopping and try to use what you already have on-hand.
I will set aside some meat from meals I cook to add later (I’ll keep this in mind as I meal plan). If you are savvy and look for sales, you could spend even less than I did making your own baby food!
I have some tips on how to save money grocery shopping on my resources page.
As a side note, it is completely possible to skip purees altogether and save money by feeding your baby what you eat for dinner (with some extra chopping and cooking to ensure it’s soft enough)! I choose to start with purees (as I did for both my boys). For my second son, I wanted to get as much food into him as possible to get his weight up after a drop in my milk supply and his refusal to take bottles. Skipping purees and going straight to true solids is referred to as baby led weaning. Want to know more? Check out this book that was recommended to me by many moms.
When it comes to selecting your food to puree, I prefer to use only organic fruits and vegetables (I would like to do this for the whole family, but it doesn’t fit in our budget). Since I only do purees for a short amount of time, I don’t worry about the slight added cost just for my baby (since I’m saving TONS by making it myself anyway!).
I don’t get fancy with recipes much. I will search Pinterest for ideas, but I mostly just buy a bunch of food, cook it all and randomly throw some combinations in the blender that seem palatable and nutritious together. But, if you are more comfortable with recipes, you will find millions on Pinterest! For example, here are some combinations of foods for baby food I made yesterday (all mixed with formula as the liquid for added nutrition):
- Butternut squash and peas
- Sweet potato and broccoli
- Sweet potato, carrots and peas
- Apples, strawberries and bananas
Generally, for savory purees I choose a vegetable that creates a lot of puree (like sweet potato, butternut squash or pumpkin) as my base and add other items based on where my child is on trying foods (a new food every 2-3 days). After the first month or two, I start adding some mild spices like cinnamon or nutmeg (no salt!). My family has no history of allergies to any spices (or foods for that matter).
If in doubt, go visit the baby food aisle! You can get lots of ideas on food combinations.
Liquids You Can Use
When making purees, it’s very likely you will need to add liquid to any food you want to blend. While you can just add water, here are some other options for more nutrition:
- Chicken, beef or vegetable broth (just note any additives before introducing any of these to your child)
- Water leftover from steaming (with the nutrients from the food you just cooked)
Since I don’t really follow recipes, I start blending and add liquid as needed to reach my desired, smooth consistency.
Foods To Avoid
Until your child is a year old, it is recommended to avoid honey and cow milk (especially straight – cooked into pancakes and other foods is just fine!). It is ok to use milk products like yogurt (plain is best with live cultures) and cheeses. Please speak to your pediatrician if you have any questions or concerns about certain foods, especially ones that are common allergens like peanuts and strawberries.
What You Will Need
There are some tools you will need to make your own baby food. But, you don’t need an expensive tool made specifically for this purpose (though I had the Babymoov and loved it with my first child – it moved on to another mom in need, meaning I just use kitchen items I have on-hand now).
If you are missing something you need, make sure to check your local Buy Nothing group (if applicable)!
Cooking Your Food
Aside from foods like bananas and avocados, you will need to cook or steam all of your food. To maintain the nutritional value of your foods of choice, avoid boiling your foods since many of the nutrients will go straight into the water (though you can boil your foods is something like chicken broth to add nutrition and use the liquid when blending). When you steam, any nutrients that drip off into the liquid can be reused when blending your baby food!
Below are the methods I use to cook my foods (unless otherwise noted, all the links are to products I have used personally):
These come in many forms. You can get a steamer basket that fits into your stove top pans, use a stand-alone steamer that plugs into the wall, microwave steamer, or use a steamer insert that usually comes with your rice cooker (you can cook rice for your baby food AND cook veggies at the same time!).
Some foods do great in the oven (like squash and sweet potatoes)! I use a cookie sheet with parchment paper over the top. Every food has a different amount of time to cook, but I generally cook everything at 350 degrees until soft. To make sure the food doesn’t dry out while roasting, I place a pie tin with water in it in the lower rack of my oven.
If you choose to use a crockpot, make sure to add enough moisture so it doesn’t burn! This method can take a lot longer than others to cook your food thoroughly, but if you are cooking a million things at once (like I do) it may help get it all done.
I have never used them, but I know moms that have used their pressure cooker or instant pot.
What I Use
I make baby food in mass, so I usually have something in the oven, steaming in my rice cooker, steaming on the stove, and sometimes in the crockpot – all at the same time! If you want to see the actual products I use, see the links in each section (where applicable).
Pureeing Your Food
There are a few different ways you can make your baby food with tools you may already have in your kitchen:
This can work in a couple ways with making baby food: chopping and blending after cooking. I find if you have a larger food processor it helps with large batches. But, if you are doing smaller batches (probably because you want more variety), I would use a blender (a couple types listed below).
Most households will have a blender. If you do, this will work for most purees! I used to use mine for all my baby food until I got an immersion blender with attachments perfect for making baby food (see below).
Using the basic immersion blender can be time consuming for large batches and challenging with small batches (it spits and sprays food if it’s not fully immersed in the food). But, I got this one that comes with a mini food processor and a cup perfect to enclose your smaller batches (save you and your kitchen from spraying). I no longer use my regular blender or food processor!
It is possible to use a whisk and potato masher to puree your cooked foods, but these will take more time and may not get a smooth consistency. I’m sure a Kitchenaid mixer may also work, but how effective it is will depend on the quantity of food you are making in each batch or mixture.
How To Store Or Freeze
Most baby food you make will last about 4 days in the fridge or up to 4 months in the freezer. Make sure you store either way in an airtight container.
Freezing Baby Food
Like I said, I usually make enough baby food for a month or more at one time. My main method of storing is in the freezer. Here is what I do:
- Cook and prepare your baby food of choice.
- Fill ice cube trays with the purees (I label the lid with the types of purees using these erasable food labels).
- Once frozen, pop them out of the ice tray and place the cubes in freezer ziplock bags.
- Label the bag with the type of puree and the date it was made.
- Throw back in the freezer and you’re done!
I then pull the cubes of puree I need the next day out of the bags each night (I put them in cheap canning jars to defrost in the fridge).
If you have large cubes that haven’t defrosted all the way by the time you want to feed your child, I fill a bowl with hot water and place the jar in it to warm it up the rest of the way (making sure the water isn’t deep enough to get in the jar if it’s not airtight! You can also use your bottle warmer or the microwave (but I’ve never used either method).
You can use the basic ice cube tray that came with your fridge or one you can get at the dollar store! But, I highly prefer silicone ice trays since they help get the food out of the tray easily and without needing much defrosting (which, depending on your blend, can break your cubes trying to get them out).
Check out my post on recommendations for products to help feed your child here.
Make sure to freeze cubes of your high yield bases to make mixes later! For example, I made a month worth of food. Then, a couple of weeks later I wanted to add chicken (from leftovers!). I didn’t need an entire butternut squash to make a batch with chicken for my son to try…so I pulled out a few cubes of squash I had made for just such an addition.
Although purees are not a part of the practice, one of the best things about baby led weaning is your child learning early on to stop eating when full. I highly recommend letting your child handle the spoon and get messy eating with his or her hands. Your child will learn textures, temperatures, flavors and more discovering the food on their own!
Personally, I don’t like pureeing prunes. There are times I will buy single jars of baby food to add to my mixes. There aren’t many purees available without being mixed (look for first purees), but I’ve used prunes, green beans and, in a pinch, apples. Is this lazy? Maybe. But it’s ok to help yourself out and not make this easy process stressful!
Making baby food can save you tons of money, but there is a time commitment to actually making the purees. My biggest tip of all is to do what works for you!