Friday, July 18, 2014

Homemade Baby Food

My friend Brooke inspired me to blog about what all I've learned from making baby food for three kiddos. First, I'll encourage you to do so because it is SO EASY.  And SO CHEAP. I started making baby food for my firstborn because I couldn't breastfeed, and in my mind, making her food with organic veggies/fruits seemed to be something I could do to make up for not breastfeeding her. It's not that I felt guilty per se, just wanted to do something to put the best and cleanest possible things in her little body.  As it turned out, she became a food snob and wouldn't even eat the jarred food in emergencies. With twins, the choice was for clean eating, but I can't even imagine the cost of jarred baby food for two babies - I guess the same way people can't process the cost for diapers or formula for two babies :)

Actually, I've done the math and based on what my kiddos eat at the moment (it will be less the first couple of months your babies begin to eat), here's how it breaks out:

3 jars per day, per baby = 6 jars
1 jar of organic (or even natural) baby food = $1/jar, $6/day
$6/day x 30 = $180/month - AT BEST (this assumes sale, bulk buying and pre-tax)
or $90 for one baby assuming sale, bulk + tax.

My formula was on the $$ side since they had to have whey-based. But with Amazon subscribe and save I managed to get it below the Wal-Mart brand price and get it for $170/month with shipping and tax ($85 for one baby).  Also, mine really eat about 2-1/2 jars but I'm rounding up for easier math (I'm a writer remember...)


So first - don't run out and buy all the baby food making supplies. You probably have most of it already. You'll need some ice cube trays (dollar store), a food processor or blender that can puree (a Ninja food processor or Magic Bullet works great). If you don't have anything I recommend a Magic Bullet (not a Baby Bullet - those are more expensive and it is the same product - promise). You will also need a pot to steam veggies. And some recycled little jars (I got some baby food jars from a friend and also pimento jars work great! You only need probably around 10 to get started with a new eater). Also, little tupperware things work fine too.

So let's pretend we are going to make carrots. Get your organic carrots and toss in a pot with a little water - you don't even need a fancy steaming attachment because you want the veggies to be mushy - the mushier they are, the easier to puree. Cook until the water starts steaming or boiling. Drain and retain the water in case you need to add a little to make it thinner. This water has all the nutrients that have been steamed out, so be sure to use it so they can go back in!

Next, put the carrots in your bullet or food processor of choice. Blend until the consistency of applesauce. Homemade baby food isn't likely to be super smooth and creamy like store bought because it doesn't have additives.  Once food is at desired consistency, pour or spoon into ice cube trays. Freeze. remove from trays and put cubes of food into plastic bags and label with date. Baby food stays good about 6 months, although I've been known to stretch that a bit. Three cube trays will fit in a one-gallon bag. 

To start your little eater, pull out two cubes (is rough equivalent to one small jar), thaw and serve. Depending on your veggie, you may find it is runny after thawing. Do your best to strain or pour out extra water. If needed, add a teaspoon of rice cereal at a time to get desired applesauce-like consistency.  You can go thicker as they get older.
So what's the savings? I bought a $6 bag of carrots at Costco and made all of them-which is about 20 jars for my kids. (3 cubes make 1 jar) You'll be able to just use 1 or 2 cubes in the beginning, so the savings will be even more. You're welcome.

So, what about other foods? Here's a few tips I've learned through trial and error...
  • Don't make bananas or apples to freeze - they turn brown. Make if going to serve immediately.
  • I don't steam fruit - wash REALLY good with a natural fruit spray, or soak in vinegar/water mixture to clean.  I also use frozen, organic fruits. Thaw and puree.
  • If making sweet potatoes, make as you would for yourself (sans butter, etc.) in the oven, then scoop out the insides into your food processor and puree. At first, I didn't puree sweet potatoes b/c I thought they were mushy enough. But I found after serving that they are still kind of stringy, and those can gag a baby. For a new eater, you'll want to add a little formula or water to thin as sweet potatoes are REALLY thick.
  • If you have a little eater after Halloween don't throw out your pumpkin! Pumpkins are a squash CHOCK FULL of vitamins. And BABIES LOVE THEM!  My $6 pumpkin provided a month of fall decor + about 300 cubes of baby food! You do the math :)  And, it is one of the twins' faves!
Here's some answers to some questions I received after posting this blog:

Do you mix foods?
Yes! Babies get tired of their foods just like we do. But, always try them alone first to make sure your baby isn't allergic.

What if he doesn't like it?
He may not. But let him try a few times before giving up. Food in general is new, and the flavors take acquiring some times. The first few times David tried my organic green beans he clamped up. But, I mixed them with something he liked (pumpkin) and then gradually decreased the pumpkin. Now he will eat the green beans plain.

How long do you thaw your cubes?
I take them out a couple of hours ahead of time. Sometimes if in the fridge, I will microwave for about 25 seconds to get to room temp. Make sure to touch to your lips first to see that it's not too hot.

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