Friday, August 5, 2011

Homemade Baby Food

Over the past few weeks, I've been making homemade baby food for Theresa.  She's 6 months old now, (which I simply cannot believe) and and has already been on some solids for about a month.  So I wanted to make and stockpile a variety of fruits and veggies for her to feast on.  I hadn't made baby food since our oldest was a baby...because I had nothing but time on my hands, ha ha.  With the next 3 babies, I just didn't seem to have the time or the energy to make anything. 

My main motivation for making my own baby food this time around was to save money.  Now, I'm not good at math, but I calculated that 5 ounces of store bought baby food costs around $1.50, give or take a little.  However, I can make 16 ounces of homemade puree for around 88 cents.  Of course, it depends on what you're making.  But here's an example.

1 small bag of frozen peas is around 90 cents (on sale) at my grocery store.  I can turn that into 16 ounces of puree.  So my final cost is about 6 cents per ounce.  If I bought it already prepared, it would cost me about 30 cents per ounce.  I can potentially save around 25 cents per ounce if I make it at home.  Right now, most of the great berries and summer vegetables are in season.  I definitely wouldn't want to make zucchini in the winter (when it's out of season), or blueberries in the fall (again, out of season), so it made sense to me to buy what was currently in the grocery store in season, especially if it was on sale. 

Before I got started, I knew I needed just a few tools.  I used to have ice cube trays, but they went to charity a long time ago.  So I went to Walmart and bought some...they were only $1.78 for a set of three. 

I also bought a fine mesh strainer.  This comes in handy for straining out the skins/seeds of some fruits, like strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries.  This one is also from Walmart, and cost just 97 cents. 

Once I had those items, I was ready to go.  You also need a good food processor.  I've had this one for about 10 years...and it works just fine.  You can use your blender, but you'll probably have to add some water to make it a nice, smooth puree. 

You can either steam your vegetables until tender and puree, or roast them in the oven.  I haven't tried that yet...but I plan to with sweet potatoes, squash, broccoli, and cauliflower. 

Here's what I've made so far.  I referred to Momtastic for all the recipes as needed.  (Momtastic was a great, comprehensive website, and it has information on just about any kind of food you might want to make for a baby). 
I don't have pictures for everything...but I'll put up additional pictures as I go!

Carrots--I used fresh, baby carrots, steamed them until tender, and pureed until smooth, thinning it out with some of the cooking liquid as above.

Peas--Frozen peas work great.  Steam until tender, and process to the consistency you want.  Mine came out out a bit chunky, but overall soft enough for Theresa to eat. 

Green Beans--I tried using frozen, french cut green beans, steamed until soft, and then pureed.  It came out very chunky and the smallest bits were really chewy.  I strained the mixture, and essentially got green colored water.  So I bought canned green beans (I know, I know...not ideal), with no added salt, and pureed was much better (still a tad chunky, but the bites were soft).  I really wanted Theresa to taste green beans on a spoon until she can pick them up as finger food.  We get so many green beans from our garden, it would be a shame if she didn't like them!

Zucchini--I used the last big one we got from the garden.
 I did peel it because I knew the skin would be tough.  I scooped out all the seeds, steamed it until tender.  It came out really well.
Pumpkin--this is not in season yet, but I wanted Theresa to try it.  So I bought canned pumpkin puree...according to this website, canned pumpkin is fine to use, as long as it's NOT canned pumpkin pie puree, which has added sugar.  You can bake pumpkin, acorn or butternut squash and puree that too. 

Spinach--Blanch and shock fresh baby spinach leaves.  Spinach shrinks down to will go through 4 bags easily of prewashed, ready to eat spinach leaves to make a decent amount of puree.  Spinach is a strong flavor for babies...I've mixed it with a fruit in the past.  Our oldest loved pureed spinach with strawberries.  I haven't made any yet, but it's in the works. 

On to the fruits!  Here's what I've made: 

Peaches--Blanch for a few minutes to loosen skins.  Puree fresh if your baby is ready for a more chunky texture, or steam for about 6-8 minutes to soften the fruit and make a nice, smooth puree.
Pears--Peal, and puree fresh (for chunky texture) or steam for a smoother consistency.
Plums--Blanch and steam, and puree.  My plums were a bit tart so I blended them with some strawberry puree, and it turned out great.  So it really is plum-strawberry puree. 
Raspberries--Puree fresh berries, and strain out the seeds.
Strawberries--Puree and strain out seeds if desired.  I thinkt they're so tiny, it may not be a problem unless your child needs their first foods very smooth. 
Blueberries-Puree and strain out skins and seeds for a younger baby.
Mango--Peel, remove pit, cut into cubes, and then puree. 
I decided not to make any pureed apples.  We buy big jars of plain, unsweetened applesauce for the older kids, which is essentially the same as cooked, pureed apples.  So I'm feeding that to Theresa. 

I also made a batch of lentils.  I had about 1/2 cup of dried lentils...not enough to serve to the family, so I cooked them according to the package directions until they were completely soft, and pureed them.  I followed this recipe to make some homemade baby oatmeal cereal. 

With all of the above fruits and vegetables, once you've made your puree, spoon into the ice cube trays and freeze until firm (about 3-4 hours).  Pop out the cubes and transfer to food storage bags.  Be sure to label them (peaches and mangos look a lot alike, as do peas and green beans).   Some of the berry purees are very thin...I'll probably mix them into Theresa's oatmeal, or combine them with a vegetable or another fruit, just to make it easier to spoon into her mouth. 

One frozen ice cube of puree is about an ounce.  So it's easy to know how much your little one ate.  If he/she eats one cube, then you know they ate one ounce.  Simple, right? :-)

I feel a real sense of accomplishment that I have all these different foods ready to go now.  It didn't take much time at all...I could get a batch done in 15 minutes (minus the freezing time).  I will say the plums were a PAIN.  After I blanched and shocked them in ice water, the peels still refused to come off, and pitting them was no fun either.  I must admit, I probably will not make plums again!

So far, Theresa has tried the plum-strawberry puree, the mangos, peaches, blueberries, pears, peas, green beans, carrots, and sweet potato.  I had her try the veggies first, and mixed the fruits with the oatmeal cereal.  She has love it all!  Unfortunately, the cereal is backing up her poor little digestive tract, if you know what I mean!  So I will have to try an alternative grain once I consult with our pediatrician.  I did wait about 2 days in between foods.  Most experts recommend 3 days or more.  I say go with your instincts.  We have no food allergies in our family, but if there are allergies your family, then proceed with caution.  Obviously we haven't tried anything with eggs, dairy, citrus fruits, seafood/shellfish, or peanuts.  I won't introduce anything in those catagories until Theresa is a year old. 

Hope you have fun, and save money making baby food for your little one.  Once you get started, you'll see how simple and quick it is to make a batch and freeze it for later. 

God bless your table tonight!

Update:  After talking to my pediatrician, I thinned out the oatmeal cereal with more water, and mixed it with pureed pears or apples for one week.  I also gave her just a vegetable instead of fruit for some of those days.  Now Theresa seems fine.  I guess the homemade oatmeal was either too thick or too concentrated for her, poor babe. 

1 comment:

Jenna said...

Wow way to go momma!! All those fresh (or frozen) foods are so much better and taste way better too. I remember when I made pureed foods for the boys, it was fun, and those little cubes are adorable.