And honestly, you can too. I know. I know. Making your own baby food sounds unnecessarily bougie as hell. It sounds like making your own soap or making your own dog treats or something. Sure, one can do it, but why make something that is so readily available? It also seems like way too much extra work. But the reality is that neither of those is true. A bunch of people who use homemade baby food just want you to think it’s so extra and that they deserve some kind of award for doing it, but it’s really not that difficult to make it, especially if you plan ahead and prepare it in batches.
Why Not Store Bought?
Personally, I made L’s baby food for a few reasons: 1) it initially was easier to just pop stuff in the blender when we first started feeding him (as opposed to smashing it up with a spoon every time we wanted to feed him something) and then at some point I realized I kind of liked making it; 2) it’s nice to know exactly what’s in what I’m feeding him; and 3) it’s WAY cheaper. Like, by a lot.
A small jar of baby food, like this one that we got in a birthday party favor (pretty cool giveaway huh?), can cost around $0.99/jar. In the beginning, you might think it’s no big deal to maybe spend $7 per week on those. But it won’t take long for Baby to start eating a lot more than those small jars and then things start to quickly add up.
Also, if you didn’t notice, that food in the picture has organic winter squash (cool…cool) and then….water. What now?
Sure, you probably don’t want to be feeding a 4-month-old something that’s the consistency of mashed potatoes, but babies don’t need water added to their fruits and vegetables (neither do you for that matter). We bought baby food when we traveled to Montreal for 5 days, because we needed something that didn’t require refrigeration, and I was so irritated with how thin it was compared to what we usually made for him. When I complained about it as one of the reasons I don’t buy it, my aunt told me “yeah, you have to thicken it up with rice cereal,” which seems absurd to me. I’m not going to buy Gerber baby food and then buy Gerber rice cereal to make it thick enough, all the while, Baby isn’t really getting as much “organic winter squash” as it seems because half of it is water. So, that’s my main issue with the store-bought baby food. Along with the cost.
It Really Isn’t That “Extra”
So, I’m not going to sit here and act like doing homemade baby food doesn’t require anything out of you, but it also doesn’t need to get that complicated. I saw an ad on my Instagram the other day that had a frantic lady holding a baby and talking on the phone with steaming pots all around. She was dropping stuff, the baby was crying, it was a mess. The narration was something like “don’t have time to make the nutritious meals that your precious baby needs in order to grow into a healthy adult?” (though probably slightly less dramatic). It was an advertisement for a baby food delivery plan. That’s excessive, even for me, someone who made homemade baby food. You definitely don’t need to outsource it (unless you you got it like that, then by all means….do you…). But for those of us who don’t, here are some tips.
Firstly, you don’t need special equipment. I saw a “baby food maker” for $200 at Target. Don’t need it. I made L’s food for him from Day 1 and all we had was:
- a blender (it’s a Ninja with a personal size option, but you really just need a blender)
- some 1/2 cup (4oz) storage containers from Ziploc for $2.79 at Target
- vegetables and/or fruits
- formula (you obviously can use breast milk if that’s what you’ve got)
I also had jars with ground flax seeds, oatmeal, and granola to use as add-ins. I buy them in the bulk section of a local grocery store called Sprouts, so I go in and scoop as much as I want and pay for just that amount at a time. I find it way more cost effective and environmentally sustainable than paying for brand and packaging. That said, you can buy these however you want or, honestly, not at all really. They’re helpful, but not necessary. Remember, your child will still be getting the bulk of their nutrition from breast milk or formula in the beginning, so you don’t have to stress about meeting all of their nutritional needs through solids, which is important to keep in mind when you see people making acai bowls for 5-month-olds. They don’t need that shit.
How Long Does it Take?
Honestly, the amount of time you’ll spend making baby food depends on a lot of things, but I would say it wouldn’t take more than 30-45 minutes to prepare a week’s worth of food.
I usually set aside time every Sunday to prepare enough for the entire week: his food, plus my lunches. I put enough baby food in the fridge for two days and the rest in the freezer. I’d freeze the rest of it in the individual containers themselves and then pull out another two-day’s worth to thaw in the fridge the night before.
When he was younger, making enough for the week meant making seven 2-oz servings, which was really only about one large vegetable (see below), it would take me about 15 minutes tops. When he got older, I was making 14 of the 4-oz servings every Sunday, which required a bit more work/time. You may never get to that point, but even though L was 10 months old and 23 lbs, he only had two teeth. At that point, he was eating everything we were, but just not much of it. So, we used the pureed food to compliment the small pieces of things he was eating as way to make sure he was getting enough to eat. Essentially, it was no different than if I pulled out one of those $3.99 fruit/veggie pouches before or after a meal but, again, much cheaper.
The first “meals” should be just once a day and, preferably, one new thing weekly. The reason for this is because if Baby has a reaction to something, you might want to know the culprit. So, if you blended up your Chipotle burrito, it might be kind of difficult to figure out what caused those hives to pop up. Was it the cheese? The tomatoes? The onions? WHO KNOWS?! It doesn’t really have much to do with what the baby can handle taste-wise nor does it mean they will develop allergies. They’ve had taste buds since they were in utero and could taste flavors that were in the amniotic fluid. Also, there are plenty of cultures that introduce non-bland food to their baby way sooner than many…let’s be real…White Americans. Also, we know that introducing infants to a variety of foods early-on can prevent food allergies, particularly the peanut allergy. So, the one new thing at a time guideline is in place so that you don’t have to work backwards if a reaction crops up, not necessarily because it will do any harm to your baby.
L’s first meal was avocado, because it’s a super food that he must learn to love as a SoCal resident. #AvoToastIsLife Haha!! But in all seriousness, avocado packs some amazing goodness for babies. It also has the added benefit of not needing to be cooked and smashes super easily. That said, I do recommend pureeing it with formula or breast milk, especially the first time you offer it. This is because they’re already familiar with the taste of the it and also to add even more health value (you already know I’m against adding water!).
After avocado, we moved on to sweet potatoes and butternut squash. I admittedly didn’t puree fruit until a couple of months into him eating solids because I wanted him to get used to eating things that weren’t too overly sweet.
Okay, so let me tell you, you can absolutely buy a sweet potato (or two when Baby gets older), peel it, chop it up, boil it, strain it, and then puree it. I definitely did that when we were visiting my in-laws in Wisconsin. You can also do the same for butternut squash if you want. However, there are other, easier, options.
All three of these are vegetables I have bought and simply popped in the microwave. You probably want to cook them at the upper end of the cooking range on the packaging simply because you want it pretty mushy for the puree.
The puree pictured above is just sweet potato with formula added. You want to add the formula or breast milk a little at a time because the idea is to not have it too thin, or it’ll just be harder to feed it to the baby, but smooth enough for baby’s eating abilities. We eventually moved on to pureeing all kinds of veggies: corn, peas, carrots (he did not like carrots) and just mixing it with a little formula.
Combining Other Foods
Then came the fun! I started adding things to the veggies he was already eating and then expanded from there. Once you feel more comfortable mixing things, the combinations are kind of endless really. I had a lot of fun here because Baby didn’t really care that much; something that seems weird and off-putting to you might be amazing for them!
Here’s a few of the combinations I made:
- butternut squash and apples
- lentils and white sweet potatoes
- butternut squash and prunes
- butternut squash and pears
- bananas and mango
- orange and mango
- sweet potatoes and apples
- sweet potato, mango, apple, kale
- peas and avocado
Some things to note, for older babies, you can use unsweetened applesauce to provide some liquid to the puree. Also, fruits are lot more liquidy to begin with, so you may not want to add anything to it and, instead, add oatmeal to thicken it. Bananas don’t really keep all that well, so I recommend using them cautiously.
For one of his favorites, I ground up granola in the blender first. Then, added strawberries and blueberries. (See photo below). I also used oatmeal, cinnamon, and apples OR granola, cinnamon, and peaches in a similar way.
Well, that’s that! You’re literally just throwing things in the blender. If you run out of ideas, just go to the baby food aisle and see what they’re whipping up and go make it yourself. I was actually sad to have to stop making his food because it was super easy to just take one of those little containers with us and BOOM! a meal.
Eventually, I switched his morning bottle to a prepped breakfast and a smaller bottle. Then, he became a toddler and all of his meals were prepped on Sunday. More on that soon, but let’s just say, the baby food stage was easier.