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In keeping with my judgement-free zone that we’ve got going on here, let me first say that I am not of the opinion that you must make your own baby food. You should know by now that I’m not the dogmatic type, right? Things are very rarely all-or-nothing. So, that being said, if you want to try making your own baby food, I think there are lots of great reasons to do it, even if it’s not your kiddo’s main food source. I remember not quite knowing where to start when it came time for my own son to start solids though, so today, I want to talk about HOW to make homemade baby food.
Personally, we did a combo approach – both homemade baby food AND jars. I preferred making my own food most of the time, for the reasons I’ll outline below, but there were instances where jars were just so much easier! I’ll discuss those below too.
Before we get into this post, I wanted to let you know about the awesome 1-page printable Baby Food Prep Cheat Sheet I made for you! Click HERE, or on the photo, to get it!
If you’re not quite at the starting solids stage of things, you might be contemplating IF you want to try to make homemade baby food when that time comes.
What are the potential benefits of making baby food at home?
What are some reasons you may NOT want to, or situations in which jarred food is easier?
And if you decide to try making your own food for some or all of your little one’s meals, how do you get started logistically?
Happy to help on all fronts, or course. Here we go!
There are three main reasons people decide to make their own baby food: cost savings, variety, and control.
Most jars fall somewhere in the ballpark of a dollar per jar if bought individually, depending on brand and size of jar. Like with many other things, you can usually save by buying in bulk. When you do the math, jars and pouches usually come out to around $0.25-$0.45 per ounce.
But compare that to buying a pound of sweet potato for $0.99/lb. A pound is 16 ounces. Once you peel, cook, and puree the potato, it’ll probably be a bit less than 16 ounces. Let’s be conservative and low-ball it at 12oz of baby food from the pound of potato. That comes in at $0.08/oz. If you got closer to 16oz of puree, it’d be $0.06/oz.
That might not seem like a big difference at first, but it’s a 76-82% savings! Those few cents really add up over time. And of course, if you’re able to get good deals at the grocery store (using tips like these), you can save even more!
And that’s not factoring in the potential for food waste.
Babies don’t understand serving sizes. Just because something comes in a 2-oz jar, doesn’t mean the baby will finish the jar in one serving. Especially when you’re just starting out with purees, baby will often take very little. If you’re careful to put the food from the jar into a bowl before feeding it to baby (so the spoon doesn’t go back in the jar once used, preventing contamination), then it’s possible to save the unused portion of the jar in the fridge for a while. However, there are many times that the leftovers don’t get used. If a bit of the baby food is inevitably going to be wasted, I’d rather be paying less for it!
Homemade foods also tend to be stored in 1-oz portions, so you start with less and have less possibility for leftovers that could go to waste.
When you’re just starting out and feeding baby one thing at a time, sure, their diet seems pretty boring. But soon enough, they’ll be ready for fun combinations of foods, and that’s an area where homemade shines over jars.
While there are some really great combinations out there in baby food jars, they are still less varied than what you can create on your own. Whether you serve 3 different foods, or mix 7 different foods together, it’s all up to you. You can also season it however you like (just avoid adding salt or sugar).
Pureeing your homemade food also exposes them to the foods you’re already eating as a family. Down the line, it’s usually the goal for kiddo to eat what you’re eating as a family. So you can get a head start now by pureeing the things you’re already making for dinner! Baby will start to get a taste for the flavors and seasonings you use in your own cooking, which also makes food more interesting than if it’s completely plain (as most store-bought jars are). If your meal is full of foods baby has already tried, puree the whole thing for him! That may sound weird, but it’s not much different than the “turkey dinner” baby food jars. I bet it tastes better too!
This piggy-backs a bit on #2 above, but making your own baby food means you’re in total control of what’s in it. Sometimes jars include ingredients you may not have been expecting. The label might say “Mango and apple”, but the ingredients might also contain rice flour, like this example:
There’s nothing wrong with rice or rice flour, but you’d likely not expect to see it in a fruit puree. Just another little thing to keep in mind. With homemade, you’re in total control. You get to decide not only whether or not you want a certain ingredient, but also how much water gets put in, what herbs or spices you want to include, etc.
Now that we’ve covered reasons why you might want to make your own, I still want to mention times when jars are a good idea too. Remember, it’s not all or nothing!
While making your own baby food is certainly easier than you think, it does still require some extra time and planning. If you’re pressed for time and already at the store, yes, it’s easier to throw a few jars in the cart and be on your way! This is why I liked to have both types of food on hand, and to make large batches when I did make the purees (larger batches save some time too).
The variety can take some planning too sometimes. As we all know, it can be very easy to get stuck in a rut and eat the same foods all the time. The same is true of baby food. Sometimes jars will give you inspiration for new combos, and there will be an interesting combo you hadn’t thought of. So if you’re in a rut or can’t fathom spending any more brain energy on what food to feed baby, grab a jar!
Just a note on the time investment though… While peeling, chopping, cooking, and pureeing can sound like a lot of work, it really isn’t that bad. Compared to other grandiose ideas my pregnant self thought were doable (ahem, cloth diapers, LOL!), making your own baby food is ACTUALLY doable for moms in real life, even if you only do it occasionally. (I still can’t believe I thought I’d try cloth diapers….haha, hilarious.)
I’m all about convenience. When it’s practical and convenient to make your own food, do it! But when it’s not? For goodness sake, don’t drive yourself crazy!
Homemade food purees are awesome… at home. When out and about I found it much easier to use jars. There’s no thawing or heating, no storing in something you’ll have to wash later, etc. Just throw a jar in the bag and get out the door!
By the time my son started daycare, we were well past the pureed food stage. However, I heard from some people that daycares weren’t fond of homemade food. From my understanding, daycares take their food safety very seriously (which is a good thing!). But that means that they don’t know what went into your homemade food purees, how clean your equipment was, or any number of other things. Since commercial food has to meet certain standards of operation, most daycares take the better-safe-than-sorry approach and say you have to provide unopened baby food jars for your children.
Okay, with all the background out of the way, let’s get started!
First, here are things you’ll need (most of which you already likely own, but if not, I put some great recommendations in the Amazon ad below. They’re affiliate links, so if you use them, I’m eternally grateful!):
> Blender: Either Magic bullet-style, or a regular one (<– that one actually has both options!). Or an amazeballs Vitamix, I LOVE mine!
> Food processor works too.
> Steamer basket (I have a metal one, but I worry about it scraping my pots. I want to get the silicone one below!)
> Slow Cooker (optional)
> Ice cube trays (These silicone ones are great!)
> Freezer bags
> Sharpie marker
The easiest option here is to find some foods that are already soft and therefore don’t need any cooking. Foods like bananas, avocados, berries, canned beans, baby oatmeal, and yogurt (the full fat kind) are all soft enough to not need an additional step. Yay for simplicity!
Most other foods will need to be cooked first, including harder fruits like apples. Steaming, boiling, baking, sauteing, and slow cooking are all viable options. The end result you’re looking for is a soft veggie or fruit that a fork easily slides into.
Frozen veggies and fruits work great too by the way! The prep-work is minimal, just thaw in the microwave and then puree. I used lots of frozen fruits and veggies when making baby food!
Below is a list of various foods you can try as you explore making your own baby food. Once baby has tried a food, feel free to combine it with others. This is a great way to introduce new things that might be odd on their own (like onions). Say baby has tried green beans and they’ve gone over pretty well. If you’re ready to introduce onions, you can add some onion puree to the green bean puree. Another way of doing it is to cook some onions together with the green beans before pureeing. Just be sure to label the cubes as green bean and onion.
The combinations you can make from the list are nearly endless! Use your imagination. Put sweet things with savory for example. Did you know chicken and blueberry is actually a really yummy combination?
Get out your blender or food processor and add the prepped food to it. Certain foods will need to have some filtered water or low-sodium broth added in order for them to be a decent consistency (meat especially). I tended to put food in by itself first and then just add some water or broth as needed.
For smaller batches, a magic bullet- like blender is totally good enough (and clean up is easy because you just throw it in the dishwasher!). For bigger batches, or things that require a bit more power – like meat – you’ll need a better blender. A regular $20 blender is fine.
I was lucky enough to be gifted a Vitamix a couple years ago, so that’s what I used for bigger batches. I LOVE this thing. It even makes peanut butter. Seriously, I know this thing is stupid-expensive, but it’s AMAZING. I have a refurbished one, which means it’s less expensive, but still works fantastically and has a nice warranty. Check it out if you’re interested!
Puree the food until it’s the desired consistency. For younger babies, it needs to be pretty thin (but don’t confuse that with watery!). Older babies can handle thicker textures, and eventually small pieces to chew on.
One of the big reasons to make your own food is so you can make a big batch once and have it on hand for several meals in the future. That means you have to be able to store the food in portions. I loved the silicone ice cube trays for portioning and freezing my baby food.
Use a spoon or skinny spatula to put the pureed food into the cubes of the tray. Tap the tray on the counter a few times to settle the food and get out any air bubbles.
Pop the tray in the freezer. Once the food is frozen, take it out and put it into labeled containers. I just used Zip-Lock Freezer bags I labeled with Sharpie marker, but use whatever works for you!
When you need to feed baby, simply take a frozen cube from its bag, reheat it in the microwave or on the stove, and serve! You can mix and match however you like.
Technically, you really should make sure to heat it up to 165 degrees and then let it cool back down to an edible temperature, but I’ll be completely honest and tell you I never actually did that. I just heated it enough to be able to give it to him. I’m NOT saying that you should follow my lead on that, but I just wanted to be real with you!
I hope this short tutorial has been helpful. Leave a comment below if you think there’s anything I missed!
Don’t forget your bonus! I always like 1-page cheatsheets, so I’ve created one for you of all the foods from the chart above and how to prep them before pureeing. Click HERE to get it (or on the image below). I hope it’s helpful for you!