When Naomi first started eating solids, I set out to make my own baby food. I wanted to give her only organic produce, and I wanted to control exactly how much of each fruit or vegetable is in her food. Plus, I knew I would save money making my own. Well, I read up on it online, decided I needed a food mill because people said it was the best, and set out to make sweet potatoes as Naomi's first food. The food mill was, simply put, a disaster. The potatoes would barely go through the little holes to the bottom as I turned the handle, and most of them got stuck up on the sides. Since there was so little food in there (how much does a baby need?), it all got plastered all over the sides and none of it ended up actually becoming pureed baby food. I tried mashing peas the next day, and they didn't mash well at all. I didn't realize the skins would stay hard and lumpy. I scraped a banana, which Naomi loved, and called it good. It seemed too much of a hassle, so I started buying organic baby food packets, which weren't that expensive considering she only needed a packet a day. Then I bought an immersion blender that I had wanted for blending soup anyway, and would cook chicken and buckwheat soups and blend it up for Naomi with that. That turned out pretty well, but once we got our Blendtec blender, I realized I can very easily start making baby food. It purees everything so nicely, so you end up with the smoothest baby food on the planet, and it does it quickly and painlessly.
Now Naomi's eating three times more, and it's become pretty expensive to buy packaged baby food. Wanting to save some money, I set out to give it another shot. This time I watched a few youTube videos and figured out which technique was the best for me. I ordered little 4 ounce canning jars on Amazon because I didn't want the risk of plastic containers leaching things into the food. I bought my fruit and vegetables and let them sit in the kitchen for a few days until everything was nice and ripe and juicy, and then I got cooking.
You can steam everything if you have a double boiler, but I don't, so I just boiled mine. Anything frozen, like blueberries and peas, takes only 1-2 minutes to boil just to thaw it out and soften it a little. The less you cook things, the more nutrients it will retain, so just check with a fork as you're cooking; if it slides in easily, it's done. I actually haven't given Naomi avocado yet, but it doesn't seem like it will hold up well in the freezer, so I think eating it fresh is the way to go. Here's a chart for preparing the fruit and vegetables I used:
Butternut squash: peel and cut into one-inch cubes; boil 8-10 minutes, blend
Red apples: peel, cut in half, and core; boil about 10 minutes, blend
Pears: boil about 2 minutes (I think), blend--no peeling
Carrots: peel, boil about 5 minutes (I think), blend
Bananas, avocado, kiwi, mango: peel and blend--no cooking
I bought pineapple and green beans as well but totally forgot about them, so I'll try using those next time. I was making baby food basically in the middle of the night because Naomi's teething these days, and that means she doesn't nap and I don't get anything done in the daytime. So night it is.
It took me over 4 hours to make 80 servings of baby food. I didn't realize I was going to end up with that much food since it was my first stab at making my own and I didn't even know if it would end well. I now have over a month's supply of food in the freezer and I don't have to run to the baby isle every time I'm at the store to pick up more, and I think they taste great. I priced out all my produce to see how much money I was saving. I spent $51.35 on everything. Since I got 80 servings out of it (the same serving size those baby food packets come in), it came out to 64 cents per serving. I was paying on average $1.50 at the store, which is about $120. That means I saved $69 on a month of baby food. It's definitely some work, but I think I can do it even faster next time, and it was actually pretty fun. Filling those jars with something you made for your baby is a pretty good feeling. I wrote the flavors on the bottom of the jars with Sharpie, and it rubs right off with a sponge when you're washing it.
I ran out of little jars really fast since I only had 24 of them, so I used some 12 ounce jars I had on hand, which fit 3 servings in each. The problem with bigger jars is that as you use up some of the baby food, the rest of it is exposed to oxygen and gets a dry layer on top that you have to throw out. I think I'm going to start giving Naomi the little jars first, and as I open the big ones, transfer the other two servings to the available little jars so it doesn't dry out.
I was blending in the laundry room next to the chalkboard wall because it was the middle of the night and I didn't want to wake up any sleeping babies. :)
When I was at the store, I wrote down the flavors of some baby food combinations I wanted to try so I would have a few ideas to go off of. Then when I had everything pureed, I started mixing and tasting. It's actually fun and pretty easy to make combinations that taste good. The basis is to use fruit to sweeten the vegetables. These are the combinations I made:
carrot, kiwi, pear
sweet potato, banana
pea, blueberry, apple, pear
banana, kiwi, pear
pea, pear, mango
sweet potato, carrot, apple
I hope that helps anyone who has been wanting to make their own baby food. I got a bad start when I tried making it the first time, but this method has worked like a charm, and I'm so glad I gave it another shot. I gave Naomi applesauce yesterday, and when the kids smelled it, they shared the rest of the jar! Looks like baby food isn't just for babies...