Friday, October 16, 2009

In Action: Making Babyfood

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I wouldn't consider myself a babyfood-making expert, but I have done it enough that I can write about it. When Brayden was a baby, I was reading about making babyfood in What to Expect the First Year. In it, they basically said that you really couldn't match the sanitary conditions of baby food making companies. Because of that, I decided I wouldn't try it. I didn't want to get my baby sick!



Looking back, I really wish I hadn't read that, or at least that there had been more encouragement in What to Expect the First Year. Once I had been doing this blog for a few months, Kaitlyn was coming up on one year old. I had noticed that there were a lot of moms out there who made their own baby food. I asked about it, and so many of you told me how easy it was. I decided when I had my next baby, I would try making baby food.

Let me tell you, it is easy! It is a lot easier than you would ever imagine. Yes, it takes time. Yes, it takes more time to make babyfood than it does to buy babyfood (unless you live really far from the store...but you go to the store to buy food for your family already). So why would I do it when I have three kids? Here are my reasons (in no order):

  1. SANITATION: Wait, didn't I just comment about what that book said? Didn't it say your kitchen could never match the sanitary conditions of baby food manufacturers? Yes I did. Things have changed. Or I have changed. I don't necessarily believe that anymore. There have been so many recalls recently in the United States. I am not trying to get political, but when large corporations recall food because people are dying, and they then disclose that there are dead rats in the plant...it makes me skeptical. I am disillusioned. I no longer trust these companies implicitely. Yes, I once did. I can be naive. I am the type to trust until my trust is broken, but then it is hard to earn my trust back. I definitely hope that babyfood manufacturers are more cautious and careful, but I don't know that they are. I know what is in my kitchen. I have full control over it.
  2. HEALTH: My guess is that babyfood manufacturers make their food as soon as they can after picking it. That is my hope. However, I grow a garden, and I have food right in my backyard. What I don't grow, my husband's grandparents do. I am very fortunate in this way. I know what is done to my vegetables and fruits. I can also make the babyfood as soon after harvesting as possible. Fruits and veggies lose nutrients as they are harvested, so the sooner they are prepared, the better. This is a benefit I have and one compelling reason for me to make babyfood myself.
  3. MONEY: Along the same lines, money! Since we grow a garden and can get so much for free, it seems silly for me not to make it. It is free babyfood! If you don't grow a garden, it is still a lot less expensive (in most cases) to make it yourself if you buy it from the store. There are times of year that certain things are quite expensive (like fruit around here in the winter months).
  4. CHALLENGE: Okay, I admit it, I like a challenge. It was something I hadn't done before and I wanted to see if I could.
  5. REWARD: I find it very rewarding to make the food from scratch. I actually get a bit giddy inside when I make McKenna her food.
  6. TASTE: I find it tastes good enough I would eat it, which I can't really say for all store bought baby food.
Now, I find making babyfood to be easy. Most people seem to agree, though some say it is hard. Yaron (author of Super Baby Food) says she thinks it is easy and she is no cook. I do cook. I make most things from scratch. I even grind my own wheat to make bread...so I can't say it is easy from a non-cooker point of view, but others have. Let me point out that I have been making baby food while having three children, packing my house, moving, and unpacking my house. I can only imagine how much easier it would have been if I had done with while Brayden was my lone child and we weren't moving :)

For anyone interested in making babyfood, I encourage you to try. I also want to point out that for me, making babyfood is not an all or nothing situation. McKenna does get store-bought babyfood. I like to keep it on hand for traveling. I also give her store-bought before I can make it. I like to make it in masses, and I have been making it as it has been in season. Thankfully, for me, not everything is in season at the same moment. Also, she has been getting store-bought prunes. Amy, a blog reader, told me she buys prunes and makes them. I have purchased some prunes and intend to make them, but I am making my food that will spoil first.

So my point is, you can make some baby food at home and feed some store bought baby food.

SUPPLIES
You really don't need much for making babyfood, and you probably have just about everything you will need already.
  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • Peeler
  • Possibly a pan for cooking if you are making things like peaches before baby can have them raw.
  • Cookie sheet/baking pan (if you want to bake things in the oven, like squash).
  • Spoon
  • Bowl
  • Oven
  • Freezer
  • Ice cube trays
  • Wax paper or cling wrap
Okay...there might be something missing from the list, but so far, you can see that it is really basic. There are a couple of things you might not have:
MAKING FOOD TIPSI won't go into the process of making things here; that would be one very long post. Here are my tips for making the process it easier on yourself:
  • MAKE IN BULK: I make it all in bulk. It takes about the same amount of time to make one ice cube tray of food as it does one, so it saves more time if you make more at a time.
  • MAKE ONLY WHAT YOU NEED: While you want to make in bulk, the food only lasts so long. Try your best to calculate about how much your baby will eat before it goes bad and make that much. For example, peaches last two months in the freezer. You don't want to make 6 months worth at one time and have to throw 4 months worth away.
  • MAKE WHAT YOU CAN STORE: You will find baby food quickly starts to take up a lot of space in your freezer. We already owned two refrigerator/freezer combos, and both freezers are stuffed full. Just today, we bought an upright freezer. I jokingly told a friend that I guess making babyfood didn't save us much money after all :). We had actually been planning on buying one anyway. It just moved up the priority list with all of the baby food. So make what you can store in your freezer. If you want a rounded menu (green veggies, orange veggies, and fruits), you won't be able to make so much at one time and fit it in one freezer.
  • INVOLVE THE FAMILY: Making babyfood alone isn't hard, but it does take time. If you can involve another member of the family, it can shave a lot of time off. I even have Brayden help me (he loves to help in the kitchen). I have him twist the food mill while I push it down. Doing it a few times by yourself is no problem, but 20 times later, your hands start to hurt! It really is a big help to have Brayden help me.
STORING TIPS
  • FREEZER BAGS: I put my baby food into freezer bags once it is all frozen. Yaron suggests using small freezer bags. I have found this to be a good idea. When you open and close over and over, the food doesn't stay as fresh, so the smaller the bag, the less food to go through while trying to keep it fresh.
  • LABEL: Be sure to label it. Peaches and squash look a lot alike when frozen.
  • GROUP IT: I put my food in small freezer bags, but then put one of each bag that I am using into a gallon sized freezer bag. This helps in a few ways. One is that it is extra protection for the food being stored. Another is that it is easy to find the food I need each morning when I am getting the food out. Before I started doing this, I would search through the freezer trying to find a particular bag. You might put things back in the same spot, but if more than one person lives in your house who uses the freezer, he (or she) might not.
USING FOOD TIPS
  • GET IT OUT: Each morning, I get out what McKenna will eat for the entire day and put it in bowls with lids on them. I then put the bowls in the refrigerator so the food can start to defrost.
RESOURCES
There are two resources I like best.
  • Wholesome Babyfood.com: This is a great site, and is really the only resource you would need. Something nice about a website is that it is dynamic and they keep current recipes on the homepage. For example, as I write this post, it is October and they have a quick link to pumpkin recipes for baby. It offers lots of different recipes for each food. If you check out the avocado section, you will see several different ways to prepare avocado for your baby. This isn't really necessary; baby is fine with the same old thing over and over, but you might find it fun.
  • Super Baby Food : This is my favorite resource. I am more of a book person than a website person. I like to have books to look through. I keep this book in my kitchen with my recipe books. This book is worth it even just for the section on how to choose, store, prep, make, and keep all fruits and veggies. I use it for the whole family! If you prefer books, I would get this.
Please add your own tips! Like I said, I am new at this. I am sure many of you have some great things to add.

DISCLAIMER
If you do not feed your baby homemade baby food, please do not take this post as an attack at you. You do not now need to fret or worry about this. I only intend this to be encouraging for anyone out there who wants to try, not a condemnation for those who don't want to try.

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31 comments:

Mrs. Haid said...

Thanks, this is helpful! I especially appreciate how you explain how you do things in your kitchen. So helpful for a first time mom.

Megan D said...

I agree that baby food making is really easy! I have made all of my little girls food but we do stock up on store bought since our electricity seems to go out a lot in the Fall/Winter. One other tool I use is the Foley Food Mill. This is great for anything with seeds or peels becasue there is no prep time. For example with pears/apples I just cut them in fours and steam them and throw them whole(seeds and all) into the food mill and grind. It also works great with plums and other fruits with peels.

Val said...

I used to cook all my babies food in the oven because for some reason I thought it was better. I talked to my SIL who is a nutritionist and she showed me some data on how microwaving is actually healthier. I can't believe I used to take an hour to cook a squash when I can do it in 10 minutes in the microwave! and apples only take 3-4 minutes!

Kina said...

This was very encouraging! I was planning to make my own food for my 7 month old but I get it for free from WIC so I don't do it. I plan to give it a try in the future though.

Leah said...

I've been making my own baby food for my second and find it is easy and very fulfilling. We live in a city so don't have a garden, however I can buy fruit and veggies inexpensively from our neighborhood fruit stand - mostly food which is locally grown. Thanks for the post encouraging others. If you're intersted, you should try it!

rachelhockey said...

Thanks for all the tips, Valerie! I've commented before about making baby food and just thought I would repeat on here that you are correct when you say it's easy. Right now our little girl is 9 months old and doesn't eat a whole lot, so we spend a few hours one Saturday a month to make her food - fruits, veggies, and chicken dishes. I will be adding more meats in the near future.

I hope everyone gives it a try before giving up on it. You may find you actually like to cook! I also love the satisfaction, as Valerie said, of knowing what I am giving my family. Great post!

PlageFille said...

Funny that I read the exact phase as you did with my first and decided not to make my own babyfood too! Well I made my own with my 2nd and my current baby, and it has been easy and convenient.

Elaine said...

Hi Valerie

Thanks for this great post. i learn alot from how to organise and store baby food from you.

i also make my own baby food, and would like to share the information. Here is the link:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=107425&id=705043347&l=4a45c23aae

Elaine

Plowmanators said...

You are welcome Mrs. Haid!

Plowmanators said...

Megan, the Foley Food Mill sounds awesome. I am going to look it up right now!

Plowmanators said...

Interesting Val! So, does it still taste as good as baking?

Plowmanators said...

Glad to encourage, Kina!

Plowmanators said...

Thanks for your added thoughts Leah! I am sad winter is approaching...bye bye to freshly grown :(

Plowmanators said...

Thanks Rachel!

Plowmanators said...

PlageFille, I am glad I am not the only one! It makes me wonder if the new edition is different. I might go to a bookstore and see :)

Plowmanators said...

Thanks Elaine! You are welcome!

Michelle said...

I just made squash today! It's the first thing I have made so it took me a little time to get used to it but now I think I have the hang of it for the next few batches. I LOVE knowing exactly what is in her food and that it is freshly prepared! Thanks for all your words of wisdom - I know you have heard it before but I truly view your blog as a ministry to others!

Tyler and Shea Moses said...

Love this post! I use a KidCo, and just love love love it. I think making baby food is really just a lot of fun, and for me a new adventure! I am a new mom to one sweet girl, and she eats the food I make better than store bought food, although I do feed her store bought when we are traveling. My question is, when do start serving homemade meats? I have read that its not advised until 9 months (which she will be on the 22nd). I feel like making the meats might be more of a challenge. Also, there are some homemade baby food freezer safe jars I saw for sale online (I think at babies R us) and I wondering if you recommend using those, or just sticking with the freezer bags?

Salina said...

Great post Val! I've got baby #2 coming and look forward to doing this all over again. Another thing I remember doing with James once I had a wide variety of foods in his diet is that I made myself a menu that I hung up on the inside of a kitchen cabinet. It helped so much in making sure I didn't forget what I had and that he got the most from the variety. When I would introduce a new veggie or fruit, I'd just add it to the menu and shuffle around. James (2.5) still to this day eats super baby porridge some mornings for breakfast. And he's an awesome eater! I didn't know you grinded wheat and make bread. I do too- got started a little over a year ago. I'm not thrilled though with my basic whole wheat bread and have been trying to tweek it. What recipes do you use?? I'd love to talk to you more about what you're family likes. salinagcook@yahoo.com

melissa said...

I ditto this post wholeheartedly - I am NOT a cook (most definitely not) and really enjoyed making my son's food from 6 months on. Although it did take some time to prepare, and certainly more than taking the lid off of a jar, looking back, it really wasn't that much per week (maybe 2 hours a week?). I too used store bought for our travels, but otherwise, stuck to the food cube system and it worked so well. I tried to stick to organics and there is a company near me that delivers organic food to your house once a week, which helped the process. Plus, it forced/allowed me to make vegetables that were outside of my comfort zone (chard, anyone?). I used the Super Baby Food book which was very helpful (although a bit overwhelming too...I kept to the basics). Overall, I basically tell anyone that if I can do it, any non-cook can! Thanks for the post!

Paul & Angela Jenkins said...

Love your post. Do have a few tips that may make it easier for moms who don't cook. I had a 2 level steamer that I cooked all veggies in. Steaming is actually the best for babies plus I could fit so much of it in at once. The top shelf had a divider so I could steam 3 types of food at once. I threw the food in, steamed it and blended it as soon as it was done. Then I just poured the cooled food into snack bags (which equals 1 jar) and froze it. If I wanted more variety I repeated the above steps. I did this all in less than 3 hours 1 day a week. Unbelieveable and CHEAP.

MKJH said...

My son is 6.5 months now and I have made all his food. It is SUPER easy and I am NOT A COOK. My husband cooks all the food in our house. Once my son is eating more, I will stock up on some jar foods, but to this point, we haven't needed any.

I use the Super Baby Food book as well (and LOVE it) and most recently introduced homemade oatmeal and brown rice porridge. My son likes it fresh, right after I cook it, but when I try to re-heat it, he doesn't like it. I don't blame him - it seems sticky, even after I try to add milk. Any tips from anyone who makes it? It does take some time to make (I grind the rice/oats in batches ahead of time, so really only the 10 min to cook), but it would be nice to have a couple days at a time!!

Aymes said...

I hope this isn't a silly question, but do I need to puree oatmeal into a finer texture if introducing it to my 5.5 month old? Or is the texture all right as is? I have regular processed as well as steel cut oats, and it just seems like there may be too many clumps for her, since she's only had rice cereal so far.

rachelhockey said...

Aymes - they make baby oatmeal, similar to the rice cereal. Is that what you have? Otherwise, if you make your own baby oatmeal from oats, you will need to break it down in the food processor. Here is the link: http://www.wholesomebabyfood.com/oatmealbabyfoodrecipes.htm

The Normans said...

I make my own food, as well, but never have used a grinder or food processor. When he was just starting veggies I did sweet potatoes and squash, smooshed with a fork. But he pretty quickly graduated to finger food, so now I do small chunks of veggies (usually store-bought frozen ones, cooked in the microwave), chunks of fruit (canned, or fresh and cut up and usually microwaved to cook a bit). SO MUCH easier than grinding! If your baby can smoosh it in his mouth, he can eat it. He's 8.5 months old, and he's been on the finger food diet since at least 7 months. Since I do it this way, with so little prep time, I don't have very much in my freezer taking up space - I cook it fresh and give it right to him. EASY!!

Kelly Ford said...

I'm so excited that you posted this. My DD will be 6 months next week and I have been going back and forth, debating on buying or making baby food. I did order super baby food from amazon, as you recommend, but seeing this post and the things required to make foods just encouraged me to get started. THANKS!!! I'm not sure that I'll make everything (cereal will be store bought, i'm sure) but things like sweet potatos, squash, carrots, and most fruits seem easy enough :-)

Redheads said...

I make some baby food homemade and buy some commercial baby food as well. I like the fact that my DD is used to either. That way, when we travel and I need to give her the store bought kind, it is something she is used to. I do like serving the homemade better of course! It is so rewarding! The wholesomebabyfood.com website is wonderful with very easy recipes. It is very easy to navigate and not as intimidating as the Super Baby Food book. I use both, but find that the website suits my style more.

Plowmanators said...

You are welcome to everyone!

Plowmanators said...

Tyler and Shea, I am not the best to ask about for meats. Braydena nd Kaitlyn are basically vegitarians. They don't like most meats. They will eat some from a slow cooker and Brayden is just starting to get more adventerous with it.

I just use the freezer bags, but the jars might be nice for traveling with.

Plowmanators said...

Congrats Salina on your new arrival! I will give you my wheat bread recipe. It is a good one (not MINE but the one I use). I will email it to you.

Plowmanators said...

Normans, that is great. I am far too paranoid for such things :) We will move more toward finger foods, but I take them so slowly because I worry about choking. I am just paranoid.

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