MSMWant to know one of my favorite ways to save a little money?  I make my own baby food!

I know, I know.  There’s hardly enough time in a day to shower – let alone enough time to spend hours in the kitchen slaving over a hot stove.

But – Moms and Dads – please, hear me out!  Making your own baby food is SO easy.  It really doesn’t take much time at all – just a little planning and a few tools.

Benefits of Making Your Own Baby Food:

– You’ll save money.  Baby food is expensive.  And it only gets more expensive as your baby gets older and requires more than one serving – or more than just one type of food with each serving.  You also can’t assume that your baby won’t need purees past their first birthday; lots of two year olds I know still request squeeze pouches of baby food on a daily basis.  And don’t assume your child will switch to 100% solid foods by then either; learning to eat with their fingers takes a lot of time, a lot of patience, and a lot of practice; babies can get more frustrated than full with the learning process.  Lastly, some kids just don’t like the texture of certain foods, and often times purees or squeeze pouches are some of the only things you can get a picky eater to eat.

You control the ingredients.  Not only can I buy local or organic produce, I can also create whatever flavor combinations I want to.  One thing that drives me crazy about store bought baby food is that applesauce is the first ingredient in so much of it.  There’s nothing wrong with applesauce – it’s healthy, nutritious and kids love it – but it’s not all that filling.  I like being able to beef up what my kids eat with more of a variety of fruits and veggies. Which leads me to my next point…

– You can feed it to your toddler too.  My two year old loves to eat squeeze pouches, and I KNOW I’m not the only mom out there who thought he’d grow out of liking these by now.  Don’t get me wrong – I love these things.  They’re chalk full of organic ingredients, they’re healthy, they have great shelf lives and they’re perfect for taking somewhere on the go.  But, at anywhere from $1.00 – $1.99 each, these things are pri-cey.  I’ve learned that my son is just as happy drinking a homemade smoothie in place of his usual “poosh” (as he calls them).  These days I double the food I’m making, and add in stuff like peanut butter, wheat germ or kale to bulk up my older son’s serving.

– You can sneak in healthy additives.  My two year old has no idea he’s drinking a shake with kale or wheat germ – but I like knowing he’s getting that nutrition.  You can also add in grains like Chia or quinoa, or greens like spinach or broccoli, that your kid might normally not touch otherwise.  You can also puree cooked oatmeal for some added punch.

So how do you do it?

Tools:

– Food Processor/Blender/Beeba/Baby Bullet/Magic Bullet (yep, the star of those awesome infomercials is my most favorite baby-food-making tool)
– Storage containers (or ice cube trays and freezer bags)

Plan your meals.  Making baby food for older babies and toddlers is definitely easiest – they’re at the point where, with the exception of a few high-allergen foods, they can eat pretty much anything.  Babies first being introduced to solids require a little more planning; I  always refer to Wholesome Baby Food’s Solid Food Chart to see their recommendations for what foods should be introduced and when.  

– Prep your food.  Some fruits and vegetables need to be prepped in order to make a smooth puree.  There are a lot of ways you can do this (again, that Wholesome Baby Foods website is an awesome resource for menu ideas!) but I’ve always just used the good old fashioned, “pop everything in the oven and walk away from it” technique.  This works particularly well with butternut squash (just cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and lay the sides face down in about an inch of water; cook for 45 minutes to an hour at 400 degrees) and sweet potatoes (poke holes with a fork, wrap in foil, leave for an hour).  Once they’ve cooled, scoop them into the food processor and have at it.  You can use breastmilk or water to thin the puree out if needed.  One squash and one potato will yield a lot of food – especially for a young baby who doesn’t need much.  Freeze leftovers and defrost as needed!

– Mix it up.  Again, older babies and toddlers are a lot easier to make food for.  These days I just buy what’s on sale (and what I like to eat) and throw together combinations on the fly.  Lately we’ve been doing a lot of mango + raspberry + banana (with kale or peanut butter for my big guy).  All you need to do is wash, slice (no need to even peel a lot of stuff) and blend!  Yogurt is always a great thickening agent, along with bananas and applesauce.

– Accept some failure.  It’s inevitable.  Not every puree is going to come out amazing and your baby isn’t going to love everything.  My poor first born had to deal with some truly awful green bean, pea and carrot purees because I just could.not.make.them.smooth.  We all survived (and got some hilarious videos to boot!)

– Shop the sales.  Buy produce that’s on sale and in season to really save some money.  Also, check the clearance items at the front of the grocery store for back ups.  Like I said, I made a few awful purees; I learned my lesson and when I saw green beans, carrots and pea purees on clearance at Harris Teeter when pregnant with our second son, I stocked up.  Grocery stores often reset entire sections at least once a year, and things are being discounted and discontinued reguarly.  Be on the lookout for those!  Store bought purees have awesome shelf lives and can last at least six months (usually).  Buy a few to have on hand just in case this whole experiment ends in disaster.

All it takes is a little time, a little planning, a few tools and a healthy sense of humor, and you too can make your own baby food.  Good luck – and have fun!!