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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Baby Food Making 101 - Making and Freezing Quick and Easy Purees for your Baby

My twins are over one year old now, so I haven't made baby food in several months.  I remember telling myself that I was going to blog about my experience with making our baby food "some day", so I made sure to take a few pictures for future use.  So here I am six months later, finally getting around to blogging about my experience!  In this blog post, I will try to tackle the most common questions people asked me when wanting to know about how I made purees for the twins.  Whether you choose to make your own baby food or not doesn't really matter.  As long as your baby is getting proper nutrients, then you are feeding your baby is just fine!

Question:  When did you start feeding your twins purees?

Answer:  My boys actually started purees really young.   We did purees during the ages of 4.5 to 9 months old. I know some will say to wait until six months for baby food.  Some will say, including my pediatrician, that four months is ok. Some will say don't do purees at all, just do BLW (baby led weaning) at six months. Both of  my boys struggled with constipation from their formula, especially once my breast milk dried up right around the time they were five months old.  I hated giving them prune juice or suppositories, so my pediatrician said to start them on pureed fruits and vegis.  It solved all of our constipation issues, so it was the right choice for us!

Note:  I'm not going to "go there" too much in this post, but BLW (baby led weaning) is not and never will be for me.  There are too many unnecessary choking hazards, aside from the fact that most pediatricians would never recommend it.  My boys started with appropriate soft, bite-sized table food at nine months and by twelve months they were eating what we adults eat just BLW necessary to make them good table food eaters!

Question:  Why did you choose to make your own  baby food?
Answer:  A lot of choices that I make are based upon saving money, but making our own baby food was really more about me knowing what I was putting in my kids' bodies, more so than how much it cost.  We did occasionally use store-bought baby food.  We actually started out with it, just to get the boys used to purees. We also kept it in the diaper bag, as it was easy to travel with.  And I really did love those pouches of baby food for spoon-free feedings when we were out and about.  Oh and I always used the store-bought bananas mixed in with the oatmeal cereal.  I tried smashing up my own bananas with the oatmeal, but for some reason, my little guys would not eat it that way.  For the most part though, I made baby food purees for the boys, and found that it was actually very easy.  

Question:  How much did you feed your twins?

Answer:  Of course, the amount of purees that I gave them varied from when they were four/five months to when they were nine months.  When I first introduced purees, I would let them share one "cube" of a vegi and one "cube" of a fruit for lunch and dinner.  They then worked up to getting one fruit and vegi of their own.  By the time they were nine months old, they were each eating two cubes of fruit and two cubes of vegis for lunch and dinner.  Fruits and vegetable were addition to the oatmeal cereal (I chose oatmeal over rice cereal for nutritional reasons) and bananas they ate at breakfast and bed time.  .

Question: How did you make your own baby food?

  1. Cook or steam vegetables / thaw any frozen fruits
  2. Puree 
  3. Scoop into trays
  4. Freeze 
  5. Keep stored in trays or pop the cubes out and store in air tight containers
  6. Thaw when ready to serve 
Note: I kept all of my frozen pureed vegis in one container and all of my frozen pureed fruits in another container.

Question:  How often did you have to make your own baby food?
Answer:  I chose to make a bunch of purees at one time and freeze them for future use. I could usually get about two weeks out of my purees before needing to make them again. This made things so much easier.  I'm a mom of twins, and I didn't always have time to throw food in a blender for my kiddos.  Being able to go to the freezer and warm up lunch and dinner in minutes was priceless!   As far as giving my kids frozen produce  instead of fresh....well, I know many will say that fresh is best, but I say frozen is still a better choice than store bought.    

Note: just so you know, unsweetened applesauce from the jar is a perfectly fine quick and easy substitute to give a baby if your frozen cubes run out before you get a chance to make more and you don't have any store-bought food on hand.

Questions: How did you thaw your baby food?
Answer:  I  used the microwave to warm their food, which some will say is a no-no.  I never let it get too hot, so I say it's fine.  With the fruits, I just let them thaw enough to stir, and I still served those cold.  The vegis I warmed up a little longer, so they could be served warm.  If you are completely against using a microwave, you can put your frozen pureed cubes in a small container with a lid, let it thaw in the refrigerator before serving and warm the the entire container in a bowl of hot water (similar to how you would warm a bottle). 

Question:  What do I need to make my own baby food?
Answer:  There are a few things you will need if you plan on making your own baby food.  The first thing I needed was something to store the purees in for freezing.  I purchased four of these two pack munchkin baby food storage trays from Walmart.  They are a little over $5 a piece, so there is some initial investment to making your own baby food.  If you know you are going to be making your baby food, these are great to add to your baby registry.  Because I only invest in eight trays, I would make all of my vegis in one day and freeze them over night, and then do the same with the fruits the following day.  I prepped all of the food on the weekends, while Daddy was home to occupy the boys for me. 

Note: One would think ice cube trays would be ideal for this, but no any ol' ice cube tray is going to work for baby food making.  It is very important to buy BPA free trays, as infants are most susceptible to this chemical found in many of our plastics, which is why I recommend buying trays that  specifically for baby food making. 

Next, I needed something to puree my fruits and vegetables.  I initially tried a regular kitchen blender, but I found that it didn't get the food "pureed" enough.  Then I remembered I had a NutriBullet that I had purchased a few years ago for making perfect smoothies and juices.  I found that this was awesome for pureeing baby food aswell! 

Note:  You can buy the Baby Bullet Food System, which is specifically for baby food making.  Even if I didn't have the NutriBullet prior my baby food making experience, I would have purchased the NutriBullet over the the Baby Bullet for making baby food, if my only option was to pay full price for either one.  Baby's only need purees for a few months, so the NutriBullet is a better investment, as I can get more use out of it in the long run.

The best part of about the NutriBullet is that it was easy!  All I had to do was thaw and/or cook my produce, add a little water if  needed, and thirty seconds later I had perfect purees ready to be scooped into my trays.  The NutriBullet retails for around $100, but even without the babies, it is one of my most used kitchen appliances.

Question: What kinds of purees did you make for your babies?
Answer:  I did both savory and sweet mixes for the boys.  For my savory mixes, I basically just used frozen vegis and seasoned them with herbs and spices. I didn't use any salt, as the babies didn' t need the sodium.  The above picture shows how I seasoned my vegis.  I figure that I like vegis with a bit of flavor, so I wasn't going to give my kids flavorless vegis.  Just be sure to look up what herbs and spices are safe for infants before experimenting! 

Note: Add water to the purees to adjust the thickness.  In the beginning, I wanted the puree pretty thin, like the store-bought babyfood.  By the end, I was serving the food more like a the thickness of mashed potatoes.  Also, the mixed vegis don't puree that well. They are pretty chunky, due to the corn and lima beans, so I didn't start those until they could handle thicker purees.

I had a little bit of fun with my sweet mixes!  My boys loved the fruit combinations!  Even now that my boys are bigger, I will still mix up some of these combos and add plain greek yogurt, making a great protein packed smoothies for the boys to drink out of a straw cup!

I found that adding a banana to thawed mixed berries cut the tartness of the berries, and adding an avocado added  protein and a smooth texture!

Surprisingly, this little mango carrot mix was a favorite of both boys!  Not too sweet and too tart, but just right for their taste buds!

I added diced peaches to a thawed bag of tropical mixed fruit, simply to get more volume and fill more trays.

Question:  Did you ever puree fresh food for the boys, or did you always use the frozen purees?
Answer: Yes, my babies loved my green smoothies that I would make for myself (one apple, one pear, one banana, some pineapple chunks and a bunch of spinach).  I'd make this a couple times a week for me in my NutriBullet, and then reserve some for their lunch when I made it.  Just be sure to omit the spinach for the baby.  I read somewhere that infants weren't supposed to have spinach. 

Question:  How well did your boys eat the homemade baby food?
Answer:  Both boys loved all of the fruit combos!  Aaron loved all of the vegis, sweet potatoes being a favorite and mixed vegis the least favorite.  Ethan hated all things green, but he still does even now that they are in solid form.  He loved all things orange, and still does!  Both boys hated green beans pureed, and after tasting them I understand why.  I just stopped making them, because they did ok with the peas.  If it helps any, one of Aaron's favorite food is fresh green beans now.  He eats them like candy!

Question:  Where did you shop for your ingredients?
Answer: I bought most of my vegis frozen, buying organic when available, and I usually shopped at Trader Joe's or Target.  All frozen vegetable were cooked prior to being pureed.  I always bought sweet potatoes fresh, and found that buying them in the steamable bag from Target was really easy.  Sometimes I bought my butternut squash this way too, but other times it was cheaper to buy it frozen. I bought all of my frozen fruit from Trader Joe's, as it was a little bit cheaper than the average grocery store.

Question: Does it cost less to make your own baby food?
Answer: You know I like to save money, but I really wasn't saving too much by making our own baby food.  We saved about 50% when it was all said and done.  Produce, in general, is expensive, even when trying to save money by buying frozen instead of fresh.  But when I would have spending $20-30 on baby food each week (depending on how much they were eating), paying $10-$15 each week on all of my ingredients is still a nice savings.

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