Yes, it’s convenient to buy baby food for when you’re on-the-go or when you just don’t have time to make some fresh food. But if you do a little planning and you cook big batches at once, you can feed your baby less expensively and more wholesomely. Below are some tips for how I do it. If you have anything to add, I’d love your feedback!
1) You should have on hand, at the very least: a) a steamer insert for a lidded saucepan, b) an immersion/hand blender (preferable), a blender, or a food processor, and c) a baby food cookbook.* You do not need a special baby food maker (such as a Beaba cook – see my other post regarding this) or a food mill (though it does help with things such as peas and corn).
2) If you pick one morning and one night that are 3 1/2 days apart in the week to cook for your baby, you can make enough food for the entire week. For example, pick Saturday mornings (when it might be easier to have someone else watch your kids) and Tuesday nights. Or, if you’re not that much of a planner, you can cook as you need it or realize you are running out. Sometimes I’m not good at planning ahead, but when I get low on Zach’s food supply, I’ll make it a take-out night so that after the kids go to bed, I have the energy to cook for him.
3) If you DO have several ways to cook baby food, you can make more batches at once and thus save time. So, when I make anything on the stove, I also run something in my Beaba cook simultaneously. Now that Zach is eating more “meals” (such as onion, carrots and chicken cooked in stock and finished with cheese), I can cook those in a large saute pan while I steam a vegetable in my stove-top steamer AND cook some fruit in the Beaba cook. (If I were really ambitious, I’d also cook him a grain at the same time.) I can make a bunch of food in about 45 minutes total from start to finish that way.
4) Some baby foods are super easy to make on-the-go and don’t need to be cooked at all. If you know you’re going to be out for breakfast, pack some baby cereal and a ripe banana with a small mixing bowl and a fork to mash it together, and you’ve got a meal. If it’s lunch, take a cooler bag and mix some fruit or veggie puree with some plain yogurt or soft tofu. When we go out to dinner, I just heat up what I would have fed him at home to a pretty hot temperature, and when we get seated in the restaurant, I feed it to him and it’s still warm.
5) Once you know your baby likes a certain food or meal, then make larger batches at once and freeze the excess (that you won’t use within 3 days) in ice-cube trays wrapped in plastic wrap. Then transfer them to plastic zip top bags once frozen and label them. Or, if your baby is a little older and you need larger servings, you can freeze them in disposable tupperware. I like the Gladware mini-round containers because they hold 4 oz. each.
6) I try to label my baby food containers with what’s in them and the date they were made. I highly recommend using erasable labels by LabelOnce. I found mine at The Container Store. http://www.jokari.com/labelonce/product/items47802_47803.html
7) Once your child has had “first tastes” of the different food groups, try making it easy on yourself by picking food groups to feed at each meal instead of worrying about specific fruits, vegetables, grains or proteins. For example, I now feed Zach some fruit and grains at breakfast every day. Sometimes he also gets a protein with it from yogurt. For lunch, he gets fruits and/or vegetables, and a protein from either dairy, meat or beans. For dinner, he gets vegetables and a protein at the very least, and sometimes he gets grains and fruit.
8) Because it’s summer and lots of fruits and vegetables are fresh and in season, introduce your baby to these. Zach is currently eating a lot of melons, peaches, nectarines, pluots and plums. If they’re very ripe, they don’t need to be cooked and can be mashed together or with banana with just a fork.
I think that’s all I will list for now. If you have any questions, let me know.
*I LOVE Annabel Karmel’s “Top 100 Baby Purees”
and I’m also starting to try recipes from the Williams-Sonoma “Cooking for Baby” cookbook as well.