DIY baby food
You cook for yourself. Why not for your baby?
Millions of jars of baby food line the shelves of grocery stores, and millions of parents—many of whom will go home and cook for themselves and their family that night—snatch them up. Making your own baby food seems to have taken on the intimidating domestic quality of something like crocheting your own blanket: Sounds quaint and crafty, but who has the time? Leave that to the Slow Food folks.
But homemade baby food can be as simple as steaming and pureeing a couple of carrots or mashing up an avocado. It’s also cheaper and less wasteful than buying it in jars.
A price comparison of fresh organic and non-organic sweet potatoes and bananas versus jarred varieties of them showed you can feed a baby fresh organic food for the same price or less than buying non-organic baby food in jars. It’s certainly cheaper than organic jarred baby food. Also, non-organic produce was considerably less expensive (10-20 cents per ounce cheaper for sweet potatoes and bananas) to cook yourself than to buy in a jar.
The bonus for the environment—aside from reduced pesticides by buying organic—is that homemade baby food is nearly a zero-waste enterprise. All of those 2.5 ounce glass jars just aren’t necessary. The benefit to the baby is typically a more nutrient-filled meal, as studies have shown that organic foods often contain more nutrients and antioxidants than non-organic food. The benefit to parents is knowing where the food comes from and that the nutrients haven’t been cooked to death.
“It’s not nearly as much work as people tend to think,” says Rosina Asay, mother to 15-month-old Soren. “It costs less, and it’s easier on the environment because it doesn’t have all that packaging.”
Asay has a Vitamix, which she says does most of the work for her. A time-saving tip she suggests is to make a batch of baby food on the weekend and freeze it in icecube trays to use throughout the week.
Barbara Mills, owner of Back of the House Culinary Adventures, is teaching an Organic Baby Food cooking class on Nov. 7. She made her own baby food for her three kids, who are now grown. She says all you need to do it yourself is a saucepan and either a food mill, blender or ricer, and a sieve, as babies need smooth food when they first begin eating solids, which is usually around 6 months old. Hand blenders are also helpful. She says a pressure cooker rather than a saucepan can speed things up for busy parents. The idea is to get kitchen equipment that will still be useful as the baby grows up.
Once you have the tools, take your food of choice—squash, peas, carrots, apples, pears, potatoes, green beans, etc—and quickly steam or blanch it. Don’t overcook, or you’ll lose nutrients. Run it through a food mill (or blender or ricer) and then the sieve. Cool in an ice water bath, and divide it into containers. (She also recommends the ice tray trick.)
For really busy times, Mills says cooking with organic frozen or canned food is quick and still cheaper and more healthful than non-organic jarred baby food. To save time, she also suggests incorporating what the baby is eating into the rest of the family’s meal, such as cooking potatoes for everyone but pureeing them for the baby.
“To me it always made sense,” says Mills. “You as a parent know you made it yourself, and it’s as nutrient-rich as it can be, and you do it for your baby.”