March is National Nutrition Month, which seems as good a time as any to kick off our blog series on making your own baby food and starting your littles out with their best fork forward. I will preface this by saying that I am by no means a nutritionist or a chef, but I do LOVE food – like GOOD food and I was lucky enough to grow up with the benefit of delicious home cooked meals, so that is what I know. My mother was, by all accounts, kind of a crazy person about what I ate as a baby – she was all about no salt or processed sugars before it was even cool. I definitely didn’t fully value it when I was a kid, but now as an adult I definitely appreciate that I grew up healthy, with a good metabolism, and an appreciation for meal time. That last part was one of the biggest reasons that I decided to give making my own baby food a whirl too honestly – I just couldn’t bear the thought of having to make two separate meals for kids v. adults, or even moreso, the thought of kids who would demand stereotypical ‘kid meals’ like mac and cheese, hotdogs, etc and turn their noses up at really good and delicious foods (I know, a little snobby, sorry!). But enough about that, there are a million sources of information that tout the benefits of healthy eating – like www.eatright.org, where you can read up on why good nutrition is important and find a whole bunch of blogs on the topic.
SO, in the sea of blogs about this topic, the reason I wanted to do my own blog series about making baby food is that I think a lot of people assume they don’t have the time or skill set to do it so they dismiss it as an option. I mean, I think the idea of making all your baby’s food…while taking care of your baby…AND trying to do anything else (like take care of the rest of your family, work, etc) can seem really daunting. I always feel like I have to explain why I chose to do it or somehow justify it because I had twins and a full time job when I was doing it, and people honestly thought I was crazy and/or a full on healthy nut. And I’m not really entirely either of those things, I swear! I like to think of myself as pretty down to earth and chill about most things actually (I know, I know – if you know me, feel free to insert the joke of your choice here). AT ANY RATE – my personality is to research EVERYTHING, but then believe NOTHING So basically, I need to learn for myself what for sure works and what doesn’t, and most importantly why. SO, that’s what I hope other parents will find helpful about this series – notes on how to reasonably do this as an everyday working parent and tips to make it easier/more achievable – all juxtaposed with some anecdotes on what NOT to do
To get you started, here is a list of basics you will need to make your own baby food…and why you need them (because ME)…
A GOOD Blender
I used a Ninja because it works well and is affordable. I would consider selling a kidney for a Vitamix, but it just wasn’t a justifiable expense for us at the time. You need a good blender because smooth food puree consistency is really important, especially in the beginning. Apparently going from only breast milk or formula to solids can be shocking – who knew (I had one kid who didn’t care so much and another kid who acted as if I was trying to choke her (and then vomit) if there was even one chunk in her puree initially. More on that and tips for getting your purees smooth later).
These are important to have for both the refrigerator AND the freezer. I’ll focus more on the freezer storage because I found it completely untenable to make my kids’ baby food fresh by the meal and by the day. Freezing it in single food cubes allowed me the flexibility to pull what I wanted for the day out of the freezer in the morning before I started work so that it was defrosted by the time the kids were ready to eat it. A lot of blogs advise using an ice cube tray to freeze your baby food, which will totally work! I opted for these Tovolo trays for a couple of reasons: 1. They are small/compact and easily fit in your freezer with a lot of other things 2. They make 1 oz cubes so it’s an exact measurement, which was important to me. Once I took the cubes out of the trays, I stored them in freezer bags to prevent freezer burn (although with twins I can’t say I ever really had to worry about food being in the freezer too long!)
For the refrigerator storage I used these Littleware Baby Food Storage Containers because I could fit two cubes in them, which was the serving size for one meal for one baby. That made it super easy for me to prep the meals for our nanny and it was super easy to separate out by day/meal, etc. They also easily fit in a bottle warmer, which was handy in case they didn’t defrost fast enough (or I forgot to pull them out of the freezer altogether – whoopsies) I do have some mom guilt that I used plastic though, so if I had to do it again, I would likely use small glass containers – like these mason jars.
A small spatula
This one might seem a little silly or unnecessary, but it made my life a lot easier, which is why I included it here. The size of this spatula make it really easy to get it in and out of the blender, which is nice. Even more importantly, it’s the perfect size for getting the pureed food into the ice cube trays. I found regular sized spatulas to be a little cumbersome for that and therefore messier. I got this one at Target because I like their color options best
A flat metal tray with an edge
I baked almost everything for a several reasons – taste, ease, etc (again, more on that later), and a tray with an edge is KEY. That way any oil or juices from whatever you are baking won’t run off and make a huge mess. I use these Noricware Natural Aluminum Baker's Half Sheets.
I HATE washing dishes so I ALWAYS cover my trays with something to avoid having to scrub them later. A lot of the recipes I used called for parchment paper, which I thought was ridiculous until I realized the true gloriousness of its potential. In that nothing sticks to parchment paper – where as it will stick directly to the pan or aluminum foil. And going through the trouble of baking something just to have to leave half of it on the pan or toss it with your aluminum foil is THE WORST. So seriously, do yourself a favor and use parchment paper, you’ll thank me
In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing some more tips on making food and some free downloadables for what foods to start when, how much to feed, and meal plan sheets, so stay tuned!