Updated on 03.12.08

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Baby Food Edition

Trent Hamm

One of the big projects that I plan on tackling in the next few weeks is making individual baby food containers for my daughter by boiling up and pureeing various vegetables and fruits. My plan for this is to save her current baby food containers until we have a big pile of them, clean them all, then boil and puree some vegetables and a bit of water together and put a nice helping into each one. I’ll freeze them all, then move several at a time to the fridge to thaw and then feed to her.

We did this a bit with my son and it was a rousing success. Of course, at that time we had to use the tiny freezer on top of our fridge to store these and there wasn’t much room. Now we have a deep freezer which can hold a lot more little containers of pureed food.

Thought some of you frugal folks might find that interesting. Here are some other personal finance posts of interest.

20 Very Easy Tips for Lowering Your Daily Stress Level My stress level was one of the biggest factors that finally pushed me over the top to committing to being a writer/stay-at-home parent and walking away from my “real” job. There were many days where the stress would almost paralyze me, mostly because I often felt like I had way too much on my plate and little direct control over it. (@ happiness project)

Don’t Get Scammed! Reduce The Risk of Identity Theft This is some truly excellent discussion and advice on the issue of identity theft, well worth reading if it’s ever concerned you. (@ the digerati life)

How to Make the Time for Your Personal Goals I’ve found that setting aside time specifically for the personal things I want to do works well for me. I have a block of time each day that is for family and nothing else. (@ zen habits)

Can We Be A Single Income Household? If you’re in a two-income household and the answer to this is “no,” life is scary. I know – I was once in that situation, and I never, ever want to go back. (@ clever dude)

The One-Day Sabbatical This is a brilliant idea for anyone feeling stifled by their career. In fact, I’m planning at least two “one-day sabbaticals” once the new routine works itself out. (@ lifeclever)

Dissecting “Gift Guilt” – When Does Receiving a Gift Make You Feel Bad? I only feel bad if I know someone may have committed something financially dangerous to give me this gift. My grandmother is on Social Security, yet she always gives amazing gifts – I don’t know how she does it, but I do feel a big twinge of guilt when she gives me a gift. (@ wise bread)

How Do You Prepare for Enormous Debt? I think the best preparation is having a large emergency fund so that if you’re overwhelmed by the repayment some months, you don’t drown. (@ get rich slowly)

9 Things You Can Do to Increase Your Income – Today Some solid tips in here. (@ dumb little man)

We’re Downsizing Our Home Most people don’t have the self-actualization necessary to simply say “This house is too big for us” and to sell it. (@ unclutterer)

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  1. Crispy says:

    We also made all of our baby food from scratch (even @ 53 cents a bottle, it adds up fast!). We used the ice cube tray method – I would be too worried about glass containers getting microscopic cracks when repeatedly frozen and thawed and introducing glass shards into the food. Just another thing for us paranoid parents to worry about, I guess!

  2. dina says:

    Just for a little baby food hint – for my daughter I tried boiling but read that all the nutrients leach out into the water. So, we bought a electric steamer and we could set it, steam two or three kinds of veggies or fruits at the same time, blend it and add the water from the steamer if we needed more. Just a little bit of a time saver.

  3. Quite a timely tip for me – Thanks!
    My wife and I are expecting our first child in mid-April. I’ll certianly be trying this out.

    @Dina – what kinds of fruits did you find worked best in the steamer?


  4. laura k says:

    Great idea for the baby food. I make my own spaghetti sauce and have re-used store-bought sauce jars for years.

    I also liked the sabbatical article. I guess I take mini-sabbaticals all the time. I like to try different routes to work, changing my schedule around slightly, etc., to shake my brain up and help me see things from a different perspective. Even walking on the other side of the street can give you a fresh outlook and the recharge that you need.

  5. Credit says:

    There was a quantitative study on nutrient retention that found microwave steaming to be the best followed by microwave boiling, conventional steaming and boiling had the lowest. Using a microwave will also consume less energy and time.


  6. Dariaclone says:

    I’m only recently married, so I am still conscious of financial issues associated with being single. So please remember that a “single” income is all that a single person has. When I was single I felt the need for a much larger emergency fund than I have now.

  7. It’s great that you’ll be making baby food from scratch. It’s sure to be healthier and better quality than even the premium brand baby foods.

    I have a friend that started making her dog’s food during the Chinese dog food scare. It’s not quite the same thing, but it’s saved her money over buying premium foods and her dog is more active now.

  8. TaraP says:

    Excellent. I must second the recommendation to use the ice-cube method. It’s easy and cheap.

  9. Michael says:

    The one-day sabbatical sounds nice. You know, most people used to take a day off every week.

  10. Stu says:

    we make our own baby food too. apples, sweet potato, squash, peas, green beans, mixed veg.

    beef + barley puree, chicken + barley, etc. all good stuff.

    we do it in icecube trays and mix and match icecubes (right now my boy eats about 5iceubes of veg for dinner and lunch and about 4 applesauce+ricecereal for breakfast).

  11. caryn verell says:

    hi..memories..steam those veggies, freeze in icecube trays, then bag em’. jars are fine but have a tendency to crack or break in freezer..but save a few and thaw your cubes in them. (afterall, we are recycling as well). are you using cloth diapers as well? now there is another money saver and environmentally safe thing to do as well.

  12. moonimus says:

    We are also in the make baby food from scratch camp even though some people think we have too much time. We use apples, sweet potate, peas, squash, pears. Boil, puree, and use vinyl ice cube trays. The vinyl use ice cube trays work great since we can just pop the cubes of food out instead of using a plastic or glass tray. We also give our child sliced avocado, steamed carrots and of course Cheerios!

  13. Susan in CA says:

    I used the ice-cube tray method for pureed baby food for my daughter. Once frozen, put in freezer bags. Microwave on a plate and you are ready to go. Squash or pumpkin, spinach, lentils make a balanced meal. One cube of each was usually enough. Even as a teenager, she prefers healthy food.

  14. Jennifer says:

    We did this for our kids. I froze it in ice cube trays and then bagged them up and pulled out what I needed each day.

    You can do some great combinations too. Apples and sweet potatoes are good, carrots and brown rice are good too. Great job planning ahead.

  15. partgypsy says:

    I wanted to add before you spend alot of time making pureed babyfood, neither of my children liked baby food much at all, practically refused to eat it. So they pretty much transitioned from milk (and some instant cereal) to eating cooked to soft food such as sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, potato, etc that you could cut or mush up on their tray. If your baby is the same, you may not want to invest too much time in making alot of jarred baby food.

  16. Dariaclone says:

    @moonimus: Really, people think you have too much time because you make your kid’s food? I’m pregnant now and kind of looking forward to it. But we’ve been cooking and freezing food for ourselves more as well, so it makes sense that we would try to make food for the kid as well.

    And we use the ice cube or muffin tin method for ourselves.

  17. elizabeth says:

    I agree with partgypsy about making a little and trying it first…no one else in your house is going to want mashed and strained green beans. :)

    I love making homemade baby food. Try baking apples and sweet potatoes whole. You get to keep a lot of the flavor and value over boiling. Steaming works too of course.

  18. Alison Scott says:

    I too was in the make your own food camp (as others have said, using ice cube trays; flexible trays from IKEA are £1 each and are ideal for example); but with both our children they transitioned relatively quickly from these cube meals to eating first puree’d, and then lumpy, versions of whatever the family was eating. Between the two children I doubt we used more than 20 jars of purchased baby food in total, mostly in conditions of extreme travelling complexity.

  19. Sarah says:

    Our children didn’t eat much baby food either… (but they might have if I had frozen tons of it!) I liked serving them cold frozen petite peas when they could manage finger food, and mixing them with full-fat plain yogurt to feed it to them with a spoon. Definitely simple, easy, healthy (as part of a balanced overall diet :).

  20. Michael says:

    Trent, will you please change the clock on your server?

  21. dina says:

    I made apples, pears, mango (just until it softened – about 2-5 minutes). I also gave my daughter berries by buying them frozen (they are healthier than the fresh ones) and putting them in a non-stick skillet or sauce pan on low until they thawed and then I mashed them. And, it is not true that adults don’t eat this stuff. When I would run low on veggies and wanted to make soup, I would throw some of my daughter’s food cubes into the pot. And, any of the frozen fruit cubes go wonderfully over ice cream or in oatmeal.

  22. Mary Beth says:

    I have four kids (17, 14, 10 and 8) and never bought a single jar of baby food. I just bought fresh fruits and veggies, steamed them (usually in the microwave) and then pureed. I put the frozen puree in ice cube trays then transfered to freezer bags when solid. It makes it really easy to defrost as much or as little as you want and also to make combos like apple/sweet potato etc. Just add cube(s) of whatever you want to combine. You can also bake veggies like butternut squash, acorn squash and sweet potatoes and then just mash and freeze. My kids all loved these.

  23. MES says:

    We took a great class all about solid foods for babies. The idea that babies need pureed/strained foods seems to be based on information from decades ago when babies were fed solids starting at a few weeks of age. Based on that, we gave up on purees and went for soft foods that were either chopped or mashed. I still pre-cooked and froze various things, but saved myself the trouble of all the extra processing (and cleanup!)
    If you do go with the purees though, take a look at a couple of cookbooks – “Sneaky Chef” and “Deceptively Delicious.” Both provide recipes that incorporate pureed veggies into all sorts of foods to boost the nutrient content and get kids to eat more veggies.

    Good Luck!

  24. Mel says:

    Word of caution: before you freeze a ton, make sure your daughter will eat it! My daughter ate the food when it was fresh or refridgerated, but spit it back at me when it’d been frozen. Tried a couple different things and then gave up and just mashed whatever we were eating that night & gave it to her.

  25. Jen says:

    I made all of my son’s baby food except meat, because I couldn’t get the meat a fine enough texture that he would eat it (he still doesn’t really like meat). Pureed meat is fairly disgusting, and it made us slip further towards the vegetarianism that we’ve been drifting towards for several years. Down to meat 2x/week. We should just give up and go vegie, but I’m lazy and am only adding other cooking alternatives gradually.

    I agree, the ice cube method is best. Each cube is approximately 2 Tblsp. Freeze them solid and put the cubes in gallon freezer bags. Defrost only what you’re going to use. We used the microwave, but some people shun the microwave, in which case, save your little glass jars to use with your steam heater thingee.

    We also used the microwave to cook the vegies. It was by far the fastest method, and fast preserves the most nutrients.

    Just remember not to make your own carrots until your daughter is over 7mo. I forget what the exact problem is, but something that there’s varying amounts of in fresh carrots can build up in bodies <7mo. Comercial baby food carrots is tested for whatever it is.

    Oh, and we made our own baby food because it was more like real food, and we found it more convienent. The daycare teachers were constantly raving that our food looked better and smelled better than jarred food, and our son loves his fruits and vegies now. You can also make it chunkier as your daughter gets older, which allows a natural transition to soft foods.

    Also, I agree with MES, that kids probably don’t need baby food at all, they had kids for thousands of years before they had blenders and food processors, not to mention comercial canning operations. But purees are highly convienent before kids can effectively self feed.

  26. momof4 says:

    All of my kids went from breast to table food., when a child can sit upright and go hand to mouth they are ready ( usually ) for soft foods to feed themselves. Usually around 9 mnths or so. ) grated apple, soft bits of well cooked veggies and fruits go over well. I’ve seen lots of parents spoon feed baby food that gets pushed out of the mouth by the baby’s tongue ( natural reflex to protect baby)then the parents scrape the food off of the face and spoon it back in. it totally cracks me up. I’ve never had a kid in daycare though so I didn’t even need to think about supplementing their diet with pureed foods. have fun!

  27. Jen says:

    I am yet another person who made most of my baby food! I also used the ice cube trays and then put the cubes in freezer bags once they were frozen. I didn’t make any of the meat. My son loved it fresh, but once it was frozen and thawed the texture was weird and he hated it.

    One of our favorite fruits was peaches. I actually peeled them, cut them in half and removed the pits then baked them cut side down until they were soft. It brings out the natural sugars and was really tasty. My son is over 2 years old now and still eats veggies really well. My second child is due any day now and I absolutely plan on doing this again!

  28. Alexandra says:

    I feel very fortunate to have come across this site. I was am expecting my first child at the end of July and I was wondering the best way to puree the food? Would it be food processor, blender or is there a specific kitchen tools for making baby food? Thanks for the ice cube try idea, I would have never thought of that. What would be the best tecnique for thawing and heating besides a microwave?

  29. Jennifer says:

    I used the magic bullet for my pureeing when my son was eating pureed food. It worked great, and I froze the food in ice cube trays just like most everybody else. It only took 30 minutes for everthing, less time than it usually is to make dinner. We saved so much money, and my son loves green peas to this day!

  30. Chris says:

    We also use the ice cube tray approach. I also don’t think it’s necessary to use fresh veggies: Frozen is a lot more convenient and the resulting food will still be far less processed than the Gerber variety:

  31. Karen says:

    I have made my own babyfood for 2 of my kids so far. I made the decision because I thought it would be healthy and cheaper. For my second child it seemed easier. I used ice cube trays and baby food jars from a friend instead of the more expensive fancier things. The only problem I had is that neither of my kids would eat store bought baby food after they ate the stuff I made. So I had to make their food until they ate with us. No big deal though. The second time around I knew what was coming.

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