As soon as I started making his food I learned that not only was it incredibly easy, it was also a huge savings, and I had confidence that my son was getting the healthiest food possible. I can't wait until my garden is full of fresh veggies again, but for now I pick up what I need in fresh produce for very little cost and it goes a long way. You don't even need a bunch of fancy equipment, more than likely you already have everything you need at home.
Here is a table with a guide to feeding at the supported sitter stage by Gerber along with a cost analysis on making your food vs. store bought food:
Supplies you will need:
Produce - A great start would be with a few ripe bananas, 2 apples (I prefer Fuji), and a large Sweet Potato
Food Processor or Blender
Ice Cube Tray
Small Storage Containers
Apple Puree: Core and slice your apples (Leave the peel on until cooked). Place the slices on a microwave safe plate and microwave them for about 3 - 4 minutes until soft. Once cooked allow to cool and then peel.
Place slices into the food processor, pour the juice from the plate over the top of the slices and blend until completely smooth. *If you peel before cooking your apples will dry out and turn brown when cooked and your puree will be brown and chunky!
Apples will stay good in the refrigerator for 2 days. Refrigerate whatever portion you will be able to use in that time and freeze the rest.
To freeze: Portion the remaining puree into your ice cube tray. A standard ice cube tray will hold one ounce in each compartment. Cover your tray and freeze. Once frozen, remove each cube and place in a labeled freezer bag. It is recommended that you use the frozen puree within one month of freezing. When you run low on refrigerated purees, just grap a few portions out of your freezer bags and place in a container in your refrigerator, they will be ready to serve the next day. If you forget to thaw them out in time, you can defrost them in the microwave just make sure you let them cool and test before feeding.
Sweet Potato Puree: Wash your sweet potato and pierce the skin a few times with a fork. Pop it into the microwave for 5 minutes or until soft. Let it cool, peel the skin off, blend until smooth. You will need to add small amounts of water as you puree to get a nice smooth consistency:
Sweet Potato Puree will last in the refrigerator for a few days, it will also freeze well. Follow the same steps you did with freezing the apple puree.
Banana Puree: Bananas are the easiest, all you need to do is peel, slice into chunks, and puree until smooth. Ripe bananas work the best. It is recommended to use banana puree within 2 days of refrigerating, but you can also freeze following the same steps as listed above.
If your purees are too thick you can add a little water, formula, or breast milk though I recommend using a little water in purees you are going to freeze and refrigerate, or just wait to thin out your purees when you are getting ready to serve them.
Choose pears that are ripe (a little softer to touch), these will be much juicier and will make a much smoother puree. Wash, peel, quarter, and core your pears. Place slices on a microwave safe plate and microwave for 5 minutes or until soft. Puree in the processor until smooth. Treat this puree just like your apple puree - refrigerate 2 days or freeze.
Avacado: As easy as banana. No need to cook, just peel and pit it and scoop out the flesh. You can mash this in a bowl with a fork if it is ripe and soft, add a little formula or breast milk to get it nice and smooth. This doesn't save well since it will brown really quickly, so make yourself some guacamole with the rest and enjoy!
Carrots: I choose baby carrots that are ready to eat. I throw them in my microwave steamer (best invention ever) and steam for a few minutes then puree adding a little water to make them smooth since carrots aren't very juicy. Baby carrots are sweeter and puree creamier than regular carrots.
Mango: I didn't find mango to be very cost effective to make yourself. I paid about the same price for one mango as I would have for a double pack of Gerber mango and one only gave me 2 servings. So if you choose to make it yourself it's very easy, you don't have to cook it you can just cut it and puree it. It purees very smooth and you can keep it in the refrigerator for 2 days. It will pair well with other fruits to stretch it out a little farther.
The process is basically the same for all fruits and vegetables. Cook, puree, store. Some vegetables and fruits don't freeze as well as others. Here is a good list from baby.about.com:
Freezing Baby Food
Puréed Baby Foods That Typically Freeze Well
Most likely you'll have the greatest success with freezing these foods:
- Green Beans
- Squash (acorn, butternut, winter, and pumpkin)
- Sweet Potato
Puréed Baby Foods That May Brown or Discolor When FrozenBrowning and discoloring is pretty par for the course with some purées. Generally, this doesn't affect nutritional value or flavor, so it isn't something that should concern or alarm you. The reason why store-bought jarred foods look so pretty is that additives are included to stop the unslightly discoloration. Likewise, there are things that you can do to prevent baby foods from browning.
- Avocados, best when cut in half and frozen with a splash of lemon juice
- Bananas, best frozen with skins on
Baby Foods That May Suffer Taste or Texture Problems When Frozen in Purée FormSome foods may alter in taste and/or texture when frozen. Keep in mind these results are not definitive, and you might experience greater success with them.
- Citrus fruits
- Eggs (hard boil, freeze whole or freeze cooked yellow/whites only)
- Grapes (freeze whole or in halves)
- Mangoes (freeze in chunk form)
- Melons (freeze in chunk form)
- Noodles (freeze whole)
- Papaya (freeze chunked)
- Pears (best when frozen in slices
- Rice (cook and freeze whole)
- Squash, zucchini and yellow
You can also make your own cereals: Oatmeal, Barley, Rice. These aren't quite as ready to feed as the ones you get in the store as you do have to cook them, but they are healthier. Just scoop some oats, barley or rice (I prefer brown rice) into your processor and grind it to a powdered consistency and store in an air tight container. I didn't do a cost breakdown on these but I know it would be significant. The cost of these items is relatively inexpensive and once you grind them down they are going to go a long way. You will get two to three times as many servings from these as you will the store bought packages for much less.
To Prepare Brown Rice:
1/2 cup water - bring to a boil in a small saucepan
Stir in 1/4 cup of ground brown rice
Simmer for 10 minutes while stirring continuously
Allow to cool then transfer the mixture to your processor and blend adding 1/4 cup of breast milk or formula until you reach a smooth consistency
This will give you 8 (2 oz) servings
To Prepare Oatmeal:
3/4 cup water - bring to a boil in a small saucepan
Stir in 1/4 cup of oats
Simmer for 10 minutes stirring constantly
Mix in 1/4 cup of formula or breast milk and allow to cool to room temperature
This will give you 4 (2 oz) servings
To Prepare Barely:
1 cup water - bring to a boil in a small saucepan
Stir in 1/4 cup barely
Simmer for 10 minutes stirring constantly
Mix in formula or breast milk as needed to reach desired consistency
This will give you 4 (2 oz) servings
You can serve these on their own or mix in some of your fruit and veggie purees.
If you are looking for some more inspiration and information:
I would recommend this book, I got it from Amazon.com and I really enjoy it. It gives great tips on getting started and some unique foods and blends I wouldn't have thought of on my own (For Ex: Avacado & Banana).
Plus it's cute.