Making baby food in two hours per week (or less, even as an expat)
I made all of both my daughters’ baby food for stretches of about six months per child. It sucked at first, but I slowly got into a rhythm that allowed me to make it in large batches. Look, being a working mother is hard (being a mother is hard, period). And I can see why folks don’t make their own baby food if they think it’s going to take six to eight hours on a Sunday. It doesn’t. I promise.
When Jasmine was a baby, we lived in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and there was limited baby food available locally. Jasmine also had some severe intolerances that made me reluctant to try out baby foods imported from countries with less controls on food production than we have in the States. When Grace was ready for solids, we were in DC, and while there certainly were plenty of crunchy organic baby foods available, I was already meal prepping for the rest of the family, and it wasn’t a huge deal to add another hour of cooking in order to prep a week’s work of food for the baby.
Making your own baby food in two hours per week absolutely requires investment in terms of equipment and time. However, it is less expensive than buying baby food over the course of your child’s infancy. And if you’re a control-freak type-A crunchy mother like I am, it allows me to be 100% certain of the ingredients in any particular meal.
(Note: I’m talking about two hours of work, not two hours of in and out of the kitchen dicking around with Netflix and hollering at your older kids to stop coloring on the walls. Add more time as needed for all of that other shit.)
As always, there are no affiliate links in this post. Links are to products I liked and found useful.
Supplies you’ll need:
Food processor (you could do this with a magic bullet, but whhhhyyyy)
Ice cube trays (don’t bother with the special “baby” ones … just buy cheap plastic ice cube trays in bulk)
Steamer (I bought mine at Good Will for $5)
Pots for boiling
Cookie sheets or other pan for roasting (and parchment paper if you’re into that)
1. Decide what you’re going to cook.
Depending on where your baby is in her solids-eating adventure, you may need more or less of this. I let my guide be: two to three types of vegetables, one type of fruit, one type of protein, and two types of starches. A typical week early on in the introduction to solids might look like:
- Peas (from frozen, what kind of monster do you think I am?)
- Sweet potatoes
- Chicken thighs
2. Prep everything.
Spend 30 minutes measuring out vegetables into plastic bowls, peeling and chopping sweet potatoes and pears, and defrosting your chicken. Doing so will make flying through the following steps much easier! All you’ll be doing once you’ve prepped is cooking, food processing, and spooning into ice cube trays.
3. Begin steaming protein and peas.
Start with your protein because this will take some time. Just dump your chicken thighs into the steamer and cook ‘em to death. Once the chicken is finished, take it out and steam your peas. (Or, if you got a two level steamer, steam the chicken on the bottom and the peas on top).
4. Roast vegetables.
Toss the sweet potatoes in a bit of olive oil, then spread on a cookie sheet. Do the same for your carrots. The carrots will cook more quickly, so don’t do them together. Roast the carrots for ~30 minutes at 375. Roast the sweet potatoes for 45.
5. Boil fruit.
Place your pears and apples in separate pots, then add just enough water to cover them. Boil until soft and squishy. Do NOT discard the water you’ve boiled them in. It’s full of nutrients and deliciousness, and you’ll use it to puree the fruits later on.
6. Cook starches.
Make oatmeal. Make rice. You want your rice nice and liquid, so add more water than you normally would for an adult. Cook the oatmeal until it’s done. Over cook the rice (and as with the fruit, keep the water!).
7. Run ‘em through the food processor.
This is the tedious part. Run each cooked food item through the food processor, pureeing to an appropriate density for your child’s development. Add water while pureeing as necessary. I actually added formula to my kids’ purees to make them a bit nutritionally and calorically dense — there just aren’t a ton of calories in 1 oz of cooked apples!
Freeze in ice trays then place in zip lock freezer bags.
Make sure you label each bag with the type of food and the date you made it. Store food for no longer than three months in your fridge.
Baby food resources
Superfood Baby – a great book that walks through current best practices for feeding schedules, nutrition, and food introduction, as well as recipes. I didn’t follow it 100%, but it’s a great resource for getting started.
Wholesome Babyhood – this site was invaluable as I tried to figure out the best whole food recipes for Jasmine. It has tons of recipes, as well as an extensive section on allergens.