Saving Money - Making Your Own Baby Food

More and more families are making their own baby food. This gives you more control over what the baby eats. Commercial baby foods are convenient and safe, but they often contain more water, starch, and sugar than homemade ones. Also, preparing baby food at home can save money, especially if you have home frozen fruits, vegetables, and meats.

Most babies do not need solid foods until they are about 4 to 6 months of age. Before that age most babies have not learned to swallow solid foods. The sucking reflex pushes the tongue forward in the mouth and pushes out solid foods. You can force food down the baby's throat but the baby is not really swallowing.

Starting solids too soon may contribute to gagging and choking. If you wait to introduce solid foods, you will not need to make them too liquid. Babies will be able to handle food that is slightly textured and has small lumps.

Babies first foods need to be soft. Some pediatricians recommend iron-fortified infant rice cereal mix with breast milk or formula as a first solid food because rice is less likely than other grains to cause allergic reactions. Begin making single foods first in case allergies are present. Later try combinations of foods.

When to Introduce Solid Foods

  • Cereals - 4 to 6 months
  • Vegetables - 7 months
  • Fruits - 8 months
  • Meats - 10 months
  • Egg Yolks - 10 months
  • Cheese and Yogurt - 10 to 12 months

You can prepare nutritious foods for your baby by running fruits and vegetables through a blender. When preparing baby foods, don't add salt, sugar, starch, or fat. Salt is naturally in all foods. Sugar is in fruits, vegetables, and milk. Starch is found in cereals.

Also, babies get enough fat from breast feeding or formula. If you want to make baby food from the foods prepared for your family, put aside enough for the baby before adding the seasonings.

Do not make baby food from products which have already been seasoned, such as bacon, bologna, and hot dogs. Do not make baby food from left overs. Family foods that make good baby foods are plain noodles, pasta, macaroni, rice, grits, yogurt, cottage cheese, fish steamed, broiled, or microwaved), vegetables, and fruits. At first you may have to mash or puree these foods, but they are all soft enough for babies 7 to 8 months old.

Remember, do not use honey or corn syrup in food for babies under 1 year old. These items may carry botulism spores. The digestive system of a baby cannot destroy those spores.

Home-canned vegetables, fruits, and meats can be used to make baby foods. All home-canned foods should be boiled for 10 to 20 minutes. The thicker the food, the longer the boiling time. Commercially canned fruits and vegetables (unless unsweetened, unsalted, and packed in glass) should not be used.

You Will Need

  • Something to mash or grind the food such as: food grinder, blender, potato masher, or fork.
  • Quality food without added sugar, salt, or fat.
  • Containers for storage like clean, dry jars, plastic storage containers, or ice cube trays.
  • Wash hands well with hot, soapy water, and dry. Clean your fingernails and check for infected cuts and hangnails. Infections can carry bacteria.
  • Scrub all equipment with hot water and soap, and rinse well under hot running water and air dry. Do not dry with a towel. Use a plastic cutting board rather than a wooden one.
  • Never let cooked food comie into contact with raw food.
  • Select fresh, high-quality fruits, vegetables, or meats.
  • Wash and peel all produce, removing skins, pits, or seeds.
  • Remove all bones and all visible fat from meats.

Cooking Methods

Cook fresh foods as needed by baking, steaming, or boiling them in a small amount of water until tender. Use as little water as possible when cooking. Avoid overcooking which may destroy heat-sensitive nutrients.

  • Steaming. Steaming is one of the best cooking methods to preserve vitamins and minerals, particularly for vegetables. Use a steam basket, colander, or sieve to hold the food above boiling water and cook in the rising steam. Food may also be steam-cooked in an oven if it is wrapped in foil or place in a covered roaster.
  • Roasting or Broiling . These are both acceptable methods of cooking baby foods. Foods will probably need added liquid (meat broth or formula) to puree smoothly.
  • Microwave Cooking . Microwave cooking is a good method, especially for vegetables that can be cooked quickly in very little water. Use extreme caution if defrosting or heating in a microwave oven. Microwaves can heat a food unevenly and form hot spots. One spoonful may be cold, yet the next spoonful could burn your baby's mouth. Always stir the food well before feeding your baby. Most health and child care professionals recommend against using a microwave oven to warm baby food.
  • Boiling. This is an acceptable method of cooking vegetables and fruit, if you're careful to use only a small amount of water. Some of the water - soluble nutrients will dissolve in the cooking water. You can save these nutrients by using the cooking water to thin the pureed food to eating consistency. Simmering is a recommended method of cooking lean meat to prepare it for pureeing.
  • Boil home-canned foods for 10 to 20 minutes.

Prepare baby food using one of the following methods :

  • Mashing: Mash soft food with a fork until it has no lumps. Ripe bananas and cooked foods such as apples, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots can easily be mashed to feed a baby.
  • Sieving or straining : Use a clean, fine-mesh wire sieve or strainer. Push cooked food through with a spoon. Repeat this until the food has no lumps.
  • Blending: Follow blender directions. Blend so that the food is smooth with no lumps.
  • Milling: Put cooked food through a food mill.
  • Grinding: For babies 8 to 10 months, put cooked meat through a meat grinder and then in a blender. When the baby is 10 to 12 months old, the meat will only need to be ground or finely chopped.

Do not let homemade baby food sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Harmful bacteria in the food grow very well if given a chance. Refrigerate or freeze baby food as soon as possible.

Store prepared baby food in clean, labeled and dated, covered containers in the refrigerator at 40 degrees F for 1 or 2 days. For longer storage, the food should be frozen. Baby food spoils more easily than other foods because it has been pureed or ground.

To freeze pureed food, put it into ice cube trays or paper muffin-cup liners. Cover the food to freeze it. When frozen solid, store the cubes in a plastic freezer bag in the freezer at 0 degrees F Use them within 1 month.

Take out only enough frozen food for one feeding. Put the cube in a clean glass custard cup and set it in a pan of hot water or in a microwave oven to thaw. (Never put a jar of baby food in a microwave oven.)

Test to be sure the food is only lukewarm -- not hot. Use the food immediately after thawing. Discard any left-over food.

Home-canning of baby food is not recommended. Foods that have been strained take longer to process than those prepared in the normal way for home-canning. Commercial baby food jars should not be used for canning. They require special equipment for sealing which is not available to homemakers.


The following recipes are in one- and two-serving sizes. These can be doubled or tripled if the food is to be frozen.

Cooked or Canned Fruits, Vegetables, and Meats: 1/2 cup of cooked or canned fruit, vegetable, or meat 2 to 4 tablespoons of liquid (cooking liquid, formula, or water) Use beef, fresh pork, fish, veal, lamb, and chicken with no bone, skin, gristle, or fat. Remove any skins, pits, seeds, or bones before cooking. Cut food into 1-inch pieces. Use peas, carrots, spinach, squash, beets, green beans, or sweet or white potatoes. Do not use cabbage, onions, or other strong-flavored vegetables. Puree or blend.

Some good combinations are mashed potatoes and carrots or green beans; carrots and peas; sweet potatoes and squash; green beans and peas.

Warning: Beets and spinach have high concentrations of naturally-occurring nitrates which can reduce the ability of the baby's hemoglobin to transport oxygen. Use these foods in moderation or not at all until the baby reaches his or her first birthday.

Fruits: Use apples, apricots, peaches, pears, plumbs, prunes, and bananas. Do not use citrus fruits or juices until the baby is 1 year old. 1/2 cup of fresh peeled and pitted fruit. 1/4 teaspoon of sugar, if desired Cut fruit into 1-inch pieces. Puree or blend.

Good combinations are peaches and pears, banana and apricots, or applesauce and peaches.

Egg Yolk: Clean, uncracked eggs 1 tablespoon of formula for each egg yolk Put eggs in a saucepan. Cover with cold water to about 1/2 inch above the eggs. bring the water to boiling point and turn off the heat. Cover, and allow to sit for 15 to 17 minutes. Cool promptly with cold running water. Peel eggs and remove yolks. Combine egg yolk with formula and mash until smooth.

Specific Recipes

Banana-Oatmeal Breakfast(for 8 months and older)

  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup formula (or breast milk)
  • 1/3 whole banana
  • 1/4 cup formula (or breast milk)

Combine oats and 1/2 cup formula. Bring to a boil, and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, mash the banana and 1/4 cup formula. Combine banana and oatmeal mixtures.

Fruit and Yogurt (for 10 months and older)

  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup cooked, unsweetened fruit

Combine, mashing lumps of fruit, if necessary.

Combination Meat Dinners (for 10 months and older)

  • 1/2 cup cubed cooked meat
  • 1/4 cup cooked vegetable pieces
  • 1/4 cup cooked rice, potato, or enriched macaroni
  • 1/4 cup formula (or breast milk)

Combine and blend or mash until few lumps remain. Some good combinations are beer, peas, and potatoes; chicken, carrots, and rice; beef, squash, and macaroni; liver, green beans, and potatoes.

Meat Balls (for 10 months and older)

  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef or pork
  • 1/2 cup mashed potatoes or rolled oats

Combine the meat and potatoes or oatmeal, mixing well. Form into balls about 1inch in diameter. Place meatballs on a baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, or cook in a skillet until done in the middle. Drain off fat. Offer the cooled meatballs as finger foods or snacks or meals. Label and store extra meatballs in the freezer. Use within one month.

Babies sometimes choke on small foods. Make sure the meatballs are large enough not to get caught in the windpipe, and never leave the baby unattended while eating. To protect your baby from the danger of choking, offer only foods that are soft or will soften in the mouth.

Sweet Potato Puree (Makes 30 cubes)

  • 2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, skin on, cut into 2-inch pieces

Arrange sweet potatoes on a steamer rack in a large pan over 1 inch of water. cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Steam until tender, about 12 minutes. Pulse in a food processor, or pass through a food mill fitted with a medium disk. Add formula, breast milk, or boiled and cooled water as needed. Fill 1/4-cup plastic containers or ice cube trays with puree. Use same method for new or baking potatoes and any winter squash.

Recipe Books

  • The Complete New Guide to Preparing Baby Foods - Sue Castle
  • Super Baby Food - Ruth Yaron
  • The Healthy Baby Meal Planner - Annabel Karmel
  • First Meals - Annabel Karmel
  • Baby Let's Eat - Rena Coyle
  • The Baby Cookbook - Karin Knight

The contents of this article is not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional.

Sources: Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, Ohio State Univ. Extension Service, Iowa State University County Extension