Homemade Baby Food for the Freezer

Guest Post by Erin from $5 Dinners

A great way to save money when you’ve got a little one crawling under foot is to make your own baby food. The average price at my grocery store for a 1-serving jar of baby food, stage 1, is $0.51. From my rough calculations, you can save an average of 75% by spending a few minutes in the kitchen to make your own food — especially if you buy in season and get the best prices on that fresh produce.

While I prefer cooking in the kitchen each night for our “big people” meals, I’ve found it works really well for me to have a Freezer Cooking Day once a month preparing homemade baby food.

Here are a few tips for making homemade baby food efficiently and cost-effectively:

Planning

Watch the sale prices on produce. If butternut squash or sweet potatoes are on sale, but your Baby Food Freezer Cooking Day isn’t for another 2 weeks, that’s okay. Purchase the vegetables that will last longer when you see them on sale. Then, get other produce, apples, pears, mangoes, that won’t stay fresh as long just before your baby food prep day.

Timing

If it’s not too overwhelming for you, plan your baby food making into your regular Freezer Cooking Day. If that is overwhelming, plan another “1/4 day” to prepare just the baby food.

Execution

The biggest “hang-up” that I’ve experienced is not having enough ice cube trays. I get all my purees made up and then fill up all my ice cube trays, while the next puree “waits in line” for a tray!

Plan to make enough purees for the first set of trays, then busy yourself while those sit in the freezer for 2-3 hours. Put the then-frozen purees into a freezer baggie, wash the trays and pour in the next purees. Freeze, wash, pour, repeat. You can simply work these steps into your Freezer Cooking Day.

Serving

The ideal way to thaw homemade baby food is to remove the number of cubes needed for the next meal and place them in the refrigerator overnight. But I know I have a hard enough time remember where I left my car keys or cell phone, let alone remembering to take out a few baby food cubes.

So when necessary, thaw the cubes on the counter for 30 minutes. Mix in a little warm water and baby cereal to speed up the thawing. And in desperate moments, thaw the cubes in the microwave. But never give baby hot food! Always test temperature by touching the food with clean finger.

A Quick Tutorial on Preparing Homemade Sweet Potatoes for Baby:

1. Slit sweet potatoes. Bake at 350 degrees in a glass baking dish with 1 cup of water, covered with foil, for 50-65 minutes, or until all the sweet potatoes are soft. Remove foil and drain foil. Let cool 10-15 minutes.

2. The sweet potato skins will practically fall off after they are “steam-baked.” Drop the sweet potato flesh into a blender or food processor.

3. Add enough water to form the consistency you wish for your baby food.

4. Puree.

5. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze. Place frozen cubes into freezer baggie.

6. Serve to hungry, growing baby!

Have you successfully made homemade baby food? If so, share what worked. Did you find it difficult or frustrating? We’d love to answer questions.

If you’ve blogged about your experience, leave your link at the $5 Dinners Homemade Baby Food Page.

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Comments

  1. says

    I also found that the small reusable containers from Glad, Ziploc, etc are about the same size as a baby food jar. I would just fill those up and freeze them. They were great as I could easily put the lid back on and put in the fridge if my little one didn’t like it or I could take one in the diaper bag easily.

    • says

      @Annaliese, I agree! I found using the disposable Glad containers a real help for food on the go. I could defrost it before leaving home, put the top back on and throw it in my diaper bag.

      I also love Beaba products and the complete Baby Foodmaking Kit from KidCo.

      • Anitra says

        @Kate @ The Shopping Mama, I actually would put a frozen cube of baby food in the Glad container before heading out somewhere – by the time we got to “feeding time”, it would usually be thawed.

        • Sarah says

          @Anitra,

          I did the same…put a cube or two frozen into the tiny tupperware container and it would be defrosted within about an hour.

  2. says

    I made all of my kids babyfood just this way. I remember thinking before I started “If this is a pain in the neck I’ll stop doing it”. . . but it wasn’t! It really was quick and easy-and I like that I could control exactly what was in the babyfood.

    Although every parenting book you read will tell you that babies don’t need any salt or sugar added to their food, it’s amazing how many baby foods -when you read the back label- have sugars or salts added! Also they frequently have flour added-which a baby really doesn’t need. . .

    Long story short-any of you out there reading this and thinking “gee, that sounds like a pain”-let me tell you it really isn’t. Give it a try and see what you think!

  3. Hannah says

    I used this method for when they are getting into for advanced foods. Cook your regular meal then take some extras and make baby food. They love it!

  4. Jerilyn says

    I’ve made baby food for both of my kids. It’s really easy to do and it was nice to always have a healthy choice for my baby, especially if our meal didn’t have any baby friendly parts to it. My littlest one is almost 9 months and doesn’t want “baby” food anymore. I’ll feed the purees to my toddler or through them into soups, etc. The sweet potato cubes are great in oatmeal (Jessica Seinfield’s idea!)

  5. says

    I made all of Ava Grey’s baby food (except baby cereal). She is now 19 months old and an EXCELLENT eater. Ava Grey never had to make the transition from the taste of jarred baby food to the finger food version since the only difference was texture and size.

    I still make & freeze my own homemade “graduate” style fruits and veggies for days when our schedule is hectic and not so healthy.

    I encourage EVERY mother, regardless of your schedule, to at least give homemade baby food a try. You will be surprised at how easy the process is and how easily you can fit making homemade baby food into your schedule.

  6. says

    I loved making homemade baby food when my kids were babies! Since I worked full-time outside of the home during the week, I would make big batches on the weekend. Enough for dinners and for lunches during the day when grandma was watching them.

    Mary Ellen

  7. Angela says

    This also works well for meats, if you choose to feed meat to a baby. You can cook chicken in the crock pot and then puree it in a food processor with some broth. It tastes so much better than the nasty baby meats that are for sell! Just opening a jar of baby meat was almost more than I could stand. :)

  8. JenK says

    I made homemade baby food for my second child. It was fantastic experience. My son loves so many foods now, because he was exposed to good tasting baby food. I used ice cube trays ( I had about 10 total, and make large batches), and also made some in extra small containers for traveling. Best website I found was http://www.wholesomebabyfood.com. It has great recipes for all ages and stages of eating.

  9. Melissa says

    I have an 8 month old that I make for now. (And have made for my other 4 kids!) I often cook a whole bag of peas, drain a bit of water, throw it in the Vitamix and then freeze them in the ice cube trays. My mom did the same thing for me when I was a baby! I like to keep peas, green beans, squash, sweet potatoes, carrots and pears in the freezer. Things like bananas and avocados I just smash up right before giving him.

  10. Jo says

    I made my own baby food for both my girls and loved it! I especially loved knowing exactly what was in my baby’s food. I took a day or so a month and made big batches as well. Super easy! Plus it is soooooo much cheaper and earth-friendly than buying little jars of baby food.
    I also found that the take along food mill from KidCo was handy to have in the diaper bag for bigger babies. Just run whatever you’re eating through the mill when you’re out and about and voila! – baby food. :)

  11. Rachel says

    I actually just finished making baby food this morning for our almost 8 month old! I actually can/freeze a lot of our own produce out of the garden that I use for making baby food. Also, to speed things up, I buy canned pears, peaches, sweet potatoes, etc. when they are on sale and put those though the blender. I do rinse everything to get rid of the extra salt/sugar before I puree it. I also put my baby food in Glad or Ziploc food containers before I freeze them. I just take them out of the freezer the day before I want to use them and thaw them in the fridge. Our son’s current favorite is a pumpkin and pears combo!

    I did this with our oldest child and he was eating table food at 9 months, so I hoping this works for child #2, too!

  12. says

    I make our baby food too – and instead of using ice cube trays I use ziploc bags. I put them in the little sandwich baggies and put all the sandwich baggies in a freezer bag together so it stays fresh but is in individual serving sizes.

    Once I’m ready to use it, I throw the baggie in a bowl of hot water to thaw and cut off the corner to squeeze it out onto the spoon one bite at a time. Cleaner and easier than anything else I’ve tried.

    Now I just need to be better about making MORE of one thing at a time. We’re still in the “trying new foods” phase so I’ve just done a little at a time.

  13. Lisa says

    I did this for both of my girls as much as I could, just supplementing where needed with regular baby food. It was so easy!!! Annabel Karmel has a great recipe called Lovely Lentils, along with other great tips and things I had never thought of feeding to a baby.

  14. Rachel Haugaard says

    I had just finished cleaning up from a baby food making session for my 9 month old when I sat down and read this!!! :) I really enjoy doing it, and it lets me get creative as I think of different fruit/veggie combinations to make…

    My solution to the “not enough ice cube trays” problem (I only have ONE tray I can use!!) is this; I start my purees, fill up my ice cube tray, stick it in the freezer, and then I keep on making purees. As I finish each variety, I pour it into a ziplock bag, and stick it in the fridge. After I empty my frozen food cubes out of the tray, I cut one corner off of one of the bags of puree in the fridge, and squeeze the puree into the ice cube tray sections (like an icing bag for decorating cakes). It works really well, and the purees are fine in the fridge until I get a chance to freeze them all. Works well for me!

  15. Angela says

    I noticed that your pictures include a vitamix. It is THE BEST for baby food, especially for a younger baby, because it can actually get peas ‘Gerber smooth’!

  16. says

    I can’t believe how much I have saved making all of my son’s food since he was born.

    Even though my son is now eating more “grown-up” foods, I am still able to make some purees to sneak in more vitamins and minerals into his food. My advise- Don’t stop making purees just because your child is eating chunkier foods.

  17. says

    If you don’t want to take a break from pureeing, put the pureed food into a gal size zip bag and put in the fridge until your cube trays are clean. When they are clean, just cut a small slit in the bottom corner of the bag and use your ziplock bag like a frosting bag, filling up your cube trays.

  18. Dawn says

    I have made baby food for both of my kids. I did some for my son, but I made everything for my daughter (The only thing I bought from the store was cereal) I love the book “Top 100 baby purees” by Annabel Karmel. There are some very tasty recipes in that book. My daughter is a much better eater than my son. I found freezing it in the silicone ice trays was much easier because they are so flexible it was easier to get the cubes out of them.

  19. says

    I made all of the baby food for my oldest 2 boys…and plan to do so with our new son! The book “Super Baby Food” was my greatest help! She explains the freezing method w/ice cube trays and batch cooking. She also chapters for each month of your child’s age (6 months, 7 months, etc.) and lists what foods are okay to introduce @ that age. I loved feeding fresh, nutritious food to my boys! One of the things that I learned from the book was putting off sugar as long as you can, so she suggests plain (instead of flavored) yogurt. This was my boys’ favorite thing until they were 18 months old!

    I was surprised at how easy making the food was! I would just get out some cubes that morning, and by the time i needed them that day they were thawed! This made it SUPER easy if we had plans for the day. I didn’t have to take a cooler; the food would slowly thaw & be perfect for lunch!

  20. Krissy says

    My son is now 2-1/2 and I made all of his baby food and finger foods – he has never had a single bite of jar baby food! I LOVED making it, and while it got messy to make it was never hard. I had some recipe books for baby food and found i never really used them. I just made in-season stuff in bulk and made combos that i thought sounded good. He is such a healthy eater today and not picky at all, and i think it’s because of how i fed him as a baby. He has always preferred veggies and fruits to meat, i think because he knows how GOOD they can taste! People constantly remark on what a healthy eater he is, and it makes me so proud. Having him eat homemade baby food also made the transition to eating with us as a family easier. I never make him his own meal, he just eats what mom and dad eat because he’s used to “real” food. It makes like so much easier!

    I always used ice cube trays in the first few months, but when he started eating larger amounts of food, like around 10m – 12m, i bought a bunch of the rubbermaid 4oz containers. They snap together to stack and worked wonderfully. I have saved them to all to use for baby #2 which is due in a couple months.

  21. Miriam says

    I’ve done this for my daughter. http://wholesomebabyfood.com/ has some great tips and instructions. With sweet potatoes, make sure you add tons of water or you may kill your blender 0:-) Also, I only did a few at a time. I never got spent a day working on it. While I was working on supper, I’d throw in a few sweet potatoes to cook. While I was waiting for something to finish, I’d steam some carrots to puree, etc. Made it much more manageable and I only had to have 3 ice cube trays. I’d then put them in a ziploc bag with the date and ingredients. :)

  22. says

    I made all the baby food for my triplets and seriously found it so easy and not overly time consuming. The food looked, smelled and tasted better (I compared with some jarred food someone gave us) AND it saved us a huge chunk of change!

  23. says

    This is the way to go! I finally made baby food for my third kiddo and she is a much better eater than the older two. It is a small inconvenience for a HUGE payoff– this is worth your time!

  24. says

    I made my daughter’s baby food and I’m 7 months pregnant with our second child and intend to make his as well. My daughter was not a huge fan of purees. I made applesauce and sweet potatoes for her, but she preferred bite sized pieces, whole peas and so forth. She didn’t like cereals at all. She liked meats right away, just cubed. She wasn’t all that interested in foods until she was 8 or 9 months old- she was *much* more interested in the breast! Sadly now she is pickier than when she was a baby. At 3 1/2, she no longer eats apples, applesauce, sweet potatoes or bananas (or most any fruit) but she loves her green veggies. Go figure!

  25. Hattie says

    I made my son’s baby food, too! I wanted to have a non-picky eater who ate things as we ate them, so once I had worked through most of the potential allergens for him, I just pureed some of our entrees and vegetables (seasoned as my husband and I would eat them) and then froze them. I also gradually started leaving some of the food “chunkier” to transition him to table food. It worked! He could eat table foods at 9 months (and much preferred them!). And he is not a picky eater now that he is nearly 3!

    Just a word on seasoning the food the way that you would eat it–I am a pediatric nurse, so I had the benefit of knowing in great detail what could be a potential allergen–please exercise caution if you are going to season your vegetables and use your normal entrees for your baby food!

  26. says

    I loved making my daughter’s baby food! We saved a ton of money and it didn’t take too much time. Just the smell of the jarred foods, made me want to puke. I believe my daughter is a GREAT eater now (16 mo.) because she’s been eating the same fresh foods all along, just in a different form. I still freeze veggies, beans, chicken and fruit for lunches and the times when I don’t want her having the unhealthy things we’re eating.
    ;)

  27. donna says

    I have 3 kids and none of them ever had anything else but homemaid. Not one can of food.. sorry. Really, it take few minutes to make a meal for a baby. I al use http://wholesomebabyfood.com/ wib site. great ideas and suggestions!
    Love them!

  28. Lerin says

    I have never bought a single jar of baby food for our 11 month old. He didn’t REALLY start eating until about 8 months old, then I would use my food grinder (love it!) and puree whatever we were eating that meal. I didn’t make anything in advance either. Just grind each meal, and my grinder doubles as a serving bowl. Perfect!

  29. September says

    I didn’t make baby food until my second baby–at eight months old he was eating 4 jars plus cereal at every meal and there was NO way I wanted to be spending that much money on food for an infant!

    For bigger eaters (like my son) instead of the ice cube trays (which were like two bites in Davis-land, lol) I used muffin tins, which each hold four oz. I’d freeze until solid, then pop out the discs (dipping the bottom of the pan in a sink of hot water helped) and store in a ziploc bag. Later on I also tried the silicone muffin cups which were even easier.

  30. says

    I didn’t buy baby food. I would that whatever we were having for dinner, meat, vegetables, and sides, whatever, throw them in the blender with a little water. Our kids loved it. They are great eaters and will eat anything I cook. No extra time in the kitchen.

  31. says

    That’s how I used to do it for my baby. And yes, the hardest part is remembering to thaw the cubes. It always seemed like my kid was hungrier than I thought he would be, and without a microwave, we had to get pretty creative to get his food warm quickly!

  32. Charissa says

    HELP! I love the idea of making food for my 10 month old twins. I’ve tried it once, and it’s easy, SMELLS better than the jarred stuff and it’s not that much extra work. My problem is I found it to be MUCH more expensive than jarred food! A $4.50 bag of apples will make me one and a half ice cube trays, or 24 oz. I can buy 24 oz jarred for $3. I broke even on squash, and pears cost me twice as much! What am I doing wrong?

    • AC4 says

      I think it depends on the prices of your stores and what is in season. I didn’t consider price while I was making baby food. But if I guess I’d say I broke even. It was well worth it, I was sure of what I gave my babies.

    • Becky in KY says

      @Charissa, It’s largely a matter of buying foods when they are on sale. Sweet potatoes at $.98/pound is not a great deal, so I try to buy them when they are on sale for $.58/pound. Around Thanksgiving they were $.25/pound, so I bought tons and had enough sweet potatoes to last until that baby was finished with purees. Also, I tried to balance cheaper produce on sale with items that weren’t on sale. That is, I saved enough on sweet potatoes or squash that it wasn’t a problem if I didn’t save much on apples. Again, though, buying what’s on sale makes a huge difference.

    • says

      @Charissa, Apples – buying a big jar of natural, unsweetened applesauce worked great for us – and less mess! (organic when it was on sale, but that is how our budget dictates our food choices at this point) And I’d stick to foods that are on sale to puree – don’t buy pears if they’re too expensive! Yes, variety is a good thing but it’s not going to hurt if a child gets a banana, applesauce and whatever else 2 or 3 days in a row if the other foods are not cost effective. Just my 2 cents! :-)

  33. Christan says

    I knew jarred baby food was nasty, but didn’t know any better for my first. Hence we stuck to ONLY vegetable jarred foods, he never got the desserts and meals. A 6 month old that needs pie in a jar? How ridiculous!

    Homemade was much easier than I thought it would be! I tried it with our third child and started with the purees and he quickly moved up to chunkier foods. I loved being able to decide what he ate (what the rest of us were having) and I would puree it to how he wanted it. And he is definitely my best eater.
    I will definitely be doing it again with my 4th.

  34. AC4 says

    I have made baby food for all my babies. Don’t forget you can add breastmilk instead of water. I never bought any jars and I would never consider it.

    • Christan says

      @AC4,

      I forgot to add like AC4 said, adding breastmilk is good instead of water. It’s even better to add the liquids that you cooked the food in since those liquids have the nutrients from the food. Like boiling sweet potatoes, use the broth in the blender instead of adding water.

  35. Rachael says

    I skipped baby food altogether and went straight to table food which was even more economical (not to mention more fun for the baby and easier for the parent!).

    I made some homemade baby food for my son but after hearing about BLW from friends I offered DD real food from 6 months of age and she loved it. Many people worry about choking but we didn’t find that to be an issue. She’s now 15 months old and an excellent eater of all textures and flavors.

    Gil Rappley coined the phrase “Baby Led Weaning” to describe this method and researched it in the UK. http://www.baby-led.com tells more about it (the photo gallery really intrigued me).

    • Sara B says

      @Rachael,

      We have also skipped purees and taken this approach to introducing solids. It is so easy to just give them a little bit of what we are already eating. I do keep a few things on hand (bananas, avocado etc… ) in case the meal is not idea for babies. The one item I have found super handy is the little mesh feeder – just throw in a piece of fresh fruit or veggie and hand it to them!

      I LOVE cooking and thought I would be making wonderful batches of baby food my children, but this method has worked so well that I’m not even tempted. Plus before you can blink twice, they are big enough to enjoy helping you with wholesome baked goods etc….

    • Gail says

      @Rachael, we do this too – so much easier than purees, as you don’t even need to cook much extra when they first start on solids – although I’m now learning to cook for 2.5 people!

      My daughter is 10 months, and will try absolutely anything. It makes going out for dinner, or visiting friends and family so simple. We went to a Chinese Moon Yuet (12 course banquet) last month, and E dug into everything she was offered.

  36. Amanda says

    We just started this with baby number 4 and we absolutely love it! It is so easy and inexpensive! We try to buy when things are on sale! Wish I would have done it with my first 3!

  37. Courtney says

    I made baby food for my daughter and plan to make it again for our son, who is expected in August. I loved making baby food…it just feels good to make it!

  38. Jessica says

    I made all of my girls food. Not only is it incredibly cheaper, but I could afford to give them organic foods as well. Even when working full time, it only took 1-2 hours to have a whole month’s worth of meals.

  39. rachaelp says

    Making your own baby food is great! For my oldest, I did the ice cube thing. I found the cubes take up a lot of room in a small freezer…when #2 came along, I simplified it and just put the food in snack size bags and froze them. They took up tons less room in the freezer. Also, I found that I had to use a few ice cubes to make a meal for #2….another reason why the baggies worked so much better for me! It’s so much more economical to make your own food. Now my almost 1 year old doesn’t eat much in purees and eats tons of table food.

  40. Nicole says

    I made all my daughters baby food, I think not only is it cheaper, the food tastes much better- have you ever tasted that crap in a jar ewwww! I even made her cereal, I used ice cube trays and would just take out a cube or two the night before, in the mini glad-perfect for on the go as someone else mentioned. Next baby I will do the same

  41. Nicole says

    I loved this website, when I was making my daughters food, tons of awesome ideas…did you know avocados are a great first food? high in GOOD fat, for brain development and physical development, sounds gross but my daughter loved bananas mixed with avocados, I thought it sounded so gross until I tried it :)

  42. says

    I made all my son’s baby food! The thought of jarred food made me gag. Once, when he was about 10 months old, my mother-in-law tried to give him jarred peas when she was watching him. He wouldn’t have anything to do with them, but loved my pureed peas! :)

    I used the baby food cubes, the ice cube-type trays (but not actual ice cube trays) and small Ziploc containers (4 oz. size). I popped them out of the containers and into freezer bags. I found that making 2-3 foods every 2-3 weeks worked best for us, because I was able to keep a fresh variety in rotation. If I made a whole month’s supply at once, I ran out of containers. So instead I’d only do 2-3 foods at a time, but in quantities to last 6-8 weeks, but did that (with different foods) every 2-3 weeks. That way we were always rotating a variety. And of course, when certain foods were in season, we loaded up on them!

  43. says

    When I was working full-time, I made batches of baby food on the weekends. When my youngest two were eating baby food, I would set aside some of our dinner (whatever we were having, without the seasonings, as long as it wasn’t peanuts, shellfish or eggs until they were a year, though lots of people say you don’t have to wait for those anymore) and puree it in the food processor. We’d feed some to baby and freeze the rest for a day when we were having a meal that wasn’t baby-friendly. Not only was it almost no work (since it was part of the meal we were eating anyway), it solves the problem of not-enough ice cube trays!