Making your own baby food is a great idea. The benefits are threefold: babies get fresh, lovely prepared food, it costs significantly less than store-bought jars, and you know exactly what’s in your baby food.
The downside of homemade baby food is that it can require a lot of work, including boiling, steaming, baking, peeling, seeding, chopping, blending, heating, cleaning blenders and other kitchen tools.
Even worse, you end up with a tiny, tiny portion that needs to be used within 24 to 48 hours.
No wonder many of us stock up on baby food at the grocery store.
If you choose to make your own, we’ll let you in on a little secret: Homemade baby food doesn’t require a hard day’s work. The trick is to make larger batches and then freeze them in lunchbox-sized containers so they’re ready to go. By doing it this way, you can prepare many meals at once, greatly reducing your daily cooking timeーーand still make homemade food for your baby every day.
Use your refrigerator
The trick is knowing which baby foods freeze well. We know from experience that baby foods are certainly not all equal when they come out of the freezer. Some freeze well, others are only slightly discolored, and still others fail completely.
Not all foods retain their quality when thawed. To solve this problem, choose the best frozen foods and make batches of frozen homemade baby food.
For those foods that can’t be frozen well, they should be prepared well and fresh. In addition, freezing saves you a lot of time (and money) and ensures that healthy food is readily available for your baby after a quick thaw.
Which foods work best depends on the types of foods you eat, your storage process and your personal expectations, but we recommend sticking with homemade purees.
If you’re not sure about the potential quality of a particular food, try freezing it in small batches to see if the results are satisfactory (and to get a better idea of what to expect). Here is a list of some of the foods known to be most successful in freezing:
Blueberries and other berries
Pumpkins (e.g. acorn squash, Chinese pumpkin, winter squash, and butternut squash)
Meat (including beef, chicken and fish)
Browning and discoloration are common problems with certain foods. Generally, this does not affect the nutritional value or flavor of the food and the food is still safe to eat, so it’s up to you whether you want to add foods that are prone to discoloration to your frozen foods. Foods that discolor easily include:
Avocados (best to cut avocados in half and freeze with a little lemon juice)
Bananas (slice or mash before freezing)
The reason why store-bought canned foods look so pretty is because additives are included to prevent discoloration. A little lemon juice will make the same homemade puree.
Flavor or texture issues
Some foods will change in flavor and/or texture when refrigerated. Remember, these results are not conclusive and you may have greater success from them. For foods that are best frozen in chunks, cooking them into a puree after thawing can improve results. Foods with skins should be peeled before freezing.
Almonds (these are frozen in a liquid state, so they may be a bit messy, but otherwise work well)
Eggs (cooked before freezing)
Grapes (frozen whole or in half)
Mangoes (frozen in chunks)
Melon (frozen in chunks)
Noodles (cooked, then frozen whole)
Papaya (frozen in chunks)
Pears (preferably frozen in slices)
Rice (cooked and frozen whole)
Tofu (frozen to become fluffy and chewy)
Storage and Safety
Frozen vegetables and fruits can be thawed, cooked and frozen. However, just as with frozen breast milk, once foods that have been cooked and frozen have been thawed once, do not freeze baby food again.
Food safety guidelines state that most frozen foods can be kept for three to six months. After three months, you may see some loss of quality in terms of taste, texture and visual appeal.
However, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), properly handled frozen foods are safe to eat indefinitelyーーthey may just not taste good or look good.1 Many parents aim to use frozen baby food before three months, while others adhere to a stricter one-month use policy.
If you see ice crystals on the surface of your frozen puree, don’t be alarmed. This is just frozen water that will re-thaw when thawed and does not automatically reduce water quality.
A quick freeze will reduce the amount of ice crystals that form. Be sure to watch out for freeze burn, which is a discoloration (usually whitish, brownish, or grayish) and often textured patches. Freezer burn does reduce food quality, usually due to air entering the food and moisture loss. This is prevented by sealing the food in airtight containers.
Common methods of defrosting and reheating include defrosting food in the refrigerator, microwaving (be careful to stir it, not overheat it, and check that it is not too hot before serving it to your baby), and placing food in a waterproof and heat-proof container in a bowl of cool or warm water, similar to the method many people use to heat bottles.
Tips for getting the best results
Once you’ve chosen your baby food puree to make and freeze, follow these guidelines for best results
Be sure to cook all vegetables and meats thoroughly (at least 160 degrees F for beef and 165 degrees F for poultry) and make sure the food gets a soft texture.
Purees can be diluted with your favorite liquid (water, breast milk, or formula) before or after freezing.
Choose a freezing method that creates easily accessible foods, such as ice trays, baby food trays, parchment and cookie sheets (to hold about two ounces of puree and frozen foods), or individual freezer containers. (Note that most prepared baby food glass jars are not recommended for freezing or heating.)
Once the purees are frozen, squares or chunks of food can be left in their containers if kept covered, or transferred to freezer-safe plastic bags for easy (and easily visible) storage.
Label the container, contents and date already prepared.
Thaw and heat a small portion at a time (about 2 ounces, depending on how much you expect your baby to eat) to avoid waste. Any uneaten portion should be discarded (never refrozen).
A quote from Verywell
Homemade baby food is a nutritious, economical option for your little one. Reduce the effort required to prepare, make lots of purees and freeze so you’ll have less time in the kitchen and more time to feed (and enjoy) your baby.