A post about organic mush.
April 19, 2010

So.  Homemade baby food.  You know what?  This falls squarely under the category of WOW, THAT WAS MORE WORK THAN I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE.

The fact of the matter is that babies are a bit of a time suck.  Oh, they’re lovely.  And they’re cute.  And they have those delectable rolls of thigh chub that cause you to involuntarily say things like PUNKIN-ATOR in a high-pitched voice you swore you would never, ever use.

But they’re also total time sucks.

So when I got to the part in the homemade baby food books that encouraged me to make Charlotte’s food fresh every morning, I laughed so hard it’s a miracle that milk didn’t shoot out of my nose.  It’s like these authors, the ones talking about making seed milk and picking rose hips out of the garden, do not even occupy the same corner of the universe that I do.

I mean, I don’t know about you, but my daughter wails if I’m out of ARM’S REACH for longer than about thirty seconds.  And since I’m not exactly thrilled about the idea of chopping carrots at the same time that a twenty-pound child is weaving between my feet screaming dejectedly, I decided to make and freeze approximately sixteen metric tons of baby food all at once.

My sister had the afternoon off work, so we set up a little kitchen pow-wow and went to work.  We peeled sweet potatoes.  We mashed bananas and we milled quinoa and we steamed green beans and we baked chicken and we cooked couscous and and and and AND!

I know that the books say that making your own baby food is soooo EASY!  Like counting to ten!  ONLY EASIER!  But this past weekend, I spent over twelve hours in the kitchen slicing and dicing and freezing and labeling and blending and steaming and banging ice cube trays on the counter in frustration.  So I am quite prepared to say that the books lied.

Or at the very least, I am quite prepared to say that those books are not written for kitchen-challenged mothers like me who have never seen a papaya before IN. THEIR. LIFE.

So.  If you’ll excuse me, there is some avocado-mango-barley mix with Charlotte’s name on it.  Now that I’ve used devoted approximately ALL of my sanity to the cause of making baby food, I AM NOT ABOUT TO LET IT GO TO WASTE.

*** As well, I guest-posted at Cheap and Creative yesterday about gender.  Kind of.  Ish.  So leave a comment, let me know what you think!

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  1. By Natalie on April 19, 2010

    Oh I remember the baby-food making days….yes, it IS a huge time suck…but SO much cheaper and healthier.

    ....and (although it doesn’t feel this way)...pretty short-lived.  Sooner than you think, she’ll be reaching for bits of bread, dry cereal, etc…and you’ll be giving her modified versions of your own breakfast/lunch/dinner.

    She is all kinds of cute tho….she really is (ow…ovaries…stop that excitement!)

  2. By Tabitha (From Single to Married) on April 19, 2010

    Oh man - I’m already wondering how I’m going to fit everything in as it is!  And I totally want to make food for Henry too when the time comes.  Good thing I’ve got about three months to prepare!

  3. By on April 19, 2010

    Oh yea-I’m right there with you!  I spend about 2 nights a week making organic mush.  I lost a battle to quinoa this weekend trying to mill it in my mini chopper.  Until I find a new weapon of destruction my little guy will have to wait on that.  Time suck it is for sure, but it is so worth it in the end when you see that mushy goop all smeared all over their smiling little faces!

  4. By Elin on April 19, 2010

    I love making Emmeline’s food.  It is time consuming, but once you get into a kind-of routine, it isn’t too bad.  I try to make a couple of big batches twice a week - once on the weekend and once after work one day.  We went all of last week with only one container of store-bought food (goal met - so excited!!), and that was for the church nursery since there is no way to heat food cubes up.

  5. By on April 19, 2010

    Your frozen cubes should last you a long time. I agree with a previous poster that soon she’ll just be eating what you eat, just cut small.

    Also, bananas? They don’t need to be prepared in advance. Maybe you were mixing it with something, but bananas are the easiest because all you have to do is peel.

    Same with avocado and papaya.

    Once she can handle more textures, black beans, rice, bits of sliced cheese, diced tomato, bread. These are all really easy. Frozen berries are really easy to thaw in the microwave for a few seconds and add some plain yogurt too.

  6. By Tiffany on April 19, 2010

    Yea, we started offering table foods this week that are a big more textured - can someone say “hardwood floor nightmare!“ My kids has an arm on here…watch out MLB.

  7. By Kimberly O'Rosky on April 19, 2010

    I believe I"m going to have a flashback about this in a few months :) We just received a Bebea food maker with cookbook and you’re right - they sure make it sound easy!
    Mmm, papaya. I might have a craving coming on now!

  8. By Dandy on April 19, 2010

    Hubby is soooo going to be in charge of this.  He wants to do it and I say… go for it!  But I’ll be out of the house :)

  9. By on April 19, 2010

    I only make foods that don’t take too long and that will save me money like squash, apples, bananas, etc. I don’t bother with peas or green beans, I buy those from Earth’s Best. Now that we’re at the 7 month point I’m going to experiment a little more with new fruits and veggies and grains. It’s not too bad if I make a couple things once or twice a week and freeze.

  10. By Heidi on April 19, 2010

    Ahh, yes, preparing the baby food is a huge time suck.  I keep telling myself, you wanted to do this and you can do this…so do it.  I gave up the first day about preparing it fresh from day-to-day.  I had Jim pick up some ice cube trays on his way home that very day!  And now I spend a good hour or two on the weekends and then about once a week making the batches to freeze.  Molly doesn’t care for peas - I can send those your way and save you that trouble.  ;)  Good luck!

  11. By Mary @ Parenthood on April 19, 2010

    Hee!  I was totally going to do that.  But luckily Elizabeth skipped the mush stage altogether.  She’d gag and cry and spit regardless of what it was.  In desperation we gave her normal food and she started to actually eat.  In microscopic amounts, but at least food was being consumed!

    Mind you, maybe I should say that she unluckily skipped that stage because she’s still pretty choosy about what she eats unless it contains chocolate….

  12. By Kate on April 19, 2010

    You’re a great Mom - Charlotte is a very lucky girl!

  13. By on April 19, 2010

    @Kimberly: The Beaba ROCKS!

    My Charlotte doesn’t need her food pureed anymore, but the Beaba steams stuff for her like nobody’s business. I tried making something on the stove with a steamer basket a few weeks ago and it had to cook a LOT longer than it takes with the Beaba.

    She loves steamed chunks of apples and they are a heck of a lot neater than applesauce.

  14. By Sarah Christensen on April 19, 2010

    Jessica - Even if we hadn’t mixed banana with other foods, although some people have success feeding banana, avocado, papaya, mango, peaches, and similar mashy fruits to their babies sans-mushing, I don’t feel comfortable with it.  So I mash.  Solid foods may be slower going in our home than in most, but I figure she won’t turn sixteen and still have me mashing her food.

    I mean.  I hope not anyway.

    Kate - Thank you!  That’s the sweetest thing anyone’s told me all day =)

  15. By on April 19, 2010

    But can’t you mash when you sit down to feed it to her? That way you don’t have to spend time pre-mashing. That’s what we did back when we needed to mash.

    Or are you saying you just mashed whatever you fed her yesterday?

  16. By Sarah Christensen on April 19, 2010

    I mashed a total of seven bananas (that I can remember) and mixed them with a variety of grains, other fruits, and vegetables.  Then I froze the various mixes into cubes.  I keep fresh pears, bananas, avocados, and melon on hand for fresh mashing, but just fruit upsets her stomach sometimes, so if I don’t have time to mill and cook grains to include in her meal, it’s nice to have cubes available.  We made enough cubes to last a couple months, keeping in mind which foods should only remain frozen for a few days and which can go up to a week or a month or three months in cubed/mixed form.  Since we spend alot of time on the go or in other peoples’ homes, freezing works best for us in many cases.  I dated and labeled each collection of cubes.  We used dozens of grains, veggies, fruits, meats, etc and pureed and froze our own fruit juices and milks.  All of the food (minus the chicken) was organic and local, most came from neighbors’ gardens (the eggs we used in one collection came from one neighbor’s hens even).  The produce that did not come from neighbors came from either the farmer’s market or the grocery - but only after I researched and, in two cases, visited, the farms.  We used several books to formulate recipes we felt would work best considering balanced nutrition and our family histories of allergies and sensitivities, then researched extensively and even talked to a professor of pediatric nutrition and our daughter’s doctor about how to best preserve the nutrients when making baby food in advance to ensure that we weren’t making foods that were going to be worse for her than processed, preserved jars of baby food.

    I may have never made baby food before, but I guarantee that I did not go into it irresponsibly.  Yes, mashing fresh bananas at the time of consumption is what works best for many people who make their own baby food, but it isn’t always an option for me, so I read up and went all out learning how to accomodate my family’s specific needs.  And that included pre-mashed bananas.  It was just a bit more time-consuming than I’d anticipated, that’s all.

  17. By on April 19, 2010

    Um, OK.

    Sorry, I just couldn’t figure out what could be so time consuming about mashing a banana, but I guess if you’re going to visit farms and stuff, that would indeed be quite time consuming, so I bow to your uber-momness.

  18. By Sarah Christensen on April 19, 2010

    Hmmm.  I think that came off harsher than I intended it to.  I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude or offensive, I promise.  Honestly, it’s times like this when I think that the Internet is really limiting.

    As well, let’s not get carried away with uber-momness LOL.  It’s not that visiting the farms was super time-consuming, they were only forty minutes out from where I live and I wanted to check out an abandoned dairy nearby for photos anyway.  I did that over a month ago anyway.  And when I say I talked to a professor, again, to be fair, he’s married to a woman in my mom-group, so it’s not like I went way out of my way.  The part that was most time-consuming was dicing and mashing and learning how to put everything together.  My sister and I started it and thought it’d take us two or three hours tops.

    It took twelve.

    But also, to be fair, alot of that was waiting for grains to cook and cubes to freeze.

    The post is really not meant to be taken as a serious thing, it’s not like I just spent twelve hours only mashing bananas.  It’s meant sort of lightly, in that, you know, it was much more work to do everything in advance than any book ever lead me to believe.  I mean, IT IS RIDICULOUS, what sort of freak spends twelve hours making baby food?

    During that time, my parents called the house three or four times for various reasons.  You should have heard my sister.  “We’re making baby food.“

    “We’re still making baby food.  Yes, really.  The kitchen is a disaster.“

    “Guess what?  We still aren’t done making baby food.“

    “Charlotte better be hungry because WE ARE STILL MAKING BABY FOOD.  No joke.“

    I told Donald yesterday that with the next baby, I’ll do it differently.  He asked how and honestly, I don’t know, it’s not like I can make stuff freeze faster.  But I’m never doing it like a weekend food fest again, that’s for sure! =P

  19. By erin on April 19, 2010

    I am so thankful that my baby-food-making days are almost at an end, because Hannah just begs for pretty much anything and everything that is on my plate.  Also, pasta?  Is wonderful.

    I do my baby food in small (ish) batches, only 1-2 trays at a time, but I do a lot of variety.  That way there is a ton in my freezer but I don’t have to do it very often, or if I do I only have to do one or two things at a time.  Also, that way I don’t have to label by date, because we go through 14 cubes of asparagus before I’d have to worry about them turning or something. 

    I also do not pre-mix my purees.  Each cube is almost 1 ounce, so I just pick out a couple of different cubes and mix them all together.  I tend to mix by similar colors.  I’m not sure why, but the idea of squash and sweet potatoes and turnips with a dab of ginger (Hannah LOVES ginger) and maybe some chicken seems much more appetizing to me than all of that mixed with peas.  That also means that I am only using 1-2 cubes of each food every day, and not all the foods get used every day.  So even though I might only make 14-20 cubes at a time, this way it takes 2-3 weeks to go through those 14-20 cubes and I don’t have to make baby food every time I turn around.

    One of my girlfriends scoops one or two ounces into snack-size ziploc bags, and then freezes them flat.  Then they are easy to defrost on the go or in a cup of warm water.  But, I don’t feel like always buying bags, so we do cubes.  Another one of my girlfriends said her Magic Bullet blender was amazingly convenient for making baby food when her daughter was little, but I just use my food processor.

    I don’t bother freezing avocado or bananas, and I don’t bother making applesauce.  Unsweetened applesauce at Trader Joe’s is about the same price as a comparable amount of apples and decidedly less work, and it tastes delicious, especially the Gravenstein applesauce.  It’s also nice because we go through applesauce like nobody’s business, as Hannah gets it mixed with her oatmeal every morning.  As for her oatmeal, I just make up a little Tupperware-ful about once a week or so and keep it in the fridge.

    Sorry this is such a long comment, just my experience and maybe one or two things will help you or someone else.  Oh, I have an idea.  Why don’t I just do my OWN damn blog post? :)

  20. By erin on April 19, 2010

    Oh, and as for stuff that is more labor intensive (peas, green beans, peaches)?  I just buy fresh-frozen, defrost, and puree.  Peaches I generally don’t even bother freezing because one bag of fresh-frozen makes about 16 oz. pureed and we go through that in no time at all.

  21. By on April 19, 2010

    When our guy was a baby we got this brilliant thing called (I think) a Baby Food Mill.  It was white plastic, about eight inches high, and your put whatever we had cooked up for dinner in the top, put the lid with the grinder on it, cranked it a few times (like and old fashioned coffee grinder), popped off the top and fed the food straight out of it.  I LOVED that thing and it could all go in the dishwasher or sink later.  It was like,  instant baby food!  It handled anyything soft….veggies, potatoes, fish, chicken you name it.
    Glad to hear you are not feeding her out a jar (not that it is remotely my business), and I know, those thighs! Don’t you just want to eat them?

  22. By teetotaled on April 19, 2010

    I have these lovely organic baby food cookbooks sitting in my kitchen gathering dust. I have pureed some fruits and veggies in the magic bullet here and there but have not yet dove into the real recipes. Now I am scared! :-)

  23. By on April 19, 2010

    I didn’t mean to pester with the banana questions, either. I just didn’t want anyone who was thinking of making baby food to be dissuaded because you said it was so time consuming.

    I think the first weekend I made baby food, I made maybe 6-8 ice cube trays. After that I only had to make 2-3 trays per weekend to keep up. My Charlotte also did not last long on the purees because she got really good at finger food, grew 8 teeth and would not allow Mommy or Daddy to hold the spoon (she could do it herself thank-you-very-much, Mommy).

    I would not be surprised if when you get to the end of your gigantic batch of baby food you’re ready to move on to finger foods.

    Anyway, I found that making baby food was not nearly as difficult as making food day-in, day-out for the rest of the family, especially my very picky 11 yo step-son.

    PS: Don’t make too much of any one thing. I tried this one semi-complex recipe for baby stew that I thought tasted really great. It made probably 4 ice cube trays. I tried giving it to her like 4 times, and she never warmed up to it. I think it is seriously the only food I have tried to give her that she didn’t like. I ended up giving it to a friend.

  24. By Alicia on April 19, 2010

    Kudos to you!

    I literally tried to make purees all of one time before I decided that Baby/Self Led Weaning was the way to go for us. The biggest downfall: When it comes to things like applesauce and yogurt that he just CAN’T eat with his fingers, he throws a mini fit if I don’t let him at least have his own spoon to play with.

    I’ll also say that feeding Jude any food that didn’t come from my breasts was the hardest part of motherhood to this point. I struggled trying to ‘fit it in’. As you mentioned, you’re out and about at other people’s homes… it’s so much easier to just pop out the breast and viola! he’s satisfied! I thought for sure by the time he was a year old he’d still be nursing 700 times a day and only sampling pieces of food when it was convenient. But now here is is eating three meals a day like a champ.

  25. By Molly on April 19, 2010

    This week we started a tiny bit of solid food. 
    I bough some quinoa at this fancy schmancy organic grocery store and then chickened out on how to make it baby ready. So I got some boring organic baby cereal and fed it to her, actually saying that I fed it to her would imply that she ate it rather than played with it.  LOL.
    But, I’ve got my BabyCook ready for all our homemade baby food adventures, but I’m nervous!!!
    What if I screw it up?!?!

  26. By Sarah Christensen on April 19, 2010

    Molly - You can do it!

    Quinoa was Charlotte’s first food and we found that milling it first, then cooking it was easiest for her to take down.  But if you cook it and then stick it in a food processor or blender for long enough, that works too.  It’s a little bumpy, but it’s fine.  We also found that mixing it with applesauce made it more palatable, so that might be a consideration as well.

    Trust me, you can do it, it’s not as hard as you think =)

    Alicia - We’ve been so slow with solid foods that we’re actually closer to that tooth-lead feeding schedule than I thought I ever would be.  I totally agree - when you’re out and about, a boob is so much easier.  Not as messy, not as much time to prepare, and the baby gets filled up and satisfied very quickly.  We finally decided to make the big baby food push, though, because in the last couple weeks Charlotte pretty much stopped showing interest in solid food at all.  She’d take it, but she’d also just as soon spend half a day on a hunger strike until she got milk.  I’m hoping that if I have the food available more often, she’ll be a little more open to the idea of eating it?

    On the up side, though, I guess I don’t have to worry about her weaning herself right now.  When we first introduced solids to her (we waited for the first teeth, she was six months), I was really nervous that she’d wean herself by nine or ten months when I ideally would like to nurse her through two or three years.  No concern about that right now whatsoever lol.

  27. By Cynthia A on April 19, 2010

    I found your post quite funny!  I can imagine you and your sister in the kitchen for 12 looonnngg hours, ha ha!  Laughing cause we are not there yet, I guess you can laugh at me in a couple months…Sometimes what seems soo simple can turn into well you know, a HUGE process.  Charlotte has a great Mommy who cares a lot about her, she will appreciate your hard work!!

  28. By Christy on April 19, 2010

    I made all of Lily’s baby food but I can’t imagine doing it for 12 house at once.  I only did one or two things at a time. 

    Good for you!!

  29. By Brooke on April 20, 2010

    Well, one good thing you did that I didn’t do: waiting until Charlotte was ready for solids before going on a baby-food-making campaign. My daughter was just a few months old last summer when the good fruits and veggies were coming on at the farmer’s market, and I was all, “Sadie shouldn’t have to miss out on healthy local produce!“ So I chopped and steamed and chilled and pureed and froze and bagged all kinds of stuff—green beans, peaches, pears, apples, squash. The thing I didn’t consider, though, was that by the time Sadie was ready for purees, it was almost time to throw them out. What a waste on my part! Luckily Sadie went very quickly from cereal/purees to table food, so I never did have to buy any jarred baby food (aside from the prunes I had to get after blocking her up with stupid rice cereal).

    Feeding another human tasty nutritious food could be a full-time job in itself! I’ve always been relatively healthy, but I’ve never been so conscious as I am now when it comes to making sure meals are well-balanced.

    So here’s to research and planning and spending all day cooking!

  30. By on April 20, 2010

    LOL this made me laugh; especially the part where you hadn’t seen a papaya before…really?! HMM papaya!

    I have one observation that I think is sort of funny…what my parents did because they were poor, and what other people’s parents did because there were no other options (ie cloth diaper and home-made baby food); we now stress ourselves out about!

    I remember making baby food with my mom for my bro. But we just blended/froze what everyone else was eating.

    I’m not questioning your methods, but let this be a reminder that if you take some short cuts (like not mashing a banana lol), your baby won’t die :)

  31. By Alicia on April 20, 2010

    Around the time we really made the push to feed three meals a day with nursing in between (and in the morning… and before bed… and whenever he shows interest), Jude got SUPER clingy and wanted to nurse constantly. I too was afraid he’d want to stop nursing completely, but that hasn’t been a problem.

    And I agree, just presenting it to her will eventually open her up to wanting more…

  32. By Sarah Christensen on April 20, 2010

    Cynthia - Thank you!

    Christy - With the next baby, I think that’s how I’ll do it.  It wasn’t until after we had all the foods ready and realized that we had to keep washing the food processor and waiting for cubes to freeze between mixing that we realized how long it would be.  My poor sister!  I pretty much completely shot her weekend!

    Corinne - Yeah, I’d never seen a papaya before lol.  As for your observation, I think the same thing sometimes.  Donald and I cloth diaper, co-sleep, make our own baby food, etc, for two reasons: a) we cannot afford the more mainstream alternatives, and b) we are trying to be increasingly proactive about making healthy, eco-friendly choices for Charlotte.  Sometimes I think back to what it may have been like in generations past when people did this stuff because there were no other options.  I wonder what they worried about then.  Because whether or not parental love has evolved, you know they worried.  I wonder what choices they agonized over that I will never cross my mind lol.

  33. By on April 21, 2010

    lol That’s okay; when I went to Ghana the first time and I was offered a fresh “Pawpaw”, I wasn’t sure what it was lol. Even though I’ve eaten papaya my whole life!

    Also,  great question, you should ask your mom, Donald’s mom and any grandparents the two of you have. Then report back :)

  34. By on April 21, 2010

    I can’t believe I missed this post! I’ve been eagerly awaiting more baby food posts because I would LOVE to hear about what you’re giving her. All that research you did? Would love to hear what you learned. I know you don’t like to be preachy or open yourself up to judgment, but it would be really informative for me and I’m sure others like me who tend to follow similar parenting styles. (PS I put in a fake email b/c I wasn’t sure if it would be public…I’m weird about privacy.)

  35. By Megan@SortaCrunchy on April 22, 2010

    (I haven’t read the comments.  Forgive redundancy on my part, I beg.)

    So, I did the whole cook and chop and puree and freeze thing with Dacey.  It was a lot of work, but I enjoyed knowing exactly what was going into her little body.

    Baby #2?  While I was parenting a very high needs toddler?  No purees.  At all.  Inspired by the fact that she refused to eat anything off of a spoon, I went with it.  Just chopped up into tiny pieces whatever we were eating.  So. Much. Easier.





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