Demystifying Baby Food


Back when Penelope was a fish in my belly I was gifted 100 Baby Puree book at a baby shower. It intrigued me. My mom always made our baby food. She was the original natural mama raising us on natural, homegrown foods. It wasn’t a trend or health thing. It boiled down to plain old economics. Continuing my mom’s legacy of showing love through good food, I decided that I would make my baby food, too. When I had Penelope I needed to be as economically responsible as possible so we could survive in the Bay Area! Now I love to make baby food because it’s easy and delicious (I’m constantly catching Felix sneaking bites of June’s food!).


Side note: store bought baby food is great. It’s convenient and it simplifies motherhood. Why be a stressed out mama?! There’s no wrong way to feed a baby (bottle or breast, store-bought or home made) besides not feeding a baby. If you feel otherwise, you’re welcome to meet my inner mama bear. Judgemental parents are not tolerated in my neck of the woods, in-person or online. But if you’ve been intimidated by making your own baby food, let me simplify it for you. It’s easy and rewarding. Let’s talk about common misconceptions:

It’s hard to make. Getting a recipe book is a great way to get started. It helped me think outside the box and get vegetables I wouldn’t have otherwise given a second thought: parsnips, leeks, cabbage, I’m looking at you! Since making baby food recipes, I’ve been more comfortable including those veggies into our more grown-up meal times, too!

Most recipes consist of cooking a veggie or veggies to a mashable consistency usually by boiling in water. In the cookbook I got, there are some fussy recipes like salmon and risotto. Not sure I’ll be attempting that any time soon, but it’s given me ideas on how to transform our evening meals into something that June can handle when we’re eating as a family.

melissaesplin-demystifying-baby-food-3 It’s time-consuming. I’ll cook a family meal and make baby food at the same time or batch cook as much as I can. Sundays are a low-stress day with lots of cooking, so I may do a large batch of multiple “flavors”. If I’m doing it while I’m doing my regular cooking routine, It’s no extra work at all. I just make sure that I have enough jars on-hand to fill with baby food. I’ve bought various types of jars ( is a great place to start), but I’ve found 4 oz. jam jars are my favorite. They’ve got a wide mouth for easy filling and they’re the perfect amount for an emerging appetite. They’re easy to find at the grocery store, too.

It’s perishable. Yes. It is. The shelf life isn’t as long as store-bought food. I don’t can mine like my mom would when she would make applesauce just before winter would hit. BUT, I’ve noticed that if I mash the food and store it in canning jars while hot, they’ll seal in the fridge. HOWEVER, they won’t keep the seal at room temperature. I keep them in the fridge until I’m ready to use them (I don’t leave it at room temperature for more than 12 hours). But the jars of food stored this way will last a great while. I would admonish you to smell and taste the veggies before you feed your babe if you’re not sure about how well it’s kept. I haven’t ever had a jar sour on me in the fridge. I’ve had some in the fridge for over a month.melissaesplin-demystifying-baby-food-4

I don’t have the right equipment or space. The food processor I use Chris and I got as a wedding present. Some are as low as $15, but you can get decent ones for $30. They’re small unitaskers that don’t take up much space in the kitchen. As much as I would love a full-sized food processor, this little bad boy has worked fabulously for us when we had a 25 square foot kitchen. If you plan to make small batches and go through them quickly, regular tupperware is great. For doing larger batches, small jam jars you can find at the grocery store are worth it. The glass also doesn’t stain when it comes to the carrot and beet recipes!

Basic Carrots

makes about 6-10 4 oz. servings

  • 8-10 large carrots
  • 1-2 pats of butter (optional)
  • 1-2 cups water

Peel and chop carrots to 1/2″ discs (bigger discs are okay, but require a longer cook time). Place carrots in a medium sauce pan with 1-2 pats of butter and water. The water shouldn’t cover the carrots!

Cover and cook until soft (20-30 minutes) on medium high. The water will reduce so you may want to check every 5-10 minutes and add water if necessary. As soon as they’re soft, remove from heat and add to the food processor. Use all the water in the pot if there’s any left over. There are vitamins in that water. For a fridge seal with jam jars, process while still warm/hot. Add water as-needed to the mixture until the desired consistency. I tend to add more when my babies are just learning to eat and less when they’re more experienced eaters. If you’re using a blender you may need to use a touch more water. Add just little bits at a time.

Store in the fridge to cool. Serve plain or mixed with sticky rice for older babies.

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    1. Emily B says:

      I love homemade food, but lease be careful with food storage! Just because the lid has suction in the fridge doesn’t mean it is as safe as a properly canned jar. The prolonged, intense heat of canning kills all microorganisms and then the seal prevents any new ones from entering. Without properly heating and processing the jar, you haven’t killed the germs and they will continue to slowly multiply in the fridge. This is especially true of foods that are low in acid and sugar. You cannot always detect if food has gone bad by smell and taste alone. You are much safer freezing your food!

      • Melissa says:

        Totally agreed!! I’ve found that my partial seal allows the food to last longer than if I store it in plastic containers. But yes! Always be careful!

    2. Katie says:

      Great post! I’m finally past the new eater days, but I made baby food for all my kids too (except #3 who did baby led weaning) and I’d agree with all of your points! I’d also add that if anyone is worried about homemade baby food going bad, purees freeze really well and will last several months in the freezer, long past the time that baby will need them. So there’s really never a reason to worry about homemade baby food going bad!

    3. Kristie says:

      One more useful kitchen gadget that might help with stuff is a mandolin slicer. I recieved one as a wedding gift, and didn’t use it much those first few years, but I use it all the time now. I slice cucumbers for my kids to snack on. Or potatoes to cook for yummy potatoes. But it would make slicing anything to cook it up easy and fast. My slicer has minimal parts so clean up is quick and easy. I wish I had this post several years ago. Making your own baby food always seemed intimidating. But I think you are right, putting it together as you make dinner for everyone else it isn’t that hard. Especially if you have the family eat non mashed veggies!

    4. Michelle Richard says:

      In australia (well amoungst the friends/family i know) it’s usual to make our own baby food and save the store bought stuff for holidays/emergencies etc. Steaming the veggies retains far more nutrients than boiling and it isnt any harder. Also don’t be scared of Salmon. I just oven baked or steamed a fillet and then flaked it quite small. My girls LOVED it. I would sometimes mix it into some pureed veggies too.

    5. Robin says:

      This is great! With my son, I fed him Beechnut natural purees. They had a great variety of flavors with some less common ingredients and never any extras (like putting pear juice in it just to add sugar like Gerber does). They even beef up some of their stage 3 foods with things like oatmeal and quinoa to make them a bit more hearty. But I’m expecting another baby in Dec. and I would LOVE to make my own food this time. You make it sound totally doable, so I think I’ll give it a shot! Plus I saved 50 baby food jars for no reason, so I might as well put them to good use, right?

      • Melissa says:

        I had no idea about Beechnut versus Gerber. That’s definitely good to know when I’m in a pinch and need to stock up on store-bought baby foods!

    6. Angel Y. says:

      Great post Melissa! I pureed foods at home for my little one and it was super easy. Now she’s BLW and I enjoy seeing how much she’s grown eating healthy organic foods.

    7. dara says:

      more recipes please!!!!!

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