By Guest Blogger Abbie Polos
Happy New Year and congrats on making it through another holiday season! If your family is like mine, the kiddos are burned out on Grammy’s fudge and the bank account is anxiously awaiting your tax return. To help stretch the budget last year I started making homemade purees and “applesauce” pouches for my kiddos and it has been a HUGE hit. (Mom hack: We call it “applesauce” because my 5 year old won’t eat anything called baby food!) You know those fruit and veggie puree pouches your kids love but cost an arm and a leg? Well my friends, you can make homemade versions of these suckers at home for MUCH LESS!
To get you started, here are a few tricks I use to keep cost low, and tastiness high when making your own homemade puree pouches.
Reminder: It is generally thought that you can safely start introducing foods to babies at about 6 months of age, and that breast milk should remain the primary source of nutrition for breastfed babies until about 12 months old. Make sure to talk to your pediatrician about how to best introduce food to your kiddo!
- Buy reusable pouches
When I started making my own purees I would portion it out into ice cube trays, cover with plastic wrap and store them in the freezer. This worked great until my first born got older, and I started giving him the store bought pouches and the convenience of the pouches paired with the high cost made me wish there was a better way. Well, some other very smart mothers had the same idea and there are now several reusable pouch brands out there. I did my research (on Amazon) and chose two brands that are freezer safe, held at least 5oz and are dishwasher safe. And not to worry, most brands I looked into use the same lids as the store bought pouches, so you can reuse the lids you get from those Chick Fil A kids meals!
- Get the right tools
I am a believer in the right tool for the job and this is one of those situations where that is absolutely true. First, a counter top blender or an immersion blender is mandatory. Fancy isn’t necessary but the more speeds the better.
Next you need a way to cook your hearty fruits and veggies. I love my Instant Pot and use it religiously, but if you aren’t yet converted, you can bake, roast or broil your ingredients in the oven on parchment paper. You can also steam the ingredients on the stove with a steamer basket but avoid microwaving or boiling to preserve the nutritional value.
Lastly I suggest getting your hands on a breast pump flange. If you aren’t familiar with a flange, it is the funnel shaped device of torture that affixes to your breast on the pump, and for most brands it is the perfect shape for getting purees in the pouch.
- Start with a base and add from there.
I have a few staple recipes that I rotate through depending on what items I have in stock. My go to bases have three ingredients; a hearty veggie, like winter squashes, pumpkin, or sweet potato, a hearty fruit like apples or pears, and a tender fruit or veggie like peaches, spinach, bananas, or yellow squash. Some of our favorite base combinations are:
Pumpkin + Apple + Pea
Carrot + Apple + Spinach
Sweet potato + Apple + Zucchini
Once you get comfortable with the base, you can play around with the fruit to veggie ratio and try adding a fourth ingredient like dried fruit, yogurt, beans or grains.
- Shop smart and shop ahead
I have done the math several times and making your own puree works best if you shop the sales and shop ahead, especially for the base items. I have been able to keep my pouches below $0.40 each by stocking up on organic produce and sale items ahead of time. I find healthy bargains in the freezer section, canned food aisle and the quick sale/clearance rack in the produce section.
Items I always have on hand: Organic canned pumpkin, sweet potatoes, bananas (keep in the freezer), organic frozen spinach, carrots (fresh or frozen, whichever is cheaper), apples, pears, butternut squash and/or acorn squash, and organic rice or grain cereal.
Remember: When buying frozen or canned items you want to skip the salt and preservatives. Read the ingredients and avoid the items that have anything other than fruit or veggies in the ingredients.
- Steal from the commercial brands.
Let me be specific, DO NOT steal the actual product from the store, just the recipe! I have a few tried and true recipes I use on a regular basis, but when the kiddos get tired of the normal rotation I will browse the baby food section and pick out a few recipes that look good. You would not believe the variety of combinations these guys come up with and the best thing is, they are right there on the label!
- Use the freezer.
I use the freezer for both storing prepared puree pouches and the ingredients to make them. Most frozen veggies stay good for several months and the purees will be good for at least a month, if not longer depending on the ingredients.
Why not just store the puree in the fridge you ask? Well, one of the benefits of preparing your own food is that it is free from those hard to pronounce chemicals that increase shelf and refrigerator life. Your tasty snacks, minus those nasty additives, only stay good for a few days in the fridge. Freezing until needed is the best way to keep the food you prepared fresh and tasty.
- Get started!
Here is a starter recipe that your kiddos will love! If you don’t have pouches yet that is totally fine, you can still use recycled baby food jars, reusable baby food containers and freezer bag for storage.
Sweet potato, Apple, Zuccini Puree
2 organic sweet potatoes
2 organic apples, (I used 2 half eaten apples from my fridge, compliments of my 5 year old)
1 organic zucchini
.5 cup of Organic multi-grain baby cereal
- OVEN: Preheat oven to 375°
- Rough cut and de-seed apples. Cut sweet potato and zucchini in half. If using an Instant Pot cut fruit and veggies to fit pot.
- OVEN: Place fruit and veggies face down on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or foil. Bake in oven until potato is soft. The apple and the zucchini will get soft quicker but that is okay! Remove from oven and let cool, reserving juices for step 4.
INSTANT POT: Place everything in instant pot on steaming rack. Add 1 cup water. Close lid and set to 6 minutes. Quick release steam when time is up.
- Place everything in the blender with all cooking liquid and blend until smooth. If the texture it too thick, add more water or breastmilk. If the texture is too thin, add small amounts of baby cereal until you reach the desired texture.
- Fill containers or pouches with puree and store in fridge for quick use or freezer to keep fresh longer.
Total cost – $2.73 for 45 oz. of food, which comes out to a little less than $.30 a pouch!
So go ahead Mamma, get out there and whip up some fancy homemade purees that will impress all your friends! Trust me, your kiddos will love them, you will feel great about giving them healthy food to eat, and if your partner is anything like mine, your thrifty skills will earn you a little extra pocket cash at Target that they don’t have to know about! Good luck and keep Momming!
Want to see more blogs like this and get notifications on local events and happenings? Subscribe to our free weekly newsletters here.