Stocking Up, Shelf Life, and Thawing Frozen Foods
With menu planning, a shopping list, and basic cooking utensils, the process of making homemade baby food can be easy and efficient. If both parents are working, it is probably easier to take a few hours once a week to prepare food. For the first two to three days, you can store food in the refrigerator, and you can put food for the rest of the week in the freezer. Another option is to make smaller batches two or three times a week, store them in the refrigerator, and use as needed.
As your baby moves to lumpier purees, and then you can also make a batch of grains and beans for several days, and then make fresh vegetables every day, and puree them at the table with a food mill or grinding bowl. Cooking baby food can be integrated with family meals by sharing pureed soups, breakfast porridge, noodles, and steamed or baked vegetables.
Freezing foods into serving-sized portions is easy and convenient. As she grows, your baby’s serving size will increase from 1 or 2 ounces, and then to 3 or 4 ounces, depending on the food. If you freeze food in ice cube trays or muffin tins, then you can put the frozen cubes in larger storage containers or freezer bags. Food cubes specifically designed for storing baby food are convenient, and they come in different sizes and materials.
You can heat glass cubes directly in a steamer or double boiler, and then serve without transferring dishes. When using plastic cubes, to avoid the plastic releasing toxins into the puree, wait for the puree to cool before pouring it into the cubes for storage, and remove from cubes to reheat food. While glass cubes can be more versatile, plastic cubes are less expensive and it is convenient to have plenty of cubes for storing food. When storing food in the freezer, leave enough space for the serving to expand during freezing. Make sure the seal is airtight to prevent freezer burn, which dries out the food and reduces flavor and nutrients. Also, be sure the food has cooled before placing it in the freezer, because putting warm food in the freezer can change its temperature.
Label the bags or cubes with the name of the puree and the date of freezing. Color-coding can also be helpful for storing grains, vegetables, proteins, and fruits. If you use cubes and color-code them, you can arrange a balanced meal on one tray ahead of time. In one month, your baby will need a thicker consistency, so it is not efficient to make too much of the same food ahead of time. Good inventory practices are first in, first out (FIFO) to give your baby the freshest food first.
In the refrigerator, cooked grains and beans keep for three to four days, and vegetables and fruits keep for two to three days. Additional care is needed for fish and poultry, which will keep for at least one to two days in the refrigerator after they are cooked. Plant-based foods such as grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits will last for up to three months in the freezer. You can keep fish and poultry in the freezer for one to two months. Tofu does not freeze well. Raw foods such as avocados, bananas, melons, and cucumbers change quality, color, and flavor when frozen, so they are best eaten fresh.
The refrigerator temperature should be between 35º and 38ºF. Freezer temperature should be 10º to 0ºF.
Thawing Frozen Food
If you have time to plan ahead, take servings out of the freezer and put them in the refrigerator for 4 to 24 hours before using. Otherwise, you can run warm water over the container or soak it for 15 to 20 minutes, and then transfer the frozen puree to a small pan and heat it until thawed. You can thaw food that has been frozen in a glass cube on the stovetop, directly in a steamer basket or double boiler.
Do not thaw food at room temperature, because the bacteria can grow on the outside, while the inside is still frozen. Always stir food that has been previously frozen well, and check its temperature before serving to your baby. Make sure food is completely thawed before serving because small pieces of frozen food can present a choking hazard. After food has been frozen and thawed, do not refreeze it.
When your baby eats food, her saliva goes onto the spoon, and when the spoon is placed back into the serving bowl or container, her saliva starts digesting the food in the bowl. Therefore, once food has been used for a serving, the leftovers should be discarded. Also, do not reheat the same food more than once.