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Homemade Baby Food When You’re Away From Home

Jun26

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Hi Amy,
So after your little how to on making baby food, and my new son’s immediate interest in eating me out of house and home and funding Gerber’s next major jet purchase, I decided to take the plunge. Yay! Babyfood is easy and cheap and he likes it! Yay! Now here’s my problem. This August, I am going to go to the beach with my parents for 10 days. I am really looking forward to this considering the eldest boy has not seen the ocean yet and it will be 10 days of grandparents galore.
However, I am wondering what to do about the whole baby food issue. The baby will be about 8 months then, so I am hoping he will have some Cheerios and things like that in his diet but if not I am stuck with two choices: Either buy food (which I don’t think he’ll eat now to be honest), or spend time making food when I could be visiting and having fun. Also am not precisely sure of what I will have available to cook with in terms of pots and pans and the like. I know I will be bringing my own blender but the glass bakeware and steamer etc. seem like a lot to pack.
What do you think would be the best solution to this issue? I am writing you extra early in hopes that you get to this before I go!
Thank you!
Jess

Last week we went to the beach — not for quite as long as your trip, but it was my own personal test run of trying to pack enough food for an eight-month-old Godzilla baby, in a place with VERY limited freezer/refrigerator place and a kitchen that I REALLY didn’t want to be dirtying up with sweet potato skins and barley-caked pots. (Jason’s aunt and uncle are retired and live at the beach year-round, and have spent a good decade getting everything down to a perfect, organized system in a small condo — houseguests descending with bags of groceries mess up the system. As the niece-in-law, I DO NOT MESS WITH THE SYSTEM.)
You didn’t specify whether you’ll be driving or flying — if you’re driving, you’re golden. (More on flying in a bit.)
Everything I packed for Ezra fit into a single six-pack cooler (with room for ice packs and some water bottles for us). I brought two 8-ounce jelly jars filled with fresh fruit purees — apples and pears, made the day we left in a frantic oh-God-everything-is-gonna-go-bad-quick-USE-IT flurry of peeling and pureeing. Then another jar with leftover homemade Shepherd’s Pie that Jason and I had made for our own dinner but ended up being a HUGE hit with Ezra (hint: use a cauliflower puree instead of mashed potatoes on top.) These jars, plus one small carton of plain whole-milk yogurt and a small container of some ripe peach slices were the only non-frozen things I brought because of 1) limited fridge space, and 2) you really do need to use up fresh stuff within three or four days before freezing it anyway.
Everything else I brought was frozen in convenient ice-cube-sized portions and placed in plastic freezer bags. I placed as many cubes in each bag as I could — mixed veggies, blueberries, corn, sweet potatoes, lamb & lentil stew, barley & mushrooms, cauliflower, oh my! — and laid them flat in the cooler, layered between the ice packs. For five days, I brought two quart-sized bags and probably only used about half of the cubes I brought.
For dry ingredients, I brought a box of baby oatmeal cereal (for thickening his morning fruit-and-yogurt or any frozen purees that defrosted a bit on the watery side) and some baby finger snacks — Cheerios, Mum-Mums, fruit puffs. And that was it, plus a couple bottles, formula and mah boobs.
The good news is that by eight months old you have a LOT of table food options. Ezra gets something from our plates pretty much every meal these days in addition to his own purees and stews and baby snacks. Most of our meals contain SOMETHING that can be modified for him, either with a little extra cooking or chopping/blending or leaving certain ingredients out. If not, there are plenty of easy baby finger foods that don’t require a lot of extra special packing (provided you have at least a decent-ish stock of grown-up-human basics). Ezra’s already used to his food not being THAT different from what we eat, and (THANK GOD) will gamely try pretty much anything we put in front of him.
(Green bean salad was a big hit on the trip, as were Belgian waffles.)
(Though by this age Noah was already staunchly rejecting more foods than he was accepting — he’d touch foods to determine if they were a texture he preferred or if it “squished,” and would only try stuff that was bread or cracker-like. Sigh. Ezra is totally my do-over baby.)
Some stuff I did to stretch our food supply and minimize my time in the kitchen: Spread fruit puree on a piece of bread and cut into small squares rather than spoon-feeding an entire serving. Microwave one small portion of squash/broccoli/frozen peas in a small bowl with a teaspoon of water instead of trying to steam a whole fresh batch. Hell, Ezra ate torn-up bits of American cheese while I grilled a sandwich for his brother, and they shared bowls of Annie’s Mac & Cheese. As much as I enjoy creating and cooking special, custom dishes for Ezra, it’s REALLY REALLY NICE sometimes to not treat his mealtimes quite so preciously and hand over “real” food to try.
Now. This July I’ll be flying to BlogHer with Ezra in tow (that is, if he doesn’t wean between now and then, which sadly seems kind of likely, THANKS KID) (SOB), and that will be a whole other mess. A cooler is just NOT something I’ll feel like dragging along, and neither are bags of groceries or shoving mason jars of applesauce into our hotel’s minibar. Once again, I’ll be REALLY relying on the kindness of table food — scoping out the side dishes like mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables, plucking out pasta noodles and small bits of chicken, hoarding the fruit salad and mini-boxes of cereal — and likely just buying some additional supplies. (If you have access to a kitchen on a vacation AND time to scope out a decent grocery store, check out the places where you can buy Happy Baby’s line of frozen baby food, which I have not tried, but seems like it would be a bit more similar to homemade? Ehhh?)
No, since I’ll be traveling on my own and packing as lightly as possible, I’ll be trying out JetSetBabies.com (via a recommendation by CoolMomPicks). Place your order a couple weeks before your trip and your food and diapers and formula and anything else you need will be at your hotel at check-in time. Their food offerings are limited to Earth’s Best and Gerber (but also include Gerber’s Organics), which…yeah. Ezra’s gotten a tad snooty about the jarred food as well. He will, however, eat anything vaguely sweet, like fruits and sweet potatoes — provided I thicken up the watery texture with some dry cereal. He (surprise!) refuses most of the jarred green vegetables and makes terrible faces whenever I try the “fancy” stage three soups and stews, so I’m not even going to bother with those. We’re on vacation! If I get to live on room service desserts and swag-bag-junk-food and CHEESEBURGERS, I figure a couple days of nothing but applesauce and pears for him are FAR from the end of the world.
Anyone else have any travel-with-baby feeding advice? Pleeeease?


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About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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22 Responses to “Homemade Baby Food When You’re Away From Home”

  1. Brenna Jun 26 at 11:48 am Reply Reply

    I love the idea of spreading the fruit puree on bread and cutting it up! I have a freezer-full of pear puree cubes, but my 11month old has recently refused to be fed by a spoon, but she loves to feed herself. Problem of not wasting the pears in freezer now solved! Thanks, Amalah! When I’ve traveled with the baby, I’ve been thankful for those big chunks of dried fruit – a big hunk of dried mango and papaya travels well, keeps her snacking AND occupied and quiet on the plane/in line/whatever. I also once brought a piece of cooked corn on the cob on the plane which she gnawed on and loved…although I did get weird looks from strangers. When I got desperate at the end of the flight, we played “hide and find the corn” game. Gross but it worked.

  2. Joceline Jun 26 at 12:42 pm Reply Reply

    Thank you so much! My son took a long time to start eating purees (he thought a non-boob feeding implement was abhorrent–bottles, cups, spoons, etc.), so he didn’t eat them for very long before table food was all we did. The few times we traveled in that time period, I bought jars, which he didn’t really like. Since he wasn’t eating much anyway, I just nursed him extra and shrugged it off. If you are having trouble with the logistics of travel food, you may try nursing extra or supplementing with extra formula to fill him up and just rely on a little bit of food.

  3. alexa Jun 26 at 12:55 pm Reply Reply

    Another awesome post that helps me. Yay! Since your last baby food post my little one has expressed a lot of interest in food and has been busy dive bombing our plates. I’ve been making up baby food and she loves it. I’ve yet to try meat though.
    You mention Shepard’s pie…did you just puree that as well? Putting meat in a blender just seems weird…but I guess that’s what you have to do…right?

  4. Amalah Jun 26 at 1:15 pm Reply Reply

    alexa – We made the shepherd’s pie with ground lamb, so there was no need to puree it. The veggies were also cooked so thoroughly that they were really soft — I just straight-up spoon fed Ez the leftovers, occasionally picking out larger bits of carrot and peas to put on his tray for self-feeding. He gums and mimics a chewing motion really well, so he is still breaking stuff down before swallowing. All the saliva from teething really helps with this too!
    I HAVE pureed some meat for him, when we were just introducing it (some sources say meats like lamb and turkey fine around 6-7 months, other places recommend waiting until 9, totally up to what you’re comfortable with). The paste-like meat is definitely not super-appetizing looking on its own, but it actually still tastes fine, esp. mixed in with other fruits and veggies. (lamb w/ apricots or prunes was really good, as was turkey w/ apples.) Now he eats things so chunky I don’t bother with pureeing much — mashing with a fork is usually enough, or MAYBE one or two pulses in the food processor. I’m not giving him whole steaks or chicken breasts or anything, but nice small bites of crumbly ground meat or finely shredded chicken (WHILE SUPERVISED, of course) seem to go over really well.
    (He’s got two and a half teeth, BTW, with two more on the way, for reference. Still definitely just gumming stuff, but he’s very efficient at it!)

  5. Christy Jun 26 at 1:36 pm Reply Reply

    I made food for both my babies. My #1 traveling tip: Any sit-down restaurant worth its salt, including Denny’s and the like, will steam some veggies for you. Just ask them to overcook a serving of veggies without salt or butter for the baby. Then you can cut it small or mash with a fork at the table.
    #2: Yogurt. It’s a great meal base and you can find it anywhere.

  6. Jessica Jun 26 at 1:58 pm Reply Reply

    Perfect timing on this post- I take my six month old on a long weekend in two weeks and then we go to the beach for a week the end of August. I was wondering how much food to bring and how the frozen cubes would travel.
    Question about carrots though: my baby books say to use jarred carrots even if you are making all of baby’s other food. Apparently nitrates are more prevalent in carrots and come out when they are cooked? Is this something I need to worry about or are steamed and pureed carrots from Whole Foods okay? After everything being fresh I can see him refusing jarred food.

  7. Daisy Jun 26 at 2:20 pm Reply Reply

    Good news for BlogHer attendees who are bringing their little ones- within two blocks of the Sheraton there is a huge fancy new Dominicks grocery store (with a Starbucks) as well as my favorite gourment market Fox & Obel (plenty of organic & all natural choices there) that has a cafe in it. Picking up some bananas or Cheerios, milk, even some hot oatmeal or some baby wipes should be a quick five minute walk.

  8. Anyabeth Jun 26 at 2:24 pm Reply Reply

    I will say that it was travel and eating out and about with my baby that made me much more adventurous with what I fed her. Now, she had a lot of teeth very early (I think 12 teeth at ten months) and would actually chew. But I think I would go almost all table food while traveling if I could get away with it. Almost every meal can be cut up small enough to accomodate a large baby. Suppliment with things like bananas and other soft fruits and veggies and you are relaxing on the beach in no time.

  9. Amalah Jun 26 at 2:30 pm Reply Reply

    Jessica – Here’s a very good, level-headed article about the nitrates/carrots question.
    http://wholesomebabyfood.com/nitratearticle.htm
    Nitrates are naturally-occurring and cannot be removed via any cooking method, so the jarred stuff is absolutely no different than making your own carrots. And the risk of nitrate poisoning is pretty much nil. It’s usually because of contaminated well water, NOT the occasional serving of pureed carrots, especially in babies over six months old. Buying organic reduces nitrates even further, but there still will be some, but not anywhere near the levels where your baby will get sick or blue baby syndrome.

  10. Jess Jun 26 at 2:35 pm Reply Reply

    Wow! quick turn around on this question! thank you so much.
    I will be flying with him, but the outerbanks which is where we will be going has a good selection of grocery store and veggie carts everywhere so I am planning on taking advantage of that.
    I am not sure when I am going to introduce meat to him but I think I will try next month? so that he might have a chance to get adjusted before doing something like this.
    I had really worried about what to do..it’s so funny what I have forgotten between babies. Like..when is it ok to put down finger foods? he is teething but no sign of teeth yet.
    Thank you for answering me!

  11. Melissa Jun 26 at 3:32 pm Reply Reply

    When my eldest daughter was 7 months and 9 months we flew to Tennessee from Texas. We took along a soft lunchbox/cooler combo that’s really designed to hold your 6-packs (does that make the least bit of sense? I’m quite sleep deprived) and stuffed it FULL of frozen ice cubes of food. I planned out her meals in advance (the ONLY time I ever did that) and put them together in snack-sized ziplock bags. That way if they did defrost a bit, it didn’t matter because it was going to be mixed up anyway. I threw in a quart-sized bag of ice and we were good to go. I shoved the cooler in my luggage between my clothes and it was awesome. Nothing leaked. I didn’t have to explain or lug around a cooler and she got to eat her normal foods. Score. Oh and threw in an unopened box of oatmeal and we were golden.

  12. Bitts Jun 26 at 3:33 pm Reply Reply

    @Jessica – I read the same thing. I tried jarred carrots and they were roundly rejected, so I buy oragnic whole carrots, peel the heck out of them, cover them in water and cook them to death, then I pour off the cooking water & rinse the cooked carrots. If the excess nitrates “come out” when they’re cooked, I’m pouring it down the drain, right? That’s my justification. I puree all the other cooking water in with everything else, so I’m hoping any lost carrot-water nutrients are made up from some other source.
    re: meats … I not quite as confident as Amy in my 9-month-old’s toothless chewing proficiency, so I cook and puree organic chicken, turkey, ground beef and ground pork. They make the nastiest-looking, greyish, opaque ice cubes, but I toss one into a veggie combo and it disappears. This makes me more confident that he’s getting all the amino acids and plenty of protein (hi, 10th percentile in weight!) since I’m not 100% on the correct vegetarian combos for all the amino acids. Plus we’re not vegetarian.

  13. clare Jun 26 at 4:59 pm Reply Reply

    Caveat: I never gave my baby pureed foods, just very small pieces of whatever we were eating. Made travel incredibly easy, as he loved beans, tofu, rice, soft veggies, bananas, small cubes of meat.
    Could you just take a small food mill or mini cuisinart with you, and grind food as you need it?

  14. Amy Jun 26 at 5:06 pm Reply Reply

    I took my daughter to France when she was about 14 months old. While she was solidly into solids by then, it still required some prep on our part. I also made most of my own baby food (with the exception of those toddler raviolis that my oldest daughter ate for breakfast lunch and dinner for a while).
    The first thing I recommend to anyone doing the “make your own food” thing is a Magic Bullet blender. Yes, from the infomercial. I would just throw a little of whatever we were eating into that, and smash it up for her. The blender is small and portable (and if you look online you can often find them BOGO), and could easily go to the beach with you.
    The only stuff I ever made from scratch with the steaming and the food processor and the ice cube trays and whatnot was pear sauce, and that was just because we tried a jar, once, while we were out and she really liked it, and it was easier to make in a big batch. I think I may have microwave-steamed a pear once and smashed that for her, too. I didn’t go in for the whole Little House on the Prairie it’s baby-food-making-day scene. Too much effort.
    Oh, I did prunes once, too. Big mistake. NASTY diapers.
    Also, if the area isn’t the island from Lost, surely there’s a grocery store. Having a blender means that you can just get a couple bags of frozen peas or whatever veg he likes, some bananas (which you don’t need the blender for – just smash ‘em with a fork), some unsweetened applesauce (I always bought the regular stuff, not the “for baby” stuff – the only difference I could see was the packaging and the price)… Get some yogurt for protein, maybe scramble an eggs for breakfast? Pasta pieces that he can pick up? A box of Cheerios? I don’t remember exactly what my kids ate at 8 months, but I know that we totally ignored the charts that say what you can feed them when (my kids got milk at 1 year, but virtually everything else we just gave to them whenever, and they’re fine – no allergies, etc.). I think I may have been careful about eggs, too. Maybe shellfish. Everything else, they just ate what we ate when we ate it. The only modification I made was to dial down the spiciness, and now I have a two year old who eats Buffalo sauce like it’s chocolate syrup, so that probably wasn’t necessary either.
    Remember that babies ate regular food LONG before Gerber invented cute tiny jars and ridiculous prices. Get in the habit of ordering things in restaurants that he’ll try (maybe pasta instead of lobster, veggies instead of fries on the side, etc.), and it won’t be a problem. My kids (3 and 2) LOVE all kinds of food. We took them to a Japanese/Korean restaurant last week and my 2 year old at 4 pieces of fish cake. I didn’t get past the smell, myself, but she loved it. My oldest had two helpings of egg drop soup with cabbage.
    Back to France, we were able to find baby food, but it was kind of a pain to return to the home where we were staying for every meal, so we didn’t. I just ordered stuff that I (hoped) she’d eat in the restaurants, and supplemented with dry cereal (easy to carry with us and serve to her in the stroller) and lots of nursing. She survived. And it turns out that she really liked quiche (not surprising) and pate (really surprising).
    Don’t overthink it. When all else fails, all you really need is whatever you’re eating and a fork.
    Have a fun time!
    Amy

  15. Hanna Jun 26 at 5:24 pm Reply Reply

    The other thing that I found useful when traveling with my daughter at about that age was vegetable soup, or minestrone soup. You can order it anywhere, or pick up a can from the store to eat at the rental. Soup is cheap, the veggies and beans are always really well cooked, and it’s vegetables! Healthy!

  16. Emma B Jun 27 at 11:09 pm Reply Reply

    Cottage cheese is the best for portable baby food. You can buy it anywhere, no prep necessary, or even grab it off salad bars at restaurants. Mix it with a small cup of applesauce, or stir in some thawed frozen blueberries. My baby also likes string cheese and sliced ham cut up into suitably small chunks. Buy some bananas and mash them with a fork, or microwave some sweet potatoes and fork-mash — no blender or food processor necessary. Rice is another easy finger food, and my baby is fond of elbow macaroni with a sprinkle of parmesan. I also cook chicken breasts and dice them up, and he’s been fine with that since 8 1/2 months, despite not having any teeth.
    Truth be told, I don’t really make an elaborate production out of cooking for Andrew at home, so travel is not really a big deal.

  17. France Jun 29 at 12:07 pm Reply Reply

    I have just one word:
    BABYCOOK.
    This is something my work colleagues here in France gave me when I had my first born. It’s great and I’ve used it a LOT with both my kids. My girlfriends here all have one.
    It’s small enough that you can carry it around, even on a plane (not on board, though, since the sharp metal thingie wouldn’t be allowed), and it steams and purees vegetables, meat and fruit.
    My sister in law brought one back from Europe, which she connected through an adapter, but shge told me it’s now available in the US.
    Check out http://www.beabausa.com for more info
    (PS: I promise I don’t work for them. Honest!)

  18. Erin Jun 29 at 1:18 pm Reply Reply

    This is what I would do:
    Buy bags of frozen veggies/fruits when I get there, microwave and mash. Wa La- not QUITE as good as SUPER fresh, but you’ll hardly tell the difference, AND they are pretty close to the same nutritional value thanks to the produce people flash freezing them hours after they are picked. Buy brand names and you’re good. (My baby has graduated to enjoying them whole as finger food, he’s totally a self feeder now.)
    Buy some fresh fruits and veg that are easy to prepare while your baby is waiting in the high chair- bananas and avocados and EVEN a jar of regular old feed it to your older kid too applesauce. (Make sure it’s the ONLY apple kind with no added sugars.)
    For protein, if he’s eating it and not still drinking it, I’d buy some yogurt, cheese sticks and eggs, and there ya go. Add in a box of baby cereal to make sure the iron is getting in there, and you’re good.
    Also, let your baby have vacation food, too! If you think he’s ready, let him gnaw on some picnic food or a slice of watermelon.

  19. professormama Jun 29 at 3:43 pm Reply Reply

    FOOD MILL
    Get a food mill, Kidco makes one you can order online. They are CHEAP, and require no electricity so they even work for long road trips or camping!
    You just put whatever soft fruit or precooked food into it, click the crank into place and crank the handle while pressing down, the food gets squashed up into the top of the thing which you can feed baby out of. It is seriously the most useful thing we had for our kids. You can take it to a restaurant and perfectly grind up whatever you are eating for baby to share, and do the same at home with a small portion of whatever you’ve cooked, no extra meals to make!

  20. MommiePie Jun 29 at 5:12 pm Reply Reply

    Ok, so I’m really new to this whole baby food making, but I did make my first batch of pureed pears yesterday – yay! But I can’t help but notice the yogurt and cottage cheese suggestions. I thought you aren’t supposed to introduce cow’s milk until 1 year? Thanks!

  21. Amalah Jun 29 at 5:27 pm Reply Reply

    MommiePie – Straight cow’s milk as a drink is what you delay until 12 months. Cow’s milk *products* like yogurt and cheese are not as allergenic and are okay to introduce earlier. Most regular formulas are cow’s milk based, for example, and if you’re breastfeeding and eat/drink dairy with no reaction from your baby (and don’t have a family history of a lot of food allergies — that’s a big factor), it’s generally okay to start yogurt and cheese between 6 and 9 months.
    Our old pede was pretty laid back as long as there wasn’t a family history of allergies — he told us 6 months was fine for dairy products, and at 10 months he said we could try regular milk for Noah. Our new pede is MUCH more cautious, and I guess I fall somewhere in the middle. Ezra won’t get bottles of milk until a year, but I did introduce cheese and yogurt before 9 months.
    Big thing to watch after giving any dairy is the skin — eczema can be the first sign of a milk allergy. We’ve been beyond lucky with allergies (KNOCKONWOOD) — Ez got hives once and I was sure it was food related, but turned out to just be a weird viral rash.

  22. Jackie Jul 07 at 10:20 pm Reply Reply

    Happy Baby frozen foods are the best! They are not cheap, but they are just as good as homemade. Highly recommended.

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