Making and freezing homemade baby food or store-bought baby food is a way to make sure your baby is getting adequate nutrition and it may help you save a lot of money. However, freezing baby food isn't as simple as throwing it into the freezer. If you're going to freeze baby food, you need to know the basics, such as what freezes well, freezing proper portion sizes and making sure the food stays safe for your baby to eat.
Freezing Homemade Baby Food
Freezing homemade baby food is fairly simple when you know what you are doing. Start by preparing your favorite homemade baby food recipes. Vegetables should always be blanched before pureeing and freezing, meats should be cooked before freezing and fruits can be frozen raw. Once you have made baby food, it is relatively simple to freeze.
- Pour the baby food into sterile containers with tight-fitting lids for freezing.
- Let the food cool to room temperature before placing it in the freezer.
- Never let food stand at room temperature for more than two hours.
Freezing Commercial Baby Food
You can also freeze store-bought baby foods. Gerber recommends not freezing their baby foods because it can diminish the texture and their packaging is not suitable for freezing. Glass baby food jars can crack in the freezer as the food expands and plastic containers are not designed to preserve the food well. According to the United States Department of Agriculture you can freeze almost any foods except for foods in cans, unless you remove them from the can before freezing, and eggs in shells.
- Once you open the package, treat the food as fresh food and immediately remove then freeze the portion you don't think you'll use now.
- Freeze store-bought baby foods before their "Use By" or expiration date passes.
- If you plan to freeze store-bought purees or baby food chunks, transfer them into separate sterile containers first.
- Separate store-bought baby foods into single-serving sizes then freeze.
- Follow the same freezing guidelines for commercial baby foods as you would for homemade foods.
Tips for Freezing Baby Food
When freezing baby food, consider everything from your prep surfaces to how you'll organize the foods in the freezer.
- Make sure your hands are clean when handling baby food for freezing.
- Wash and sterilize containers and lids in the dishwasher before using them.
- Clearly label foods with their contents and the date they are frozen.
- Keep frozen baby foods tightly sealed.
- Spread packages out in one layer on different shelves and only stack once they are all frozen.
- Only freeze about two to three pounds of baby food per cubic foot of your freezer within a 24-hour period so they can freeze quicker.
Foods to Freeze Pureed
If you plan on freezing baby food, start with a few of the following fruits and vegetables that do not lose much in the way of taste or texture when frozen in pureed form.
- Sweet Potatoes
- Beans and lentils
- Butternut squash
Foods That Don't Freeze Well
While freezing baby food gives you a chance to introduce a variety of foods to your baby on a regular basis, not all foods freeze well. Certain foods brown or become watery when they are frozen and may change in texture and flavor. Foods that don't freeze well include anything that's already really soft or browns easily.
Foods to Freeze in Chunks
Some fruits and vegetables that do not freeze well in pureed form may freeze well in another form, allowing you to quickly thaw and puree them or serve them in bite-sized versions for older babies. Cut up the following foods and freeze them in chunks. Thaw and puree chunks when you are ready to use them.
Other Foods to Freeze for Baby
You can also freeze foods in other forms aside from purees or chunks. The smaller the foods, the faster they will freeze and the safer and tastier they will be. A two-inch thick piece of food takes roughly two hours to freeze completely, so most baby foods should be frozen much faster than that.
- Make apples into applesauce and freeze it.
- Freeze grapes whole or cut them in half.
- Freeze rice, quinoa, and noodles, then puree them after they thaw.
- Freeze corn whole and thaw before pureeing.
- Freeze peas whole then cook and puree when thawed.
- Freeze oatmeal cooked, but puree it when thawed.
Freezing Leftover Food
Sometimes, your baby doesn't eat all of his or her food in a sitting or in a day. If you have leftovers, use the following precautions:
- Thaw only the portion of food you know your baby will eat.
- If you are using commercial food and you know the baby doesn't eat a whole jar, spoon a small amount into a bowl and feed your baby from that.
- Don't refreeze the food if it has already been frozen.
- If you have leftover commercial food in jars, place it in one of the containers below before freezing.
Foods You Shouldn't Freeze
Just as there are some foods you shouldn't feed babies, there are some foods you shouldn't try freezing at all because they could be dangerous for your baby. Avoid freezing:
- Anything that contains honey because the natural bacteria can lead to infant botulism
- Any food you have dipped a used spoon in
- Raw, unpasteurized milk products
- Outdated canned foods
- Foods from cans or jars that were damaged
How Long to Freeze Baby Food
According to Foodsafety.gov, properly prepared and frozen baby food should be used within one month after freezing. Baby food brand Beech-Nut suggests frozen homemade baby purees can last up to six months in the freezer while Mr. Appliance experts suggest one to three months is best, but six months is the maximum. These timeframes are based on a refrigerator that stays at a constant zero degrees or colder.
Containers for Freezing Baby Food
In order to portion baby food before it is frozen and help preserve the nutrients, you should use special, sterile containers for freezing the baby food. Make sure the containers you select are rated for freezer use and have tight-fitting lids or closures to keep air out and food safe.
Freezing Baby Food With Ice Cube Trays
Ice cube trays offer the perfect way to portion baby food. You can pour the food directly into the clean ice cube tray, cover it with plastic wrap, and freeze it. This gives you a bunch of one-ounce servings. Once the cubes are frozen, you can transfer them to a more compact container, such as plastic freezer bags.
Freezing Baby Food With Muffin Tins
Muffin tins, including mini muffin tins or silicone muffin tins, work similarly to ice cube trays. Make sure the muffin pan is clean before adding food. Once frozen, the portions can be transferred to a plastic freezer bag or plastic container with a lid. It may be more difficult to remove frozen foods from a metal muffin pan than a silicone pan or ice cube tray. Freeze the baby food on wax paper by lining the muffin slots with the paper to help make removal easier.
Freezing Baby Food With Plastic Freezer Bags
Plastic freezer bags (such as Ziploc bags), especially the gallon size, allow you to freeze multiple portions of baby food without taking up a lot of space in the freezer. If you store baby food in plastic freezer bags, label them clearly with the type of food and the date. You do not have to thaw the entire bag at once. Simply remove the portions you need and keep the rest in the freezer. Make sure you press out as much air as possible each time you re-close the bag.
Freezing Baby Food With Cookie Sheets
If you do not have ice cube trays, you can freeze portions of baby food on a cookie sheet. Line the sheet with wax paper or parchment paper. Fill a plastic bag with the puree and cut off one corner of the bag. Squeeze mounds of puree onto the cookie sheet, then place it in the freezer. When frozen, transfer the mounds to a plastic freezer bag.
Special Containers for Freezing Baby Food
You can also buy special containers designed for freezing baby food. A few of the more popular products include:
- Qubies is an upside-down ice cube tray. Pour in the tray, add the lid with dividers, and then freeze into perfect portions.
- Beabe Multiportion Baby Food Freezer Tray comes in multiple colors, has a lid and holds seven different portions in its cute flower shape.
- Take food straight from the freezer to the fridge or microwave in One Step Ahead's Fresh 'n Freeze 4-ounce storage containers.
- Sage Spoonfuls' glass baby food jars are made of freezer-approved glass for parents worried about the effects of freezing food in plastic.
- OXO Tot makes Baby Food Freezer Trays and Baby Blocks Freezer Storage Containers that come with lids and correct portion cups to make portioning puree easier.
Using Frozen Baby Food
Once you have frozen your baby food, it's relatively easy to use it when you're ready. You'll always need to make sure the food is thawed so it's not a choking hazard.
Thawing Frozen Baby Foods
When it comes time to use your frozen baby food, you must thaw it safely either in the refrigerator, microwave or in cold water. Knowing how to thaw frozen baby food properly ensures the safety of your baby. How you thaw baby food ice cubes and cubed frozen foods is the same, but thicker foods will take longer to thaw.
- If you plan to use the baby food over the course of a few days, you can transfer it to a jar or small plastic container with a lid and let it thaw in the fridge.
- Most small foods will thaw in the refrigerator overnight, so transfer the portions you need for the next day from the freezer to the refrigerator before bed.
- Homemade, cooked fruit and vegetable purees are good for up to two days in the refrigerator so thaw it in small portions that will be eaten in that time frame.
- Homemade, cooked meats are only good for one day in the refrigerator, so if you thaw meats this way you'll need to use them quickly.
- If you want to use the baby food right away, you may thaw it over low heat on the stove by putting the food in a clean, small saucepan and stirring until it's the desired consistency.
- Another quick way to thaw baby food is to microwave it in a glass or ceramic dish in 15-second increments until it is the temperature and consistency you desire, which should take no more than two minutes.
- It is also safe to thaw frozen foods in cold water as long as you have the food in a leak-proof bag, make sure the water stays cold and change the water every thirty minutes if the food isn't thawed yet.
Do Not Refreeze Thawed Baby Food
You should never refreeze a homemade or commercial baby food once it has been thawed. Any baby food that has been thawed and not used within three days should be discarded for your baby's safety. The only exception is if the food was not cooked or pureed before it was frozen. It can then be refrozen and re-thawed once.
Safety Precautions for Frozen Baby Food
Safety should always be your priority when dealing with frozen baby foods.
- Reheat food to an internal temperature of 165 degrees for safety and then allow it to cool before feeding it to your baby.
- Avoid thawing baby food at room temperature or in standing water, because it can cause harmful bacteria to grow.
- If you use a microwave or other heat source for thawing your baby food, make sure to stir it multiple times to break up any pockets of heat and keep it from burning your baby.
- Test microwaved, thawed food to ensure there are no pockets of heat.
Freezing in Freshness
If you're not sure whether freezing baby food is right for you, it can't hurt to try it. Start with one food that freezes well and see how much you end up freezing and actually using. If you like the results, gradually start adding more frozen baby foods. Clearing a shelf or basket in your freezer to hold the baby food will make it easier to keep track of what you have and access it when you need it.