Freezing Baby Food
You know that making your own baby food is a wonderful idea, but if you are a busy parent you don’t have the time to make meals fresh each day – and in such small amounts. This where the freezer comes in! You can cook in batches and keep baby’s food in the freezer, in suitable portions, and a meal is there when you need it.
Freezing baby food is simple:
- Always cool homemade baby foods as quickly as possible to prevent bacteria developing -spread the food in a shallow container, or place the dish of food in a pan of cold water. (Food left at room temperature for more than two hours is not safe for your baby, so you’ll have to throw it away!)
- Whatever containers you are going to use to freeze the food in (ice-cube trays are ideal) clean them well – if the manufacturer’s details say it’s OK, use boiling water or the sanitize setting on your dishwasher.
- Use lidded trays if possible, or cover the food with food-safe plastic wrap – foil may freeze to the food and pieces may remain on the food when you uncover it.
- When the portions of food are firm, pop them out and place into zip-top freezer bags – these will take up less freezer space.
- Make sure that you label the bags with the type of food and date of freezing.
- Using ice-cube trays for freezing will give you perfect little portions of 25/30gm (about 1oz), and you can ‘mix and match’ foods to give different tastes for your baby – try a pureed apple portion mixed with pureed carrot.
- Some parents have concerns about using plastic containers for freezing and/or heating baby foods because of the possibility of chemicals transferring to the food. If this worries you, look for ice-cube trays that are made especially for containing baby foods, or you could use silicone muffin pans. There are ranges of containers specifically designed for homemade baby foods, and free from any potentially harmful chemicals.
- Do not use glass baby-food jars unless they are labelled as freezer-safe – ordinary jars could crack or burst, leaving tiny pieces of glass in the food!
It is important that you label your zip-top bag or other container with the type of food, and date frozen – use bags or containers where the writing will not rub off. You can then:
- keep track of what foods you have, and how long they have been in the freezer
- ‘rotate’ your stock of baby foods – using older ones before newer ones to avoid taste and nutritional value declining
- identify different foods easily – many look the same when frozen!
- find and remove portions of the offending food easily if you discover that your baby has an allergy, or a food causes him or her digestive problems
Make sure that your baby foods are stored in the freezer properly:
- If well-maintained your freezer will operate efficiently, and you can store your baby’s food for up to 3 months – though storing for just 1 month would be ideal.
- Keep the foods in the coldest part of the freezer – usually the top shelf in upright freezers and the bottom section of chest freezers.
Most homemade baby foods will freeze well – especially purees – but textures often change due to the freezing process, where water in the food expands and causes breakdown of cell walls. Whole foods (bananas in particular)can become very mushy when frozen then defrosted.
Some helpful information:
- Fruits such as avocado, banana, apples and pears often go brown when defrosted – this is natural, and can happen without freezing. Try mixing a little lemon juice into the fruit puree before freezing it.
- Homemade chicken nuggets or fish fingers that are to be baked are best frozen uncooked, at the point where they are ready for the oven, so they will be crisp and fresh for baby.
- Thin purees after you thaw them – not before freezing – as many foods are more watery after being frozen.
- Add any herbs or spices to foods after thawing, as they can lose their flavour when frozen.
- Homemade yogurt is best made and used fresh; it’s OK to freeze, but often becomes much too runny.
- Cool cooked rice quickly before freezing it.
- Pasta should be slightly undercooked – it absorbs extra liquid through the freezing process, so will be very mushy if full cooked before freezing.
- Homemade rice cereal or oatmeal freeze well, but do not make them too thin before freezing.
- Prepare batches of stock or broth and freeze in small portions.
- Patches of brown, leathery freezer burn – caused by exposure to air in the freezer – are harmless and can be cut away when the food item is thawed.
- Frozen vegetables or frozen, then thawed uncooked meats can be used for new cooked dishes then frozen for future use.
- Purees and other baby foods containing freshly made formula are OK to freeze. Nutritional value will be unaffected and there is no danger for your baby, though freezing may cause the fat in the formula to separate, so the texture or appearance of foods containing formula may be different on thawing.
- You can freeze foods containing fresh breast milk, but you should never freeze any foods containing previously-frozen breast milk.
Thaw baby food safely:
- Take all the frozen cubes you’ll need for the next day and put them in the refrigerator overnight – they will take 8 to 12 hours to defrost thoroughly.
- Be sure to use thawed food within 24 hours after taking from the freezer if it contains meat, poultry or fish -or within 48 hours for other types of food.
This information presented to you acts as a guide which contains researched information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.