Homemade baby food is one of the most cost-effective ways to feed solids to your baby. Besides, it gives you the freedom to add healthy ingredients. However, it may not always be possible to prepare fresh baby food. In such instances, freezing baby food could seem a practical solution.
While it involves freezing a food item, it does not mean putting any food straight into the freezer. It means to freeze food correctly so that it is safe for the baby’s consumption later. It is also essential to know foods that you may freeze and those unsuitable for freezing.
This post shares how you can freeze homemade baby food, which foods to store and which not, and useful tips for safe and effective baby food freezing.
How To Freeze Homemade Baby Food?
Most homemade foods can stay fresh and healthy in the refrigerator for a day or two. However, freezing is an option when you need to store the food for longer, such as a month, two, or more.
Below are some common accessories that can be used to freeze homemade baby food conveniently.
- Ice trays: Ice trays are suitable to store juiced, pureed, and mashed baby foods. Foods frozen in ice trays are usually one-ounce servings, meaning you store small amounts of foods as cubes with each cube appropriate as a single serving. You need to put the food into clean ice cube molds, tightly cover the tray with the lid (or plastic), and freeze.
- Muffin trays: Muffin trays or tins are similar to ice trays in their function. You can store pureed or juiced foods in silicone-based muffin trays, whereas mashed foods can go in tin-based muffin trays. Use wax paper liners to line tin-based muffin trays as releasing frozen food from them is usually tricky.
- Cookie sheets: If you don’t have ice trays or muffin trays, you can use cookie sheets to freeze portions of baby food. All you need to do is line the sheet with parchment or wax paper, place the food, and freeze. Cookie sheets are also suitable to freeze stick-like finger food. Once frozen, transfer the finger foods to freezer bags to save space.
- Freezer bags: Freezer bags (Ziploc bags) are suitable to store whole foods, such as grapes or foods prepared in larger quantities. You can also use the bags to store foods frozen in ice trays, muffin trays, and cookie sheets. Carefully placing the frozen food cubes prevents them from sticking to one another inside the bag.
- Freezer containers: Freezer containers are readily available over-the-counter or online. Out of several sizes to choose from, four-ounce food containers are suitable to store portion-based foods for While making a purchase, check their quality, such as material and whether it can withstand low temperatures.
Once you know the right ways to store homemade baby food, it is good to know which foods are suitable to freeze and which are not.
Foods That Freeze Well
Pureed or cut into small chunks, the following foods don’t lose their color, flavor, texture, and nutrients upon proper freezing.
- Berries (blueberries and strawberries)
- Corn and sweet potato
- Carrot and cauliflower
- Green beans and peas
- Acorn squash, butternut squash, winter squash, and pumpkin
- Marinated cucumber and cabbage
- Beef, chicken, and fish
Foods That Don’t Freeze Well
Some foods do not retain their freshness when frozen and stored (1). Also, if the water content is high, ice crystals tend to form in frozen food. After defrosting, this may cause the food to become soggy and lose taste and flavor.
- Raw cabbage, celery, cress, cucumbers, lettuce, parsley, and radish
- Irish potatoes (baked or boiled)
- Pear, banana, and apricot
- Cooked macaroni, spaghetti, and rice
- Cooked egg whites
- Cheese or crumb toppings, yogurt, and cottage cheese
- Cream and custard fillings
- Egg-based sauces (mayonnaise and hollandaise)
How Long Can You Freeze Food?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), properly frozen foods stay safe indefinitely (2). However, extended storage of frozen foods does impact their quality, i.e., color, taste, and texture.
Nevertheless, you can refer to the freezer storage chart and know the ideal freezing times for individual foods. Remember, frozen foods are safe, but it is best to feed fresh, homemade food to babies whenever possible.
Useful Tips For Freezing Baby Food
- Thoroughly wash and peel fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries, carrots, and potatoes, before pureeing or cutting them into chunks. If you wish to store whole raw veggies, then blanch them before freezing to restrict their enzymatic activity and destroy microorganisms on their surface (5).
- Properly cook all the vegetables and meats until their texture is soft. Poultry should be cooked to 165°F (74°C), fish to 145°F (63°C), and red meat and pork to 160°F (71°C).
- Cool the cooked food before putting it into the storage container. Do not leave it to cool for too long. Cooked food stored within the “window-period” ensures the food doesn’t undergo microbial contamination.
- Use a minimal quantity of liquid (water, breastmilk, formula) while preparing purees to minimize ice crystal formation.
- Thoroughly wash ice trays and freezer containers with soap and water (preferably at high temperatures) to sanitize them.
- Set the freezer temperature at below -18°C. Storing the food at appropriate temperatures is preeminent to prevent microbial spoilage.
- Never use glass jars to freeze food. Most glass jars cannot stand freezing temperatures and could break or crack, leaving shards in the food.
- Avoid overfilling the ice trays or freezer containers up to the brim. Always remember, foods tend to expand upon freezing, so leave some space while filling.
- Use airtight containers or bags to store whole food. It is necessary to ensure the food doesn’t undergo freezer burn, a whitish, brownish, or grayish, textured patch that develops over the food due to dehydration and oxidation caused by air exposure.
- Clearly label the containers, bags, or ice trays with the name of food stored and storage date.
- Properly thaw the food so that no hard parts of the food are present. You can thaw the food by placing it in the refrigerator, cold water, or microwave.
- Defrost and reheat the food in small portions to avoid or minimize wastage. Heat the defrosted food until piping hot. Cool the food to warm, and then serve it to your baby.
- Discard the leftover food as refreezing or reheating cooked food more than once isn’t advisable.
- It is advisable to taste at least a smidgen of defrosted baby food before giving it to the baby so that you are aware of its taste before you try to feed it to the baby.
If you’re unsure about freezing homemade baby food, first try freezing small quantities. If you find the technique useful, gradually try freezing different baby foods.
When feeding fresh homemade baby food is not possible, you may consider freezing homemade baby food. You can prepare baby food in bulk and store it in the freezer. Whenever needed, defrost the food and serve it to your baby. Make sure you keep a log of how long a food item has stayed in the freezer to avoid any wastage later.
2. Freezing and Food Safety; USDA
3. Food safety and hygiene; NHS
4. Freezing Prepared Foods; National Centre For Home Food Preservation
5. Food Preservation: Freezing Basics; Ohio State University Extension