What you need in your kitchen for weaning
Whether you’re a domestic goddess or find it hard to microwave a ready-meal, you can expect to be spending a lot more time in your kitchen once your baby starts weaning. But having the right equipment can make preparing baby food easier and less time-consuming. Before you hit the shops, make an inventory of what you already have in your cupboards. Most baby food can be prepared using the basic equipment found in most kitchens, but a few extras, such as a slow cooker and a decent food processor, are useful additions that will help you knock up perfect purees in no time.
You’ve probably got some saucepans already, but it can be handy to buy a few different sizes in preparation for weaning. Large pans are great for making big batches of food, whereas small ones are better for making sauces or boiling an egg. Non-stick pans are best; they need very little oil if you’re cooking meat and are easier to clean, although you’ll have to use wooden or plastic spoons to avoid scratching the surface. Try to buy pans with lids, as they cook food more quickly and help you retain more nutrients when boiling vegetables. A sieve is also useful, both for draining food and pushing boiled food through to puree it.
A good quality set of knives will make food preparation a doddle. You will need a paring knife to peel and chop small veg and fruit, a utility knife with a serrated blade for cutting and trimming meat and larger veg, a bread knife (great for slicing tomatoes as well as loaves), a cook’s knife (an all-purpose knife for chopping) and a carving knife for meat.
Chopping boards harbour bacteria, so you’ll need two separate boards: one for meat and fish and another for fruit and veg. Traditional wooden boards are fine, if properly washed. They are kinder to knives and are longer-lasting but can’t go in the dishwasher. Plastic chopping boards are popular because they are cheaper and can be put in the dishwasher, but they also blunt knives and can become unsanitary if heavily scratched and dented. Buy two different shapes or colours of chopping board so you don’t get your meat board mixed up with the fruit and veg board.
Blender or food processor
A blender is very handy for creating purees. You can also use them to puree up a family meal for your baby, such as lasagne or fish pie, and they’re handy for making milkshakes, soups and sauces. Electric food processors are ideal for pureeing large batches of baby food, and some have additional attachments allowing you to chop or grate food.
Mouli or food mill
Moulis and grinders are cheaper and portable alternatives to food processors. They are usually compact in size (great if you don’t have much storage space) and don’t require electricity. Pureeing large batches of food can be harder work with these manual mills, but they’re ideal for quickly mushing up a few veggies or a baby portion of the family meal.
This is similar to a mouli and is very portable as it’s small, lightweight and doesn’t require electricity. Usually made of stainless steel, it is a convenient tool for pureeing sweet potatoes, swede, turnips, carrots, apples and other boiled fruit or veg for your baby, not to mention making the perfect, lump-free mashed potato.
Slow cookers are becoming fashionable because they allow busy mums to throw together a one-pot meal quickly, which is left to simmer till required. They are perfect for stews, as well as cooking whole chickens and making cheap cuts of meat tasty and tender. You can even make desserts like sponges, stewed fruit and rice puddings.
Electric steamers or multi-layered steamers that fit on top of a saucepan allow you to cook several foods at once while preserving all the natural goodness. They’re ideal for cooking vegetables and fruit, making them soft and tasty, and can also be used for steaming fish.
If you cook in big batches, you’ll need freezer pots or ice cube trays to freeze individual portions of food for your baby. Plastic tubs with lids are ideal, as they’re hygienic and can usually be used in the microwave and dishwasher. You can also spoon puree into clean ice cube trays, and then pop the frozen cubes out into a food bag to keep in the freezer, removing a few cubes as and when you need them. Remember to labels pots or bags so you know what they contain and when it was cooked.
Weaning recipe books
There are many weaning recipe books out there offering a dazzling amount of food combinations to ensure your baby gets all the vitamins and minerals he needs and to inspire a love of healthy foods. It’s a good idea to buy at least one book before you start weaning so you can prepare some purees in advance. You can also find free weaning recipe and inspiration online.