I am no way an expert in this field. I have one kiddo. count them: one… not two… not three in diapers. one. There are days where I am able to make really great, big, and healthy meals while other days are near impossible. But over the past year and a few months I’ve managed to find ways to make healthy daily meals a bit more attainable, and more often than not, I do it by myself.
Here are my tips to make cooking with a little one easier:

Make bigger meals. Sounds a little crazy right? But spending an extra 5 minutes to chop more vegetables or and prep more ingredients to make a bigger meal is key. Bigger meals mean more leftovers. And leftovers are god in this house. Without leftovers we wouldn’t be able to eat half as well as we currently do. We eat last night’s leftovers for lunch, almost every day. This means, most days I really only have to accomplish making one real meal. So yes, leftovers, biggest and best trick for our household.

Get creative. Leftovers get boring, right? No one wants to eat exactly the same thing three days in a row. This won’t work for all meals, but it can for many of them. So lets say you made a huge pot of black bean soup… it was delicious for dinner… and delicious for lunch, but now you still have soup leftover and you’re not sure what to do… why not reduce the soup even more and make a really good base for a taco dish. Mashed potatoes? Shepard’s pie! Chili? Chili nachos or burgers or hot dogs with sweet potato fries. Curry? Indian avocado burritos! Tomato soup? Reduce the soup and use it as a vegetable tomato sauce base. And on and on and on…

Time management. Be efficient. This is going to be a little too ocd for some people.. but there are certain things I must accomplish in a day or certain ways for me to get a task done to keep my anxiety level down. (ahem, vacuum) When I am in the kitchen I try to use my time as wisely as possible. For example: if I am throwing something in the microwave for thirty seconds, this means I have thirty whole seconds to grab all my ingredients out the fridge or all my spices I need out of the cabinet. A little extreme, right? But those thirty seconds here and there really make a difference and add up to minutes. And as all moms know… three minutes is a world of difference for a child/baby. A baby can go from perfectly content to a screaming ball of dramatics in 1.5 minutes. Use your time wisely and challenge yourself to do more. Without being careless and losing a finger, chop more vegetables in between stirring, puree soups while stirring, have vegetable steaming while doing everything else.

A clean kitchen. This goes hand in hand with being efficient. A clean kitchen is 100% easier to cook in than a messy one. It’s a pain and takes up more time when you have to stop what you are doing because you need to clean a dish that has been sitting at the bottom of the sink. Sometimes, not (having) using a bath actually makes my life a bit easier, because I am able to clean dishes in the small side sink, clean countertops, or organize spices, while M plays in the bath. This doesn’t work all days, 25% of the time she wants to grab for everything and climb out. (I understand I am very lucky with this ratio. She loves the bath). Anyway, a  baby will interrupt you enough while cooking, you don’t need a mess to get in your way too.

More multi-tasking, planning ahead, and creative thinking. Again, this takes thought and some time planning, and doesn’t work for everything… Late at night, I grille vegetables while Marlowe is in the bath. Roasting is another great (and easier) option. It usually happens after supper time and I’m not going to eat the vegetables that night anyway, but they make great meals for the next day… or great items to store for later to put on sandwiches, salads, or toast 😉 Other ideas are crock pot meals. After a kiddo goes to sleep, chop and prep items and put in the crock-pot that night or put in the fridge for the morning to have it simmering all day for dinner.

Get a friend (or a partner). Having someone over to entertain your kid is a great way to make cooking easier. If you’re alone 14 hours a day and don’t have the option of a partner there to help cook or be there for kiddo play time, then invite a friend. It’s a win/win for both of you (but only if they like kids). They entertain your kids. You get to cook. They get to enjoy a great meal. And usually, they offer to help you clean up after. This is a great option if you hate my leftovers tip 😉

Turn it on. Turn it off. Come back to it. Great meals don’t happen all at once around here, not usually anyway. Sometimes you just have to do it in stages. Sometimes you can choose to prep everything now and cook later. Chop things in the morning, leave them in the fridge, and cook in the evening. Or sometimes you have no choice and you just have to stop in the middle of everything and tend to a cranky child… that’s totally fine! Just turn off the stove, make your kid happy (or feed them a few grapes to hold them over until dinner time), and come back to it! If things are boiling or in the oven, just set a timer and come back! There are very few meals that will greatly suffer because you stopped cooking for ten minutes and came back to it later.

A small safe (messy) place. My place is small enough where I can let Marlowe wander throughout my whole house and not have to worry. You can stand at one end and see the other end. I just let her roam and play. Sure, she makes a mess, but I’d rather be able to cook a good meal, and clean up some toys later, than not cook or eat at all. Don’t have a teeny tiny home? Make a play area full of toys and entertainment near you. More times than not the child is going to want to be near your side, in the kitchen, anyway.

Let them explore. I have one cabinet locked in the kitchen. The rest are all free for Marlowe to explore. Anything not baby safe is up high and out of reach, the rest is down below. Her favorite “toys” to pull out are the juicer pitcher, the coffee maker, and the lids to the pots. Being able to open and close all the cabinets is a huge entertainer for her. If she wasn’t able to go through and curiously pull out a few items, she would be bored out of her mind when she entered the kitchen and would throw a fit and look to me for entertainment.

Hand them a spoon….. or anything else. Simple enough. Your baby strolls in and is looking for entertainment, hand them something new. A wooden spoon, a cup, a can of beans, whatever. Unless they have passed the point of grumpiness and have hit full fledged anger, a new item… is just that: new! It’s fascinating and exciting to them! (Of course this won’t always work. This has worked for a while, and works for this current stage. I’m sure a spoon wont entertain a two year old).

Grapes and other snacks. Every mom knows that snacks is one of the best ways to have a kid sit still. One step further, is to hold the snacks yourself. Hand them a few things every once in a while instead of giving them all the snacks at once. I don’t know why this works here, but it does.

If all else fails: hold a baby or strap on a baby carrier and put that baby on your back. Just use caution, ya know?

Obviously not every one of my tips will work for every parent and child, each kid and need level is different and each cooking situation is different. Not all my tips will even work for me on all days. No matter how you do it, it’s a bit of a challenge, especially by yourself, but it’s not impossible. Healthy, wholesome eating, (and all the cooking that comes a long with it) is possible with a baby!

Have any more tips that work for you in your household? Any tips you learned a long the way? I would love to hear more suggestions! I think we all would! Please feel free to leave any other ideas in the comments or do your own post on your own personal tips to cooking with a baby, and link it back here. I’d love to try your tips and share them with other mamas (and fathers too)!  


  1. You've pretty much summarized how I cook! :)I've got a 3 y.o. and a newborn. I cook from scratch every day and only get a break for about one frozen meal a week. It's how I blog too, come to think of it!

  2. You always give great advice! This tends to be one of the hardest parts of the day for us!

  3. Thanks for the great tips! My son is 19 months old and it is getting harder to entertain him while I cook but I'm so glad you did this post cause I'll for sure benefit from it and the comments. Will you consider doing some sort of hour by hour or some other type of "day in the life" posts so we can see the making of that day and then the making with the leftovers process? Its a lot to ask but its a thought.

  4. This post is so helpful. I think it is great how much real cooking you fit in, and I know how hard it is. I have found some of these things to work for us through natural trial and error, but other things I look forward to trying. As my baby starts to really eat grown up food I find it so much more important that I find time to cook for her, so that she eats more healthy food. 🙂

  5. This post is so helpful. I think it is great how much real cooking you fit in, and I know how hard it is. I have found some of these things to work for us through natural trial and error, but other things I look forward to trying. As my baby starts to really eat grown up food I find it so much more important that I find time to cook for her, so that she eats more healthy food. 🙂

  6. This is a great post! As a mommy I am also always finding creative ways to keep the little ones occupied while I'm cooking… I often give the baby a bowl and wooden utensils to play with on the floor, or have the older kids wash veggies, or measure rice or beans, I try to involve them however I can! And I use to do the bath trick too!

  7. I am a left over maniac- we use and create new ways to use our left overs and besides, the meal is always better the day after 🙂

    Ever since the kids reached the age of two, I allowed them to help me cook. I get safe utensils and let them help me cut, roll, stir, put together and make meals with me- not only does this get them excited about eating the food they are making but it's 2 extra pair of hands instead of just mommy.

    I clean as I go. I am super OCD in the kitchen or anywhere for that matter. If I'm cutting veggies, I grab a bowl and put all of the scraps in there and give them to friends who have chickens and hens for yummy snacks. If I have a dirty counter, I clean it before I go. I do a quick rinse if I am using pots or anything that really needs it- cleaning as you go, makes more time after you're done cooking, instead of leaving the mess all at once, dinner is ready and then clean after. The kids usually want my attention after dinner since its more so family time before bed.


    you're doing an amazing job!

  8. Just stumbled across your blog, how absolutely gorgeous is Marlowe! My son is now at weaning age, I can't wait to start cooking with him when he is a little older 🙂

  9. Great post! You and I are very like minded in the kitchen. And I think a lot of that comes from being in similar situations. My husband is out of the restaurant business (for now) but he's in management for Whole Foods, which keeps him out of the house almost as much. I have been meaning to reach out to you for a while because I feel your pain and wanted you to know other people get it. It's this sucky necessary evil. One day off a week, A LOT of alone time with a toddler and no real end in sight is crummy! Anyways, the silver lining is that I think we've both become real dynamos in the kitchen. 🙂 Good luck and keep trucking, mama. You're doing a fantastic job!

  10. This post is exactly us, every day. Love it 🙂 My other go-to activity when Mini's very excited about supper but doesn't let me actually prep it, is to stick him in his chair with a tiny bit of water in a cup, a paint brush and a piece of construction paper. It's like "painting" but so much cleaner (if you don't mind a slightly wet baby). And he can see me and everything I'm doing the whole time!

  11. Great post Drea! First your home is gorgeous and Marlowe is looking so grown up! I was nodding my head to every tip you gave. Being at home alone all day with a kiddo under two is a challenge when one is trying to clean house and serve at least one awesome vegan meal by the time dad get's home from work and school. Time management is a must. Left overs are essential and honestly that's how we keep things really healthy and do without processed foods. I always make huge batches and remix them throughout the week or even freeze them for days when I'm short on time. Also prepping veggies in advance is an awesome trick for a busy mama. I have a feeling our daughters would get along great, they seem to have a lot in common =)
    xx nat

  12. Great advice! I totally agree with the letting kids explore thing-anything our daughter shouldn't have is moved out of reach so that she can entertain herself with exploring all the cabinets, pots, pans, and of course the famous "tupperware drawer." Love your blog!

  13. I don't have kids, but I am a long-time babysitter of little ones and this is fantastic advice! If you're dealing with slightly older children, like age 5of and up, they can help out by fetching ingredients, stirring things, etc. I generally just hold babies while cooking, unless they're asleep nearby.