We all know that one great way to save money is to cook and bake from scratch. It not only (usually) costs less to make your own snacks and baked goods, but they are also typically better for you since they are free from preservatives and other less-than-fantastic ingredients.
But how can you find time to cook and bake when you have young kids? This was a question that someone posed to me recently and I wanted to share my best tips that I’ve used over the years — and have started using again now that we have little ones at our house again!
1. Let your kids help.
I know it’s a lot more work to have a toddler help you. It’s messier and it takes 4 times as long. Go into cooking with kids with the attitude that this is an adventure and that it’s going to look and be very different than if you are cooking by yourself.
Expect it to be messy; that’s part of the learning process! And assume that it will take much longer. It will… but that can also be part of the experience!
Our perspective and attitude makes such a difference! If you go into it expecting that it will be quick and simple and mess-free, you are setting yourself up for frustration. Instead, view it as an activity you are doing together with the goal of learning, having fun, and spending quality time together.
And guess what? While it will be messy and take a lot more time in the beginning, if you keep at it, soon your kids will be old enough to read recipes and make food all by themselves. It will pay off in big dividends — if you keep at it!
2. Cook/bake when they eat.
While your toddler is eating their breakfast sitting in their high chair, quickly whip up a batch of muffins, cut up fruit for dinner, or stick a roast in the crockpot.
I find that having a plan for dinner early on in the day is a gift I give myself for later in the day. So why not make it your breakfast habit to just get your toddler set up with their food and then you quickly spend 10-15 minutes prepping stuff for dinner?
3. Turn on a show.
I’m a big fan of using shows intentionally. Kierstyn loves watching Rachel and the Treeschoolers on YouTube right now, so I try to have her watch it at a specific time in the day when I can maximize the time that she’s sitting still watching her show.
4. Use quiet time.
Daily quiet time or nap time can be a great time to get some cooking done. While I do think that moms need some down time, too, if you dedicate the first 15-20 minutes of nap time/quiet time to cooking and you set the timer and work quickly, you can get a lot done in a short amount of time!
By the way, if your little ones are outgrowing nap times, I encourage you to consider continuing to have a daily quiet time. It’s a gift to everyone — because I believe that we all need some quiet in our day and it’s a good reset for the rest of the day!
5. Have special activities.
Put together some special tubs with activities that you only pull out once a day for your kids to play with while you are cooking or baking. This gives them something to look forward to and it can kind of feel like getting brand-new toys/activities!
When our older three were little, we had Day-of-the-Week tubs with special activities and they got to only get the one for that day out during quiet time. You could also do this for a cooking time — special bins or tubs they only get to play with while you’re cooking. (By the way, you can see a picture of what these look like here. Unfortunately, none of the links on that post work anymore. I guess I’ll have to do a new post on this down the road if we implement it again!)