Eileen: Life with a Toddler, Plus Ways to Cook and Save Money!

If you’ve ever thought that cooking and saving money are things you just can’t do while living life with a toddler, find out how this incredible mom from our community makes it possible!

  • By Brittany Yamamoto-Taylor
  • July 21, 2020

Four years ago, we got to do a Kitchen Hero interview with Eileen, but so much has changed in her life since then! Not only does she have a toddler to consider when cooking and planning, her husband also started making breakfast every day with a little bit of help from us. Read our new interview with Eileen, a 45-year-old mom from Fullerton, CA, to learn how she stays on top of homemade dinners, exposes her little one to global cuisines, saves money with Cook Smarts, and puts a dash of joy into every dinner!

1. Eileen, the last time we featured your cooking story, you were cooking for you, your husband, and your two pups. But now you have a little one to feed! What is your daily / cooking routine like, now that you have your daughter to take care of as well?

It’s a little bit more work to cook in the kitchen when you have a little one who constantly wants your attention. I found that doing the prep work beforehand had made cooking much faster and easier with a toddler in the house. Thanks to the weekend prep section on Cook Smarts, I am able to get all the prep for the week done on Sunday.

We got Elise her own play kitchen when she was about 1.5 years old, and placed it right near the kitchen. When I am cooking, she would go to her kitchen to cook as well. Now she’s 3, I try to involve her in the cooking process more. She would help with sorting, mixing, and stirring. She loves to taste the food “she cooked”.

2. What strategies have you used to raise a healthy eater?

We expose Elise to a variety of food items and flavors at a very young age. Again, thanks to Cook Smarts, she was able to taste cuisines from around the world. Just like all kids, she can be picky sometimes. We always tell her to try everything at least once, and she might discover new food that she loves. If she doesn’t like it, we praise her for trying, and honor her choice if she doesn’t want to eat it anymore. And she can try again next time I cook the food. I’m very proud of her bravery to try all new things at least once.

3. If there was one tip you could give to any parent who wants to make nutritious meals for their family despite their hectic schedule, what would it be?

Plan ahead, order grocery online to be delivered, and prep ahead of time, either on the weekend or the night before.

4. In your last post, you mentioned that your husband never set foot in the kitchen, but when he did, he ended up making delicious Mussels & Chorizo! Do you and your husband split the cooking responsibilities now? If so, how do you share cooking duties?

Learning to cook from Cook Smarts definitely boost Fred’s confidence in the kitchen. From never setting foot in the kitchen a few years back, he cooks breakfast everyday now. It’s very nice when I get Elise ready for school, we walk downstairs and breakfast is ready for us. I cook dinner for the family.

“[Cook Smarts’ meal plan service] saves us so much money on groceries. I am able to cook a healthy delicious homemade meal for $3 / person most days.”

5. How has Cook Smarts’ meal plan service helped you save money when it comes to food and cooking?

I used to buy 30 items just to cook one recipe from a cookbook. After cooking that one recipe, all the items went to waste because either I didn’t know how or I didn’t need to use them again. What a waste of money! Then I tried meal kit delivery. It was convenient, but portion size was small and it was very expensive. Also choices were limited. Then my sister told me about Cook Smarts when she saw it on the Today Show. What a game changer!

I am able to plan my weekly meal from both the new weekly menu and a library of archive meals. I get grocery lists, and all the ingredients get to be used in the meals. The meals are easy to cook and delicious. On top of it all, it saves us so much money on groceries. I am able to cook a healthy delicious homemade meal for $3 / person most days. That’s just amazing!

6. Is there anything else you would like to add to give our readers a better snap shot of you in the kitchen?

Cooking is the time of the day I look forward to. You know how some people like arts and crafts? Cooking is my “arts and crafts”. I put on some music and “create”. If you treat cooking more like a fun thing to do, not a chore, not only will you enjoy it more, I think the food would taste great because it had a dash of joy in it!

7. And finally, what are your top 3 favorite Cook Smarts meals?

  1. Sheet Pan Pork Tenderloin with Herb Pan Sauce and roasted Brussels sprouts / sweet potatoes
  2. Steak with Miso-Lime Butter and sauteed bok choy with garlic / rice
  3. Swedish Meatballs with egg noodles / roasted broccoli

Eileen, thank you so much for giving us another glimpse into your weekly cooking routine! We are so happy to know that our meal plan service has helped keep life with a toddler manageable for you and your husband. Little Elise is so lucky to have parents who teach her about all kinds of cuisines and about how to put joy into cooking. We can’t wait to see some of her own home-cooked meals in years to come!

To join Eileen and cook meals like her favorite Sheet Pan Pork Tenderloin with Herb Pan Sauce, Steak with Miso-Lime Butter, and Swedish Meatballs, check out our meal plan service. You can get started for free!


Eileen: Life with a Toddler | Cook Smarts Kitchen HeroEileen: Life with a Toddler | Cook Smarts Kitchen HeroEileen: Life with a Toddler | Cook Smarts Kitchen Hero

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