How I Meal Prep with a Toddler (Game Changing Routine Tips)

Been wondering how to find time to cook with a toddler? Join me on a tour of my Friday routine that includes how I meal prep and cook with my 2 year old!

  • By Jess Dang
  • May 2, 2021

Since it is always challenging to find time to cook with a toddler, my big life organization goal this year was to start every meal with most of my ingredients prepped. So I introduced a new Friday morning shopping and prepping routine, and it has seriously changed my life during the week.

I am lucky enough to have a flexible work schedule, so I take Fridays off to be at home with Charlie (my always-baby who turns 2 next month), and have figured out the best way to meal prep with a toddler. My secret? I have my prep-ahead time be her play time.

After we drop her older siblings off at preschool and we hit the grocery store, which luckily is very quiet on Friday mornings. When we get home, I put everything away except anything that needs to be washed with a salad spinner or requires our food processor (e.g., grating cheese, making pesto). It has been so much more efficient to get those tools out just 1x / week.

Then we chop and wash! She’s at the age where I can start giving her some items to chop with a plastic knife (this is purely for entertainment purposes) but she is much more interested in the washing. As a toddler who loves water play, using the salad spinner is so fun for her.

Since meal prep with a toddler definitely needs to include a little multitasking, I also put a pot of water on the stove at this time to start par-cooking any veggies that take a bit of time to cook during the week (e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, and green beans). If you aren’t familiar with par-cooking, it is the technique of partially cooking foods so they can quickly and easily be finished later. Plus, when you boil different veggies in the same water, you can save all that nutritious liquid as broth that can be used throughout the week!

After all the veggies are washed and chopped or cooled down from parcooking, Charlie then helps me transfer everything into silicone bags. I keep them in a drawer that’s low enough for her to get them, and she is so proud of how helpful she is.

Check out my prepped ingredients packaged up and see the 3 implementation tips I have to help you get started:

Tools you need to start your own prep routine

Because people always ask what tools I’m using, here’s a list of what I use to GET. IT. DONE.

  1. My favorite salad spinner — I sprung for the stainless steel one because it looks nice enough to double as a salad bowl.
  2. Spider strainer — Every Asian kitchen has one of these (very helpful for fishing out dumplings) but I think it’s essential for all kitchens.
  3. Stasher Bags — I am linking directly to their site because they ship with as little packaging as possible, which I love. They are not cheap and there are definitely lots of other silicone storage bags out there but I have been very impressed with the quality and the colors!
  4. Kids knife set — These plastic knives are perfect for little hands to practice chopping before you move onto a butter knife, steak knife or even dough / pastry scraper.

Like I said earlier, this has been life changing for my weekdays. With the longer days, we can spend more time at a playground and dinner can still make it to the table before the meltdowns happen (well, mostly . . .)

If my routine to meal prep with a toddler is going to help you in the kitchen and you want more tips in the future, sign up for our weekly email below. You can also sign up for a free 14-day trial of our meal plan service to have a flexible weekly menu delivered to your inbox each week.

And if you have any friends that have also been wondering how to find time to cook with a toddler, please send this article over to them!

A little note:

Some of the above links are Amazon affiliate links, which means we earn a small percentage from those sales. We use this affiliate revenue to support the continued growth of Cook Smarts. Thank you!


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