I'd never given much thought to how people got things done when they had young children. They just sleep and then entertain themselves right? Bwhahahahhaha! Oh. How. Wrong. I recall a panic in those first few weeks of thinking "how am I going to get anything done when my partner goes back to work? How will I shower? How will I cook?!". Clearly I managed as we are all still healthy and relatively clean but right now I have no recollection of how I got anything done in those early months. Truly. My brain is just a haze of vague memories and if it wasn't for photographs I'd question our existence for a period of about 6 months. It wasn't an awful 6 months by any means! It's just that days blended into each other and it was about establishing a new life and new routines unlike anything we had before. We're now at 17 months and I now have a most definite toddler and here's how we get through a day relatively unscathed, in mostly good humour and with food on the table at every meal.
1) Three words… baby led weaning. We've been doing this since the wee one was 6 months. I had (and have) no intention of preparing two meals three times a day one for baby and one for us so she has always eaten what we eat. Recipes have only needed to be moderately tweaked to make them child friendly (no salt- we add ours at the table and,in the early months, chopping food slightly differently) and it makes meal times so much easier. There is a good book explaining all about it (both a hard copy and a kindle copy) and there are many more benefits to it than just ease.
2) plan, plan, plan! I've rambled on about meal planning to save money before but it also saves time. I now plan two weeks worth of meals in advance and then that's it. (Here is an example of a weeks menu). No more thinking about what I will make all the time and wondering if we have the ingredients to make it. I use the MealBoard app which also generates a shopping list. (it takes a bit of time to put everything in but now I don't have to sit flicking through books or wracking my brain.) As well as both saving money and time it has meant our meals are much more balanced and nutritious because I can see at a glance whether we are eating too much pasta, getting our protein or lacking in vegetables. A pen and a notebook will do the same job. Keep a note of which meals didn't end up all over the floor/inside the dog and once you have about 6 weeks worth of meals you can always just repeat them.
3) So, you only have to cook one dish each mealtime and you know what to make but now you need the time to make it. In this house the mornings are the best time to get anything done and I'll get almost an hour then when she will happily entertain herself (usually pulling things out the kitchen cupboards) so I make lunch and dinner first thing in the morning. I also make full use of the food processor/mixer for making bread, pastry or chopping large amounts of vegetables because it saves time and doesn't create more dishes than if I was making it all by hand.
4) Because I don't want to repeat what's already out there (and because I don't have time to repeat what's already out there) I will direct you to this very good Cooking With A Baby post by Drea of ohdeardrea who says everything i want to say only more eloquently.