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Busy Mom Robin Deem of CaliGirl Cooking

The food blogger and mom on how she got started and how she helps other busy moms find balance in their homes.
Kate Ricard at SideChef
Content Partnerships Manager and unofficial SideChef recipe tester. I love talking to people for a living.
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Kate Ricard at SideChef
Content Partnerships Manager and unofficial SideChef recipe tester. I love talking to people for a living.

Robin Deem is not your typical food-slash-mom blogger. Growing up as a competitive dancer and transitioning to collegiate volleyball in her late teens, she thrived in the physical and mental rigor of competition, until a serious knee injury in her freshman year forced her to take a breather.

Sidelined, Robin turned to food and nutrition to get back her game and eventually pursued a career in hospitality after college. After a stint working in food and beverage in Hawaii, she moved back to California and started to spend more time in the kitchen, memorializing her recipes and experiments on her blog Cali Girl Cooking.

Now a busy mother of two, Robin has evolved her blog into a warm and inviting space for mothers, old and new, to gather inspiration and advice on how to feed young children. With her helpful tips and meal planning services, she aims to help busy moms create balance, time, and nutrition for themselves and for their families.

You mention wanting to be a positive role model to your daughter as a motivator for evolving CaliGirl Cooking into what it is today. How was your own relationship with food growing up?

It was challenging. I was into competitive dancing growing up. I’m also 6’2 and didn’t have the typical body type for a dancer, so I was a bit self-conscious and developed an unhealthy obsession and approach to what I ate.

When I got older, I stopped dancing and started playing volleyball. After coming back from a bad knee injury that sidelined me in my freshman year of college, I felt that I wasn’t seen the same in the coaches’ eyes and internalized it thinking, “I can’t control what they think, but I can control what I’m eating”. It was the first time for me to be out on my own, cooking for myself, and having a hundred percent control over what I ate.

It was only after college and while working in hospitality that I started feeling more comfortable in my own skin and being really interested in cooking. My dad is a great cook, and I started my blog to memorialize everything we created in the kitchen together.

I used to only post recipes, but having a daughter changed my life and made me ask what my purpose was. My priorities changed and I felt very passionate about raising my daughter to not have the food issues I had growing up.

I did a lot of research and eventually became an expert on how to feed babies and toddlers and create food that is not only nutritious but also presented in a positive way. As my identity had shifted, I didn’t have time for complicated recipes anymore. I wanted to work on recipes that one could make quickly and incorporated different ingredients that the kids would eat too.

As an online educator, you help other moms find balance by providing personalized meal planning services and online courses. What are the most common concerns parents ask you to help them with?

More than how to feed their kids, people ask me to help them with meal planning. It’s been especially common since the pandemic hit as people just cannot and don’t want to go to the grocery store ten times a week.

What I’ve been doing as a meal planning consultant is to take a deep dive into people’s preferences, their time restrictions, the number of people in their house, what kind of equipment they use, and their dietary restrictions. Based on that, I make personalized meal plans for them. That has been really helpful to busy families, especially in this past year. This helps people take something off their plate, literally.

What have been your biggest challenges and wins while running CaliGirl Cooking?

I know I've reached a lot of people with my blog, but meal planning allows me to build a personal connection. It’s been really rewarding. I usually work in 3-month increments with people. When they’re finished with three months and want to do another round because the first was so helpful, I feel like it’s a big win.

The blog started as a passion to memorialize the recipes I like, and so the biggest challenge and potential reward is evolving the brand so I can give the most value to people.

Learning how I can be of use to people has been my way of melding my personal and work lives. Being a parent, I’ve had to find a way to manage my business while also running my life. Entering my blog into the “feeding kids'' realm has allowed me to continue my brand while also serving my daughters. While I’m creating fun and interesting content for my blog, I’m also feeding my family delicious meals. It’s been a way for me to work more without working more.

What are your go-to recipes to make the pickiest of toddlers eat?

I actually have an e-book (available as part of her professional meal planning service) on how to feed toddlers that I refer to all the time.

My kids' favorite recipes from the blog are: Healthy Carrot Cake Pancakes, Healthy Veggie Acai Bowls, and Warming Minestrone Soup which my daughter loves and we make at least every other week.

You’re a self-proclaimed busy mom, but you still manage to build your brand and run your business. What are your tips for other moms who are struggling to pursue their passion while raising little ones at home?

The tip that I also need to remind myself every day: don’t forget about yourself. I think it’s very easy, especially with little ones, to be all-consumed by parenthood and to put yourself second all the time.

Another thing is prioritizing and using your time as efficiently as possible. I read something about how “your tasks will take as much time as you give yourself”. I give myself three big goals during the day. If I can get those done, it’s a big win but I try not to stretch myself too thinly. I’ve learned to focus on one thing at a time.

What was the best piece of advice you received when you were a new mother?

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Be able to let things go and be okay with it. You won’t be able to get to everything in a day. I’ve learned that getting everything done is not always realistic and that I need to learn how to prioritize myself.

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