Sunday feast: our new weekly ritual

The following is by contributor Jaimie of Two Chicks and a Hen.

Over the summer, I let our meal planning routines slide.  There were trips, food-laden events, picnics, and hot days that simply didn’t inspire me to cook.  Now that we’re back into the school year routine, I’m working more, and my eldest has homework for the first time, so I needed to rethink our meal planning, cooking, and eating schedules.

I love cooking, but when I’m under pressure and have a ton to think about and do, it can sometimes feel like a chore.  I re-evaluated my approach and discovered several things:

1. Last school year I put too much pressure on myself to serve a brand-new homemade meal every night.  I would plan a full, from-scratch meal for every dinner, but I wouldn’t always manage to actually cook them because life sometimes gets too busy.  I decided to stop feeling guilty about that and instead embrace a more simplified approach.   And we always have leftovers anyway; most recipes are not designed for one adult and two small children.

2. I needed to plan for things like baking muffins, roasting almonds, and so on.  Simply “intending” to do them one week doesn’t actually mean it gets done.

3. With my elder daughter’s new role as a homework-laden first grader, and both girls’ need to go to bed early, we can’t have the sort of relaxing family meals every night that I’d prefer.  Sometimes we need things to be quick and easy, and this is just the way it is right now.  But I wanted a way to mitigate the loss of quality family time.

Photo by Stock.xchng

A weekly Sunday Feast

After some thought, I decided we’d start a weekly Sunday Feast ritual.

For us, a Sunday Feast looks like this:

It’s a mid-day meal.  I’ve always liked the idea of eating the biggest meal of the day in the afternoon, but that doesn’t work for most of us anymore.  I thought it would be fun to at least try it once a week.

It really is a bit of a feast.  I cook something big (like a roasted chicken) along with copius side dishes, baked goods, and dessert.  The early mealtime works better for this.  The real reason for The Feast, however, is that I can prepare a long list of foods that we can then use as leftovers (for lunches, snacks, and one or two dinners later in the week).

It’s “fancy.”  OK, it’s not really fancy, but it’s fancy by our standards.  We eat at a well-appointed table, with a tablecloth, multiple candles, and whatever else is around that day.  It’s in between a run of the mill weekly meal and a holiday dinner.

Like most days, the kids help me if they feel like it, and they often do.

It’s a meal made up of whatever is in the fridge.  Counter to what you might expect, I don’t do an enormous shopping trip for The Feast.  I do make sure we have something big, like a chicken, but most of the rest of what I make is intended as a means of making sure we’re using up what’s in the fridge.

So far this has meant a lot of things like carrot salad, homemade applesauce from slightly-soft apples forgotten in the bottom fridge drawer, and roasted veggies made from the various random bits of veggies left from other meals.

Photo by Stock.xchng

Committing to a Sunday feast, committing to family time

I know this is not a new idea.  People in many cultures have always eaten a special weekly meal.  But I think this is increasingly rare with our busy lifestyles.  Committing to a Sunday Feast means, first and foremost, committing to being home as a family from around noon or one until the end of the day.  It means we don’t sign up for extracurriculars on that day, we don’t run around and do our errands, and we won’t be making many social plans unless they involve inviting friends over to feast with us.

Starting to cook in this way has really revolutionized the way I think about feeding my family.  I now see Sunday as the anchor to the entire week’s eating.  It’s the day I replenish our kitchen with ready-to-eat food that may not always be prepared on the day we eat it, but is at least still homemade.  It’s a small compromise that keeps us with a constant supply of healthy food and away from pre-packaged snacks and meals.

And best of all, it’s fun!  There really is something special about it.  My girls enjoy it as much as I do.  It’s also relaxing even though there’s so much cooking involved.  On the first Sunday feast, I had my family fed, a fridge full of newly made homemade food, and a clean kitchen by 4:30 in the afternoon.  I’ll take my excitement where I can get it.

What sorts of meal rituals do you share with your family? Do your family’s meals follow a weekly cycle?

About Jaimie

Jaimie, an American ex-pat living in chilly Montreal, is a single, work-at-home mom to a preschooler and a kindergartener. When she’s not busy building her freelance editing and writing career or making messes with her kids, she blogs about her adventures in creating a simple, creative, sustainable life for her family at Two Chicks and a Hen.

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  1. This reminds me of the Sunday Roast Lunch Tradition here in the UK – it’s something that we plan to do as our children get older and start school as I remember it happening when I was a child. We would spend the morning playing or helping depending on how our moods took us and my mum would prepare a roast lunch with amazing vegetables and then a proper pudding for the day. We would sit down together and enjoy take our time over it and talk as a family.
    Cerys @ Rainy Day Mum´s latest post: Tuesday Tots – Apples

  2. I love this idea! We tend to have some sort of big meal on Sundays, but in the fall/winter it revolves around football 🙂 We also like to have pizza night on Fridays, sort of a family game night.
    Heather´s latest post: family mittens

  3. Sounds very nice and I like that you are using up what you have and preparing for the week all at once! Meals together are special and as my kids get older and eat so much more, I find that they really appreciate bigger/fancier meals once in a while. When they were younger I didn’t see the point since after hours of work it seemed they ate almost nothing. I’ve held various food traditions over the years, but nothing lasting to now. I’ve recently wanted to re-implement a pizza/movie night but the trick is finding a night. With teens, Fridays are busy with kids out of the home. Right now I am largely bed-ridden after a major surgery but people have been bringing us so much food and baking. I believe this is offering my kids a huge sense of safety in the midst of a difficult food. The power of food!!!

  4. This definitely appeals to me, Jaimie. For a while now I’ve been mulling over a post on bringing back Sunday dinner and this confirms my thoughts. Great post!
    Aimee @ Simple Bites´s latest post: Crushed Tomatoes: Canned or Frozen?

  5. Sunday is a crazy day for us- we never know when we’ll get home- maybe 2, maybe 5. My solution is a crockpot. I use the big one, the small one and a rice cooker. Dinner is done when we get home from church!
    priest’s wife (@byzcathwife)´s latest post: Almost Organic Cabbage & Potato Soup

    • priest’s wife–You bring up an important point. I thought about this but didn’t put it in the article. My family does not attend any kind of religious services, so Sunday works fine for us. But this could easily be done on another day of the week for those who are busy on Sundays.

      And I hear you on the value of the crockpot! I used ours a couple of times a month last year on school days, and I loved being able to have the dinner hot and waiting for us. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find many recipes that everyone would eat. I should look into that again.
      Jaimie´s latest post: Communal Garden Art Gallery

  6. I love this idea, especially the using up left over bits and reducing waste part! Almost a year ago, we determined to make Sundays “screen free” (other than skyping long distance family, checking for tornado warnings, etc…we’re realistic!) and focusing on building relationships, either within our family or with friends. At first, it seemed like a chore, but now it’s my favorite day of the week. Kudos to you for finding a way to anchor your week!
    Sarah G´s latest post: Writing with Rose Colored Glasses

  7. I really like the idea of Sunday cooking allowing for homemade leftovers for the rest of the week. We usually try to make a big batch of muffins or something else on the weekends to help with quick breakfasts during the week.
    Steph´s latest post: Hosting Guests with Food Allergies

  8. I love this idea! Now, to put it into practice in my own home…
    maryanne @ mama smiles´s latest post: Enjoying Newborn Parenting

  9. Sunday lunch was a big part of my childhood…my grandma lived next door so she always came over, and if there was a birthday that week it was celebrated. After lunch there were often card games and just good memories (mostly…we weren’t the Cleavers!). I love your way of incorporating this into your week and using it as an anchor for lots of great things. Thanks for sharing!
    Lynda@Rhody Reader´s latest post: Reading Rut

  10. Oh I totally love this post… I love the idea of a Sunday Feast, especially since it is made up of what you have at hand… the thought of hours of prep would normally put me off… but you make it so much more accessible!!!
    se7en´s latest post: What We Are Reading Right Now #7… A Galactic GiveAway Post…

  11. Jaimie, great article – I love the Sunday feast tradition , and having it earlier in the day is a great idea. We also cook something more complicated on Sunday, and sometimes double it so that there will be leftovers to freeze or for lunches for the week (eg roast two chickens at the same time). We also like to make homemade pizza midweek, leave the dough out all day to rise and one night during the week is either chili or soup in the crockpot. Autumn makes me want to meal plan better, I also fell out of the routine over the summer months.

  12. Jaimie–this is so inspirational (as usual!). I feel like I haven’t cooked a thing from scratch since last March, when baseball season started, followed by the summer whilrwind and now back to school and soccer. I love this idea, but I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to pull it off without overthinking it (thus defeating any relaxing, use up what’s in the fridge groove), but we could definitely use some ready-made food during this (and every other) busy season.

  13. I LOVE the idea of cooking in the middle of the day! I’d much rather clean up the mess then than in the evening.
    Jennifer Campbell´s latest post: Chocolate Kiss Crochet Hat (Made-to-Order, Milk Chocolate Brown Handspun Merino Wool) by MadeleineAndCo

  14. Love the fancy table settings! In our household we call this the Big Cook. In the summer it means I grill up chicken, steak, cook beans and pasta and blanche vegetables for freezing on the wood fire outside. In the winter it means I roast usually a couple chickens (we have two teenagers and two adults), squash and bake bread or crisp or something good.

    Not only does this let me off the hook for dinner for several nights, but it also is an efficient use of energy – I have the fire roaring or the oven hot, might as well use the heat efficiently.

    We’re right now working towards a regular sit down together to eat the food routine. In the summer when we’re all working on the farm together, biking and playing together it hasn’t been so important. But with school and soccer schedules it’s become more so.

    It’s a fantastic tradition in so many dimensions!
    Sarah @ Your Healthy Home Biz´s latest post: Forget The Soda Ban – Here’s How To Drink Less Soda, Whether Mandated Or Not

  15. As another ex-pat Brit, I too have wonderful memories of our Sunday Roasts as a child! This post is so timely for me, because I’m in the process of debating whether to make our Sunday meal something ‘feast’-like or to do the complete opposite and make Sunday meals super easy (freeing up time to spend with my hubby and little ones)! Great post!

  16. We have done Sunday dinner in my family for three generations. If we miss Sunday dinner, something has to be really wrong.We usually have a roast or ham or a big fat chicken and have leftovers fixed in a new way for a couple of days after. We also use whatever is on hand. I, personally, think it’s a smart way to conserve your time through the week, still have quality time with the family and enjoy a tradition that makes memories. I think it’s great that you have started this with your daughters at a very young age. This is a tradition that they can continue with their families as they get older.

  17. Jaimie, what I particularly like about your family feast is the ambience you have created. So often we save candlelight dinners with tablecloths for “company” or a romantic evening. I think setting the mood for a comfortable family feast when there is time to enjoy good food and conversation is priceless.

  18. I love the idea of a Sunday feast and am actually writing a post right now about family Sunday dinners growing up. In our home Sunday is usually the day I can spend more time preparing a big meal and really enjoy the whole process – from being in the kitchen (often with kids) to eating our meal together at the family table. I think it’s a lovely tradition to start.
    Gina Rau´s latest post: Great Parenting Articles for New Fall Schedules


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