Family Dinner Tradition

Since very very early on in our marriage, Mr. Evans and I have established many traditions and routines that are pretty unshakable. One such routine is family dinners. Here's the skinny on why, how, what and more.


5:30 Dinner Time
As a kid, we always had family dinner at 5:30 pm on weeknights, no question about it. My dad always made sure to be home from work (family rule) and my mom always had a healthy, delicious meal on the table. Yes, just like everyone we had work, meetings, practices, whatever... but this time was so important to us and 9 times out of 10 it happened. Now that I'm older, I so value this tradition. Mr. Evans is always home around 5:30 and kicks butt at work to make this happen. He often works after the girls go to bed, but he's home for family time. We have fantastic conversations with each other and the girls and it's a short time to catch up and talk about what really matters. It's often crazy, but so worth it.

Family Prayers
Mr. Evans grew up saying the traditional Catholic prayer (Bless us o Lord and these Thy gifts...) and I grew up saying our church's version (Come Lord Jesus, be our guest...). Since we always say different versions, we finally decide to come up with our own and settled on this one - "Thank you for the family beside us, the food in front of us, and the love between us. Amen." Nina knows this little prayer already and it's so sweet we can say it together.

What I Make and How I get it on the Table
Usually Monday through Thursday I have a pretty consistent plan for dinners. Here's my tried and true plan. Why no Friday you ask? Well, I never ever cook on Friday's. We're in Wisconsin, so it's always a Fish Fry - either out or takeout. Always! Saturday and Sunday we're typically with friends and family, so I don't plan as much for these days!

Ok so, a normal Monday through Thursday. Here we go. I make dinner and Mr. Evans typically does the dishes. What I make is what you get. I do not cook different food for the girls as they just eat a variation on what we're having. I believe in that wholeheartedly - a family dinner at a family table.

I pick the girls up from Montessori by 4:15ish and come home, unload backpacks, play with the girls or do a little quick art project with them and then get dinner going. Mr. Evans is home by 5:30 or so, so it's always a mad dash and balance to spend time with them while also getting dinner ready. Sometimes they nag me constantly while I quick cook, sometimes Nina helps, sometimes Mae is whining on the floor crawling around playing with measuring cups, sometimes it's an all out miracle that when Mr. Evans walks in the door dinner is ready. But, it's worth it. I know it is.

Here are a few tips. I ALWAYS plan for dinners for M-Thurs and always include a day of leftovers (therefore one meal I cook is "larger" so we can eat it twice) and an "easy" meal (aka breakfast for dinner, paninis, frozen pizza if I'm feeling especially lazy). So I really am only cooking two really good meals. Simple, right? We just get mileage out of them! I typically consult my Meal Binder and/or make a week of meals (dinners, breakfast, dessert and snack) using Prep Dish (which I have done a TON of lately). 

Random Tips
A few other things you might be curious about...

I cook entirely different meals in winter vs. summer. Do you too? Wisconsin winters mean meat, lots of stuff in the oven, hearty soups, Crock Pot meals, heavier stuff I suppose. Mr. Evans eats a fair amount because he's usually training in the winter for spring/summer runs and triathlons. Summers mean farm fresh with lots of farmers market trips, grilling, big salads and simple easy stuff!! My favorite!

I grocery shop at CostCo, Walmart (inner aisle stuff - canned goods, cereal, oatmeal, etc and random stuff that I can get at one place instead of traipsing to 5 different places with kiddos) and Sendiks, our local more gourmet market (meat, produce, deli - outer store stuff). I typically grocery shop once per week and hit up Farmers Market on Saturday's in the summer. We also went to a Winter Farmers Market this year and loved it!

This is a random little tip, but it's really helpful for me. My mom always did this, so now I do too. Maybe all people do? Do you? Well ok, when I make my grocery list I write on the bottom part of the list everything I'm shopping for and where the recipe is found (i.e. Great Food Fast cookbook pg. 54 or whatever). Then, I'm sure to hold on to the grocery list after I've done my shopping so that throughout the week I can cross of what I've made. Otherwise, I tend to forget what I've planned on. :) Also, I keep a list of what's in my freezer (leftovers, frozen beef or soups, etc) so that I know what's on hand without digging through a cold freezer and so that I actually use what's in there and nothing goes to waste!

Something Sweet
One thing we always do after dinner is have something sweet. Dinner just doesn't feel complete without it. This tricks my mind into saying that food/mealtime is over. Done. No more eating or snacking for the night. If I don't have it I find myself wandering to the kitchen around 8:00 pm for a snack and we all know that's a bad habit! Usually the something sweet after dinner is just one M&M or a small square of dark chocolate. Easy and low-cal. Sometimes it's an extra handful of blueberries or pear slices with good cheese. Either way, I love it. And so does Mr. Evans. And so does Nina. Mae, well, she's not there yet but you wait! :) 

What are your family dinner traditions? How do you get dinner on the table for your family? I'd love to know. 


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