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Dinner Traditions/Routines?

I am just curious how everyone here structures their weekly family meals? For example, chicken on Mondays, vegetarian on Tuesdays, etc... Or Mexican one night, Italian another?

Right now, the meals I prepare on any given day are pretty random, but with a toddler now I thought it might be fun to start implementing a little bit of structure to establish routine and tradition, but with enough room to be creative.

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  1. When tradition becomes a daily routine it loses it's interest. " We always have (name of dish) on (day of week)" can become monotonous. Frankly, I don't even hold to tradition for holiday meals. My family understands that, for any given holiday, either my wife or I will prepare a special of some type. It may be poultry (if so, probably chicken or turkey) or it may be a nice roast, or perhaps a ham. But they wouldn't be surprised if they arrived to find a rack of lamb on the menu. To my mind, reserving one, or perhaps two nights each week for a "traditional" main course (fish on Friday, roast on Sunday) seems reasonable. But I wouldn't want to extend the practice beyond that.
    I still love to hear the family ask, "what's for dinner?"

    2 Replies
    1. re: todao

      Exactly! Growing up I always had friends who knew exactly what they were having on any given night. And they always wanted to come to my house to eat. I'll admit that my mother was an amazing cook, but we didn't have a menu set in stone. I raised my kids that way and it keeps dinner from being so mundane.

      1. re: todao

        Half agree ... I plan the week for the most part as far as fuying some major ingredients for the meal ... however.... Nights change. I like to look at what I buy at the market at Sat ... So, I have egg plant tomatoes and onions zuccchini, and other items and I try to make my shopping list to the local grocery store to accompany the veggies. I have a plan of 5-6 meals but in my house .... never. It is great to have a plan and I am all for that but ... it changes, my ex at the time or my son or my roommate may be late so it is always changing last minute.

      2. I think there's still room here to have some fun designated nights even if they aren't scheduled every single week. Not to mention, sometimes more than tradition dictates these things, as when we had "casserole night" on the evening my mom taught a night class. It wasn't really a burden-- in fact, it was kind of fun since it was just my dad and me and we would eat in front of the TV (usually watching Jeopardy!). You might want to think of what types of foods fit easily into your schedule. We also had TV dinner night-- I don't imagine re-creating that one in my family, but I can imagine a "freezer night" or something along those lines.

        We also have friends who have done a pizza night (homemade), which seems fun (they have young kids). I have a toddler too. It might be fun, when they're older, to have a "request" night for the kids (I guess some reasonable parameters would have to be set...). Or what about "breakfast for dinner" night occasionally (waffles, omelets)?

        Another nice thing we did growing up was that dinners got fancier the further along the week went, usually peaking on Thursday and again on Sunday (Fri/Sat were often nights out). So on Thursdays we always had hors d'oeuvres and ate a bit later, sometimes in the dining room instead of the kitchen.

        So I think keeping the designations broad-- not "we're having this specific dish" but rather "we're having this type of dish," would be fun. And cooking for a family really does require scheduling and planning-- sometimes the element of surprise has to take a back seat :)

        2 Replies
        1. re: Procrastibaker

          "And cooking for a family really does require scheduling and planning-- sometimes the element of surprise has to take a back seat :)"

          I raised 4 kids and I worked. My job was not 9 to 5. I planned the meals and shopped accordingly, but still my menu was not set in stone. The element of surprise as to their meal was on their side, not mine, since I was the one doing the cooking. We also would do themed nights and these were enjoyed. You can keep your meals interesting by planning them... I just don't like the idea of scheduling them. But that's me...

          1. re: Procrastibaker

            My aunt makes breakfast for dinner once a week for her kids and it's their favorite meal of the week. She never tells them when exactly she's going to make it so there's that element of surprise. Usually she makes a savory and a sweet dish. Pancakes and quiche or french toasts and eggs. Chopped salad is always on the menu at these dinners.

          2. I grew up in New Orleans so we had two solid traditions.

            On Monday, without fail, we had Red Beans and Rice - like everyone else in town.
            This is such a tradition that even the best restaurants offered it as their Monday specials as did the lowliest joints and carry-outs.
            When my kids were still at home and asked, "What's for dinner?" on a Monday, I'd reply, "What day is it?" They'd cheer! "Yay! Red Beans and Rice."
            They live nearby and I fix a big pot so they can stop by on the way home from work to grab enough to take home for their own dinners.

            We always had seafood on Friday.
            New Orleans is culturally Catholic and even the public school lunches served fish. Of course, it was hardly any kind of sacrifice in South Louisiana when we had such a wide choice of fin and shellfish to choose from.
            Sometimes we would go out to eat crabs or get crayfish or oysters to eat at home and have people over for big parties in the back yard. Or go to someone else's home.
            If it's Friday, it's fish.

            3 Replies
            1. re: MakingSense

              making sense, in bobby flay's gumbo throwdown, he incorporated some pork (andouille, iirc) in his gumbo, and the challenger, Mrs. Poppy Tooker**, asked how many in the crowd would eat flay's dish because it had pork in it -- and it was friday. only one guy raised his hand. ;-). but, of course, everyone ate it! here's the gumbo throwdown program, from poppy's website: http://www.poppytooker.com/Poppy_TV.html
              i got a kick out of both of them!
              ~~~~
              ** i notice that she is a cooking teacher in new orleans. she's in this month's traditional home magazine. http://www.poppytooker.com/Home.html

              1. re: MakingSense

                Other than eating fish on Fridays, I can't abide by sticking to routine meals. The monotony, the boredom! That said, 3 Fridays out of 4, I'm eating tuna, but chuck that to laziness on my part rather than a lack of options.

                1. re: JungMann

                  The Red Beans and Rice on Monday never seemed monotonous or same-old. It's a generations-old tradition in New Orleans but it made terrific sense in our hectic modern life.
                  It served as a touchstone, an anchor in the week after a nutty weekend when everybody was all over the place and Monday was a whirl of everyone getting back into the week's routine.
                  I usually found time over the weekend to cook the beans, or even cooked huge pots ahead and froze dinner-sized batches. Dinner was a done-deal, taking the pressure off on Monday evening. All I had to do was rice and a green salad.
                  It made for a relaxing dinner and gave us some down-time. We could relax and regroup. It made the rest of the week a little easier when that meal was such a relaxing comforting one.

              2. At our house there's no structure. My cooking schedule varies a lot because our schedules do - some weeks I am out at night, some weeks we have a church dinner to go to, some nights we eat at Grandmas etc. The only thing that provides any organizing principle is my goal to eat up what we have before it spoils. I try to plan out our menus for the next 4 - 5 days so I can shop less often and not throw things away. But often life turns my schedule around a bit.

                I have a four year old and I don't know if he would like more of a schedule or not. His daily schedule is pretty structured - meals at the same time, bedtime doesn't move etc. He gets to choose his breakfast (within reason) and often wants something different every day. His father and I tend to eat our morning meals on a routine (toast one day, cereal the next) and though our son sees that he hasn't followed it.

                When I have tried to start a "tradition" he hasn't been interested. I thought it would be fun to have pancakes on Saturday mornings - I had rosy visions of him remembereing those Saturday morning pancakes when he was old and gray! But several times when I've brightly annouced "It's Saturday - pancake day!" he's said "I don't want pancakes today." So - I didn't make them. <sigh>

                1. Well the only real tradition my family ever had growing up was the fact that some how, no matter what, we always ate dinner during Wheel of Fortune :)

                  Not sure if thats the kind of tradition you were thinking of!