Back in the summer, Rob and I spent a lot of time talking about how we wanted to bring our extended family together more frequently for shared meals. We see each other at birthdays and other holidays, but we don’t gather often for casual meals with our parents and/or siblings unless there is a special occasion clearly marked on the calendar.
As we were having these discussions, we also noticed that our boys wanted to spend most of their free time on the weekends with their friends, a natural behaviour of most tweens and teens, and Sunday afternoons often came with a request to go to someone’s house to watch football, or to invite a friend over for the day. I was starting to notice how much I disliked having our family divided up at the end of the weekend, and felt that having dinner together was an important way to finish off the fun of the previous two days.
The solution to both situations we were discussing suddenly became obvious, and at the beginning of September we launched what is affectionately known as Family Supper Sundays. The meal is exactly as the name suggests: every Sunday night we have dinner at our house and invite all of the (locally-living) members of our extended family. It’s mandatory that our own boys are here, and they are welcome to invite friends (and, eventually, girlfriends) to come too, but they know and understand that their presence is non-negotiable.
As for everyone else, well, that’s completely their decision. Nobody is required to be here, but the invitation is always open, and I’m thrilled to say we’ve had a great turn out so far. It takes a small amount of planning to make dinner for an unknown number of guests happen, and here’s how we go about planning our supper each Sunday:
- On Tuesday or Wednesday of each week, Rob and I discuss what we might like to make for dinner the following Sunday. We keep things simple, kid-friendly, and mostly make-ahead, so we aren’t in the kitchen all weekend cooking for just one meal.
- On Thursday mornings I email my mom, Rob’s parents, his brother, Dan, (who has a wife and two boys), his brother, Ryan, (who has a wife and four kids), and my sister, Beth, (who has a husband and two-soon-to-be-three daughters) and ask them to let me know who will be coming for dinner that I week. I request a reply by Friday morning so I can do my grocery shopping that afternoon. People are usually quick to respond, and have been quite enthusiastic about the whole thing so far.
- On Friday afternoons I make my meal plan and do the shopping, or sometimes I wait and send Rob out first thing Saturday morning to pick up what we need. I usually start cooking on Saturday (especially if I’m baking something for dessert) and finish the meal off on Sunday afternoon.
- On Sunday we have little to do for our dinner. I set the table, the boys cram a few extra chairs in the dining room and we wait for everyone to arrive. Sometimes we have to work our meal around a hockey schedule, and sometimes it’s a quick visit, with people coming, eating, and then leaving in a short amount of time, but it doesn’t both us at all. I’m just happy that our family members have embraced our idea and everyone looks forward to Sunday suppers almost as much as we do.
So, if you’ve made it this far you must be wondering what we serve when we’re planning meals for a crowd of anywhere between six and twenty-one people. It’s a wide variety of items, and I keep track of each meal in my gatherings journal so that I don’t repeat dishes too frequently. Our meals to date have been:
- Shepherd’s Pie
- Kale Caesar Salad
- Spiced Apple Cake with Maple Mascarpone Frosting
- Roast Chicken and Gravy
- Mashed Potatoes
- Buttered Peas
- French Macarons
- DIY Taco bar with Shredded Chicken and Spicy Steak
- Garden Salad
- Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting and Sprinkles
- Lazy Lasagna
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Baguette with Boursin Cheese Spread
- Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Breakfast for dinner!
- Scrambled Eggs
- Roasted Spiced Potatoes
- Breakfast Sausages
- Buttered Toast with Strawberry and Apricot Preserves
- Juice, Coffee and Tea
What do you think - would you, or do you, do something similar? Do you think the time and effort is worth it for a big meal like this each week? How do you gather people together for casual meals? Curious about more of our Sunday suppers? Feel free to follow along with the hashtag #familysupperSundays on my Instagram account.