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Dinner Lessons: The Weekly Rhythm

October 7, 2023

Ana Woods is a former photographer turned stay-at-home mother and freelance writer. She lives in the country with her growing family and writes reflections on faith, homemaking, and motherhood (often by moonlight, after the babies are tucked in bed).

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I entered married life with approximately zero homemaking skills. Ask my husband.

Then, we had three babies in three years and everyone needed dinner. Every single night. Regardless of if I was pregnant, nursing, or disciplining a shrieking two year old (lookin’ at you, Maria).

“Being bad at dinner” wasn’t really an option anymore– especially since family dinners are important to me and I definitely want my children to speak fondly of their mother’s cooking. Not to mention, my husband works hard for us and having a home cooked meal on the table is really the least I can do.

So, I studied dinner.

I consulted the experts.

I made a game plan…and then I put myself through bootcamp and recorded all my field notes here. If you make yummy dinner on a nightly basis for your family and it doesn’t really stress you out- this is not for you.

This series is for women who feel like they are starting from scratch when it comes to feeding their children. It’s what I hope to teach each of my children before they leave my home.

Step one to mastering beautiful family dinners is meal planning with a weekly rhythm.

I fought this step for a long time because I don’t like being boxed in by self-imposed rules. But…it turns out that routines eliminate decision-fatigue, create order in the home, and ultimately clear our minds so that we can focus on bigger and better things.

Most of my dinner woes stemmed from the fact that I was overwhelmed with options. There are too many cookbooks, food blogs, and Pinterest posts to sort through- how am I supposed to know what we should eat on Monday evening?

So, I (grudgingly) created a schedule.

Pasta Monday

Taco Tuesday

Leftovers Wednesday

Soup/Sandwich Thursday

Meatless Friday

Crockpot Saturday

Meat + Potatoes Sunday

The beauty of the weekly rhythm is that its flexible enough to encompass whatever you’re in the mood for. Pasta Monday doesn’t mean you eat spaghetti and meatballs every Monday for the rest of your life. “Pasta” can mean lasagna rolls, chicken lo mein, Ina’s summer garden pasta, or macaroni and peas. It can be gluten-free, vegetarian, packed with protein, or swimming in creamy cheese. The point is– each dinner is a broad enough category that you don’t get bored, but small enough that you can plan dinner without a panic attack.

Important note: I did not choose these categories haphazardly. I chose them based on our family’s schedule. For example, I grocery shop on Thursdays so we have leftovers on Wednesdays to clear out the fridge. We (mostly) attend Saturday evening mass, so a crockpot soup makes sense for Saturday when we get home late.

Once you have determined your weekly dinner rhythm, commit to it. I personally “committed” by buying a pretty recipe binder and printing off my weekly rhythm.

I intend for this binder to become a family heirloom that my children fight over- but first, I have to actually master the whole “cooking for the family” thing in the first place.

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For more behind the scenes pictures & rambles, follow along on instagram at @analeighwoods

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