Friday, May 16, 2008

Making Sunday Special: Your Questions

Several of you posted great questions on this recent post. And, they are legitimate questions that I had myself when considering a big Sunday meal. How do you really make this work with toddlers and nap times? I don't want to spend my whole afternoon cooking and cleaning up! Do you prepare ahead or do the cooking when you get home?

First of all, let me say that I am still very new at this Sunday dinner idea. I've only been doing it for about two months. There are a couple of things I've learned that are helpful - but I would also love for some of you who are more seasoned at this to chime in also!

Here's our scenario: we go to the 9:15 service at church. This puts us home at around 11 am. We usually eat around noon. Sometimes earlier, sometimes later. When we finish the girls go directly to their nap time. We do not have a Sunday evening service, so until our children are old enough for Awana, we don't have anything in the evening.

I do as much prep as I can ahead of time. This is HUGE in getting a big meal on the table for me. What this means practically is that I bake a pie on Saturday, cut up veggies, etc... Let me get more practical.

After dinner on Saturday night, I clean up our dinner dishes and start prep on our Sunday dinner. I want to start the day on Sunday with a clean kitchen. I gather all recipes and think through the timing of everything. I've even been known to set out the pans, dishes and ingredients (non-refrigerated) that I will be using on Saturday night. I also like to set out our Breakfast dishes and anything that can be set out ahead of time. And, set out the pieces of china I'll need for the next day.

Now, on Sunday morning, I almost always start the meat before we go to church. This usually only takes a few minutes and goes a long way toward having a great meal ready! We eat breakfast and I tidy up those dishes and then set the table for dinner. I don't make this goal every week - but to walk in from church with a table set and the main dish smelling good is a GREAT start!

When we get home, I put on an apron and get to work completing the meal. After we have finished eating, the girls go down for their naps and I clean up. I'm usually all done by 1pm and then have time to play a game with David, read, craft, relax, or whatever.

Here are a couple of examples:

* When we did the Olive Garden dinner I made Pasta Fagioli soup in the Crock Pot - I had browned the meat and chopped the carrot and onion in advance so all I had to do was dump everything in. Garlic Herb Chicken and Broccoli: I marinated the meat overnight and it was ready to go in the skillet. I used frozen breadsticks in effort to save time. The dressing for the salad was made the day before and I used a bag of salad. It pulled together pretty quick after church.

* For our Mitford meal I made Cynthia's Roast Chicken - started before church. Puny's Creamed Corn: cut off of cob night before. Stir Fry Green Beans: cut up night before. Biscuits: made after church. Roasted Red Potatoes: Set out of fridge to come to room temp, washed before. Cut up quickly after church and they went right in the oven. Pecan Pie: made the day before.

This book offers some great suggestions along with the recipes of what can be done ahead.

Now, let's think about some ideas for those of you who go to a later service or who go back to church in the evening and don't want a lot of work in the afternoon:
* Maybe your tradition could be to have a nice Sunday breakfast before you go to church. It would still be something special for Sunday and you would not have to worry about it when you got home.
* Have your big meal at a different time: Sunday or Saturday evening - whatever suits your family and situation.
* Stick to a simpler big Sunday dinner. For example: put a roast with carrots and potatoes in the crock pot. Serve with salad, bread and/or fruit. Everything in the crock pot is ready when you walk in the door and the salad and bread can be set out in just a couple of minutes.

Still not sure how to create this tradition in your home? Leave a comment with your scenario and let's offer suggestions together!


Anonymous said...

What works for us is a big breakfast & an early dinner. Our service is at 11, and we have no evening service. David & I will have a nice breakfast, eggs, toast, sausage sometime around 9:30. That means when we get home from church we are not hungry. I then have time to prepare a meal for an early dinner, maybe around 5. A snack in afternoon, if we need it, will tide us over. This is also nice because it gives me a head start on a weekday meal since I usually have leftovers of some sort.
Growing up my mother always had a Sunday dinner right after church. The crockpot or the meat in the oven cooking while we were at church was her way of doing it too.

Anonymous said...

Even when we went to church we had a sunday supper (5:00 ish) It was usually a roast or a whole chicken.
Lunch (12:00) was left overs, hotdogs, KD, whatever.

I don't go to church, so now it's big breakfast (brunch) and then supper. I try not to make any more meals than neccesary.....I don't like cooking that much! LOL

tas (sverige90 at

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

There is a great book by Karen Burton Mains called Making Sunday Special (probably available used at Amazon).

I love what you are doing, wish I'd done something similar when my kids were younger.

Anonymous said...

I think it is wonderful you have started this very special tradition with your family!!! Also i think the saturday prep is esssential! I too was going to suggest *Making Sunday Special*.Liked this book alot for a while now, lots of good ideas and reasoning behind the book. Blessing our family with a special meal is always good-husbands seem to be especially thankful too. So much care and time and love and thought is a gift to our families. Thanks for the inspiration Monica!!! tammyp

Timalee said...

I had considered doing a big meal on Saturday nights, but it just never materialized for me. This is what I have been trying for the last month: We leave for church at 9:15 and get home at 12:30, so no time for a big breakfast and already pushing it for lunch. But, we all have snacks served in our Sunday School classes, so we are usually not hungry when we get home. Kids go right down for naps as soon as we walk in the door, and then I start preparing dinner. I usually have it done and we eat when the kids get up, about 2:30-ish. We have leftovers and/or smoothies later in the evening (We have no evening service). My dad always made us milkshakes on Sunday evenings when I was growing up, so I try to keep this tradition with my own kids, just a healthier version! Hope this helps someone else.

Dianna said...

My family had (and still has) spaghetti every Sunday for dinner. It's easy and fun, and everyone likes it and knows how to make it. This is one of our favorite traditions.

Amy said...

These are all such great answers, Monica. Thanks for taking the time to post how you do this!!

Anonymous said...

When my boys were young we had our main meal Sunday after church...usually around 12:00 or 12:30 p.m. I found a roast in the Crock Pot with potatoes, onions and carrots was easy. Pop it all in the Crock Pot early and it will be ready by noon. You can add another veggie or salad and you're all ready.
Once in a while I would go "all out" and set the dining room table with goblets, good china..including salad plates, eating utensils, including salad forks, cloth napkins, etc. Doing this every so often as the kids grew up helped them to know which was the proper fork to use and generally proper etiquette. When they're young, they may not see the purpose; but as older teens and young adults, they appreciated knowing these things.

April said...

This may be boring, but we keep our Sunday dinners on rotation and all of them are such that they can go in the oven on Time Bake and be ready about a half-hour after we get home at 11:30 a.m.

We alternate roasted chicken with baked potatoes, and salad (corn on the cob in the summer), ribs (covered and roasted until we get home when I slather them in sauce and broil) with coleslaw and baked potato and biscuits and honey sometimes (I use the Pillsbury frozen kind because I have NEVER learned how to make biscuits!); beef roast with mashed red potatoes (they don't have to be peeled and can be cooked in the pressure cooker in less than 10 minutes), gravy, sauteed carrots; and meatloaf with... you guessed it, baked potatoes, salad, and applesauce.

We are big fans of greased and salted baked potatoes cooked FOREVER until the skin is crispy. It is my favorite part of a Sunday meal! I completely agree -- prep and planning is the key, but there really are quite a few dishes that can be set-and-forget-ed!

Thanks for this great subject! We're going to try a homemade pasta dinner this week. It will be brand new!

Paige said...

If I really want to have a meal ready to go after church I'll do something in the crock pot. Most Sundays though we go for a drive after church, then have a snacky lunch of crackers and peanut butter, carrots and ranch, leftover pancakes out of hand (LIke big cookies) then it's nap time. I will sleep for 30 minutes then get up and start on dinner, served late, around 7 on Sundays. I do find that we have one fancy dinner a week, different nights and all depending on my energy and the other nights are the staples that we all know will be eaten with no complaints. For me growing up Sunday was "OYO", meaining "ON YOUR OWN" so we were left to fend for ourselves. With Scott, his mom always had a big Sunday Supper. So we've sort of met half way it seems.


Unknown said...

Thanks for the inspiration. I recall as a little girl, my grandpa was so dead set against shopping on Sunday. So much so that if my grandparents needed bread they would drive to our house to borrow some, rather than to go to a store to buy bread. They felt that if we didn't buy on Sundays that the stores wouldn't be open and then the employees could be home to enjoy Sunday with their families. I was convicted by your posting, I am a wife and the mother of two boys and we attend church weekly. The toss up after church is always- leftovers or eating out. I am determined to change this. I am preparing a nice meal for dinner tomorrow after morning service. I am planning ahead. I plan a roast, carrot and potatoes in the crockpot with fresh corn on the cob and homemade dinner rolls. I will make the rolls tonight and refrigerate them. I will take them out to rise while we are at church. They will bake while the corn is boiling. I will prepare a dessert tonight. I plan to use glass dishes and nice glasses. My boys are 9 and 6 and they are old enough to have a meal without a character on their plates. Thanks for your encouragement. I know it will transform many Sunday dinners.

Michelle said...

You are an inspiration! I really hope to start doing these sunday dinners after church soon!!!

Unknown said...


Our meal went wonderfully yesterday. It was funny, my husband came into the kitchen and saw all the prep work and asked if we were having company. Poor thing. He is still acting a little confused. I just told him, "no, but we are worth the effort" We had no spills and no glass breakage, so it was a success. Thanks for your blog. Anita

kimi said...

Growing up we had service from 9-noon (two, one for sunday school and one for church) and dad ALWAYS put in a roast, we got home and it would smell FANTASTIC! Mom would make a salad and that was it. Then naps and then before sunday evening service we'd have roll sandwiches with the left over meat and rolls.