We eat simple, frugal food most of the time at our house. And we like it! But that doesn’t mean that every dish I make is the cheapest possible meal to make. In fact, I purposely try to balance out my simple meals with nicer ones.
And I find that historically people did the same thing too. So many farmer’s wives cooked simple, but hearty bean dishes, cornbread and the like during the week, and then would serve a large meat dish with the sides on Sunday. So while everything could be quite simple and even repetitive during the week, Sunday would be the highlight with everyone feasting on a generous meal.
Many people, especially those in the last generation, remember pot roasts or roasted chicken being served each Sunday, continuing that tradition.
I find the same happened in the city during the Victorian era in all of the classes.
The more well to do would encourage frugal practices in the kitchen to stretch their food budget so that they would put more money into hospitality and social events. By cutting corners during the week, reusing leftovers, and serving leftovers to the nursery (who ate separately from their parents most of the time), they were able to have more for “feast days”.
The poor weren’t so interested in parties, as many, especially on the lowest rung of society, were concerned with simply surviving. But this is what I find interesting. It seems like all of the ladies (who, by the way, if you were poor in the Victorian Era, you were a working women) were careful to save a little more money for every Sunday. If they could afford a little meat during the week, they would buy a nicer cut for Sunday, with maybe even a dessert. If they could not afford any meat during the week (which the very lowest paid workers often couldn’t during certain periods), then they would splurge and buy some bacon to cut into their potato hash.
You see, Sunday was their family day and their rest day and they wanted to make it special. They would spend a significant amount of their food money on that one day. I am sure that having Sunday to look forward to helped get them through their scanty weeks. There is something so heartwarming and inspiring to me about these hard working, careworn women still putting time and effort into making a feast day for their family. It just goes to show that even in the worst of circumstances, you can bring a little enjoyment and light into your family with your cooking.
So how does that translate to my house? I find that if I serve some budget cutter meals, that I can also fit in some really nice meals too. For a long while, Sunday was our only dessert day. This helped the dessert seem even more special and helped with our budget which allowed me to splurge a little on Sunday. However, Sundays have been quite busy days for us more recently, so sometimes I have just had our nice meal on Saturday or another day of the week. But I hope to eventually get into a routine of having a “look forward to” day, where everyone knows that’s the day I make something nice for the family.
In the spirit of this principle, I plan on trying to share my nicer meals and desserts on Friday as a way of gearing up for the weekend. For example, I want to share the delicious salmon recipe soon that is pictured above! Salmon is one of those nice meals that we can only afford by cutting back what we spend on other days, and it’s certainly worth it! I just wish I could fit it in every week.
How about you? Do you have a “feast” day? Does this idea appeal to you?
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Hi Kimi –
I’m new to your site and LOVE it! We do honor a feast day of sorts. Generally, we don’t eat meat during the week and save it for Friday and Saturday dinners. During the week I try to make it fun w/ variety or doing Indian, Persian, Mexican, or Middle Eastern week – all of which offer so many wonderful meatless dishes to enjoy. Tonight for example we are having Kebab Koobideh (Persian) with rice and a big green salad – I can’t wait!
Thanks for all your great sharing!
I forgot to specifiy that we top off a theme week w/ a great meat dish from that cuisine. 🙂
We have a feast day around here also in celebration of our Sabbath rest. We like to have our feast Saturday night in prep for Sunday but sometimes it happens Sunday afternoon. 🙂 The children enjoy helping & I start prep work Friday night or Saturday. We take the time to decorate & make the table pretty. Fun, fun, fun!
And, yes- share the salmon recipe b/c I NEED more fish recipes. LOVE fish but I’m scare to cook it- trying to change that!
Love the idea!!! It’s inspiring to think that maybe we put too much into having a Rachel Ray meal all throughout the week, when really maybe we should be eating simply and working diligently, and then the celebration feast on the weekend is the meal to savor and look forward to, and keep scared. I love the idea. I am a very spiritual person, and I feel like eating is spiritual and should be considered more of a gift, and not this thing we do to stuff ourselves in America. Beans and Rice and Veggies… and look forward to Sabbath…. all the more reason to celebrate a day of resting and feasting.
Stephanie @ One Big Adventure
We have been through a similar cycle as you, Kimi. And I am in the same place now–wanting to get to where we have a predictable ‘look forward’ to day that we make special with a feast of sorts. It has just seemed like an important part of the cycle of life, but I never bothered to see if, historically, others have really done the same (though I thought perhaps they did)… My older daughters and I are really enjoying the Lessons from History! Thanks!
I love this idea!! For a while now I’ve been wanting to have simple meals more of the time so I have not only the money, but energy for a more elaborate, exciting meal. This is a great idea for frugal eating. Thanks.
We have always done this in our family, even when I was growing up. Friday nights were soup and bread (using WHATEVER happened to be leftover during the week) and then on Saturday we had our “extra special” meal after church – complete with dessert. It’s a nice habit to get into, and one that we’ve thankfully transferred over to our own boys. (“Moma, we are having dessert… Is it Sabbath?” 😉 )
I cannot wait to see the fish recipe! We (my two older boys and I) have just undergone extensive allergy testing and found that we all have some food allergies. One son has so many, I am really having to search for what he *can* eat. The treatment that both my boys will do requires three days of very strict diet every other month just before the shot, leaving fish and lamb as the only meat choices those days. I am trying my first leg of lamb tomorrow to get some practice, and I could use more fish recipes, too!
I know you posted this comment forever ago, and don’t know if you’ve found a good rotation of lamb and fish recipes, but just the other night we had scotch broth – it was my first try, and it was fabulous, and it’s lamb-based, so I wanted to pass on the recipe:
I hope all your allergy issues are sorted out by now, though!
My grandmother did this and my mother too. I grew up on roast or turkey or ham for “Sunday Dinner” but I’ve got continued the tradition in my over two years of marriage. Thank you for this reminder. I think I will begin!
got = not
Hey to all! One thing that I wanted to add to the wonderful idea of a “feast day”is also the religious aspect as well. (Yes, food and religion do go hand in hand!) I know many of you are quite young, 20s or 30s and live in the West but one thing that probably your grand parents or great grandparents did if they lived in the late 19th century and 20th century did is have Fish On Fridays. This is primarily a Northeast Irish-Catholic or Italian-Catholic (Catholic is the key word here) had Fish on Fridays. That usually a meant a Fish Fry at the local parish. Usually Haddock, Cod, Whitefish, or Halibut ( wow, and all these fish are fished out- Now.) Sundays, if you were Eyetalian as my dad pronounced it, and if you were Sicilian and “rest of the country” meant “da spagets and da meatballs!, capeche!) Meatballs were huge (along with the fish fry wrapped in brown paper, and BTW, Wegmans still does a mean Fish Fry)
Issac Bashevis Singer and Tm McCourt write great novels on Life and Food Is Included in the Story! For you visual folks that “don’t got a lotta time”, just watch the Godfather movies (classic to you all) and you see a great feast!
Wonderful post. We used to do ‘Sunday Dinner’. I honestly don’t know why we stopped. I have been trying to start it up again and at the moment have a roast in the fridge thawing for this Sunday. Hubby saw it and asked what the occasion is. Definitely time to get the tradition started again.
I remember when I was a kid, mom always made a special Sunday dinner after church. My parents learned the tradition from their parents. Grandma always made a Sunday dinner. It wasn’t too unusual she had two or three meats: fresh butchered chicken, beef and ham. Along with this was the mashed potatoes and gravy, garden vegetables, green beans cooked with bacon, all with plenty of butter. Her specialty was the home-made dinner rolls, usually with cigarette ash or two worked into the dough, dropping into it while kneading it. Boy, were they healthy–without ever going to a doctor until their 80s. The 7-Up was never served until evening, right before Lawrence Welk came on the warmed-up black-and-white television set. (They sure thought the American culture had degraded since they were kids– when after-dinner entertainment was when everyone played the piano, made right in 50 towns in Ohio) But our Sunday was set aside for family, worship, rest and a feast–something that connected us all together–amidst the pressures of ordinary life.
Kimee–you really rock. Read more of my attribute to your post at http://wholefoodusa.wordpress.com/2009/07/17/keeping-a-feast-each-week/
I like this idea, as a new Catholic, I am enjoying all the Saints days and Feast days throughout the year, and learning about all the great people of faith who have gone before us. It is good to make them special with taking more time to embellish the family table.
My hubbie and I had several meals this past week of hot dogs and sauerkraut. Talk about a frugal meal! But frying the grass-fed dogs in butter (after slicing them down the middle) sure made this frugal meal a feast.
Thanks for this post!
This was something my friend and I were talking about the other day. In days ago it was common to have beans (red, black, or what have you), corn bread, and sometimes a salad or vegetable. Nice and simple, fills you up and healthy.
At our house every Friday we have pizza night with homemade pizza. This has become a very special time for us. And then once a week I make some cookies that we eat through out the week.
Good post thanks for sharing:)
We usually stay-in during the weekdays. Our “feast” days are the weekends where the kitchen is “closed” and we go out and eat. Even if we eat at Chipoltle or Sweet Tomatoes salad bar is a “feast” for me: no cooking, no dishes. During the weekdays, There are not too many restaurants that serves whole grains or “healthy” cooking so we tend to stick with the same restaurants when we go out to eat. During the weekdays, I usually cook 2 huge dinners and alternate the dishes throughout the weekdays. Just come home and warm in the microwave. I do normally cook some type of vegetables every night or every other night. Usually it’s a roasted or steamed vegetables.
When I was growing up, my mom usually had a pot roast or chicken in the crockpot along with carrots, potatoes & onions so that when we arrived home from church, Sunday dinner was pretty much ready (and we were pretty much famished!). Funny, I was never crazy about that. Perhaps because it didn’t provide a lot of variety in flavor and texture. As I recall my childhood, we ate rather frugally the rest of the week, so it should have seemed more like the feast it really was. But maybe it was overshadowed somewhat by the fact that we had homemade pizza every Saturday night – and leftovers for breakfast on Sunday morning(!).
As a mom now myself, I have sought to make weekend breakfasts special instead of the evening meal. It has been fun to have our 2 1/2 year old son know that when we have pancakes, it’s Saturday – and he and daddy are going on a ‘venture – and when it’s Sunday, we have waffles and go to church.
But after reading this post, I am eager to make one dinner meal each week more special – for just our family or for hospitality purposes as well. Thank you for such well-thought and researched posts!
I find that when I make sure to have really nice meals every now and then, my family is a lot more content with frugal food like beans. When weeks go by with only cheap meals (no matter how nourishing) they tend to get discouraged with our diet and we end up eating out.
What a great tradition to bring back to my family!! Currently I live with my parents, after being on my own for several years. I do most of the cooking and meal planning as my ‘rent’ 🙂 My mom has always been a great cook and we ate very well every day of the week – but there was usually one day that was BETTER than every other day. We got out of that habit once my brother and I were older and not around the house as much. I miss it! I am going to revamp my meal plan for the rest of the month and see what I can do to make one meal ‘special’. Probably won’t be Sundays, more likely Monday or Wednesday (I keep things simple on the weekends because we are busy running errands or at church) but there will be something to look forward to! 🙂 Thanks for the post!!
How timely this is! I was just struggling with two loves of mine today- trying to find a balance between serving my family by feeding them extravagant and tasty meals, and serving my family by stretching the food budget in such a way that only I seem to be enthused over.
I think I’ll plan this week’s menu according to your feast day suggestions.
I like these little interludes you have in which you discuss the historical aspects of healthy eating. I’m much more into food science and research, but you provide context for many of these nourishing practices. It’s great to be informed about cultural and financial aspects of eating, too. Keep up the good work, Kimi!
I just returned from a family reunion. One of the senior family members stood up and told us this story about an earlier family member who lived in a log cabin in a very remote “holler” in Kentucky: Back at the turn of the century, Granny S was a midwife and delivered many of the family in her log cabin, including my mother-in-law. Each Sunday she would get up at 4AM and slaughter a chicken that she would cook for a big meal that day. She’d spend all day cooking while her husband went to church. When he came home, he brought every hungry person he could locate back home with him where they would feast. That single chicken often stretched to feed 12 or 14 people.
Growing up we always had an absurd dinner Sunday evenings. The only thing I didn’t like about it was the hours of cooking that went into making those dinners. Now that I have a family of my own, we have a similar thing, but on Friday nights instead of Sundays. Our Sundays are always full of all sorts of things including church that lasts until 4pm, so adding cooking a fancy meal op top is just too much for me. Friday nights we tend to have a late dinner, but a fancier one. And, I admit there are a few times that feast day is eating out day as well.
Alison @ Hospitality Haven
That’s a really interesting summary of feasting history! It’s something I suppose I knew, but never paid much attention to. My parents always had roast beef and the trimmings on Sundays. I like the idea of going back to a simpler week and having one day that’s particularly special for feasting. I think due to the nature of our work and lives Mondays might be that feasting day for us! Thanks for the post!
This is such a great reminder and very encouraging. I love history and as I was reading this post it started bringing back in my mind all the different books that I would read that they would eat just in the way you were explaining. With us just moving we are on a way tighter budget and this would be a really good way of working with that budget 🙂