It can be so hard to feed the family in the hot summer months. Sometimes it’s just too hot to cook, sometimes one person goes off with a friend and you have no idea if they will be home for dinner or not, sometimes an extra friend is at the table, and sometimes it’s just to fun outside to come in and cook! There are so many situations that occur in the summer that can make it tricky to eat, especially together. We are adamant family dinner people. We eat dinner together about 355 days a year, those 10 that we don’t usually are in the summer. (Not counting times when some of us are out of town because we still eat family dinner but just with different family. Like when I do my Countrytime.) One way I pull this off, and the way that is probably my family’s favorite is what we call Farmhouse. Farmhouse is our easy family dinner that I pull together most of the summer, and sometimes other parts of the year.
For the sake of 100% honesty- I use stock photos for this post, because truthfully Farmhouse isn’t always photo-worthy in appearance, and also usually it means I’m tired and not breaking out my camera and staging my food. That said the photo above is amazingly accurate, except my table usually contains more jars and less glassware that I’ll have to wash afterward.
What IS Farmhouse?
There are a lot of things we LOVE about farmhouse. Here’s what it is and why we like it:
- Lots of Food- As in up to 10 side dishes and 1-2 main dishes
- Lots of Variety- see above
- Almost No Planning- easy to wing it, seriously
- Budget-Friendly- More variety means food goes farther
- Family Favorites- More on this in a minute
- Great for Picky Eaters- The variety means people can pick and choose
Farmhouse takes advantage of different types of hunger and even different diets. Farmhouse acknowledges that maybe this person doesn’t eat dairy, or maybe that person worked outside most of the day and needs something cool and light. Maybe that kid eats about 12 foods total and nothing outside of that list. Each person dishes exactly what they want. Farmhouse is like a casual buffet. It consists of multiple dishes but is very easy to pull together.
Why do we call it farmhouse? I’m not entirely sure. I THINK it is because my Grandma used to have a farmhouse and this is similar to how I always remember eating at her house. It’s also well aligned with coming in from the garden and pulling dinner together, or to having family or neighbors stop by and having enough for everyone. Number 1 feature of Farmhouse is versatility! Worth noting, at Grandma’s house, if a dish was passed you better take at least a tiny spoonful, and if you took some you better eat it. Plates were scraped.
How to Pull Together Farmhouse:
Lots of side dishes and 1-2 proteins.
Usually, I maintain 2 large containers of sides. Some examples would be ambrosia, potato salad, pasta salad, a quinoa salad, pineapple fluff, cole slaw, 7-layer salad, etc. The list really goes on and on. As one container gets dangerously close to empty I move its contents to a smaller container and refill it with something new. If it’s hot and steamy I’ll make something cool, like cole slaw or ambrosia. If it happens to be rainy I utilize the weather and make things that require boiling, like pasta salad or potato salad.
In addition to the two large containers, I pull out up to 5 or more additional sides. These are usually smaller quantities. These would be things like cubes of cheese, applesauce, cottage cheese (which means I also put out jelly,) fruit cocktail, salami slices, bean salad, fresh veggies and dip or dressing, hummus, pickles, pickled vegetables, deviled eggs, hominy, fried squash, fried polenta, etc. Fresh veggies can be broccoli florets from the store, sugar snap peas, carrot sticks, or even anything fresh from the garden. Even tiny squash and zucchini taste great cut into long chunks and dipped in dressing. As one smaller side runs out I just replace it with something else. Because anything goes and everyone gets what they want it’s the perfect way for family members to enjoy their favorites. Let’s say your husband loves stuffed olives, a food that just doesn’t accompany many meals, and they’re too expensive to force your kids to eat them, but you put them out at Farmhouse and there is no pressure. He gets the olives he loves and your kids can fill their bellies with other foods. Don’t put to much work into these sides! Just pull stuff out of the fridge or pantry that your family will eat. Maybe yesterdays protein was ham and you have some left, put it out too. Maybe you grabbed some potato chips at the store, put them out. Just grab about 5 different things and go for it.
The protein is usually made fresh each day, options are things like sausage, pork chops, chicken, burgers, hot dogs, shrimp, kabobs, leftover ham slices pulled from the freezer, etc.
A Sample Farmhouse Spread:
I pull out my two containers, one is potato salad, and one is pineapple fluff. Then I cook some sausages for a protein. Then I pull some small sides, so I grab pickles, some applesauce, some cream corn (and heat it up,) some cheese wedges, a jar of pickled okra, and the cottage cheese (and jelly.) That’s a pretty well-balanced spread! Some hot, some cool, some healthy fats, some carbs, really a little bit of everything. Someone who doesn’t eat dairy could skip the cheeses and still have multiple side dishes. A picky eater could pick the 2-3 things they are willing to eat and still get variety. I promise you if one kid eats nothing but pickles they won’t die. Tomorrow there will probably be another food they like on the spread.
Clean up is easy- put the lids on any jars or containers (which is almost everything,) put any leftover cream corn and sausages in containers, put everything in the fridge, wipe the table. Done.
Let’s say I noticed that the potato salad is almost empty. So I put that away in a smaller container and the next day I make some coleslaw at some point before dinner. At dinner then I’ll put out the small container of potato salad as one of the small sides. Since one larger side is now veggies I may pick a more carb related smaller side the next day, like bread and butter.
Usually, we do farmhouse for about half of the year. It works great for the budget because you use less of each side dish and make it last. It works great for fall and winter, I just usually replace the cold sides with hot sides, like mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, yams, green bean casserole, roasted winter squash, etc. After we do it for a while we tend to branch away and eat more traditional “meat and potatoes” type dinners. Then when we are sick of that we switch back to Farmhouse. We’re actively switching back to a Farmhouse cycle right now. When we get all “What should we do for dinner?” and realize we are sick of everything, that is when we usually switch. It helps that right now it’s getting hot, and the need for farmhouse is here again.
My family knows at this point exactly what Farmhouse is. My son can ask “What’s for dinner?” and when I reply “Beef Farmhouse” or “Chicken Farmhouse” he knows what it is. Beef farmhouse, of course, meaning the protein will be beef, same with chicken. When asked he will tell you that besides pizza or tacos, Farmhouse is his favorite dinner.
I’d love to know, what do you think of this? Do you ever do meals this way?