We started a new family tradition last year: we eat soup on Fridays. Almost every Friday in winter, it is soup on the menu for dinner, and in summer, we have salad for dinner.
Just that one little decision made already is quite liberating. Think of it, all that brain power you may have used to decide what to have for dinner is now free, and ready to use outside of the kitchen!
Have you heard the term “decision fatigue”? It is used to describe the draining effect of expending energy making too many small decisions. The theory is that if you limit the choices you have for making your daily decisions – things such as what to wear, do, or eat – you will have brain space to focus on the more meaningful and important decisions of the day. Read more about decision fatigue at these posts here or here. Perhaps Soup Friday goes some way towards simplifying life by reducing the number of decisions you make in any given week.
If you were really keen you could use this idea to plan every meal in advance. There are plenty of voices on the internet talking about the advantages of meal planning and how it saves time, money and makes it easier to eat healthier food. I agree. I also find that, like many good ideas, complete and total meal planning can seem overwhelming, particularly if that habit isn’t already built into your life.
One approach to absorbing the useful concept of meal planning in an easy and realistic way is to pick one night of the week when you have a particular dish, like soup on Fridays.
The benefits of this type of meal planning may seem perfectly normal to those of you who thrive on repetition, stability, patterns and rhythm in your life, especially in your kitchen. For me, I find it more of a challenge as I love variety in cooking and eating. I enjoy cooking and I like experimenting with new recipes and food ideas. Having the same thing on the same night of the week – won’t that hem me in and limit my creative freedom in the kitchen? Well, perhaps, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Creative freedom in the kitchen means dinner takes more time to prepare and more brain space to think about, which is a luxury my real life can’t afford every night. My other priorities in life mean that taking cooking shortcuts most nights of the week is a helpful time budgeting exercise, shortcuts like pulling something out of the freezer one night, having the same dinner two nights in a row, and not having to think too hard about what’s for dinner on Fridays.
On the other hand, if you still can’t get by without as much variety in your life as possible, soup is the ideal regular menu item. Soup is one of those dishes which allows almost endless possibilities. Think about all the soups you have ever tried (and enjoyed) in your life. Can you count them? I know I couldn’t count the soups I have tried, let alone the soups I would like to try. Plus, it isn’t that hard to come up with a new soup every week just by using ingredients available in your refrigerator or pantry. See this post here for my formula for How to Build a Soup from basic ingredient building blocks.
Another good thing about soup is that it can be made ahead. In fact, soups often taste better when you let them sit there for a while and settle into themselves. We are at a stage in life where people in our household are going here, there and everywhere some days, with our teenage girls enjoying a few different activities, and Fridays are one of those days. A meal that we can prepare ahead and leave for family members to eat around their schedule makes the flow of things on Fridays a little easier. Making a big enough pot (or two) also means that any leftovers give us a head start on a relaxed Saturday lunch.
I know some of you might be asking, will soup be enough for dinner? Won’t I (and my hungry children) be left a little empty if we only have soup? A friend asked me a similar question about our summer regular menu item, Salad Friday. I do keep this in mind and try to fill our soups with filling ingredients. Examples include noodles, pasta, chunks of filling vegetables, meat or tofu, dried beans or pulses. Also, we often enjoy a nice bread on the side with our soups.
If you need some inspiration, have a look at this short slideshow of some of my favourite soups:
I used the free online photo organiser Shoebox Timeline to make the slideshow. Find it at shoeboxtimeline.com
So, what do you think of the idea of Soup Friday? I know it may sound a little too enthusiastic to think about soup (or Fridays) like this, but this is the sort of stuff that inspires me! I often find myself thinking about food, or thinking of blogging about food, and thinking of ways to make it easier to eat good food. Making simple and tasty food for ourselves and others is easier with a little planning (not too much!) and some preparing ahead, to help us enjoy a straightforward mealtime that nourishes our households.
This is also what inspires me about blogging: to find, learn, test and share simple, tasty recipes and food ideas, so that friends and other readers are inspired themselves to cook and enjoy homemade food.
Looking for more inspiration yourself? Search “soup” in the search bar on the side of this page to find some of my favourite recipes for your own Soup Friday.
Do you have a regular meal thing? Something like Taco Tuesday, Slow Cooker Sunday, etc? Please share in the comments below, I’d love to hear your ideas.