How Do YOU Serve Dinner?

posted by Andrea | 09/13/2011

Ever since we started eating dinner together with our two International students, I’ve been much more aware, not only about WHAT I serve for dinner, but also HOW I serve dinner.

I’ve been using a great meal planning method for the last several weeks, but I was still going back and forth about the best way to serve the meals.

When it was just Dave and me, I would usually  just scoop the food right out of the pans and onto our plates, and then bring the plates directly to the table. So we really never had any dishes, pots, or pans on the table — and I liked that.

However, now that we have more mouths to feed, I’ve been trying out a few different options to see which method works the best.

Buffet Style:

We have a kitchen island that is a really convenient place to put all the food; so the first few nights I set everything up on the island and we all walked around with our plates and took what we wanted. This worked well, except that the girls wouldn’t take food if they didn’t know what it was {and they didn’t know what most of it was!}

Family Style:

Next I tried family style where we just put everything on the table and let people pick and choose. That didn’t seem to work as well since our table is long and skinny so it was hard for those on the end to reach the food. Also, since the table is so skinny, there isn’t a ton of extra room for all the pots and pans.

Plated Style:

Ultimately, after two weeks of trying different methods, I went back to the plated style. Partially because it’s what Dave and I have been doing for the last 5 years, and partially because it forces the girls to try a  little bit of everything I made — and so far they’ve like everything except tomato soup.

A few other reason I prefer the plated style of serving dinner:

  • The table stays much cleaner and it feels a lot more open
  • Everyone is forced to try SOME of everything I made
  • I don’t have to get any serving dishes dirty {the food goes right from the pans to the plates}
  • The leftovers stay night a hot for those who want seconds.

However, I know there are a bunch of different ways to serve dinner… so I’d love to know:

How do YOU serve dinner?

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14 comments

  1. Sue

    09/13/2011

    family style.

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  2. Laura

    09/13/2011

    I LOVE your dining table!

    We do plated. My boys are 5 and 2, so they’re a little young to serve themselves. I’ll continue with plated as they get older though, I think. I do like that I choose what goes on their plates, so they’re sure to try at least a bite of everything!

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  3. sarah wade

    09/13/2011

    Plated style is our preferred method of serving dinner. It just seems to work on so many levels.. everyone gets a little of everthing and all I ask is that the less favourite foods are tried, while the kids are still young albeit growing fast, it’s a good way to teach protion control and hopefully waste less food. However I have started to bring it all to the table for taco night, the kids feel so grown up serving themselves. since the additions to tacos are so colourful we talk about eating a rainbow, it helps to get anything other than meat and cheese on their taco :)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I love your “rainbow taco” idea sarah!

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  4. Malisa

    09/13/2011

    I serve plated style for one main reason: portion control! And typically I serve on “salad” plates so it looks like there is more food without serving too much. This has helped my husband and I immensely. Great question!

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  5. JoDi

    09/13/2011

    We do plated style too unless we’re having something like tacos where you have to add your own toppings. Then I put everything on serving plates on the table.

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  6. LibbyD

    09/14/2011

    It is just my husband and myself. I do plated style because it ensures that there is enough left over to send for him to work the next day.

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  7. Jenna

    09/14/2011

    Interesting topic! When it’s just the hubs, the kids and myself, I do plated for all the reasons you say. However when having other adults over as guests, I serve family style for the same reason I don’t cut their food for them or tuck their shirts in their pants, haha.

    I think adults should portion control themselves outside of a restaurant setting. Just my opinion! My MIL loading my plate for me at her house annoys the crap out of me. It feels like a comment on what I “should” be eating, which is essentially what it is.

    Love your blog, btw! I bookmarked it!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, I totally agree Jenna — and I’m still laughing about the MIL comment!!
    When we have company over, we either do family style or buffet styles {depending on how many people there are}. I would never serve an adult — except Dave!!

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  8. Olivia @ Crossing Bridges

    09/14/2011

    We do plated style. It’s just hubby and me, so it would be kind of silly to get out anything pretty (other than for special occasions), and I’m really not sure he’d “get it” anyway. I make my plate, he makes his, and we sit down to eat them together. And, like you said, it’s an easy way to keep leftovers warm for second helpings!

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  9. Shari@Rain into Rainbows

    09/15/2011

    We do family style, unless of course I’m having a difficult day, in which case it’s plated & brought to me in bed, if I feel like eating, that is.

    [Reply]

  10. Heidi

    09/15/2011

    We typically do family style with serving bowls on the table — just like my Mom did. However, over the years, with three small children, I’ve found myself bringing the pots over to the table
    - -such a faux pas with my Mom!

    I think I’ll try exclusively plated for all the reasons stated above–convenience, less mess, etc.

    I guess that’s why I had started to bring the pots over to the table.

    Glad I read all this! Thanks

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Heidi, I grew up with family style too — and we also ALWAYS brought all the pans right to the table!

    I’ve just found it’s easier and less messy to do the plated style… so that’s what we’re doing now. We could easily change once we start having more children… who knows! However, I would definitely give plated style a try and see what you think!

    [Reply]

  11. Sara

    09/23/2011

    We do a combination plated and family style. Buffet is not an option due to space constraints. I think mostly our severely cramped kitchen and dining rooms dictate plating style most often. We have a good sized table, though we usually bump a lot of elbows when setting everything out. Kids are not the most coordinated people sometimes, and serving dishes or pans brought to table can be quite hot or heavy, so even when we bring everything out to table we usually end up plating it for everyone. Since it’s done right at the table, we generally ask “how much”, and “do you want this”? Trying to connive a yes out of kids for vegetables and other sides, negotiate at least small portion of everything, or uh, just giving them portions, those sorts of thing go on a lot. Hubby serves up main dish, I do sides, or vice versa. Goes faster that way. Either that, or plated in the kitchen. One person serves up plates and the “runner” delivers plates to table. Kitchen method is a lot less negotiation, which makes it easier on everyone. In the name of promoting independence and learning to make good choices, we quite often plate at table. Sometimes I wonder if we defeat ourselves trying to do it that way. I suppose they are still learning those things even when we are plating it for them. Hmm. Something to think about. Good post!

    [Reply]

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