Simple Lent Meals



When it comes to Lenten meal planning, we do simple.  We're pretty simple eaters anyway but during Lent when it comes to food even more so.  We know Lent is supposed to be a season of fasting and sacrifice.  As the Catechism (540) tells us, it's a time of uniting ourselves with the fasting Christ in the desert.  Popes and saints have long encouraged us to embrace the power of fasting both for our own spiritual growth as well as an instrument to unite us to the poor.  Pope Benedict's 2009 Lenten address is powerful on the role of fasting in our spiritual lives and how it can unite us to the poor:
"By freely embracing an act of self-denial for the sake of another, we make a statement that our brother or sister in need is not a stranger. It is precisely to keep alive this welcoming and attentive attitude towards our brothers and sisters that I encourage the parishes and every other community to intensify in Lent the custom of private and communal fasts, joined to the reading of the Word of God, prayer and almsgiving. From the beginning, this has been the hallmark of the Christian community, in which special collections were taken up, the faithful being invited to give to the poor what had been set aside from their fast. This practice needs to be rediscovered and encouraged again in our day, especially during the liturgical season of Lent. 
From what I have said thus far, it seems abundantly clear that fasting represents an important ascetic practice, a spiritual arm to do battle against every possible disordered attachment to ourselves. Freely chosen detachment from the pleasure of food and other material goods helps the disciple of Christ to control the appetites of nature, weakened by original sin, whose negative effects impact the entire human person."  Pope Benedict, Feb. 3, 2009
It only seems fitting then that, in general, our meals together reflect that spirit when we have the choice.

And so I try to carry that spirit into my Lenten meal planning.  I want our Lenten eating to feel a little bit different, to be a reminder that our food is a gift and that our food choices and desires should not rule over us.  It's so easy to let that happen, isn't it?  Whether it's the temptation of immediate gratification or constantly catering to our palate or an inordinate obsession with the perfect food or simply an ingratitude for the amazing variety available to us and the ease in which we first worlders can avail ourselves of a relatively healthy meal...all of them can be traps that we fall into that place our food in a disordered place in our lives.  

A simple food plan also helps us as moms to not have to focus so much on meal planning and shopping so that we can spend our energy on the higher things.  It reminds us that it's okay if we repeat a lot.  It's okay if every meal we make isn't the best meal ever.  And it's okay if we walk away not completely full bellied and satisfied.  That's part of feeling Lent and entering into union with Christ and the poor.  And, on a more natural level, it allows us to much more appreciate the feast and celebration of Resurrection when it comes time, embracing and being more thankful for the decadent and extravagant treats, viewing them as a gift meant for our joy and celebration.

So here are some of my go-to Lenten meals that make the dinner rotation often.  They're not all that original or fancy...and that's part of the point.  Most of the meals on this list have a bonus of being easy to plan and cook (because that's how I do), as well  as being VERY cost effective. Many of them are meatless, pretty healthy, and all of them are eaten (or usually eaten) by the kids.  Simple meal planning is different than just lazy meal planning and stress-throwing cereal or frozen pizza at the kids because it's 4:30 and we totally forgot about dinner.  (Though, we've probably all been there. Actually, let's be honest, my kids would probably love it if I was there more.)  It's intentionally simple.  It's embracing the season for what it is and it's remembering that food is meant to serve us, not the other way around.  

1.


This soup is packed with vitamins and minerals and protein and vegetables.  Plus it's made in the crockpot and is super easy to prepare.

2.
Baked Potato Bar

I bake a bunch of potatoes and put out cheese, butter, broccoli, salt, and (if I have it) sour cream.  If it's not a Friday I often will thaw a small pack of meat chili frozen from a previous dinner that can also be a topping.

3.
Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup


I love the tomato soup recipe found here.  It's so simple, has only five ingredients (though sometimes I add garlic powder), is healthy, and takes only 15-20 minutes.

4.
Black Beans and Brown Rice

This is our traditional meal on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  Healthy and crazy simple with only five ingredients.

5.
Tuna Cheesies/Tuna Wraps


These are a throwback to my 80's youth.  Tuna fish on half an English muffin, topped with cheese and broiled for a minute or two.  I serve them with either a veggie from the freezer or veggie sticks.  The husband and I will often opt for a tuna wrap or sandwich instead, all grown up as we are.

6.
Poor Man's Chili

You can make this lots of ways since it's pretty much chili without the meat and a whole lotta beans.  I'm a fan of this crockpot recipe, though I like to add a couple tablespoons of chili powder for spice.  This is a very cost effective meal that can be stretched a whole lot.

7.
{Fill in the Blank} Soup and Bread


We do lots of other soups during Lent.  They're nutritious but not extravagant, filling but not fancy.  Plus, crazy cost effective and a good way to get healthy bone broth into my peeps.  Beef barley, chicken noodle, chicken pot pie, and baked potato are my usual go-tos.


Honorable mentions also have to go out to these simple food contenders that sometimes find their way to our table:
Whole wheat pasta and marinara sauce
Mini pizzas on English muffins
Bean and rice tacos

So those are our simple Lenten meals...wanna share yours?

Linking up with Kelly and Seven Quick Takes

8 comments

  1. So, I have mentioned a couple times on social media that Aaron is eating rice and beans this lent. When we were originally discussing it, we realized we really take fruit/vegetables for granted. like, we feel they are deserved parts of our meals- but really, so much of the world does not 'get' to eat such things. The self-denial of eating simply for the season is really really cool. I'm not there yet, but perhaps one year ;)

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    1. That is hardcore! Good for him. It's so true. We are definitely spoiled in our country and I'm realizing more and more how our idea of a healthy balanced meal is pretty luxurious compared to the rest of the world and history (which has the side benefit, too, of helping me be more balanced and not worry too much when it comes to taking care of our health and nutrition.)

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  2. Tonight was tuna casserole, but we've been eating more vegetarian meals this Lent, and I'm hoping to keep the practice up for it's health benefits. I've done lentil soup, nachos (refried beans, black beans, cheese, side of salsa), and veggie crustless quiche :)

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    1. Oh! Tuna casserole! Someone made one for us last year that the kids ate and liked! I need to put that in the rotation.

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  3. This is a great post! I love how you tied in the simple meal planning with the overall spiritual focus of Lent. I'll be re-reading this for sure!!

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    1. Glad it could help! And I hope to be getting ideas from YOU soon, too ;)

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  4. These are all great ideas, many of them we do already but with a few new ones. We have been doing pizza a lot too, and eggs and toast. My husband, who is always thin, is turning into a waif though so I am back and forth about it. And I'm nursing a newborn. So, figuring that out.

    We go to Friday fish fry several times each Lent. Which my kids LOVE, too much for Lent maybe, because their friends are often there. It coincides with Stations of the Cross and works well for us. At least I don't come home after bedtime with a kitchen full of dirty dishes. But it does feel kind of indulgent for Lenten Fridays.

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    1. Yeah, with nursing and in general with growing kids, I don't consciously limit fat or calorie intake. For us, it's more the simplicity of the meal in spirit, if that makes sense.

      Friday fish fries are big around here, too, and I have the same feelings about them. They're such a treat! We don't usually go but I do see how they can be a good thing for a church and community, too. I love the idea some churches are doing now of soup nights.

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