So I almost didn’t push “publish” on this post. You see, I thought it was too simple and (perhaps) too revealing! It reveals all of the many ways in which I am not a “perfect” Orthodox mother, and definitely not worthy of writing a blog entitled Orthodox Motherhood.
But, I decided to publish it anyway. Why? Because I know that there are thousands of other imperfect Orthodox mothers out there who could use a bit of encouragement.
Our Super Simple Lenten Meal Plan
I have been planning our meals in order to save money for many years. Because we are on a super tight budget, we allot $100 for groceries per week. This includes toiletries, paper goods, nighttime pull-ups (We’re out of diapers now. Can I get an “Amen!”), etc. So I feel that I have this menu-planning thing down pat. (Take a look at How I Save Hundreds on My Grocery Bill for more details.)
But Lent takes meal-planning to a whole new level. Gone are the backup meals of chicken nuggets or homemade mac n’ cheese or other convenience items. Lenten menus take some extra creativity.
In our house, we are all about simple. So, today I thought I would share our super simple Lenten meal plan with you. However, here are a few important caveats:
1. Our Personal Preference
This is a meal plan that works for our family but may not work for yours. Your family may contain super picky eaters, children with allergies, or people with health concerns. As always, be sure to speak with your priest and (possibly) a doctor before you decide on a fasting plan.
2. Not Gourmet
I am by no means a gourmet chef (as you will soon see!). Our meals have very simple ingredients and can generally be prepared in half an hour or less. I work outside the home and my husband is in his frantic dissertation-finishing stage, so we do not spend hours in the kitchen each day. I know that many people really enjoy cooking and find that feeding their families becomes a spiritual discipline. That is wonderful. It is just not me right now.
3. Our Fasting Philosophy
My husband and I have decided not to use any “substitutions” when it comes to cooking during fasting seasons. We don’t use vegan cheese, vegan meat crumbles, tofu, etc. We also don’t make baked goods (vegan chocolate cake, cookies, etc.). I know that many wonderful and pious Orthodox Christians use or make all of these things, but, under the guidance of our spiritual father, we have chosen not to do so.
4. Our Children Observe a Modified Fast
Our children are quite young (7, 4, and 3), so they observe a modified fast. They drink milk, eat yogurt, and eat cheese. You will see these items in the menu.
Finally, as I mentioned, we are on a tight budget. So, we don’t make many meals with specialty ingredients. There just isn’t room in the grocery budget.
Without further ado, here is a sample weekly Lenten Meal Plan.
We are all out the door by 7:00 each morning, so breakfasts are quick and easy.
-Cereal (with almond milk for adults and milk for kids)
-Toast with peanut butter or avocado or Nutella
-Any of the above with bananas or grapefruit halves
I pack bagged lunches for the children and for myself. My husband will generally eat leftovers at home.
-Peanut Butter Sandwiches with jelly/ Nutella/ honey
-Yogurt or string cheese for the kids
-Fruit or veggie slices
I have found that having a designated “theme” for most nights makes planning easier.
Sundays: New Recipe Night (I generally have a bit more time to cook on Sundays, so this is the night that I will try out new recipes that I find on blogs or from the book Fasting as a Family by Melissa Naasko.)
Tuesdays: Pasta (Spaghetti with Shrimp and Marinara sauce, Angel Hair Pasta with Shrimp and Pesto, Linguine with Clam Sauce, etc.)
Thursdays: Salad (My kids love salad bar night! I just cup up bunches of toppings–veggies, fruits, boiled eggs for the kids–lay out a few different dressings, and voila!)
Fridays: Pizza Night (I make Homemade Pizza with cheese for the kiddos and with roasted veggies for the adults) We all eat pizza and watch a movie together every Friday night. Everyone looks forward to it all week!
Saturdays: Chef’s Choice (I try to use up any leftovers that we have or fruit and veggies that are going bad.)
Perhaps you can see why I was a bit embarrassed to share this post. I don’t have any amazing tips or incredible recipes to share. This is just what works for me, for our family, in this season of life.
But, by simplifying our eating during Lent we are able to save money that we can donate to others. By focusing less on food we are able to spend more time praying together as a family, reading books together, and just relaxing a bit.
We slow down and simplify in order to focus on the spiritual.
Do you have any tips for Lenten meal planning?