As a family we like to try new things and stretch ourselves to think outside of the box when it comes to celebrating the feasts and seasons of our Catholic faith. Last year we tried something new during Lent and rather than giving something up as a family, we only had soup for supper for the entire 40 days of Lent (minus the six Sundays plus the Triduum). Read on to learn more! This post contains affiliate links, for more information on my affiliate policies please click on the Advertisements & Disclosures button.
Why A Soup Fast?
Great Question! The short answer is that we have a lot of food allergies and intolerances in our house and we eat a fairly low level of "treats" during a typical week. Canceling chocolate or sugar are great, but we didn't really feel like that was much of a stretch for us as a family. We wanted to push ourselves and this seemed like a good way to do it.
The longer answer is that we were looking for a way to spend less time in the kitchen and more time as a family in prayer, service, and relationship building. Due to the aforementioned food allergies and intolerances it was not unusual for me to spend many hours of my day without leaving the kitchen, even with the help of my capable kitchen kids. When we weren't preparing food, we were cleaning up from preparing food. Soup is something we can easily meld and adapt to meet everyone's needs, usually in the same pot. If there is a problem ingredient we can either leave it out or pull a couple bowls for the person who can't eat that ingredient before adding it. Soup is also an excellent way to eat less meat and a way to save money in the kitchen big time. Less money spent on food is more money available for almsgiving.
For us, soup for Lent supported all three of the pillars of Lent in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
How We Did It
In setting up ground rules, we gathered input from all pertinent family members. We decided to define soup as anything eaten in a bowl that requires a spoon- thick stews and chilis were allowed. We also allowed a bread, cracker, or muffin side for the family members who are able to eat those foods.
I planned the entire menu for Lent upfront, being sure to incorporate old favorites in the mix with our new experiments. We decided that for our soup fast, Lent would extend from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday but that we would allow Sunday dinner to be excluded from the requirement. Each kid was allowed to choose one favorite dinner to slot in for Sunday lunch and we continued our normal Sunday Popcorn/Movie tradition for Sunday dinners.
How It Went (Also Known As Getting Creative)
As with all big plans, we ran into a few hiccups. The first is that we really did start to get bored with soup after a few weeks. We anticipated this and tried to prevent it, but it happened. We admittedly had a few kids that wanted to give up, but we stuck with it and came up with some fun ideas to create new soups that have even remained family favorites. I asked the kids for a list of their favorite "normal" foods and we figured out what ingredients would go into that kind of soup.
Some were great, some were not.
I think the big winner was our alfredo soup. This creation involved a very thin cream sauce (made whatever way you prefer- it could even be a jar of alfredo sauce thinned with milk if you like that) with a handful of bowtie pasta, broccoli, and sliced sausage. As for the not-greats, nothing I do will ever convince my children to like anything with mushrooms. I keep trying.
Plans for This Year
We definitely plan to try again this year. For the most part the rules will stay the same, but the meals themselves will have to shift as food needs evolve and change. I want to up the game a little bit by planning ahead better for traveling and/or activities and incorporating more meat-free soups. Last year, when conferences or work kept us away from the house for dinner, we would pick up soup from a restaurant and if we were at a catered event we would try to eat the simplest meal that the event would allow without making an issue of it. This was a system developed on the fly we want to be more intentional about this year.
Another thing I want to do this year is take a couple meals, such as the alfredo soup, and compare it to what it costs to eat the same meal not in soup form. I know there is a difference, but at the end of Lent the smaller amounts I was spending at the grocery store were pretty striking in both time and money. I'm guessing I could make this soup at least three times with the same basic ingredients we would eat in one sitting if we had chicken sausages with a side of bowtie alfredo and broccoli. The extra milk and parmesan cheese needed for soup doesn't even come close to the extra sausage, pasta, and broccoli cost-wise.
I also want to try more new recipes this year. As a compromise to skeptical kids, we only tried one new recipe each week last year. For Christmas, I picked up this book that Jen Fulwiler was raving about on Instagram. I was skeptical that a soup cookbook could be so amazing, but knowing Lent was coming I decided to give it a try. Seriously it is so full of seasonal soup recipes and most of them are entirely without meat ingredients. There are literally a dozen or more recipes for soup for every month of the year. Easy to make (and adapt- see my notes above about the macros for Lucie's seizure control diet). Someday I want to say I've tried them all!
If you aren't sure about diving in head-first, maybe pick two or three nights each week to incorporate soup for dinner. I wasn't on IG last year, but I'll share some of our soup for dinner meals over there this year! Maybe we need a hashtag? #SoupForLent
Hit me up with your best soup ideas!