It’s Lent and for many this is a time to create an intentional game plan for meatless Fridays. A couple of years ago, Joy and I prayed about it and switched our family over to meatless Fridays all year long. This has been a wonderful blessing. If you are interested in making this switch personally, Lent is the perfect time to build the habit and then extend it to the rest of the year.
[I've discussed the theological reasons for why we Catholics don't eat meat on Fridays in another post: Please read "Why is Fish Okay But Not Meat."]
Here’s how not to do meatless Fridays. Before creating an intentional plan for “Friday fare” or “fish Fridays,” Joy and I would just sort of wing it: “Oh it’s Friday. Shucks. Mmmm. I guess we’ll have to order some cheese pizzas.” Even worse, we’d remember after the fact. I’d order a chicken sandwich at lunch and then suddenly remember.
This is playing defense. You want to plan offense. Defense reacts. Offense creates a clear strategy. You need to make a plan. Write it down and post it on the fridge.
Today’s post focuses on the practical aspect. How do you and/or your family keep meatless Fridays? It seems like such a chore. However, with some creativity, it can become an act of penance and a family tradition. And when your conference of bishops restores the custom, you’ll already be accustomed to the laudable and ancient practice. I’ve listed some suggestions below.
Get out a pencil and paper and write, “Here’s is my (or our family’s) game plan for Lent. We are going to be purposeful about Fridays in Lent.” You may also consider adding: “We plan to continue this practice of meatless Friday after Lent is over.”
Next, plan out your meals for the next six Fridays. This will take you less than 10 minutes and here are some recommendations on meatless breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Talk them over and consider how your family might adapt, especially if you or your family members have allergies or food restrictions.
Breakfast is easy. Protein shake, eggs, cereal, protein bar, fruit, yogurt. No sweat.
The difficult meals are lunch and dinner. You don’t have to have endless tuna casseroles. There are some healthy and tasty (albeit still penitential meals) that can be enjoyed.
Here are some meatless Friday suggestions:
Cheese Quesadillas. In the unforgettable words of Napoleon Dynamite’s grandmother, “Just fix your self a dang QuesaDILLA!” Our family is all about the quesadilla on Friday. Cheap. Easy. Kids love them. Make big ones and use a pizza cutter to cut them up into slices for everybody. Add some sour cream and hot sauce for the parents, maybe some chips and home-made guacamole. You’ve got a great meal.
Nachos. A variation on quesadillas. My wife Joy gets cookie sheets out, covers them with chips and grated cheese and then puts them in the oven. Bring them out and put them in front of the kids and watch them disappear. Super cheap and kids love it. For adults, add sour cream, salsa, chives, guacamole, etc. You can also add refried beans – but make sure you get the kind without animal fat/lard since this would violate the Friday meatless rule.
Pizza. Cheese pizza for the kiddos. Margarita pizza for the parents. Perfect. Throw in a beer to wash it down.
Grilled Cheese Sandwich and Tomato Soup. This is a nice simple meal and surprisingly our kids love it. You dip the grilled cheese in the soup. Comfort food. For parents, add some pesto to your grilled cheese sandwich. Also, adults like mixing up the cheeses – try different kinds.
Pasta and Marina. Fast. Easy. Children love. It costs next to nothing.
Fettuccine Alfredo. Another meatless meal that most people like. Very filling. Lots of energy.
Mac and Cheese. A good option for kids – especially when mom and dad are leaving on a date. Meatless. Inexpensive.
Vegetable Lasagna. This may not be a winner with the kids, but adults like it. It’s a lot of work to prepare, though.
Egg Salad Sandwich. My wife and I really like egg salad sandwiches with tomato and lettuce.
Tuna Salad Sandwich. Honestly, this can get old, but you change it up additions like cucumbers, olives, or even curry powder. You can get tuna sandwiches at Subway on Fridays.
Fish and Chips. My go to Friday meal, especially if at a restaurant.
Salmon. During the year, when we want a nice Friday meal, we go for salmon. Healthy. Lean. Not hard to prepare. I grill it on a cedar plank. Fantastic. This is a nice option if you have friends coming over for dinner on a Friday night, but don’t want to bore them with mac and cheese. You can also mix the grilled salmon with greens, fruits, and nuts for a beautiful salad.
Cheese Enchiladas and Chips and Salsa. This is the number one Marshall Friday meal. Joy makes it and everybody loves it. Very filling. Not very expensive. The hard part is heating all the corn tortillas in oil. It takes a little more time, but it’s worth it. My nine year old twin daughters made this meal one Friday night while my wife was away from start the finish (but I had to wash the dishes!).
My least favorite Friday option? Well, the McFish Sandwich and frozen fish-sticks are my least favorite. The children like fish-sticks, but when I discover that they are for dinner, I inwardly grown. Nothing says “penance” like fish-sticks.
If you have other suggestions for meatless Fridays, please leave a comment for us.
ad Jesum per Mariam,
PS: McDonald’s created their fish sandwich specifically for Catholics on Fridays. In 1962, Cincinnati McDonald’s franchisee Lou Groen invented the sandwich to compensate for plummeting burger sales during Lent.
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