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It’s customary to spend the period of Lent in some kind of fast, so if you’re looking for things to give up for Lent, you’re in the right place!
While it’s tempting to want to use Lent as an excuse to lose weight or improve our lives in some way, actually the real focus should ideally be something which will draw us closer to Jesus. So in deciding what to give up, consider these questions:
- what is coming between me and God right now?
- are my spiritual disciplines what I want them to be?
- if not, is there something I could give up which would give me time to develop these?
- or is there something I should take up instead?
- where is my heart excited right now? Is it a healthy habit, or something I need to loosen my grip on?
Many of the things to give up for Lent listed here will not be relevant for you personally. They won’t be addictions you struggle with or things which are drawing you away from your spiritual life. But some things really will be relevant!
So I encourage you to choose that ONE thing which you know is pertinent right now in your life, and which will make you just that little bit uncomfortable – Lent, after all, is supposed to be a time when we remember Jesus’ own period of fasting in the desert (it’s no coincidence that Lent lasts for 40 days).
But fasting is really about drawing closer to Jesus – so for that reason I’ve also included 10 ideas for things you might choose to take up instead of give up. These things may benefit you spiritually, or benefit your community – or even the planet. Lent is a great time to think about any or all of these!
If you’re sticking to tradition by giving something up, a Lenten fast actually only takes place Monday-Saturday, with Sundays being treated as ‘feast days’. This is a lovely way of fasting, because you know you’ll get to indulge in something pleasurable once a week, it’ll make your Sunday celebrations more special, and it will help you to enjoy whatever you’ve given up even more if you’re only having it once a week.
But it’s your choice as to whether you fast Sundays or not!
Disclaimer: if you’re planning to give up anything which will affect your body and physicality, please seek medical advice first. Do not attempt to give up foods which your body needs.
One final thought: fasting as a family/household can be a great way of holding each other accountable. I have a wonderful Family Fast Tracker to help you do this, as part of my Family Easter Printables Bundle – check it out!
Now on with the list!
Food and drink
Remember – find your nemesis, then consider giving it up! Not all of these will be staples in your diet, but if they are, maybe they’re worth foregoing for the period of Lent?
3. Snacking between meals
6. Refined carbohydrates
If white rice, pasta and bread are your staples, consider replacing them with brown/wholegrain alternatives – or introducing things like cauliflower rice, courgette spaghetti and sweet potato mash into your mealtimes.
9. Fizzy drinks
The sugar content in these is super high – they’re such an inconspicuous factor in weight gain! So if you’re getting addicted, maybe it’s something worth giving up?
10. Tea/coffee (or both!)
Could you consider putting aside the money you would have spent, and donating to a favourite charity?
12. Eating out/coffees out
13. Convenience foods
If you’re relying heavily on microwave meals or freezer staples, why not consider 40 days of cooking from scratch? You can keep meals simple and use a decent recipe site like BBC Good Food to easily search quick recipes with your favourite ingredients.
14. Non-organic fruit and vegetables
Consider choosing a local fruit/veg supplier, or checking the labels carefully in supermarkets.
Most of us know we spend far too much time on screens. Much of it is unavoidable, but if you’re anything like me, some of it really is avoidable! Here are some ideas to reduce screen-time this Lent.
15. Social media
Perhaps consider ONE social media platform that you know is a real time-suck for you…or be brave and give them all up!
16. Addictive (non-essential) phone apps
Is there an app your thumb automatically navigates to whenever you reach for your phone? Could you do without it for 40 days?
17. Phone games
Addictive and time-wasting, why not make a proactive choice to do something else to wind down? Read a book, or play a game with your kids perhaps? I have loads of fun ideas for you to try out in my post 30 Simple Lent Activities for Families.
18. Video games
Either totally – or perhaps limit it to weekends, or just an hour (or less) a day.
20. Internet scrolling
If you know you scroll regularly without purpose, put in place some strategies to help curb this during Lent.
21. Streaming service subscription
Are you addicted to Netflix? Can’t live without Disney+? Try a 40-day fast! You may be surprised by the fun hobbies or pastimes you can choose instead!
22. Reality TV
If you’re becoming addicted to watching reality TV, why not think about giving this up for Lent?
Giving up a bad habit is something you might want to do all year round – but the intense period of 40 days in Lent will give you a head-start. If you can kick a habit for 40 days, it’ll be much easier to kick it for good!
26. Phone use at mealtimes
If it’s become a habit, use this Lent to break it! The easiest way is to simply leave your phone in another room to where you eat.
Covenant Eyes is a great resource to help keep you accountable if this is a habit you’d like to kick this Lent.
Lent is a great time of year to particularly focus on living simply, treading lightly on the earth, and being mindful of the resources we’re using. After all, we have a wonderful example of simple living to follow in the life of Jesus – not only during his 40-day fast in the desert, but in his whole adult life.
For more discussion, you could check out my post I WANT TO SAVE THE PLANET…BUT I’M LATE FOR THE SCHOOL RUN.
31. Buying clothes
Do you really need any more?! Consider whether this is something you can fast from for 40 days.
It’s hard to totally give up plastic, but perhaps you could introduce a new swap each week of Lent?
Ideas could include: taking your plastic containers along to a refills shop, rather than buying from the supermarket (although some supermarkets are starting to offer this service too!); choosing loose fruit and veg rather than packaged; keeping your own reusable bags in your handbag and car so that you never have to buy new ones; using plastic containers and beeswax wraps over cling film; buying gifts from local/independent suppliers rather than chain stores, where plastic packaging is likely to be more excessive.
I have lots of ideas for you in 20 ZERO-WASTE SNACKS FOR CHILDREN and 50 ALTERNATIVE PARTY BAG IDEAS (WHICH AREN’T MADE OF PLASTIC!).
33. Car use
If you’re able to totally give up the car (and not many of us are!), perhaps this is something you could trial for Lent?
34. Amazon/other large retailer
Why not direct your hard-earned cash to small, local businesses? Yes, some of these trade via Amazon (and of course the big retailers do give jobs to lots of people), but you’re also lining Jeff Bezos’ pocket…
35. Toxin-filled toiletries/cosmetics
36. Toxin-filled cleaning products
For the above two, consider home-made remedies or looking into what essential oils can do for you, your family and your home.
37. Hot showers
Only for the very brave…!
38. Disposable sanitary products/nappies
Lent could be a great time to try out washable nappies, period pants, mooncups or washable pads. You only need buy a small number to sample – and there are even places you can borrow washable nappies from, to save you the expense of buying until you know what you want.
39. Unread mail-outs
Lent is the time to let those organisations know you no longer wish to hear from them. Sounds harsh, but if they’re paying money each month to send you something which is going straight in the bin, you’re doing them a favour too!
40. Buying new (non-perishable) items
Can you go 40 days without buying new things? Consider: borrowing items you’ll only use occasionally, and scouring Facebook marketplace, eBay and charity shops for things you’ll need more regularly.
If you’re in a committed marital relationship, I wouldn’t usually recommend this – but if your sex life is becoming addictive or obsessive, maybe it’s time to go cold turkey for a few weeks to reset things?
If you’re not in a committed relationship, I would suggest sex with random strangers is a really good thing to give up!
42. Paid days out
Can you take the family on a walk, park trip or to a free museum instead?
43. A voluntary role, commitment or responsibility
Sounds a little harsh, but if you’re over-committed, not doing anything well, tired and stressed out, Lent is a great time to consider what you could be stepping back from. Try and give plenty of notice to the organisation in question, if you can.
44. Magazine or other subscription you’re not using
Why waste money on something you’re not using? Lent is a great time to go through your bank statements and remember what you’re giving money to each month.
45. Books, clothes or other items you need to declutter
46. Unread email subscriptions
47. Use of a favourite gadget
Can’t live without your hair straighteners? Your Kindle? Your FitBit? See what happens when you give it up for 40 days!
48. Late bedtimes
Oh my gosh, this is me!! No advice here, just complete solidarity 😉
49. Beauty regimes
Do you really need to have your nails done each week, or your highlights, or whichever regime you’ve come to rely on? Challenge yourself to let something go! Do it yourself – or ask yourself whether you really need it at all.
50. Credit cards
If you know you’re becoming addicted to splashing out (or even paying for everyday necessities) using your credit cards, this would be an excellent thing to give up for Lent. Why pay excessive interest rates, after all? However, getting your finances in order is not always easy – I highly recommend Christians Against Poverty if you’re struggling with this. There is no shame in asking for help – just please don’t leave it any longer.
10 Things to Take Up
1. Walking/cycling regular trips rather than taking the car
This goes with number 33, above. Even if you can’t totally give up your car, can you switch some short, regular trips like the school run, your work commute, or journey to church?
2. Community/church volunteering
If you’re looking to get more involved in your church or community, consider asking what needs doing, or which rota you could join.
3. Growing your own veg/fruit/herbs
You’ll reap the benefits come summer!
4. Daily Bible reading
5. Prayer journalling
6. Charitable giving
8. Calling/writing letters to friends/family
Because isn’t it just SO NICE to get happy mail?
9. Using a local fruit & veg provider
Check out my Books and Resources section to find lots of great reviews and ideas for what to read!
I hope that’s given you plenty of ideas – and that, whilst reading this, your mind has journeyed off along even more helpful tangents as to things to give up for Lent!
What kinds of things have you given up for Lent in the past? Or have you taken something up? Has it been successful? Do share in the comments.
And don’t forget to join the Hope Tribe for regular encouragement in faith and family life!