What Do Nuns Eat? – An Overview of Monastic Meals

Nuns are members of a religious community who take vows to live according to the rule of the order. Most nuns dedicate their lives to spiritual matters, but others keep administrative duties or other jobs. Many convents have guest houses or hostels where nuns can stay if they need care or shelter. They are also entitled to medical benefits under certain circumstances. The particular rules for each convent vary, so what nuns eat is not universal, but it shapes how these rules are set in place. For example, some orders may feed elder sisters different food than younger sisters because older nuns require more support and care than younger ones do. However, this serves as an example only since the author has no firsthand experience with nun life and cannot speak extensively on the subject.

Nuns and monks eat relatively simple diets in accordance with the fasting rules of their respective traditions. Monastics often live on donations and the profit from selling goods produced in the monastery, so affordable foods such as potatoes, rice, and cheap meat are common fare.

Though what they eat is not universal, many nuns fasting to show devotion and solidarity with the poor people who cannot afford food. They may also take vows of abstinence so that they do not feel tempted by certain foods or act as though their eating habits are better than those of others. For example, a monk or nun might refrain from eating meat since animals were slaughtered for them to consume it. In addition, some orders may be committed to living a life without luxury and thus choose to limit their diet even further. This includes replacing drinking water with wine if possible because the latter symbolizes blood and sacrifice. In contrast, the former was seen as wasteful at times throughout history due to its scarcity. Some orders also give up chocolate since it was once seen as a luxury and thus was prohibited for those who do not have money to spare.

This does not mean that all sisters within the same community follow the same practices or partake in fasting on particular days of the week or year. Certain convents may choose to live without meat and only eat fish to abstain from meat on Fridays, but that is only one example. In some cases, nuns may even go out into town and beg for food if they cannot afford their ingredients. Despite this, many nuns still opt against choosing such a lifestyle because it places them below others they originally wished to serve through their vocation. Instead of going out into public with an asking for charity, they stay home and continue to help others through prayer even if their bodies are weak.

What do nuns usually eat?

Most nuns live a very simple life, and their diet is no exception. Generally speaking, if it can’t be grown or made in a crockpot, they don’t eat it. They might have some fresh fruit in the summertime, but other than that, most of what they eat comes from cans. Some nuns are vegetarians, while others prefer not to fast during Lent because God didn’t make enough bacon for that.

Nuns usually avoid meat except on special feast days when you can get as much roast beef and ham as you want until you feel sick and go to confession afterward. Their favorite foods include cabbage (especially when combined with bacon), baked beans, spam, jelly doughnuts, boiled potatoes, apple pie, and Pepsi.

On Fridays, they abstain from all food but Jesus. And He prefers fish.

Nuns will sometimes allow themselves to eat exotic foods like sushi or Chao by sneaking out of the convent at night into town for some adventure time. Although it is not known if their consciences are clear enough for this to be okay, many nuns do believe that God is everywhere, so they can’t escape Him no matter where they go, so perhaps eating meat-filled sushi in a local Japanese restaurant isn’t as bad as people might think.

After mass, they also drink wine with priests, which inspires artistic endeavors such as painting, quilting, flower arranging, and needle. There is no set dining time when it comes to meals, but usually, the nun community eats their meals together in a big hall. Sometimes they will have special guests from other communities over for dinner, and it’s not unusual to see them sharing recipes.

Nuns also eat chocolate – particularly nuns that are younger and American. They drink lots of coffee through a straw to maintain proper sugar levels. Nuns mostly only accept cash as payment for prayers and hymns, although some do secretly sell Girl Scout Cookies under the guise of “religious paraphernalia.”

Nuns are known for their ability to consume large quantities of alcohol, particularly rum and whiskey! They will often do so during “happy hour,” an everyday occurrence in small taverns near nun communities. Such taverns are never told it’s a nunnery pub crawl day, or they would miss out on all of the cheap drinks they make off the nuns. They are very secretive about this aspect of their lives.

Do nuns have periods?

Of course, they do. The consensus is that most Catholic nuns are assumed to menstruate every month because they are fertile women. This means that their bodies are working normally, just like any woman who has not taken vows of chastity would experience.

Do you have to be a virgin to be a nun?

In the Roman Catholic Church, nuns are often publicly identified as virgins. In his book ”The Rite of Sodomy,” former American Roman Catholic priest Randy Engel states that “it is a matter of official policy” in many seminaries to inquire whether a woman candidate for admission as a nun was sexually active before her first communion. “If the answer is yes, she will be rejected.”

Not all orders require an applicant to have been a virgin when applying, but some do insist on it. The order known as Sisters Adorers of the Royal Heart of Jesus insists that its members must continue to be virgins through their period of novitiates and then until death. Even if not officially required, this being celibate is not surprising that many Catholics believe there are no longer any nuns who remain virgins.

At present (2005), this may well be true. The role of celibacy within Catholicism has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, and to date, efforts at reformation have failed miserably. Many people feel that perhaps celibacy should be made optional once again, but Church officials vehemently oppose such changes, which they claim would “threaten the Catholic identity.”

As for Catholic nuns, there remains little public debate about whether or not they should renew vows of sexual abstinence that were abandoned by religious orders centuries ago.

Nuns are not required to be “virgins” (i.e., sexually pure). The closest they come is that nuns must agree to abstain from sex, marriage, and having children.

Nuns who do become pregnant were either raped or had consensual sex with priests; this would make them guilty of preferring the company of men over God, which is a serious offense in the Catholic Church.

Nuns are required to be either unmarried virgins or widows. They must also abstain from eating meat on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Nuns who become pregnant after taking their vows will usually leave the convent, get married off, or be executed depending on what kind of nun they were.

What do nuns and monks eat?

Nuns follow a vegan version of the Christian monastic diet. They should not consume animal flesh or products, nor the products of farming. Such products include eggs, milk, butter, and another dairy; honey; lard; meat; poultry; fish; shellfish (mollusks); bee by-products such as beeswax, propolis, bee pollen, etc.; animal-derived ingredients like rennet (taken from calves stomachs after slaughter) used in cheese making. Additionally, they must not be intoxicated by alcohol or drugs at any time.

Nuns can eat plants (& fruits), grains (barley, maize, wheat), nuts & seeds, which makes veganism very easy.

Nuns also rely on their kitchen gardens to grow vegetables for daily meals.

Many Catholics do not eat meat or animal products on Fridays. This is called Fasting, and the devout abstain from eating any flesh food, poultry, game, dairy, eggs – basically everything but fish. They don’t normally drink alcohol either. Over the 40 days of Lent, they fast every day except Sundays & typically reduce what they eat by a third. Depending on local custom, some people replace this with vegetarianism during the lent time, making it vegan year-round for many Buddhists & Hindus because many staple foods are already vegan.

The monks’ diet was likely similar to nuns because both follow the same catechisms & worship the same God though monks are stricter in many ways & follow more rules than nuns do. Monks were often the only literate people in villages; they lived like hermits away from society and depended on their local parish for sustenance. Before modern farming existed, monasteries were self-sufficient, growing all their vegetables, milling their flour, and baking bread. Today many monasteries still hold to this diet, though few grow what they eat anymore (modern techniques). Monks likely fasted more than nuns did and ate less overall but had more access to meat.


Nuns must take a vow of poverty, which means they don’t own any property or money. The food is donated by members of the congregation and people in their communities. They also grow to produce on communal land for themselves and others living nearby who cannot afford fresh vegetables like many Americans do today.

Gene Botkin

Gene is the director of the Theosis Christian Project. He studied physics and military science before founding the Project. Gene is currently pursuing his doctorate in systems engineering at an engineering college in the Ozarks. The Theosis Christian Project is his attempt to expand Holy Orthodoxy in America.

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