Ah, that time of the year is just around the corner – Ramadan! And when that realisation hits us, we start to plan and prepare ourselves for the holy month and get the most out of the blessed days. Alas, we forget one main concern: food. It’s not so much forgotten as being unprepared for. We remember it as the month of being deprived during the day and feasting at night. However, with all our spiritual aims and goals of maximum ibadah (worship) during Ramadan, precious hours spent in the kitchen can drain us physically and emotionally.
As with anything important, it is always good to be prepared. How can we make the most of these hours while still catering to our ibadah and the needs of our families?
Anything is Ibadah with the Right Intention
Most of us have the false idea that worship to Allah only consists of prayer. And in order to reap as much reward as possible, we should spend our whole day in salah. But we have a right over our bodies (to take care of it), and our families have rights over us (to be taken care of). So how do we balance it all?
“Actions are but by intentions and every man will have only what he intended.” [Sahih Bukhari]
When we perform basic household chores with the right intention, i.e. for the sake of Allah, then everything automatically becomes an ibadah and can reap reward. Something like Midas’s touch turning everything to gold! So the hours that you spend in the kitchen to feed your family, is actually the same as you being in sujood (prostration) for the same amount of time! If you still feel like you’re wasting time by being in the kitchen, there is always dhikr to utter while you cook!
Make a Weekly Food Schedule for Ramadan
Even though Ramadan might seem like its not all that close, the earlier you are prepared, the better. Thinking of what to cook takes about as much time and effort as the actual task. Make the most of your time now to browse through recipes and try out dishes to assess the cooking time and the amount of effort required. Make a schedule for one or two weeks and rotate it during the month, or make it for all 30 days! You’ll be able to enjoy your Ramadan more if you get the elephant task done with before hand!
Do take advantage of the technology at hand and make an excel sheet for the month, with suhoor, iftar and dinner listed out. Or if you are not very tech-savvy, drawing columns on a sheet of paper works fine too! Put it up on the fridge so you see it constantly, are prepared and in the mindset of what needs to be done, rather than scouring through your recipe books trying to locate your menu at the last minute. This works well when kids want an answer to “what are we eating today, Mummy?” too!
Stock Up on Dry Groceries
The whole process of making a grocery list, going to the store, shopping and then putting them away is more time and energy consuming than most of us realise. When we are fasting, we need to conserve our energy as much as possible during the day in order to invest in more worship. What can be eliminated before Ramadan should be, and that includes doing the bulk of grocery shopping for things that can be stocked up. Narrowing the list down to just perishables every few days in Ramadan or every week means that the chore of doing groceries does not seem like such a big task anymore, and can be done in minimum time. Remember, don’t be greedy and over stock though, for Allah loves not those who waste!
Do as Much as Possible Before Ramadan
This would depend greatly on the kind of food you eat, but in my house, the week before Ramadan is spent making samosas and spring rolls and dividing them into parcels of 10 or so and freezing them. These snacks for iftar are what consume most time to make before breaking fast, and even though it seems like a mammoth task to do all at once before, you’ll thank yourself when all you have to do is get a parcel out of the freezer and fry it. It is also a good idea to make a large quantity of filling – be it for pie, pastry or anything else you like, and freeze them in smaller portions. This way you can make different items with the same filling during the month. Further, you won’t have issues of not being able to taste it because you are fasting, you already know it will be delicious.
Share the Workload
This applies to making all the samosas/other snacks before Ramadan, (division of labour is a wonderful thing) or even the chores of the house during the month itself. Get your kids involved in cleaning up after themselves, setting the table and helping you around the house within their capacity. Train them before Ramadan so you won’t have to hover over them and waste your time and energy making sure the work is done right. Let them know the amount of reward they get with the right intention is multiplied during Ramadan, and that it adds to their basket of good deeds by helping you.
Allot a Specific Time to Finish your Kitchen Work
This will greatly help maintain your routine, and make sure you have not procrastinated in getting food on the table. It will ensure that you are not cooking right up until the adhan for the Maghrib prayer. Coupled with your food schedule, you should have an idea of how long you will need to prepare the meal, so make sure you start early in order to be done early to make the most of the blessed time before iftar.
Ramadan is not the month for stuffing ourselves after iftar, and putting on weight! It is the month where Allah teaches us to control ourselves by restricting the basic elements and necessities of our lives. We have to stay within these boundaries even when we are allowed to eat. Eating healthy allows us to make the most of the month, and it means less time preparing elaborate dishes. Make sure you have some fruits for iftar and a light dinner, so that you can stay awake and energised for taraweeh.
The sunnah of the Prophet of having dates and milk for suhoor might not seem to be able to get you through the day, but Allah puts barakah in such things and it does wonders! Whole meal breads and oats distribute energy more evenly and slowly during the day so you don’t feel the pangs of hunger by lunch time. Aim for a suhoor that is high in fibre, the concept of a heavy meal being able to get you through the day better is incorrect.
Also as delicious as our fried delicacies might be, it is detrimental to our bodies to favour these goodies over healthy eating. The build up of gas in the digestive system is only aggravated when you break the fast with something fried instead of fruits. Make sure you maintain a balance; have fruits and then fried snacks, and try to cut down on these as much as possible!
May Allah let us live to see this Ramadan and many more, and let us use our time wisely and reap the most out of it. I hope this helps solve the food issue and gives you a more productive Ramadan In sha Allah!
About the Author:
Salmah Shahnawaz is a bit of a nerd who loves learning new things, and is currently doing an intensive Qur’an course that helps her understand and appreciate the Qur’an in its original language. When she’s not studying, reading or writing, she loves coordinating halal activities that help Muslimahs experience life. She has a passion for organising things (big or small), and Arabic grammar that she hopes to teach someday Insha Allah!