Ramadan has always been the hardest for me in the wake of having kids. While some ushered in the month with a sense of calm, purpose and heightened sense of spirituality; I welcomed it in in those years frazzled, stressed out, disorganised and on the brink of exhaustion – not quite knowing how I was going to manage looking after kids for a whole month while also half starving. In fact, and this is a true story, when my older two started fasting with the rest of us; I would often forget to feed my youngest child during the day until he got real cranky and it would signal a reminder into my subconscious that he needed food! I jokingly call it Ramadan training now, but at the time it was a complexity of guilt and struggle, while also trying to build a strong foundation of faith and religious practices into my children. It wasn’t an easy ride, but somehow it all fell into place eventually.
At the time, things felt dire. I felt like a failure. And I worried if I’d ever get my act together. Little did I know then, that it was that exact struggle that propelled me to make a greater effort of instilling core values into my kids, and in the process it has helped imbed a better understanding, love and appreciation of this blessed month. In the midst of the chaos, my spirituality was being groomed. Growth was happening…even if I wasn’t aware of it at the time. As it stands now, we consciously approach this month with a lot of self reflection and introspection, and set out goals to help us improve on ourselves – and we do this collectively as a family because it’s important for me to remind my children that evolving, learning and growing is a never ending journey, and Life’s aim is about continuous progress, not perfection.
We’ve evolved a lot since those initial struggling years as a young family. Our heads are screwed on a lot tighter and our spiritual connections much stronger. And despite the chaotic pace that 2019 has been moving at, we as a family all seem to be a lot more calm and focused heading into Ramadan this year. I don’t have the same anxieties that plague me like it did before. I feel like I’m finally entering this month in a good space – ready to embrace the traditions and spiritual transformations that come with it – and it feels kind of good!
Now that I’m older and wiser and more focused and rooted, I’m ready to take things to the next level. I feel now, more than ever before, a heavy responsibility towards establishing and maintaining Islamic traditions and culture in my kids. With the older generation slowly falling away, the baton is being passed to us and my plight is to keep the flame burning in my home and the hearts of my kids at all costs.
That’s why Ramadan prep to me is a lot more than filling my freezer with samosas. It involves a conscious effort to plant new seeds of self growth with the aim of constantly working towards strengthening our faith. But the kitchen has always been my biggest distraction from accomplishing my goals. In the past, I’ve tried to regain focus by minimising the fuss in the kitchen and simplifying our meals. It doesn’t mean we’ve completely moved away from indulging ever so slightly, but what it does mean is that I’m able to manage the process a whole lot better, and here’s how:
Keep things simple
My eyes are literally bigger than my stomach in the month of Ramadan. I suppose it’s only natural to crave all your favourite things when your tank is heading towards empty, but keeping meals simple not only minimises time in the kitchen, it’s also a lot gentler on your gut. I try to keep variety to a minimum and portion sizes smaller than usual to avoid leftovers and wastage.
If there’s a lot of food leftover, I either use it up the very next day, or freeze to use on another day when I’m busy or lazy. Or upcycle it into something else – dhal can be used in dhal gosht, butter chicken and prawn chaat can be used to make pasta, rice can be used in thai fried rice, roast chicken and steak can be used for wraps etc. You’ve just got to be a bit creative.
Make things to freeze
Besides the obvious variety of savouries, I often make things I can freeze. Sometimes it’s a double quantity of soup or bolognaise; sometimes it’s a double batch of meatballs that I can easily use in another meal. It all helps in time management on the days you’re rushed.
Save treats for the weekend
I used to make sweet treats almost every single day when the kids were small, but now I only bother with it every other day. When I do make something in the week, it’s usually something quick and easy that can lasts for more than one day. But mostly, I indulge in making extra treats over the weekend.
I’m generally spontaneous when it comes to cooking, so meal prep is a new concept to me. But with the kids demanding more structure and attention during this month, I like to (loosely) have some kind of a plan. So whether it’s planning a menu for the week and working from there, or deciding a day before the time; it does give one an advantage to prep in advance. Whether it means at least taking meat or chicken out of the freezer to defrost, or freezing fruit for smoothies and cleaning vegetables for your soup over the weekend, – It all makes the load a little easier and life a little less rushed.
Stocking the pantry
I like to stock up on essentials and have things easily accessible so that I don’t have to rush around unnecessarily. Pastas, legumes and rice are staples to stock up on. As well as spices, baking ingredients and cereals. Canned items like tomato paste, chickpeas and coconut milk are also must have items in grocery cupboard. I buy fresh produce weekly and my meat monthly and I have my butcher (aka husband) pre pack it into family size meal portions that is easy to freeze, then thaw and use at my leisure.
All in all, spending less time in the kitchen has helped me focus more on act of worship during this blessed month. I am still a work in progress; but like I tell the kids – The aim of life is progress not perfection! Wishing you all a blessed month ahead.