One regular day last week I had an in-my-head shopping list that read ‘coffee, wraps & tomatoes.’ I made it into three different supermarkets in one day before I remembered the coffee – the most important item! – and only then after I’d bought a bagful of groceries in each shop. Given that around 80% of humanity lives on $10 a day – total – in that one day, intending only to buy coffee, wraps & tomatoes, I probably spent half a total monthly food budget for many people. Sitting down drinking that coffee later I was wracked with guilt and a feeling of overindulgence; even if that indulgence was made up of fruit, sandwich meat & bargain-priced toothpaste.
Ramadan’s coming which by default makes this month preparation month: activities both to entertain the kids & to teach them the importance of the month, food prep (because soups made off-recipe 10 hours into fasting & served without tasting, generally taste like blended up mush), and most importantly, mind preparation. When you’re privileged to eat regular meals, going without food and drink for around 17hours is no joke. To fast, maintain a normal daily life & keep your cool requires the mental dedication of a heart that is 100% committed. The physical aspect is actually the easy part.
It’s recorded that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) guided us to eat only until a third of our stomach remains empty; one third for food, one third for drink, one third for air. How many of us do that? I know I don’t. More often than not I’m floating between some kind of self-commitment to eat healthily and the biscuit jar sitting in the cupboard – you never ‘need’ the biscuit.
Last month I’d intended to jump onboard the Live Below The Line project, a project that challenges you to stick to a budget of £1 a day/per person for food. Life happened and with everything going on I got sidetracked so we didnt take the challenge, but who says it has to be a certain week? And why stick to just the suggested week? Although the challenge is intended over five days, if we expand that, for us with G not here, that’s £21 a week or £90 a month. That’s a budget that seems, if not impossible, pretty tricky to stick to. You need to factor into the budget everything from oils through to the number of eggs you intend to use and forget about random extra sachets of coffee. The boys are cows milk protein and soy intolerant, which basically means they can’t eat anything processed, including 90% of shop bought & bakery breads. They drink almond or coconut milk, use a dairy/soy free spread for £3 a loaf bread, eat goats cheeses for breakfast, goats yoghurt (£2) with rice and indulge in coconut/almond milk ice-creams. Feeding them a treat once a week and providing enough dairy-substitute foods to meet their daily calcium requirements costs £10 a week as a conservative estimate. Going on the £1 a day/per person guide, this would leaving a grand total of £50 to feed three for a month. So straightaway the treats are out, as is goats cheese(around £2 per 125g). Realistically, their required diet under this budget could stretch to only the milk-substitute. They drink around 10 litres a month, including what we use for cooking, so that’s roughly £15-20 depending on what offers are on per given month. So, £70 a month, 3 meals a day, 3 people. Can I make it work? I’m not sure, but totaling that up leaves me feeling overwhelmed with gratitude to be in the situation of contemplating it; most on that budget are simply lost in the situation.
This month I don’t plan to stick to that budget. Instead, I’m going to spend no more on food until we’ve eaten all we have. Sounds obvious, but it’s not Western. I’d guess most of us have freezers full, cupboards stacked and yet still have moments staring into the fridge complaining we have “no food.” So before I start to prep soup into fast-breaking sized portions and pre-prepared meals that will be effortless to cook, for the next few weeks I’ll base our meals around the foods already bought, buying only fruits and the boys milks & yoghurt as needed. It’ll be interesting to see how long I can last without genuinely needing to shop, and how inventive store-cupboard cooking can get. Then, with genuinely empty shelves, we’ll take on the budget.
Ramadan is not as is often perceived a month of depriving yourself, rather a month when you enlighten yourselves, and deepen your commitment to faith and through that, the good we can do for humanity. Reducing our consumption may not be a huge breakthrough, but every small step closer to replicating the sunnah is a step closer to where I’d like us to be.
Lunch today? A favourite with my dudes: Bulgar pilav, chickpeas, veg and minced meat & the last of that pricey goats yoghurt.