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DURING Ramadan, Muslims all over the world observe a strict routine from dawn to dusk. It is a month when they limit their food intake, control their desires and restrict their thoughts to only good ones. It is also the time when Ramadan bazaars mushroom all over the country.

These bazaars symbolise our love of food, which cuts across race, religion and cultural boundaries. However, they also highlight the unhealthy trend of feasting over glorious food instead of fasting. It is common to see visitors leaving with bags of food as if they are buying for the whole neighbourhood.

Sadly, most of the food usually goes to waste as there is only so much one can consume. Sure, everything looks delicious at the bazaar. The colour and aroma do not help either. They are an inducement for visitors to buy more than they should. This is totally against the spirit of Ramadan when one should limit one’s desires and think of the less fortunate instead.

CONTROL AND LIMIT

So what’s gone wrong? I blame it on our inability to control ourselves and limit our wants. We are living in a relatively wealthy society, so there’s very little financial motivation to save our spending on essential food. But here is where the key word lies — essential. It’s okay to spend on food but to buy in large quantities, only to waste them later, is crossing the line.

The solution to this is to understand our family’s limit. Take note of how much we usually eat on any given day. During the fasting month, that limit doesn’t change drastically. Sure, there are a few dishes that only make an appearance during this time of the year and you may want to have these. But don’t add them to your regular foods. Instead, substitute regular foods with these special ones.

Second, limit the amount of cash you bring to the bazaar. I always practise this and find it to be highly effective. Estimate the cost of food for the family and bring that much cash — no more, no less. Stop shopping and go home once you have spent it all. Be confident that the food is enough despite your desire for more. There is always tomorrow to try that other stall.

DIY AT HOME

But there’s a better way than limiting the cash you carry to the bazaar. Don’t go there at all! Take this opportunity to sharpen your cooking and baking skills. Many parents are beginning to do this. Over the past few days, the social media has been abuzz with parents trading Ramadan recipes. They even list them down spread over each fasting day.

This is extremely helpful to provide that motivation and inspiration. At least parents don’t need to think about what to cook on a particular day. They just have to get up and do it. In doing so, they are saving a lot of money while ensuring that only the best ingredients are used to cook for their beloved family.

INVOLVE EVERYONE

What’s better than cooking at home? It’s cooking at home with help from the children. This is a smart strategy as the cooking time can also double up as bonding time. Everyone can get involved, from fathers to the little ones. Cooking is a long process and there’s something for everyone to do. It begins with sorting, cutting, washing, blending and cooking and ends with serving and washing the dishes.

During cooking, the kitchen will be buzzing with activities. Along the way, there will be lots of laughter. This is the stuff sweet memories are made of. The whole family can and will be reunited via food.

SAY NO TO PRICE INCREASE

Besides renewing the bond and enjoying healthy food, the family can also benefit financially. We regularly hear of increasing food prices. In fact, a week before Ramadan, news reports carried warnings of shortages in supply. It sounds like prices could go up again when demand increases.

We can say no to this. We can be proactive and not increase our demand for food this Ramadan. In fact, we should reduce our consumption.

Say no to pricey foods and buffets. Don’t follow the crowd, and curb your food cravings. Be in control and set your target by preparing a special budget for Ramadan. The money saved can be channelled to something more meaningful, such as donating to needy families.

All this and more can be achieved when we adopt the attitude that Ramadan is about fasting, not feasting.

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