Tuesday 24 May 2016

Preparing Your Kitchen for Ramadan: Making Space, Meal Planning, Grocery Shopping and Prepping Ingredients

I wrote recently about some of the things I do to prepare for Ramadan with less than a month to go. One of these was preparing the kitchen for Ramadan and some meal planning.  This can seem daunting, especially if you have small children, fussy eaters or limited space as can meal planning for the whole month. This post outlines some of the things I do and intend to do. Please do add your own suggestions in the comments so that readers can benefit:

Making Space

A week or two before Ramadan I will:

  • Go through each of your kitchen cupboards and clear out anything this is out of date. If it has a short date left, prioritise using these items up first.
  • As you go through each storage area, list what you are short on or what is finished and needs to be replaced.
  • Stock-take your freezer and see what you can use up to make space. My children made short work of the ice creams and ice lollies, so that helped.
  • Organise your freezer so that similar items are grouped and stored together and it is easy to see what you have left. 

Meal Planning 

Once you have made space, you can consider meal planning. You can plan your meals for the whole of Ramadan in one go, but it is a little easier if you do a week at a time and just spend some time looking at what is in your kitchen and what your week is going to be like so that you know how much time you have for cooking each day.

One thing that really helped me with meal planning in the past during Ramadan is to have recurring themes throughout the week, so Friday was the only day we had fried food. Saturday I tended to cook to share with neighbours or send to family (if the fast was not so long, then this would be a good day to host iftar’s also). Weekdays I had more time to undertake food preparation and cooking, so this was the day I was most likely to try complicated or special dishes. Weekends is also when the kids are most likely to fast, so I will be open to taking requests (basically cooking anything they ask for because I am anxious that they are fasting such long days). This means that your household knows what to expect and you have some guidance about what to cook on what day.

You can start by looking at what you already have in the kitchen and thinking about how you can use that. A good way to decide what to cook is also thinking about how you can vary your diet and how often you can eat what type of food. So in our home fish is a rarity and meat is eaten once a week or fortnight. Chicken and veg are used more often. I also try to alternate veg and non-veg so that we are not consuming too much meat.

This year I have been listing all of the things I want to try and saving recipes, so I can just pick items off and add them through the days of the month in advance. Then when I look at my meal plan a week at a time, I can decide if I want to keep or change the dishes I have suggested.

Another option is to add a day for leftovers so that everything left in the fridge can be used up. I like mid week for this rather than at the end when I have more time to cook. If I serve up leftovers, I try to make them appealing by presenting them nicely or using them in something else such as shredding leftover tandoori chicken and using it in sandwiches, shawarma, chicken pasta or stir-fried veg and noodles.

Once you have plotted on which days you would like to make which dish, you can add any additonal items you need to your shopping list for the week or month. You can also prep some of the ingredients in advance if they will store well through the week, e.g. chopping and freezing spinach, or marinating and freezing trays of baked chicken or lamb chops if you know you will be hosting that week.

The main thing with meal planning is to be disciplined and stick with what you have planned and shopped for. I find that on the day I will have a hankering for something other than what is planned and then run to the shops for ingredients I don’t have and then probably spend longer in the kitchen than planned. I am going to allow myself to do this on one or two occasions if I really crave something, otherwise I will try to stick to what is planned insh’Allah

Grocery Shopping

In the past I used to find myself coming from work, deciding what to make and then running to the grocery shop to buy the ingredients. Some weeks I would be at the cash and carry across the road every evening. This is ideally time when I should be having a nap because I get so sleep deprived or praying or reading Quran or. Doing my bulk shopping before Ramadan and then sticking to use what I have planned for, definitely cuts down on my shopping time during Ramadan. The things I buy in advance, usually in larger amounts than normal include: cooking oil, olive oil, trays of chickpea can, bags of onions (5kg), bags of potatoes (2kg), dates (the 5kg ones are too expensive, so usually 1-2 kg boxes at a time), gram flour, tomato ketchup, mayonnaise, Greek yoghurt, Indian natural yoghurt, pasta, tomato puree, garlic and ginger both fresh and paste, salt and spices, especially chaat masala, which we use on our fruit everyday.

Our usual staples of rice and chapatti flour are used less than normal during Ramadan as we all lose our appetite so much that we barely have proper meals by the end of the month. So I might buy these before Ramadan, or I might wait until closer to Eid if there is enough to get by.

Prepping Ingredients:

I mostly use fresh ingredients and cook from scratch, but there are some things I do that help me:

Mint and coriander green chutney (my recipe here) – I make this and freeze it in small pots. Then I can take it out on the day I need it and either use it as it is, or add yoghurt and turn it into a raita. My mum-in-law also likes to add some to her channa chaat.

Home-made tamarind sauce - I use this recipe by Halima Saleem which is amazing and freezes really well. Once I haver made it, I freeze in the little tubs you get for baby food. An ice cube tray would work well for this too. I use it for her Meethi Malai Dahi Phulki recipe as well as on anything else that requires tamarind sauce (such as gol gappay, channa chaat etc)

Spinach – My husband loves to have spinach in his pakoray (onion and potato fritters – my recipe here). So I buy two or three bunches, chop into strips, wash well and freeze in small bags. I just take out a bag when I need some and dump it into the batter and it defrosts quite quickly.

Coriander – I usually buy two or three bunches and chop off the ends and then wrap in newspaper to make them last longer. If there is a lot, I will wash, chop and freeze in food bags.

Mint – I grow this in my garden and take it as I need it, but when it reaches its peak and is threatening to flower, I will pick off the leaves, wash and freeze. Then I trim down the plant and let it grow back with a fresh batch.

Chicken and lamb kebabs
– I make these and freeze them raw in trays with sheets of plastic (such as clean carrier bags or food bags) between them. Once they are frozen, I drop them into a food bag and write the date and what is in the bag. I can take these out as I need them and stick them straight onto the grill to eat in burgers or as sides with our normal meals.

Baked chicken – this is a life saver for me. I marinade the chicken with the sauce of my choice (this recipe is my favourite), put it in the baking tray I will make it in and stick it straight into the freezer. Then when I need it, it goes from the freezer into the oven fuss free. I allow a little longer for it to cook than usual, but it doesn’t take much extra time.

Insh’Allah I hope you find this useful, you can find more helpful advice at the following websites:


  1. Thank you and JazakAllahu khair sister in Islam for sharing those useful links :) Ramadan Mubarak in advance do sister include us and all Muslims in your sweet du'as Wasalaam~

    Mariam JustSharingIslam

  2. Just a note: coriander (or cilantro, as we call it) is super-easy to grow. Also, I wish I were this organized in food prep.