Next week marks the start of Ramadaan and although Muslims are required to fast from sunrise to sunset, food plays an important role at this time.

Dates, pies, samoosas, spring rolls and processed foods are usually the most popular items. They’re easy to prepare and their small size means you can indulge in more than one or two.

Our busy lifestyles and earlier sunsets during winter months leave little time to cook meals that take hours to prepare.

Making meals in advance is a way of saving time. Another is using leftovers in new dishes. With a little planning, you can wow your family with a different meal every night by using the same main ingredient.

Butter chicken is one of my favourites and the simple recipe by cookbook author and chef Shanaaz Parker is always a winner.

This one-pot dish requires just five ingredients and is ready to serve within minutes, with a side of your choice.

Other great options to consider are soups and stews, especially with winter setting in. After 12 hours of fasting, it’s best to break your fast with something light and nourishing like soup.

Mariam Jakoet Harris from Cooked Inc said Ramadaan meal prep is about being practical and serving wholesome dishes: “For busy moms, we’re looking at working with a protein that’s quick, easy cooking and very versatile.”

The Cape Town foodie said meals like mince and chicken fillets are the best bet.

“When you’re cooking mince, buy 2kg and do a marinara sauce, like a tomato sauce and freeze it in sections.

“Then you can do half a kilo of spaghetti bolognese one night and another night you can add a can of baked beans and chilli to it. Serve it with a baked potato or sweet potato.

“That same mince mixture can be used to make a layered lasagne dish. It’s something that cooks quickly and it’s versatile.”

Chicken breasts are also versatile and easy to cook.

“You can marinate them in three different flavours and divide them,” said Harris.

“You can have lemon and herb one night and another night, you can just have it in the tandoori. Then you can add fresh cream and you have a butter chicken.

“If you are doing the lemon and herb, then you can just add salad on the side or maybe even just sweet potato wedges. It’s about being practical, but serving wholesome dishes and not using too much processed food.”

Harris said the the whole family should be able to enjoy the same healthy, tasty meal.

“The whole family should be eating everything - food that can be tasty but doesn’t have all the oil and greasiness in it.

“In Ramadaan, your body is going through a natural detox, so you don’t want to feed your body unhealthy things like oil that will end up making you feel sluggish and can later make you sick.”

When it’s time to bismillah, Harris said it’s all about moderation.

“Have your vegetable soup at night and afterwards, you can indulge in one or two of your favourite Ramadaan cookies, you don’t have to have 10 of them.”