Ramadan: A time of gluttony, greed and wastefulness

Ramadan: A time of gluttony, greed and wastefulness
Comment: Ramadan is too often a time when many of us forget to live simply and gorge ourselves when we break our fast, resulting in wasted food and empty wallets.
3 min read
22 Jun, 2015
Households often prepare for the expense of Ramadan months ahead of its arrival [Getty]
France has recently passed legislation that punishes large grocery stores and restaurants who throw away unsold food with a fine of up to €75,000 ($85,000) and a maximum sentence of two years in prison.

According to some estimates, the average French person throws out between 20kg and 30kg of food a year, at an annual cost of €20 billion ($23bn).

As Arabs, we might laugh at this law and these statistics - as we know they would be dwarfed by the amount of food wasted in our societies, especially with the arrival of the month of Ramadan, which is supposed to be an occasion to reduce consumption.

Unfortunately, however, we Arabs approach this month with the perspective that "the more something is forbidden, the more people want to do it" - thus the wasting of money and food actually increases during the month.

Households prepare for the extra expenses of Ramadan months ahead of its arrival, after which they are left with empty pockets and new illnesses. Medical studies have indicated that the number of people suffering from the effects of diabetes and high blood pressure increases immediately after Ramadan, with many patients suffering for the rest of their lives.

     Businesses usually entice customers with the promise of massive savings on products.
Economists confirm that consumers fall prey to a host of "special" Ramadan marketing campaigns.

Businesses often entice customers with the promise of massive savings on products that have not sold for various reasons.

I have personally observed that sales and attractive deals increase at time of economic stagnation, and moreso in poor neighbourhoods compared with wealthier areas. Therefore, the customer is driven by discount sale prices to consume ever more, especially since many here lack the consumer awareness to disinguish between genuine value and false economies.

One woman I was speaking to was coping through some hard times. Her husband had become unemployed, and the couple have three children. It was obvious she was nervous about the expenses of Ramadan. She told me she had found a way to provide for her children's demands.

"I've made an arrangement with the pickling shop in our neighbourhood, which is not regulated by the ministry of health as they add lots of preservatives to keep their products from going bad, but they sell their pickles for cheap," she said.

"They're going to give me 50kg bags of pickled vegetables for me to clean, by cutting off the ends of the vegetables, and they'll pay me one shekel ($0.25) for each bag. My kids and I are going to try to do 50 bags a day."

Will she and her children be using gloves to protect themselves, or the foodstuffs? No. She wants to save money.

"I want to catch the sale in the grocery shop close to our house, as they're selling yellow cheese for a lot cheaper than the usual price."

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.