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How The Quarantine Has Changed Grocery Shopping For These 3 Pinays

Adulting in the time of COVID-19.
PHOTO: (left) Courtesy of Chandra, (right) Courtesy of Irina
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Think about what your routine was like before quarantine: How often did you go to the grocery? How many times a week did you make your baon? What were the things you spent your money on? Cut to today, things have probably changed drastically since then. Below, three Pinays talk about their grocery trips and the food discoveries they've made during quarantine. 

Chandra

What was your food behavior like before and how did it change after the quarantine?

Prior to the quarantine period, I mostly ate out or ordered meals via GrabFood (especially at the office). My boyfriend and I had bought a fridge together, but it was essentially a glorified beverage chiller—we rarely made meals that you needed a recipe for. We’d spend maybe P500 to 700 a week on groceries, most of which would be for toiletries or cleaning supplies.

Now, our budget for groceries has gone up to P6,000 per month. It’s a lot bigger because we’re stocking up in case a total lockdown is announced in our barangay. I’ve come to find that I really enjoy home-cooked meals, and I’m almost in disbelief at the amount of money I used to spend eating out every day! Now we make meals we’re excited about. I have to admit, learning to cook better meals has been the most fulfilling part of this quarantine. I feel more like an adult now that I have a good pantry to work with. 

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How much do you spend per grocery run?

We spend P3,000 every two weeks. I recognize that I’m very lucky (and privileged) to be able to spend such an amount, so I make use of the money well by investing in meats (instead of canned goods) and pastas (instead of instant noodles, which are always out of stock!) so we can make quality dishes. Breakdown would be:

  • Meats – P1,000
  • Vegetables – P500
  • Dairy + pasta items – P800
  • Toiletries + other pantry essentials– P700
Courtesy of Chandra
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Did you learn any food- or money-related hacks or strategies while doing the groceries? 

Our spice rack game has definitely leveled up, and it’s the best budget hack for improving any meal. Spices add fun layers to your dishes and give them that restaurant quality. We used to only have salt and pepper, but now, we make sure to pick up one or two spices to add to our collection. A little oregano and rosemary on cheap burger patties? Instantly better. Piri-piri seasoning on breaded chicken? Boom. And garlic powder...oh, garlic powder. It is probably my most prized kitchen possession right now. 

Spices add fun layers to your dishes and give them that restaurant quality. Courtesy of Chandra
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Buying garnishes and side dishes also help a lot. Parsley is P20 to 40 per pack, and baby potatoes are about P30 per pack. A small jar of cream cheese is about P100. But when you add things like that to your dishes, even if it’s just corned beef and eggs, it not only looks nicer, but it also goes a long way in making that meal more special.

I’ve also been buying coffee by the bag now. Prior to the lockdown, I used to buy coffee per cup (P150 to 190 per cup) while on-the-go for work. Looking back, I realize I was hemorrhaging money. By buying bean bags from the grocery store, I save a lot more money without compromising on the coffee experience. Arabica, Yardstick, EACH, and other great cafes also deliver coffee beans that you can enjoy while under quarantine. It’s a little sliver of normalcy that helps keep me sane.

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By buying bean bags from the grocery store, I save a lot more money without compromising on the coffee experience. Courtesy of Chandra

Describe a dish you made for the first time during lockdown that you're super proud of. 

I’m a big fan of carbonara, and I’m extremely proud that I made myself some carbonara with greens, topped with crispy bacon, a few days ago. I added as much garlic as I wanted (which was six cloves, DON’T JUDGE) and it was fantastic.

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Ysa

What was your food behavior like before and how did it change after the quarantine?

Pre-quarantine, I ate out a lot. The only time I ever cooked—and I’m using this term loosely—was when I wanted something simple like eggs, pasta, or ramen. After the lockdown, I survived on these simple skills for about a week, and the umay came fast. I started paying more attention to what they had in the grocery. I’m lucky enough to live within walking distance of four major groceries, so if one grocery ran out of bread or vegetables, I could just wait in line at another for those essentials. I also don’t have a car, so I go to the grocery once a week (which is probably more often than what’s recommended but my hands can only carry so much). I make all my meals these days, which is shocking even to me, lol. I think I’ve had food delivered around three times since March 15—for those times when I just really didn’t want to think about what to make.

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How much do you spend per grocery run?

As mentioned, I go to the grocery once a week. If I’m just buying food, I’ll probably spend around P700 to P900. This is still pretty high considering I live by myself, but: 1) I need snacks and 2) It’s still significantly cheaper than what I used to spend. If I need to restock my toiletries and feminine hygiene products, my groceries cost P1,500.

Before the lockdown, I used to look at some food and think, "I could eat this." These days, when I go to the grocery, I only buy things I know I'll eat in the next few days. Also, I rediscovered a childhood favorite: chicken nuggets. And it's only P94!  Ysa Singson
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Did you learn any food- or money-related hacks or strategies while doing the groceries? 

To be honest, I really just learned basic things for the first time. Like I never knew I could make rice without a rice cooker! That was a game changer for me. I also paid more attention to what I was eating—specifically the type of food I could eat over and over again. For example, I discovered that I really love crunchy vegetables: carrots, cucumbers, and broccoli. I eat them with a little dressing as snacks. Pre-quarantine, I was forcing myself to eat salads and didn’t enjoy them much because I can’t stand wilted lettuce, lol.

On my kitchen shelf, I had salt, pepper, ketchup, and mustard. No exaggeration—that was it! Now, I have garlic powder, cayenne pepper, onion powder, sesame oil, oyster sauce, oregano, and as I’m typing this, I’m thinking, WHO IS SHE? I also put spring onions in everything; it’s only P40 to P45 and they always have it at the Shopwise near my condo.

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Made pasta with butter, garlic, oyster sauce, and spring onions. I've had this dish at least seven times since the ECQ started.  Ysa Singson

The one grocery strategy I have is just to buy onions, garlics, and eggs whenever they’re in stock—because it’s crazy how fast these things go. And tbh, I get it now. Garlic can save any dish.

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Describe a dish you made for the first time during lockdown that you're super proud of. 

I made sinigang! I saw Knorr’s Sinigang sa Sampaloc mix and thought, “Ok, baka kayanin.” I didn’t follow an exact recipe, so I didn’t know how much of the mix I was supposed to use. Turns out, konti lang talaga dapat, hahaha! Sobrang asim nung first try ko. I got it right on my second try, and frequently make this when I just want something comforting or if I want to eat other vegetables (like okra).

Ysa Singson
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Irina

What was your food behavior like before and how did it change after the quarantine?

I used to buy groceries weekly—mostly for cupboard essentials. But when I craved something, I usually just swung by the grocery near me to get it. Now that we’re on lockdown, I go to the grocery once every two to three weeks. Also, my sister and I used to eat out every Friday (it was out “cheat” meal). These days, we just have something delivered. Since the quarantine began, I realized we snack more now.

How much do you spend per grocery run?

For me and my sister, I usually spend anywhere between P3,000 to P5,000 per trip, which again lasts us two to three weeks.

We have a lot of snacks because sometimes we don't have time to cook while working from home. Courtesy of Irina
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On top of that, we also have meats and vegetables delivered. Each delivery costs around P1,000.

Courtesy of Irina

Did you learn any food- or money-related hacks or strategies while doing the groceries? 

We learned how to pickle veggies. We decided to do this because vegetables aren’t always available during quarantine.

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We tried making picked radish inspired by all the Korean mukbangs I’ve watched. Here’s what you need: radish, sugar, salt, pepper, and vinegar. It will last weeks in the refrigerator. Courtesy of Irina

One of my top grocery finds is couscous. If you decide to by this, you only need hot water and let it sit. It’s a perfect substitute for rice!

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Couscous is one of my favorite grocery finds. Courtesy of Irina

Describe a dish you made for the first time during lockdown that you're super proud of. 

I experimented with making bread, which we use a lot for our avo toasts in the morning.

Courtesy of Irina
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