Panic Shopping and Eating Habits Change…


I am rarely caught off-guard when it comes to food during storms. I have my mom’s genes when it comes to hoarding and stocking a pantry. So I was a bit put out that I didn’t hit the grocery the day before the storm a few days ago. Somehow, the warnings didn’t seem dire enough. So the day after the storm, I was first in line at the grocery. I needed to stock up on canned goods, the things I remember from when I was a kid and bad storms meant weeks without lights or refrigerators. I got a cart full or two of corned beef, pork & beans, sardines, spam, vienna sausage, rice, sugar, instant noodles, batteries, candles, etc. Then I realized I was shopping in a fully lit and airconditioned (courtesy of generators) Metro grocery store that was chock-full of stock! It didn’t seem like there was a disaster out there at all! And other folks seemed to be stocking up on junk food instead of canned goods!

Yes, life post storm has changed dramatically in Manila. While I was busily packing up rice and canned goods to ensure that all the staff and their families would have adequate food supplies in their homes, most folks were merely heading over to the nearest mall to grab a double cheeseburger with fries. The “suffering” factor was significantly less than I recall. For some, there was no food “panic” at all. Why worry about canned corned beef when you could order a pasta or steak at a energized mall restaurant instead! Geez, I am getting older indeed… So from “survival mode” on Day 1 with the canned goods acquisition, I slowly had to shift to the potential time bomb that was my existing stock of perishable goods…

Let’s face it, Marketmanila could not exist without serious stocks of food can2and condiments at home. It is my toolbox so to speak. And I have three refrigerators/freezers at home to house my “tools”… several kinds of nuts (walnuts, pecans, macadamias, pine, pistachios, filberts, almonds, etc.), meats and sausages, fish and seafood, cured meats, cheeses, mustards, capers, anchovies, fruit, yoghurts, etc. etc. It takes time, planning and organization to keep these things in stock…and I cull them on a regular basis for occasional odd dishes like a blackberry trifle… but when the lights go out for longer than say 36 hours, serious decisions need to be made to save the contents of the fridges (I have no generator at home, and a blackout of more than 36 hours has never occurred in the past 10 years that we have been back home in Manila)…

So at the end of Day 2 of lights out and the freezers were starting to seriously defrost, Marketman & crew had to make choices… First, all fish and seafood were fried to a crisp or made into paksiw with vinegar and spices. All the chicken and pork was made into adobo and or grilled outdoors. Ground meats were made into spaghetti sauces, meatloafs, omelettes, etc. And anything the household didn’t consume that day, was sent home to the families of staff and their neighbors so it would not go to waste. At 48 hours of no lights, slight panic started to set in, as the freezers were still stocked with a duck, legs of prosciutto, oodles of pancetta, salami, wedges of parmesan, pecorino and other hard cheeses etc. but we figured out that there was one relative in Mandaluyong with a generator and three fridges as well who thankfully had space for about 20 kilos of stuff from our home. The key frozen items that are hard to replace had found a temporary frozen hospice…thank goodness.

I know some readers will be thinking, “serves him right for having that amount of food in stock…” but anyone who knows the vagaries of Manila supplies and the amount of food that I end up featuring on this site should understand it doesn’t happen with a single trip to the grocery and a small ice box. We are on day 4 of lights out and I haven’t used a single canned good yet. My daughter has no concept of sugar rationing or running out of rice. The next generation will simply think that stocking food in their pantries (what’s a pantry? ever seen a decent one in a starter one bedroom flat?) is something that only their ancient ancestors did…

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26 Responses

  1. You only have a 12 hour window of safety for foods inside a fridge and 24 hours for frozen foods, and that’s without opening the doors.Throw out all food after that. Sounds drastic but that’s what is recommended by the health dep’t.
    Wipe inside of fridge with 5% Clorox solution before restocking.It’s a great box for culturing bacteria.
    Get a generator.

  2. Generators aren’t worth it. Half a million for a good one. Cheaper to re-stock every time this happens…say, once every five to ten years… even cheaper to stay in a hotel than to pay for and maintain a generator :)

  3. we only had 12 hrs lights off. all i thought about was the poor fishes in our aquarium. i had no idea how big the disaster was outside our home! it was only when i opened the TV and watched the news… it was just this morning that i went out of the house since the storm.

  4. finally the power is back (ten minutes now). i can definitely sympathize with MM; i was in the supermarket the other day asking our mayordoma what we should stock up on when i was brought up short by her reply… “wala tayong ref” – her shortcut for “no electricity and everything you’re thinking of buying will not keep without a ref”. so it’s been several days of running to the supermarket to buy food and cook it asap, no storing of it possible!

  5. You are absolutely right about the ‘next generation’ my daughter is exactly the same. she does not live with me- when i visited her and opened her fridge- there were stocks of water, ready made food, lettuce, cucumber- she buys take aways or meals from the weight watchers(she’s not even fat!). But- she cooks a very nice roast (lamb/beef) which she has at least once a week. The left overs she cooks with lotsa veggies. Like you, I should have at least 2 of a kind e.g. 2 cans of corned beef. If I use one then time to buy another one. Good post.

  6. Something’s not right here… People were actually trapped shopping in malls, working out in the gym, eating out, etc. even with an explicit warning from authorities that the eye of the typhoon will hit Manila at noon! Shouldn’t people have been boarding up their windows and stocking up on emergency supplies that morning?!? I was guilty too- I was at work and decided too late in the morning to send employees home. (but to the local authorities’ credit, almost all billboards on EDSA were taken down just before the typhoon hit)

    Although it is remarkable how we moved on quickly despite having no electricity, we shouldn’t be complacent either. I think it’s dangerous. Think Katrina in New Orleans. When something that magnitude happens, acquiring Marketman’s hoarding instincts will serve everyone well. Those who rely on fastfood delivery will definitely starve. Let’s face it, we were just lucky basic services did not shut down completely, otherwise it would have been a totally different story. Who was truly prepared for this storm? I think it was only DepEd.

  7. you’re right.. we weren’t also that keen on stocking up since the past typhoons announced weren’t as big as what hit manila a couple of days ago. i wasn’t even aware of the storm since our windows were closed but i heard something outside and thought that somebody might be fixing their roof. when i went downstairs that’s the only time i realized that the storm was already brewing. a big mango tree was uprooted and it was smuck in the middle of the driveway.. hahaha!! it took almost several hours before our neighbors were able to cut of branches piece by piece. ma just hoping that the next time they announce a super typhoon it would be a a day or two before it would actually hit us so we can prepare like what MM did…

  8. How did you miss that? A good excuse to eat out and post a good review of the resto and its food.
    Those generators are that expensive? Sorry, for suggesting..I was not aware.

  9. i don’t think anybody was properly warned of the magnitude of this storm. i personally thought it was a regular rainy day. i even blowdried my hair before going to work, for crying out loud! auggh. to say that i arrived at work with a “mahangin ba sa labas” hairdo is an understatement.

  10. My Dad had no choice but to go panic shopping. He was waiting for the Weekend Sale in the SM outlet nearest our house.

  11. I agree that something went wrong somewhere in communicating to the people that this was going to be a big storm. The NDCC (nat’l Disaster Coordinating Council) should’ve issued lots of warnings and maybe some of the damage could’ve been prevented (like tree branches cut down, people staying home, etc.)

    And the horrible 4 day blackout! By day 3 I was depressed cos I couldn’t find ice to satisfy my craving for a cold drink of water! Had my poor hubby running all over Manila looking for ice!

  12. Sorry to hear about the loss of lives and hardship brought about by the typhoon at home. Hope things improve soon.

    Anyway, talking about stocking up for emergencies, I just had to write in to share that here in Singapore, the population has been left wondering why we all got fliers in Sept with our latest utilities bill encouraging everyone to stock up on food good for two weeks in case of emergencies. I was alarmed and couldn’t help but think, hmm, what do they know that they’re refusing to tell us? Out of the blue, kasi. The flier was sent by the Ministry of Trade and Industry and a spokesman was quoted as saying: ‘Instilling awareness of the need to store a supply of food is part of our ongoing education programme for residents to be prepared for any emergency.’ What emergency? What kind? Nobody knows. The ministry has since kept mum too. Hmmm….

    Anyway, their recommended emergency food stock here per person for a 2-week period consists of:

    3.5kg of rice
    1 bottle (250gm) of cooking oil
    Assortment of 7 cans of meat/fish/beans (abt 400gm/can)
    2 packets assrted biscuits (210gm each)
    Assortment of 7 cans of vegetables
    1 tin (400gm) of malted beverage
    500gm sugar
    instant noodles (3 packs of 5)
    Milk powder (2 tins for babies up to 6 months, 1 tin for those 7 mnths to 6 years)

    I haven’t actually gone out to buy these for my 2-man household but I have to admit the thought of doing so hasn’t left my mind. Maybe I should, huh?

  13. Haha! I wanted to shove this article in my husband’s face so he’ll know serious foodies PANIC at not having enough (well, maybe MORE than enough) stock in the pantry/freezer/ref. I got a scolding again over lunch yesterday at what seemed to my hubby an obscene “overstocking” of food in the freezer after I was agitated over the amount of food that was bound to spoil with the blackout. Not that I consider stocking in a leg of ham, 4 lbs. of dean and deluca coffee, several blocks of hard cheeses, different sausages/deli items, tinta negra, my precious condiments in small bottles (dill, saffron, etc) excessive, but he does! Esp. when he saw the ham and pointed out to me the “amag” forming on some parts (I ruefully had to throw that one out). I’m sure relived I’m not alone.

  14. Last year there was forecast about super typhoon hitting Central Luzon (signal#4). My brother panicked and cut down some tall tress to avoid falling on our roof. Because of that it looked like more than signal#4 had passed our house =) and take note the storm or typhoon diverted it’s way.

    We were safe from the storm but not from the cutting of the trees done by my bro. =0

    Any how better safe than never… but still it looks more disastrous to me.

  15. I think the problem is that we dont believe storm forecasts/warnings by Pag-Asa. Ergo, we dont stock up thinking that Pag-Asa will be mistaken again. However, are we to blame for not taking Pag-Asa seriously?

    Trying to revisit my memory, i think that this is one of the very few storms that Pag-Asa predicted accurately. In the future, I hope that this becomes the rule rather than the exception for Pag-Asa storm forecasts/warnings.

  16. The list given by Joanne is very useful. I agree that every household should have emergency food stock, a first aid kit and other items each member of the household might need in the event of a calamity and/or evacuation.

  17. I recall thinking that Milenyo could be a huge storm after hearing that it would hit 110kmh. That was after I recalled (from grade school) that Signal No. 1 is raised up at 60kmh. (I figured Signal 2 at 80? Then 3 at 100?) Imagine, grade school Araling Panlipunan on PAGASA was my reference.

    I would remember this storm as one that made me climb up to the 24th floor by the fire escape stairs.

  18. “better safe than never??” i think you mean ‘better safe than sorry…’

    anyway there was no panic for me because i moved all my refrigerated food to a friend’s freezer in bel air 2, which somehow was spared the extended brownouts th rest of manila had to endure.

    I did however forget to turn off the flame while heating up some baked beans. four hours later the beans looked like fossilized remains dug up from the la brea tarpits. had to chuck the lot, pan and all.

    Signal no. 4?? i didn’t even know there was such a thing. wild.

    hey MM, three (3) fridges? a bit OTT don’t you think? hehe

  19. typhoons and blackouts go hand in hand. and from childhood until the last big typhoon hit metro manila eons back, we would have tuyo, daing (isda or pusit), sardines or corned beef and kaning lamig (bahaw). funny how i felt a hankering for such foods when the lights went out amidst the light and sound fury of milenyo. we also ate with our hands and paper plates as in the old days. conserve water, you know.

    then we treated the kids to the old fairy tales, horror and war stories that ma and pa used to tell us in candlelight just before bedtime.

    and to think our kids are in their twenties! but they totally enjoyed it. just one of the rare positive notes from a typhoon/blackout.

  20. Gonzo,

    Thanks for the correction….

    Yes it was forecasted signal#4 vicinity of Pampanga. My brother almost had nervous breakdown because of that.

    J says “very few storms that Pag-Asa predicted accurately”.

  21. Yikes, signal no. 4! For those of you living in high rise buildings, better check what wind speeds and pressure your windows can withstand. My dad made my two sisters evacuate their condominiums in Ortigas and Makati (where they each live on the 20th+ floor) because he had serious doubts about the quality of glass used in their condos. They safely stayed at our sturdy QC home during the storm and helped themselves to the contents of my mom’s overstocked fridge. :-)

  22. P.S. Speaking of blackouts, guess what some Wash., DC residents hoarded when there were blackouts there in 2003? Milk and bread!! Weird, right? The local news people had to tell them to buy Pop-tarts instead.

  23. It’s kinda off topic but where can I buy pine nuts here in Manila? I end up substituting peanuts whenever I make basil pesto. =(

  24. Nel, they sell pine nuts at Santis delicatessen. You can probably also get them at Galileo Enoteca in mandaluyong and some of the bake shops I have featured in this blog before…

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