Stay at home and stay healthy — that’s one hell serious piece of advice. Play around, and this extends indefinitely, another weeks or months maybe. Truth be told, it all depends on how disciplined we are amidst this crisis. The more we spread the virus in our irresponsible and reckless actions (lol, don’t be like Koko), the longer this enhanced community quarantine would take. That makes sense, right?
Flak! While the digital world was going crazy with Koko and Prince Charles (both got infected), canned goods and around 3 kilos of rice got surprisingly delivered right to my doorstep before dark the other day. Mind it, other LGU’s should learn from the serious fight of Pasig City (let me include Cainta, Manila, and Marikina) against COVID-19.
Are all family members inside now? Great. Now, let’s talk about the biggest challenge that confronts the household budget — meal planning. If not doing the TikTok thing, then we might be thinking about what to fill our insatiable tummies, even minutes or an hour after the last good meal.
Let’s start off with breakfast! It is not as demanding as before for two simple reasons. Heavy breakfast is no longer that required. Working from home, or simply staying at home for health reasons, requires less calories. That’s one. Another, most family members, especially the kids, wake up late (but stay up late at night).
For those who still have their body clocks normally operating after days of quarantine, usual bread, eggs, and a cup of coffee will do. On my end, I usually take just a cup of coffee for breakfast. Lately, I started to experience abnormal sleep patterns (I sleep even at daytime), and sometimes I crave for pancakes and fried rice meals. So, I wake up early (or miss the overnight sleep at all) and heat the stove once in a while.
Lunch and Dinner
I am not a foodie. I think that’s too obvious in my built. While the same taste of corned beef and sardines can really make one fed up, I have here a short list of possible meals (or more specific, ulam ideas) which are inexpensive, easy to prepare, and healthy. I may not be a professional cook, but I prepare meals myself. No kidding, I have my own recipes for everything else shared here.
 Ginisang Gulay. Whether at the supermarket or wet market, there’s plenty of vegetable choices for a simple sautéed dish — monggo, sayote, sigarilyas (winged beans), sitaw, upo, ampalaya, mixed veggies (for chop suey or pakbet), or even kangkong — all but again inexpensive and undoubtedly healthy.
You don’t need too many ingredients to make the dish yummy. Aside from the usual salt and seasoning, chopped onion, a few garlic cloves, a ripe tomato and an ounce of meat (or even canned sardines from the relief goods) will all do. Believe me, I spent just PHP50.00 for a delicious sautéed pork upo.
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 Adobong Atay at Balunan-balunan. It’s chicken liver and gizzard adobo (plus potatoes and boiled eggs). While potatoes and boiled eggs can be best added for improved servings, the adobo sauce itself does the equal purpose. Just the sauce can be worth another cup of rice.
Chicken liver and gizzard can be of the same price as the regular chicken meat but are more flavorful when cooked as adobo. While prices of potatoes and eggs aren’t always stable, a few pieces added to the dish mean a lot to the serving size. I also consider making savings from ingredients.
 Ginataang Manok. It’s a Filipino version of chicken curry. As the name implies, it’s a chicken dish in coconut milk with green papaya and other vegetables, garlic, ginger, onion, patis or salt, and pepper. Don’t forget the tanglad (lemongrass)!
With the veggies, I think a half-kilo chicken can reasonably serve three to five persons. It has irresistible sauce too, just like adobo, that can be something to look forward to by rice lovers. I can compare the dish to what my Dad would cook on special occasions back in the province — Dinuguang Manok (native chicken only).
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 Ginisang Sardinas at Miswa. I don’t really like the taste of this, but I’ve seen how my uncle loves the soup. Misua (also spelled miswa) is a variant of thin salted noodles introduced by the Chinese. One can buy a small pack for like three or five pesos, but enough to feed two to three persons. Wow!
Misua is a flexible soup recipe too. While most of the time, the sautèed sardines and misua comes with patola (luffa), there are other vegetables worth experimenting with, say cabbage and papaya. It’s a soup and yet can be perfect in any of the three main meals of the day, even breakfast.
 Pansit Bihon Guisado. It’s an extremely popular and budget-friendly noodle dish, but it serves a great purpose in any Filipino occasion. It’s always a filler for a hungry stomach. I cooked pansit bihon the other night. I spent just around PHP35.00 (with bihon left from the other week, and veggies from the other day’s beef soup).
While others don’t take it as viand as noodles are also carbs, it can be best paired with bread (plus juice) for an after-meal snack. Leftover meat and frozen meatballs can spice up the taste of pansit bihon guisado.
 Sarciadong Galunggong. Whether it’s freshly fried or leftover from the previous meal, galunggong (mackerel scad) can be simmered (sabawan) in the usual sauté ingredients and beaten eggs. It makes both a perfect soup and a rice viand.
While galunggong can be pricey at times, tilapia and bangus can be recipe alternatives. Tilapia can be the cheapest among the three and yet delicious for most local foodies. Just to share, it was only when I came to the city that I started to love tilapia. We seldom had cultured tilapia in the province.
 Ginataang Tilapia. Aside from being cooked sarciado, tilapia in coconut milk and other ingredients, or simply ginataang tilapia, is also a Filipino favorite rice viand. I used to love ginataang tilapia with its sour taste and a little crunchy pechay leaves.
The dish is inexpensive, even tilapia fish itself. It’s also available all year round in wet markets and even in supermarkets. What should be considered however is where the supply comes from. Tastes differ, I could say.
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 Batchoy Tagalog. It’s different from La Paz batchoy though. While it’s also a soup dish made from sliced pork, pig’s innards, and noodles, batchoy tagalog is closer in taste to tinola due to ginger and chili. It’s further made interesting with the addition of sotanghon noodles and pork’s blood.
I really miss that perfectly combined taste of vinegar and chili. I can’t remember that last time I cooked batchoy. It’s healthy and within the budget. Pig’s innards and sotanghon noodles aren’t always high-priced.
 Sinigang na Mackerel. I don’t talk about that high-priced fresh mackerel or tuna, but the canned mackerel in oil. Yes, you just read it right. I learned it from my cousins. It’s a typical sinigang with all the vegetables and tamarind except that it does not come with the regular meat such as pork, milk fish, or shrimp – rather canned mackerel.
What I love about the recipe is that it’s easy just like any other sinigang. Canned mackerel however can easily get overcooked. Cooking this sinigang requires special techniques. Get one from your relief goods now!
Snacks between meals, when not managed well, will surely hurt the entire food budget. Family members, when not that much busy, usually check the fridge and the dining from time to time for food. Dishes reserved for the next major meal may be at risk of being consumed during snack time. With these, snacks should really be well-planned.
It’s advisable to have a regular stock of bread, cookies, and other pastries in the cupboard. While I discourage junk food and I hate salty chips, heavier snacks such as pancakes, rice cakes, and noodle dishes may also be given time and effort preparing. After all, such may serve as a get together activity among family members.
Stay at home. Stay healthy.