Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Market day!

When I was growing up, I used to go with my grandmother to the wet market and watch her haggle away for the freshest meat, fish, veggies and fruits. Up until I moved out of my parents' house in 2001, I bought our family's food from the palengke. Every morning, Mama gave me P100 and I had to buy enough food to feed Papa, Mama, myself, my younger brother and sister, my older brother, his girlfriend (eventually wife) and their then two kids.

Count that. A hundred pesos for nine people. And that's for lunch and dinner! So while there are millions of people spending millions on diet pills because they eat too much, I had to make do with very little to feed a lot! Of course this was when a kilo of chicken cost P35 (yes, I am that old).

Believe me, I made that hundred pesos feed a large family easily. Here are a few tips:
  • Cook vegetable soups. If you must have meat, veggies with just 1/4 kilo of pork or beef (although pork is cheaper) can go a long way!
  • Ask for the pork fat. The butchers usually trim these and throw them away so you can get them for free. Put the fat in the skillet and - tada! - instant cooking oil and chicharon!
  • Tofu is an excellent meat extender. 
  • Make everything extra spicy or salty. I know, I know - so unhealthy. But when food is heavily seasoned, you eat more rice and less ulam! Don't follow this salty tip, ha. It's a solution poor people resort to kasi. Kaya siguro Pinoys have kidney problems kasi mahilig tayo sa asin dahil maraming Pinoy ang mahirap.
  • If all else fails, make lugaw. Just throw rice in a large cauldron of water, together with garlic, onions, and ginger. Season with salt and pepper and you have a satisfying meal.

Yesterday, I brought Vito to the palengke for the first time. He was very... quiet. I guess all the colors and smells and noise overwhelmed the little guy. But I want him to get used to the wet market because I want him to know how to cook food. When you know how to cook, you'll never go hungry.

This guy sells fish so fresh, he made salmon sashimi. Yum!
That's yellowfin tuna. 
The chicken is so fresh. Yes, freshly killed. See guy at right.
I watch those documentaries of poor people lamenting over the fact that they earn just P100 a day then they buy instant noodles, which costs about P20 and can feed just 3-5 people. I get really upset. I yell at the TV, "Buy kangkong! A bundle costs just P7! Buy 3 bundles, cook it adobo style and you have ulam for the whole day. Healthy pa!"

A kilo is just P50. Throw into a pot with garlic, onions, tomatoes, and ginger.
A few minutes later, a delicious and nutritious mussel dish!
I don't believe that poverty equals poor food and nutrition. My grandmother lived through the terrible war and she taught me a lot of tricks on how to eat well even if you have just three ingredients. So I may have grown up poor but I was never hungry. And I ate so well!

I think I may have found a new advocacy. Wouldn't it be great if we can teach families in poor neighborhoods really inexpensive but healthy and delicious recipes? If you know any group that does this, please tell me. I would love to help!


  1. hi frances! what market did you go to? since getting married the husband and I have been stocking up on supplies from S&R and Rustans supermarket. Wanted to try and give going to a wet market a shot :)

  2. this is one great read! :) mmmmm, all those fresh food make me wanna think of what to cook for lunch.... im suddenly craving for that mussel dish! :)

  3. I have to agree with you re: buying veggies instead of instant noodles! Tama ka...

  4. You never fail to amaze me, Frances!

    I used to go with my Nanay to the market, too. And until now, I go to our area's wet market whenever I can as I would have more ideas on what dishes to cook, compared to just having the yaya do everything.

    In our province, you can still budget P100 for both lunch and dinner (family of 4, maybe) as everything there's less expensive.

  5. You know what, I agree about the poor people and how they feed their family with instant noodles, kangkong is really cheap. 1 bundle can already feed 3 people. Cheap na, healthy pa. They say Filipinos are hardworking.. pero ang daming tambay dyan who drink all day, hay. Off topic na!

    Cutie pie Vito with a hat! :)

  6. I'd definitely get overwhelmed at the palengke! This post was an eye opener, especially that bit about the noodles vs kangkong. I now share your opinion in that regard. :)

  7. Hey Fran! Which market is this? I'm' moving into the area soon and we can't live without palengke! My hubby will like the fresh-fish vendor because kilawing tuna and tuna sashimi are part of our regular menu.

  8. vito is so cute in the pic taken at the wet market... and i really admire that you are a good shopper at the palengke... hope that i could be like you too and i am starting to learn to cook too...

  9. My same thoughts exactly! Our less fortunate countrymen could be getting more for thier money with fresh produce from the market rather than eating instant noodles and canned goods. Thanks for the very practical advice.

  10. di ka lang magaling sa writing Ms. Frances, madiskarte ka rin pala sa buhay and I never thought you'll go to market kasi you seemed so busy na, pwede naman yong katulong...he..he...I will surely apply your tipid tips! THanKs FOR SHaRING:)

  11. Wow Ms. Frances. I never thought you're the type of person who would really go in to markets like that.:) I mean most people in your status don't usually go to that kind of place.:) But you're just awesome!

  12. i'm so happy to see that someone still goes to the wet market (and someone famous at that)! i miss the palengke ... all the colors, the voices of people haggling, the fact that you can buy isang guhit to several kilos without any problem. :)

  13. This makes me want to learn how to cook! Great post! :)

  14. Ooh wow, so many reactions!

    First, the market nearest to us is the one at Shaw-EDSA Crossing. It's best to go early morning. But the market I really want to go to is Farmers (dun daw si Judy Ann namamalengke!) but... I'm lazy. It's far na!

    Second, about Vito haha. You should've seen him. So wide-eyed! Ewan ko kung maaawa ako o matatawa.

    Third, I dunno why people think I don't go to a palengke. I'm very palengkera!

    Fourth, I'm glad a lot of you share my opinion that good food need not be expensive. I wish we can find a way to educate our less fortunate sisters (and brothers) on how to prepare cheap but healthy meals!

  15. I love, love, love this post, Neighbor!

  16. This is so inspiring, Frances. I'm getting married in October and at this point I don't know how to cook nor go to the palengke.

    I still have months to learn. Looking forward to more homemaking tips from you!


  17. Dea, I strongly urge you to learn how to cook. That saying about the way to a man's heart is through his tummy? Well, obviously, you already have his heart (congratulations and best wishes!) but when he eats the food you cook, ay naku... he's your slave FOREVER!

  18. Love this post! I agree with your comment on buying fresh produce than instant/artificial/chemical-laden food. Thanks for sharing!

  19. wow perfect to sa mga bagong mag asawa �� yay! sana all naabutan ang 35 kilo ❤️ grabe ang ang budgeting skills mo Mommy that time. kaya sana yan applicable yan these days na affected ang budget dahil may lockdown.


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