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How Self-Quarantine Made Us: Food Consumption Behavior among Indonesians

It has been almost two months of self-quarantine for most of us – today is my 63rd day as I published this writing. At times, I am puzzled between feeling relaxed to be at home all day long or becoming such a surrender to whatever will happen tomorrow and the days after.

Both positive and negative things are within these new normals in settling everything from home toward your online classes, the pile of errands, conference calls or meetings, experiments of new recipes, and your daily exercises. Unexpected trends uniquely popped up to kill boredom at home from homemade food businesses, offered livestream workouts from the studios, virtual photoshoots with home furnitures, live insightful talk shows and webinars, to group hanging out via video calls. Whether or not the internet is easily accessible for all tiers, we could see at an angle that a lot of things can actually be done from home. All the more, good internet speed should be a top priority in moments like now.


All of these might be tough at first. However, these have been gradually shifting to be our comfort zone through this hard time. Fortunately, many existing technology innovations around us turn out to be impactful in today's condition. As you might be more aware these days, the necessity of eating is inevitable for everyone to stay healthy and sane yet to survive for a living. Food has given life more meaningful in many ways – mainly as a daily intake for energy, growth and development, and maintenance of human body cells, one source of income for some people with door-to-door businesses, and a go-between of kindness to be shared with people in need.


The Overlooked Ones

Food quietly reconnects us with ourselves, the other household members who live under the same roof but not having more than five words to talk with every day, the long lost memorable stuff, or even those expired processed foods stacked in the cupboard. In this kind of situation, you may have questioned yourself with one of these questions: what were your used-to-be favorite homemade recipes? Or when was the last time you had dinner with your family all together? Or do you miss your mom's cooking? 


Besides all those emotional things, the food chain could be a bright spot in the middle of this pandemic as homebound consumers are restocking their fridges and pantries that supports a more stable food system to avoid the rate of relevant food and health crisis. It is imperative to ensure the continuity of the farm-to-fork supply to load your plates, glass, or lunch boxes with sufficient food supplies. Throughout these rationales, the availability of online platforms of farmers produces, the existence of food delivery application, the readiness of grocery stores, and the widespread food and beverage businesses play big roles in alleviating our burden to fulfill our tummy.


Amidst these state of affairs, we have slowly changed the way we live today – better or worse. To make it more factual and fun at the same time, I did a little survey involving 230 Indonesian people with a confidence level of 95% regarding the current population of Indonesia of 273 million per May 2020. The survey is to see their food consumption behavior during self-quarantine through their grocery list, their eating preferences, and the thoughts about their current health. Despite all the Indonesian respondents, four (1.74%) of them are currently living abroad. It does not matter since my objective here is to delve more on how our countrymen overcome at times like this. As seen in the graphs below, the location distribution shows the majority (83%) of the respondents live in the Jabodetabek (1) area. Along with that, 95.2% of the respondents are in their 20s.

(1): the acronym of Jakarta-Bogor-Depok-Tangerang-Bekasi which is a megapolitan area of Jakarta, Indonesia and its surroundings.


Realities Nowadays

Until today, a lot of offices, restaurants, schools, shopping malls, sport studios, and worship places are temporarily closed since weeks ago due to the respective both local and regional regulations. The exception is to those grocery stores – even the supermarket and drugstore inside the shopping malls are open with shorter opening hours. Moreover, online grocery shopping platform has been a trend in adjusting people who hardly take time for direct shopping. Therefore, in revolutionizing the industry, a lot of supermarkets recently spurred to offer home delivery service.


How People Do Grocery

Although online grocery shopping is more favored nowadays, it turned out that 70% of the respondents prefer to shop in grocery stores directly. Followed by 17% favoring online grocery and the rest still buy groceries from the street sellers. From the respondents who go to the grocery stores and street sellers around the housing, 72% choose to join the shopping and 28% remain at home and let the other household members shop.

Here goes a little tip to save your money and time for those who do direct shopping: make a shopping list and stick to it without overbuying things to minimize any food waste.

Speaking of the grocery list, on the survey, the respondents had to pick the items they purchase for their self-quarantine grocery shopping. This section is to identify which types of food people consider to buy lately. On the graphs below, there are fifteen choices with each percentage of each kind of food.

The top five foods are meat, fish, and chicken (80%), fruits (78%), eggs (78%), milk (73%), and vegetables (73%) – most of the top five, except milk, are fresh foods instead of processed food. On the other hand, the last three belong to cheese (37%), yogurt (33%), and breakfast cereal (27%) as processed foods where cheese is curdled (2) and most types are also fermented, yogurt is fermented, and breakfast cereal is pressed and puffed. A few respondents also added some other options of food such as baking supplies, coffee and tea, frozen food like nuggets, sausages, and smoked beef, literal milk coffee, jam, juice, and isotonic drinks or any kind of beverages. 


From these, we can see that most people are slowly starting to stock more fresh foods into their kitchen. Besides beneficial to the digestive system, consuming fresh foods is the best way for us to boost the intake of vitamins, minerals, protein, antioxidants, and dietary fibre your body needs. Little did we know, not all processed foods are bad for our healths. Even they taste better, some are high in unhealthy fat, have large amounts of sodium and sugar, or chemicals with unpronounceable names that may lead to serious health issues like obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Perhaps this is the right time to start learning how to read nutrition labels on food packaging when you do grocery – knowing exactly what you are eating.

(2): one of the steps in processing cheese where in the presence of lactic acid, rennet, or both, the milk protein casein clumps together and precipitates out of solution and will be cut into small cubes once formed and shrunk; or also known as coagulation.


How People Eat

Before this staying-at-home phase, we would go out for eating at least once a week or maybe once a day for a few people. Realizing it or not, we often take home-cooked foods for granted. The ugly truth is sometimes we choose more to go out for eating or use the online food delivery application even there could be some leftover dishes at home. Other than producing more food waste from home, our expenses for takeaway foods increase without us really recognizing it. And with this pandemic, we have to be at home until an undetermined time. We have to do everything at home and from home.

Eating is certainly one of them whether we eat home cooking or takeaway food that is served on the dining table. Based on the survey, 85% of our fellows feed the household members with fresh-from-the-pan foods while the other 15% put their trust in food delivery for providing their meals. Throughout this survey, the category of takeaway foods consists of additional side dishes (vegetables, soup, fried food, chili), snacks (martabak (3), dessert, cookies, grilled bread, cakes), beverages (ready-to-drink juice, milk tea, boba drinks, coffee), and frozen food. There are also main meals (combined with the side dishes category) and catering specifically for those who depend on food delivery for daily eating.


Surprisingly, 88% of those eighty-five percent fellows who cook at home still rely on food delivery to complete their dishes or satisfy their appetites and cravings – 38% for snacks, 34% for additional side dishes, 27% for beverages, and 1% for frozen food as seen on the left graph below. Meanwhile on the right, the respondent group that chooses takeaway foods shows 32% for main meals and side dishes, 29% for snacks, 28% for beverages, 6% for frozen food, and there are three people (5%) who subscribe a weekly catering. The bright side of having takeaway foods is we can support local food businesses that are also surviving out there.

(3): an Indonesian thick stuffed pancake made from flour, eggs, sugar, baking soda, water, and/or coconut milk. Completed with traditional sweet or savory filling like chocolate sprinkles, cheese, crushed peanut, condensed milk, beef or chicken, egg, onion, and others you could imagine.

The Earth Will Still Circle the Sun After All

Quarantining yourself at home can prevent the spread of the current infectious diseases. But it also urges you to cope up with the new kind of normals that might be a disruption in our routines where we need to adapt on the whole to be able to do everything at home. One thing that can be affected by this is how we treat ourselves in maintaining our health. Being healthy is not only about how good your daily diet is and how much your muscles weigh.

The survey results in 71% of the respondents feel healthier during self-quarantine yet the rest of 29% others experience otherwise. Those who appreciate better health in themselves have been consuming more mineral water (27%), fruits (25%), vegetables (22%), vitamin (19%), and jamu (7%) – an Indonesian traditional herbal  medicine of natural ingredients in the form of liquid or powder. This moment somehow has encouraged us to practice better good personal hygiene and healthier meal choices. 


However, not everyone is completely happy by being under the house roof for a long time – no difference or even worse. We must engage in both social and physical distancing as a critical way to flatten the curve. To sum up, the majority of them don't give a thing about what they eat with being full is what important. Less physical activities, not exposed to sunlight, consume more instant foods and sugary treats, and irregular eating hours are also some of these frequent reasons from the respondents. Some think there is no difference like before and are already fed-up by staying at home. One interesting thing is that our mental state influences our well-being especially we might feel isolated by being confined inside our home. In fact, taking care of your mental health is necessary – this situation may make some of us seem cut off from the outside world.

At the end of the day, it does not matter how our behavior in facing this situation will take place. If you ever feel alone or down at this time, remember that the earth will still rotate around the sun to bring you a better tomorrow in no more than 24 hours. Sending some of your almost burnt but kinda sexy brownies to your loved ones might be a good idea too!


Endnotes:

Special appreciation for the two hundred and thirty respondents who were willing to spend their time in helping my little survey – may you always be blessed. And please feel free to give any comments or questions regarding this, I would be very happy to discuss it. Hope this writing can inspire and motivate you in many good ways ;-)


©2020 by Beige and Bold.

Jakarta, Indonesia