Don’t panic about coronavirus! But I think I’ll make a shopping list anyway - Jim Duffy

I was thinking yesterday about the war-like, bunker mentality that could kick in throughout Scotland and the UK, should the spread of coronavirus increase. What would it look like if we were confined to our houses, limited in the travelling we could undertake?

As I pretend to limit myself to what I need, it makes me wonder why I buy so much, says Jim Duffy. Picture: Contributed

Food would figure hugely in that. Less going out to restaurants, less popping out to the pub and less sitting in coffee shops munching on muffins – it got me thinking about the buying behaviours that would surround a state of increased panic. What would this look like and how would I react?

Panic buying is quite literally that. People rush out to buy in fear for their survival. Just like a virus, panic buying multiplies exponentially as the fear kicks in. There is no logic to it, except the perceived and heightened need to store food – just in case there’s none left.

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Add to this the paranoia that everyone else will be doing the same and one can see why panic buying is such an intense and focused behaviour. I hope we do not see this break out as we potentially reach the next stage of this particular virus outbreak. However, it has made me reflect on food, what I would buy and what I have sitting in my cupboards currently.

We are so spoiled for choice within our supermarkets. The big players carry an enormous amount of inventory that is so diverse. Food from all over the world is on offer along with fresh fish counters, butcheries, bakeries and whole foods. One can spend hours in a supermarket if one wishes choosing exotic products, high fibre staples and an array of wines and beers to complement it all. But, as I pretend to limit myself to what I really need, it makes me wonder why I buy so much.

Ordinary, but random

Currently, in my kitchen cupboards I have the usual suspects. Jars of pickled green veg – things like capers, gherkins and asparagus. There are tins of tuna, sardines and mussels. I have honey, beans and numerous taste enhancers like chilli, brown sauce and mayonnaise. All pretty ordinary, but random. Then there is the fridge, with Greek yoghurt, milk, butter, fresh veg and cold beers.

However, much of my food has been sitting in my cupboards for weeks, while the fridge stuff gets thrown out every now and then. I don’t appear to shop clever. I would suggest that many of us are guilty of this to an extent as we buy food for the sake of it and not as a need. What would I take home if there was some form of panic buying going on?

We may not have a choice in the matter as supermarkets prepare for what could be down the line. No panic yet and, as I said, let’s hope it stays that way, but they have to be ready for all eventualities. The big players are strategising about what to stock and what not to, probably in line with ­government commentary.

That said, I am still going to make my list. First up, toiletries: toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo and bog roll. I can do without handcreams, aftershaves, earbuds and all of the “keep smelling nice and looking nice” potions and creams. I’ve given up shaving, so no need for this paraphernalia. Now for food.

The problem with panic buying is that one never knows how long “the panic” will set in for. History shows us that it may last for a couple of weeks maximum. But, like every panic merchant, I may need to think more long-term.

So, it’s tins of ravioli, bread for the freezer, milk, coffee, chocolate and crisps. Some breakfast cereal and tinned fish, a bottle of whisky, some frozen chips and veg and I’m done. I really don’t need anything else. And this is the key point.

In panic situations, a bit like Supermarket Sweep, people throw all sorts of foods in their trolleys. If we truly think about what we need to get by on, our shop should be a lot lighter. There is simply no requirement to load up on random items, just in case.

If people do resort to going over the top, it will exacerbate the situation. But, if you think hard about it now, a more frugal shopping list may just get us all by – working together.

- Jim Duffy MBE, Create Special.