The Phenomenal Mama’s pantry-led cooking

COOK. Wash dishes. Repeat.

With most members of the family staying home for the community quarantine, homemakers are endlessly busy whipping up meals for their famished brood multiple times a day. Adding to the gastronomic challenge is the limited access to ingredients.

One such mom adjusting with the lockdown is Tina Lam-Ong, the super woman behind social media’s “The Phenomenal Mama” and @thismommaloves. She also happens to be my childhood friend from Stella Maris Academy of Davao who is now based in Manila.

For a late-bloomer home cook like me, Tina is such a culinary inspiration. With “acts of service” as her primary love language, she expresses her love for her family by preparing home-cooked meals that require a great deal of her time and effort.

The domestic goddess considers herself lucky that she has the luxury of time to cook quite well for her hubby and kids; a daily responsibility that she truly enjoys.

Food prep in the time of Covid-19

“For over two weeks now, we have been observing the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine, which means we are staying home and limiting trips to the grocery. My pantry and freezer are sufficiently stocked, and pantry-led cooking is the order of the day. This simply means that I go into the kitchen and try to make the best possible meal out of what’s already in my pantry,” the mom-of-three said.

“Covid-19 has changed the way I do my food shopping. For vegetables and seafood, I order online and they get delivered. But, for meat and pantry items, we go to the nearby grocery store, which, thankfully, has remained well-stocked. We have so far only done this once,” she said.

During these uncertain times, Tina takes extra care with all the items going inside the house. Everything is sanitized before they are brought in and stored. Canned goods, meat that are packaged in plastic, and everything that’s packaged in plastic, are soaked in a soapy solution, washed individually and then dried.

“We wipe down everything that’s packaged in a box/carton with a kitchen towel that’s soaked in a sanitizing solution of bleach and water. Vegetables are soaked in a solution of plant-based baby dishwashing soap and water, scrubbed and rinsed, air dried or blanched,” Tina added.

Low-waste kitchen hacks

To prolong the life of vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, spinach and green beans, they are quickly blanched in boiling water and frozen in freezer-safe resealable plastic bags. The rest are dried properly and wrapped in kitchen towels (to save on precious fridge real estate) before storing in the crisper.

Part of Tina’s conscious effort of eating without waste during the community quarantine is to challenge herself to use up all the near-expiry ingredients that have been in her pantry.

“While it is already a practice to put items with the nearest expiration dates toward the front of the shelves, it cannot be helped that certain items are just not used as often. I corralled all of those expiring in the next 2 months in one bin so I can plan my meals accordingly,” she said.

Before Tina plans on what to cook, she picks out an ingredient from her “consume-first” bin and everything else revolves around it.


Online classes may have been cancelled but it does not mean that learning has stopped for the Ong kids. The hands-on mom assigned each of them to take charge of dinner once a week.

The children decide on what to cook based on existing items in the kitchen. They are challenged to be resourceful as Tina encourages them to look for substitutes in case an ingredient is not available.

“Getting my teens involved in the kitchen is a wonderful opportunity to introduce the concept of planning meals and making smarter food choices,” she enthuses.

Even beyond quarantine, this phenomenal mama has thoughtfully equipped her children with valuable life skills they can rely on for the best and worst of days.

Tina shares more of her kitchen tips on pantry-led cooking, low-waste kitchen, and baon ideas on her social media accounts. Follow her on FB/IG @thephenomenalmama and @thismommaloves.

E-mail the author at mom.about.town.dvo@gmail.com. To view more photos, please visit http://momabouttowndavao.blogspot.com/.


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