Coronavirus shopping limits means this family of 11 can no longer shop like normal

Claire Hooker is a mother of 9 children facing supermarket restrictions. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
Claire Hooker is a mother of 9 children facing supermarket restrictions. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

When Claire Hooker buys 48 litres of long-life milk and 24 toilet rolls each fortnight in the best of times, she suspects people around her in the supermarket think she is panic buying.

But for a family of 11 - Claire, her husband Mark and their nine children - bulk-buying is just a normal part of keeping food on the table, a process made much harder as supermarket shelves have been stripped bare in recent weeks.

"Because we live in Captains Flat [just outside Canberra, in NSW] and we don't get food delivery out here, because of where we live, we actually shop for the fortnight. We usually bulk buy ... and in these last couple of weeks, we have not been able to do that. It's been absolutely crazy," Mrs Hooker said.

Supermarkets have introduced product limits nationally in an effort to stem panic buying during the COVID-19 pandemic, assuring customers there is enough stock but it is difficult to keep up with reshelving to meet demand.

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Mrs Hooker said her husband had been getting up early to get to supermarkets and the family's food bill had gone up between 50 and 100 per cent.

"[Mark] went into a supermarket really early, about 6.30 in the morning. He tried to buy two packs of pasta, because one doesn't cut it for our whole family, when you think there's 11 of us in our house.

"He went up to the till, he had two packs of pasta and they said he couldn't have two. He said, 'Well, you know, I've got nine children and I can prove it.' And he showed them a picture of our family on his phone and they said, 'Oh, wow. Oh, sorry the manager's not here so unfortunately I can't let you have this pasta'," Mrs Hooker said.

Mark and Claire Hooker with their nine children, pictured on Australia Day 2020. Picture: Jamila Toderas

Mark and Claire Hooker with their nine children, pictured on Australia Day 2020. Picture: Jamila Toderas

Mrs Hooker said she could understand why people were panicked and trying to stock up on food, but encouraged people to be thoughtful about what they bought and to only build up a supply for two weeks' isolation.

"So I can understand [people buying extra] but then people bulk buying for two to six months or whatever they're doing is crazy. The government have come out and said, you know, to be alert, not alarmed, stop panic buying. The warehouses are still full, you need to stop this mass hysteria. People still aren't listening," she said.

Even keeping enough toilet rolls in the house for 11 people has become difficult.

"We usually just buy one big pack of 24 a fortnight, but now you can't even buy the big packs. You can only sort of buy a small one, so if you're trying to buy two of those, you wouldn't be allowed to do so. It's just things like that, they're the essentials you need that you can't get," Mrs Hooker said.

"I mean, toilet rolls is like, if you find toilet roll, it's like finding gold these days. My husband, when he came home the other day, he had a small packet of toilet rolls and I grabbed it out of the boot and I ran in the house and said, 'Better not let anyone see that I've got this.'"

Mrs Hooker said the family had always been mindful of how much they consumed, which was just part of life in a big family, an experience she documents on her blog, This Tribe of Mine.

"But it's elevated now because of what's happening, because we know we might be able to buy certain things now but we may not be able to get them in a few days or a couple of weeks," she said.

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This story For this big family, the usual fortnightly shop has become impossible first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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