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From Onions to Adobo: How Data Reporting Can Help Us Understand Inflation

The rising cost of food has been a widely reported issue for months now. How we report about it can take more interesting routes on how to make economic indicators more relatable and easy to comprehend for the general audience.

We all know that living has been getting really expensive—thanks in part to inflation. Gas prices have been up and down because of oil and the invasion of Ukraine. Supply chains for goods have suffered greatly with COVID-19 lockdowns and exportation issues around the world. The price tags on housing, rent, and utilities have pushed people to live with their parents in order to cut costs.

The most evident case study of these: The cost of basic cooking commodities. In the Philippines, onions—a culinary staple—are the most expensive in the world. As of January 13, a kilogram of red onions can go from P350 to P550 per kilogram. There was even a white onion shortage and the threat of a garlic crisis in mid-2022. The Department of Agriculture also announced on January 12, 2023 that eggs now cost P8.70 a piece—45% more expensive than January last year.

“The cost of a kilogram of onions is greater than the minimum wage for a day’s work in the Philippines,” wrote TIME’s reporter Chad De Guzman. Non-agriculture workers earn a minimum wage of Php 500 per day.

Staple items like onions are more expensive than other food items such as whole chicken or beef. A kilogram of a whole chicken is worth Php 180 to Php 220 and a kilogram of beef brisket or rump is worth Php 350 to Php 480. This means that onions are more expensive than some of the other meats that Filipino families might typically purchase.

A single-income family of four would need to spend at least Php 900 to Php 1,100 per day to purchase enough onions and eggs for three meals, assuming they use one kilo of onions and a dozen eggs per day.

For a week’s worth of meals, they would need to spend at least Php 6,300 to Php 7,700 for onions alone. When adding the cost of items such as eggs, the total cost can be quite high.

The visual flavor

A two-part in-depth report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer laid out the current market prices and costs, as well as possible reasons why goods like onions have become so expensive. This included tables about import demand and harvest numbers and is quite the read, thanks to its substance and its length.

We can also make these more digestible by talking from the perspective of everyday situations.

Take into consideration the data we presented above. Let’s translate that into a recipe for the Filipino classic chicken adobo.

Cost approximations


1 kg of chicken (Php 180)

Soy sauce (Php 20 for 350ml)

White vinegar (Php 26 for 350ml)

1 minced garlic (Approximately Php 3, Php 90 for a bag of 30)

1 onion (Approximately Php 14, Php 350 for a bag of 25)

Salt (Php 29 per kilo)

Black pepper (Php 300 per kilo)
Bay leaves (Php 200 per kilo)

2 cups of water

2 tbsp vegetable oil (Php 25 for 350ml)

*Pricing as of January 13, 2023

Based on the data provided by the Department of Agriculture, it would cost approximately Php 275 to make the adobo recipe—just from the chicken, garlic, and onions alone. That doesn’t include rice which clocks in at about P40 per kilo. You might say “that doesn’t seem so bad. Adobo can last a family of 4 or 5 the whole week!”

But consider that in August, the Philippine Statistics Office said they won’t consider a family of 5 poor if they spend more than P18.62 per meal. This means eating the bare minimum in smaller portions to get you through the grueling 24 hours of life in the Philippines. Easier said than done, as one Filipino Youtuber found in his experiment.

Numbers talk. Make them tell a story.

Inflation can also be hard to understand and boring, especially if you’re like me and can barely make it through the opening paragraphs of business news. However, data is also essential to understand so we can make sense of why things are the way they are. That’s why it’s important to explore the different ways we can talk about data.

To make it more interesting for readers, it is important to present the information in a clear and concise manner and to provide examples that are relatable to the reader. For instance, by using everyday examples, such as the cost of a loaf of bread or a kilo of onions, and how it has changed over time, readers can easily understand the impact of inflation on their lives.

Visual aids like graphs or charts can be helpful in illustrating the trend of economic indicators over time, and providing context by comparing the current data to historical averages can help readers understand the significance of the data. It’s also good to explore creative executions like the receipt to make the data look more digestible to an average reader.

This type of data reporting can help readers understand the impact of rising food costs on their lives and budget. It brings the issue closer to readers by making it relatable and understandable and can help them see the impact on their own daily lives. By highlighting the cost of specific food items and comparing them to other food items, readers can see how much they would have to save to afford a week’s worth of meals.

Remember: Data literacy is not just for people who work in finance or business, but for anyone who wants to make informed decisions about their money and their future. By understanding economic indicators, we can make better decisions about our finances and take steps to protect ourselves from economic downturns.

M2.0 Communications’ data-driven strategies allow us to remain as one of the top PR agencies in the Philippines. Through media analytics, we help brands creatively tell their narratives with an evidence-based approach. M2 also provides services including PR advisory, reputation management, crisis communication, and stakeholder engagement.

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