LAST week I was surprised to see how panic buying due to the coronavirus outbreak had taken hold in my local supermarket.

The shelves of cleaning products were stripped bare and the only toilet rolls left were those ridiculously expensive ones made from duck down impregnated with palm oils from virgin rainforest (obviously we still count the pennies even under threat from a deadly virus).

And there wasn’t much in the way of bottled water.

It doesn’t take much for people to panic buy. Seeing those empty shelves made me realise how quickly our lives could dissolve from their comfortable, ordered state to something completely out of control.

We are so used to having everything at our fingertips, shops bursting with everything we need, that having to go without is a new, unthinkable concept.

Yet in the long-term, shortages such as this it could help to make us more self-sufficient.

People have already come up with online tutorials on how to make a face mask from a kitchen towel - providing you can get your hands on those - a few staples and two elastic bands.

At times like this it’s good to see a bit of wartime spirit coming through. Anyone who has lived through rationing will remember how people made the best of what they had, creating ersatz products from all sorts of ingredients.

Mashed potato pastry, coffee made with acorns and carrot jam - the sweetness of carrots was seen as a good sugar substitute - were all widely used. Carrots were especially useful, with carrot cake seeing a revival. People made carrot pudding and carrot jam and were even encouraged to replace milk with carrot water.

I’ve got a few carrots in at present. I bought them for two sad-looking horses in a nearby field, but now I’m hanging on to them. Needs must.

In wartime, sawdust was sometimes added to compensate for shortages of flour, and we’ve got plenty of wood, so that’s always an option.

I must admit, I am not looking forward to cutting up old newspapers for toilet roll (Is The Guardian softer than The Sun, I wonder?). I’ve stayed in some student houses where that’s been the case, and it’s not pleasant. That was a long time ago, of course: now students are a different, more discerning breed.

The sudden lack of loo roll, hand sanitiser and cleaning products does make you wonder what’s next. It’s not as if those products are in short supply, it’s the reaction of the public that is causing the problem.

“I don’t know why you’re worried, you’ve been stockpiling since 9/11,” my husband mockingly told me. I admit, an Armageddon-type scenario is always at the back of my mind and my garage does contain rather a lot of tins of soup, fruit, baked beans and enough water to keep the Flying Scotsman in steam for a week. But, sadly, for this particular crisis I’ve been wide of the mark. But if we have to self-isolate, he will be forced to thank me for my efforts.

No-one can predict situations like this, but it shows that we should not be complacent about what we have got. It doesn’t take long for it all to crumble.