What do you buy before a a big storm? Bread and milk

Posted Feb. 27, 2013, at 4:18 p.m.

DOVER, N.H. — Time to get the bread and milk!

Or is it?

At the approach of nearly every New England blizzard, nor’easter, snowstorm and sometimes just a simple flurry, there is an inevitable rush at local grocers for the “essentials,” otherwise known as “bread and milk.”

Why on earth is this?

With all the many other options and alternatives to “bread and milk,” why is it this mantra stuck in people’s minds?

For Sheila Partridge, of South Berwick, Maine, stocking up on bread and milk just seems like the right thing to do in the event of an impending storm.

“She is famous for, ‘I need to have bread and milk!’” her daughter Theresa Horne said in the Market Basket parking lot Tuesday afternoon.

The mother-daughter duo was loading groceries into their vehicle and, though they said they purchased items they normally would without the threat of a storm, it was puzzling to both of them as to why bread and milk were such hot items.

“I just don’t know,” Partridge said, pondering over her shopping cart at the question.

“It is interesting,” she went on.

At Janetos Market in downtown Dover, the theory of stocking up on these two items escaped owner Karen Weston, but she said consumers nonetheless had started going beyond the bread and milk shopping list and expanded to other items such steak.

She said bread, milk, eggs, and meat were among the top products sold at the store and normally just a day before the storm was expected to strike.

She said the mentality is simply the ‘I don’t think I’ll be able to buy my groceries tomorrow’ mindset and not necessarily because bread and milk are so amazing.

Even online, the bread and milk conundrum has taken hold.

One Yahoo online forum contributor posed the question: “With everyone in my office talking about the threat of snow tomorrow (in the NJ area), it reminded me of the whole populace going crazy every time there will be a storm. People flock to the stores to buy milk and bread. Why just milk and bread? How about picking up some steaks, a chicken, pizza, something else instead of half the makings of French toast?”

Rated the “best answer” was, “perishable stuff like bread and milk sells first at the store, if you don’t get them right away they are gone because people do want easy stuff to eat in case of a power out(age). I think we feel the need to hoard so we can hibernate instead of going out in the weather.”

Another user, by the name of “Princess Leia,” said, “Because people are going for the basics that you usually run out of first or perishable items that go bad first. At least with bread you can make a sandwich … and you need milk to make cereal, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, etc.”

Still another person responded, “The basics are easier to deal with. Bread will make more than sandwiches, milk is an universal kind of food/drink which will help if power is out for a while.”

In any case, the need for bread and milk is clear, but somewhat uncertain.

“I’ve never really thought about it,” Bronstein Quinnlan said.

She said her mother used to always get “the basics” when a storm was predicted, and she followed suit.

“You know, I don’t know why it is,” Kenneth Scholam said.

Stormy Burke said one reason why bread and milk seem practical may be because in New England, even when the power is out, items are easy to keep cool as long as there is snow on the ground.

Packing coolers with sandwich meats (for the much sought-after bread) and chilling a gallon or two of milk in the snow when the refrigerator isn’t an option isn’t that far-fetched of an idea, she said.

Weston said one thing she has noticed over the years is that shoppers have not only expanded their lists, but they also seem to have more of a strategy in place when they stop by her store.

“They do have some form of planning,” she said.

Whatever the reasons may be, the need for bread and milk were evident at places such as Janetos and Market Basket where either the bread or milk aisle — or both — required restocking, or at least were seeing a heavy volume of consumers stocking up for the predicted snowstorm.

According to the National Weather Service based in Gray, Maine, the system will bring a pattern of precipitation opposite of what was seen most during this past weekend’s storm.

Meteorologist Steve Capriola said most points inland will see roughly 10 to 14 inches of snow and coastal areas likely will experience much less.

“It’s going to vary across the state,” he said.

This storm, much like the last, will occur over a long duration of time, making accumulations difficult to gauge in some areas, especially those that experience a lot of rain.

“The amounts will be difficult to zero in on due to mostly rain,” Capriola said.

Though the winter storm warning is extended through Thursday, the bulk of this system is expected to wind down by Wednesday night.

Capriola did say, however, that lingering flurries could add to the accumulation totals.

“This event is going to be some snow to begin with but mainly rain,” he said.

Capriola did not know any logic behind the bread and milk phenomenon.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

 

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