Bread, Eggs, And Milk Disappear From Grocery Store Shelves Prior To Severe Winter Weather

This past weekend, I was watching the local news prior to the snow and “polar vortex” that descended on the Chicago area when the co-anchors started talking about a photo submitted by a Lake View grocery store. It depicted a number of barren shelves where loaves of bread used to be displayed. One anchor proceeded to tell viewers that bread, eggs, and milk typically disappear from grocery stores and supermarkets prior to these types of events.

Bread, eggs, and milk? Okay, I can see that.

This isn’t just a Chicagoland thing either. Nick Schneider reported on the website of southern Indiana’s Greene County Daily World back on January 6, 2010:

Mark Angell, president of Angell’s Food Center in Linton, says it’s kind of a retailing mystery why people seem to flock to the store and stock up on staple items like bread, milk and eggs whenever a big winter storm is predicted.

Empty shelves for those items are not unusual…

When asked why there seems to be likening for bread, milk and eggs as pre-storm supplies, Angell replied, “We have never been able to figure that out. For some reason, bread and milk are the items of choice and that’s what they come after.”

Bloomfield IGA office manager Mandy Donovan also said she’s noticed a rush for the “Big 3” — bread, milk and eggs — whenever a storm is headed toward Greene County.

“They are the staples from back in ‘the day’. Whenever you’d get snowed in, you’d have those things on hand. We joke around and say every time it snows, they (the customers) want French Toast,” she said with a laugh…

French Toast. Yum. All this talk of food is really making it difficult to hold out until lunch time.

In all seriousness, people cleaning out bread, eggs, and milk before a severe weather event is something that’s been investigated at the psychological level. Laurie L. Dove recently authored a piece entitled “Why do people buy up all the bread and milk before a storm hits?” on Discovery’s HowStuffWorks website, and said:

Rain, sleet or snow, there’s milk in the refrigerator and bread in the basket. This may sound a bit like the delivery mantra of the U.S. mail service, but it’s actually the tactic most Americans employ during severe weather. And this behavior offers clues as to the motivations driving them.

The compulsive desire to stockpile perishables isn’t always based on logical behavior. “The thought to get milk before a storm is followed by the action or compulsion to go out and stockpile it. In one way or another, we spend a lot of time and energy trying to feel in control, and buying things you might throw out still gives the person a sense of control in an uncontrollable situation,” says Lisa Brateman, a New York City-based psychotherapist.

In contrast, filling your cart with cans of beans and tuna — or any selection of non-perishables — sends the message that you expect the storm to keep you homebound for an extended period. Although practical, non-perishables are a psychological admission that you’ve surrendered to waiting out the storm and its aftermath; perishables are about optimism.

“Buying perishables is like saying, ‘the storm will be over soon and I won’t be stuck in this situation for long,'” says Judy Rosenberg, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Los Angeles…

Interesting. Without delving too deeply into this matter, I chalk up the buying of these staple foods to the fact that one can make a variety of tasty meals out of them. French Toast included (stomach grumbling).

While I’m a big believer of having food needs taken care of long before extreme weather hits, in the event that I ever find myself doing some last-minute grocery shopping (girlfriend will be laughing pretty hard when she reads this), hitting the sections where the bread, eggs, and milk are kept first is probably not a bad idea.

Or else I might have to contend with the following…

“I’ve got to get some bread and milk, oh my god!”
YouTube Video

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (


Schneider, Nick. “Do you have your bread, milk, eggs? — People tend to stock up on ‘The Big 3’ before bad weather hits.” Greene County Daily World. 6 Jan. 2010. ( 7 Jan. 2014.

Dove, Laurie L. “Why do people buy up all the bread and milk before a storm hits?” ( 7 Jan. 2014.

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Tuesday, January 7th, 2014 Emergencies, Food, Preparedness, Psychology, Supplies, Weather

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