We’ve all heard the wisecracks about panicked shoppers overloading on bread and milk in the hours before a predicted winter storm, and maybe you’ve even seen it happen. But stocking up for a winter storm doesn't need to be a disorganized, last-minute frenzy -- it’s safe to buy most of the things on your winter food stock-up list now, while the weather is still good.
And if you live in an area that sees heavy snow most winters, getting an early start is a smart idea.
After heavy snowfall or blizzard conditions, you could find yourself snowed in for days. Getting cut off from your local grocery store could be made worse by a prolonged power outage, which would leave you with just a few hours to safely enjoy the remaining contents of your fridge.
But if you stock your pantry with filling, shelf-stable foods, you won’t go hungry while you’re waiting for the snow to be cleared. Here are some of the smartest essentials to purchase well in advance of an impending storm:
You’ll do just fine for a few days with those pantry staples alone, but if you have time to get to the grocery store before the big storm hits, it’s nice to have these on hand:
Staying safe throughout a winter weather event involves more than filling your belly. As long as you’re stocking up on things, make sure your emergency preparedness kit is topped off with the following:
Some members of your household may have unique needs, so make sure they’re factored into your shopping list as well:
If you’re worried about being snowed-in without power for a day or more, there are a few other areas where you might stock up:
No gas stove? No problem, if you have an outdoor grill. Just be sure to get necessities like charcoal, matches, newspapers and lighter fluid, or a full tank of propane for a gas grill. You can also use a camping stove if you have a supply of the appropriate fuel. A teakettle and French press will come in handy if you end up making your morning coffee by the heat of the fire.
If you have an emergency backup generator, you’ll want to top off your supply of fuel and replace and old fuel that may be stale. Make sure the generator is up to date on maintenance like oil changes, filters and spark plugs, and ensure that any extension cords you’re using are undamaged and rated for generator use. If you want to run your generator through your main electrical panel but haven’t had an electrician install a transfer switch, get this service done before you have a blizzard bearing down.
You can help your refrigerator and freezer maintain cold temperatures during a power outage by filling empty space with containers of water -- or better yet, ice. If outdoor temperatures are below freezing, you can freeze several large containers of water at once and keep them cycling in and out of your fridge and freezer, just in case.
Another option is to use dry ice, which maintains a temperature of -109 degrees Fahrenheit. If you can obtain dry ice locally right before or after a power outage, you can use it to save your perishables as long as you replace it as needed. The FDA recommends 50 pounds of dry ice to keep a fully stocked 18-foot cubic freezer frozen for two days; to fine-tune the temperature of your fridge and freezer with dry ice, it will help to have a couple of refrigerator thermometers.
While you’re out gathering all these supplies, don’t forget to fill up your car’s gas tank. Winter storms could interrupt fuel deliveries in your area.