Chow Line: Nonperishable foods to stock up on in advance of a snowstorm

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Due to this week’s snowstorm, I wasn’t able to get to the grocery store for a couple of days and we really weren’t prepared at all. What are some foods I should have on hand if I think I’ll be snowbound again for a few days?

Generally speaking, bread and milk are typically the first items that many people stock up on when a winter weather emergency is forecast.

While there are several theories as to why many people hoard bread and milk in anticipation of winter storms, the meteorologists at attribute the trend to the record-breaking Blizzard of 1978, when New Englanders were trapped in their homes for several weeks and the items that were most purchased prior to the storm were, you guessed it, bread and milk.

However, if you really want to be prepared in the event of a snowstorm or other weather event that may keep you inside for a few days, you should make sure you have at least three days’ worth of food and water on hand, says the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The average person needs 1 gallon of water per day, depending on their age, physical activity and health, the agency says.

You should also have enough nonperishable food for yourself, your family and your pets, advise the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Red Cross.

On their food and beverage lists:

  • Milk (yes, milk!) in either shelf-stable or powdered form in case you lose power.
  • Cans of soups, stews, vegetables, beans and other items that can be eaten hot or cold.
  • Dried meats like beef jerky and canned or vacuum-sealed pouches of tuna, chicken, potted meat or sausages.
  • Snack foods such as whole-grain crackers and cereal, granola bars, dried fruit, applesauce, fruit cups, trail mix, nuts, and peanut or other nut butters.
  • Fresh fruit that have a longer shelf life, like apples, oranges and pears.

And for pets, you should have on hand dry or wet food in cans or sealed containers or bags, in addition to enough water for each pet.

If your power goes out, remember to keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service advises. The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about four hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours, or at least 24 hours if it is half full and the door remains closed.

You should throw out refrigerated perishable foods such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs and leftovers if they’ve been without power for more than four hours.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line author Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or

Editor: This column was originally reviewed by Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences educator for Ohio State University Extension.

Tracy Turner
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Jenny Lobb
Family and Consumer Sciences