This Is Why Snow Alerts Cause Bread-And-Milk Anxiety

People tend to hoard some strange things when winter is coming. Those first few flakes of snow might have you pocketing condiments or being frugal with your takeout containers or accepting more than your usual amount of free tote bags. Khaleesi wandered the seven kingdoms carrying around three unhatched dragon eggs, for crying out loud. And yet, for some reason, stockpiling bread, milk, and maybe even regular (non-dragon) eggs has become the norm for winter storm prep. When the alerts say that snow is on its way, people get positively anxious about making it to the store for these basic, perishable essentials. So, what's up? Are we wisely worrying, or is a mob mentality making us act irrationally?

The answer might be a little bit of both, according to How Stuff Works. When the weather makes it impossible for you to get to the store, or for Postmates to get to your doorstep, you're going to need to keep yourself fed at home; buying a few extra supplies when you hear a storm is coming is probably a smart move. But, as How Stuff Works puts it, "if you're buying multiples of milk, yet fully expect your electricity to go out, there's probably an emotional rather than practical motivation at work." Perishable items only last a few days, after all, so panic-buying more milk and bread than you can consume before they expire might mean you're in crazy-Khaleesi territory.

Sense memory, snow psychology, and good old-fashioned panic purchasing

While it might not make sense to buy food that needs refrigeration when you might soon lose power, Fox29 says the fear is based on an understanding of grocery store stock – stores have more noticeable limits on how many perishable goods they can sell (like bread and milk), while the rows of canned goods seem to stretch on for eternity. Plus, there's that good old stockpiling mentality, which says it's better to have too much of something and not use it than to not have something you need. But as How Stuff Works points out, how you shop for a storm is kind of like a Buzzfeed quiz: it can tell you a lot about what kind of person you are. Clinical psychologist Judy Rosenberg explained, "Buying perishables is like saying, 'the storm will be over soon and I won't be stuck in this situation for long.'" 

Forbes contributor Marshall Shepherd seems to think the bread-and-milk anxiety might be justified depending on your geography; after all, places that don't usually experience severe weather are not as equipped to snow-plow a path to the grocery store. But Pittsburgh Magazine seems to believe it's a collective cultural memory of blizzards-past that has many folks (at least those who live in Pittsburgh) hunting and gathering the essentials before a storm. After all, "The Big Snow" of 1950, as it was called, left 'Burgh-ers without – you guessed it – milk and bread. And, presumably, dragon eggs.