Forget the milk: Here are winter weather food shopping tips

jholleman@thestate.comFebruary 10, 2014 

Running out to pick up bread and milk before a winter storm is as much a Southern tradition as collard greens and black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day.

But if you’re really going to be holed up at home for three days, what are the best food choices – especially if you might be without power for a long time?

We asked for winter weather shopping advice from two nutrition experts – Brie Turner-McGrievy, an assistant professor in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina, and Donna Quirk, clinical nutrition manager at Lexington Medical Center.

“There’s nothing wrong with getting bread,” Quirk said, “but I probably wouldn’t get milk because it’s not stable for long.”

Standard milk won’t keep well if this week’s storm brings more ice than snow, as expected, and causes long-term power outages.

In general, if you go to the store to stock up for a winter storm, it’s a good idea to stay away from anything that is refrigerated in the store.

“You want to make sure you have a stock of non-perishable food items on hand to last you for a while,” Turner-McGrievy said.

For breakfast, they recommend cereal and dried fruit. If you must have milk on your dry cereal, you can buy soy milk in containers that don’t have to be refrigerated. You might even put them outside to cool for a few minutes before using them.

For lunch, they suggest peanut butter and jam or honey sandwiches along with fruits that can stay outside the refrigerator such as apples, pears, oranges and bananas. For snacks, go with dried fruit and nut mixes or granola bars.

Turner-McGrievy would stock up on dried beans and bottled salsa. Mix them together and scoop them up with tortilla chips for a snack or a full meal.

Generally, a refrigerator starts warming up inside about four hours after a house loses power. A full freezer will remain cold for up to two days, while a half-full freezer might stay cold only for one day, Quirk said.

If you heat with a fire during a power outage, you can cook over the fire. Turner-McGrievy likes canned veggie chili, which can be heated up quickly. You can wrap baked potatoes in aluminum foil and cook them right on the coals.

“Although canned veggies are usually something to avoid, they may be your best and only choice for veggies when the power is out,” Turner-McGrievy said.

Most people don’t consider this, Quirk said, but you can eat canned soups and chili straight out of the cans.

If you have exposed pipes that could freeze or if you rely on electrical power to run a well, you might need bottled water. The rule of thumb is one gallon per person per day, Quirk said.

Also consider that if you’re trapped inside for several days, you probably are burning fewer calories than normal.

“While cold weather tends to make us want to go to heavy comfort foods, keep in mind that being snowbound means you should probably be mindful of the calories you’re taking in,” Turner-McGrievy said. “In addition, being unable to get to the store for a few days can be a good time to force yourself to break bad food habits.”

Give up soda or caffeine for a few days and maybe it’ll stick. Or if the grocery store already is out of white bread when you get there, maybe the storm will be a good excuse to switch your taste buds to wheat bread that’s better for you.

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