Storm's on the way -- buy bread, milk! Why?

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WYFF) —We've all heard it.  And most of us have wondered why.  A winter storm is on the way, and that can only mean one thing.  Rush out immediately and buy milk and bread.

Hunting widely across the Internet, it's pretty apparent that the "milk and bread" alarm raises more questions than answers, and though theories abound, there doesn't seem to be one consistent reason for why store shelves get emptied of these two items.

Comedian Vic Dibitetto's 2013 rant about buying milk and bread garnered more than 10 million views on YouTube, so the topic is obviously one of high interest.

The bread and milk stampede seems to be mostly a southern tradition, but a Northeasterner posting on a travel site attributed it to have all started after a few bad blizzards in New England in the 1970s that shut down transit for so long that perishable items could not be delivered to stores.  So if you hadn't purchased your bread and milk in advance, you would be waiting days, or even weeks, for bakers and farmers to be able to get their goods to the grocery stores.

In an effort to find a plausible, psychological reason for the phenomena, HowStuffWorks writer  Laurie L. Dove cites New York City-based psychotherapist Lisa Brateman theory.

Brateman says the compulsive desire to stockpile perishables items like bread and milk isn't based on logical behavior.

"The thought to get milk before a storm is followed by the action or compulsion to go out and stockpile. 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," she said.

Her theory is that if you instead filled your cart with non-perishable items, such as beans and tuna, you are waving a psychological white flag and admitting you expect the storm to keep you homebound for an extended time.

Brateman says conversely, perishables like milk and bread are about optimism, and belief that the storm won't trouble you long enough for the milk to spoil or the bread to go stale.

So really, what should you buy if you are actually concerned about a loss of power or travel difficulty? NOAA's list includes: flashlight and extra batteries, high energy foods such as dried fruit or energy bars, and other foods requiring no cooking or refrigeration; extra medicine and baby items; heating fuel and an emergency heating source.

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