Grocery stores slammed as blizzard hits Northeast

People are hoarding milk, bread and eggs. Is everyone going to make French toast?

By Jonathan Berr Feb 8, 2013 2:53PM
Full Shopping Cart in Grocery Store -- Fuse/Getty ImagesFor Wegman's Food Markets, a family-owned grocery chain with 81 locations throughout the Northeast, the forecast of a historic blizzard headed to the region Friday is a mixed blessing.

Jo Natali, a spokeswoman for the Rochester, N.Y., company, tells MSN Money that business at some stores was up 300% Thursday. The spike in business, however, isn't going to last, especially if forecasts calling for as much as two feet of snow to the area prove accurate.

"It will be pretty quiet over the next few days," she said in an interview. "It all evens out."

The storm is especially taxing on providers of staples such as milk, bread and eggs. People start hoarding the ingredients for French toast when serious weather events are expected to hit their regions.

"Why people do it I don't know," said Jim Lesser, vice president of sales and marketing for Oakhurst Dairy in Portland, Maine, in an interview. The dairy produces milk, sour cream and cottage cheese. "It just happens."

Oakhurst, which began preparing for the storm earlier this week, is running special deliveries to stores that sell through their morning deliveries within hours. 

People also buy food that can be easily prepared in the event of a power outage, such as peanut butter and luncheon meat, according to Mona Golub, a spokeswoman for Golub Corp., which owns and manages 130 Price Chopper supermarkets in the Northeast.

"We are not running short of anything that I am aware of," says Golub, whose family has been in the grocery business for 80 years. The company has merchandising plans in place in the event of inclement weather.

Bread producers are also under pressure. LaMarca & Sons of Malden, Mass., which calls itself New England's largest independent distributor of quality breads and rolls, is trying to keep up with orders. A recorded message on its phone line says, "the drivers are doing their best to get your delivery."

Egg consumption also rises during storms. Farmers, though, can't get chickens to lay eggs faster ahead of inclement weather. In fact, Mitch Head, a spokesman of the United Egg Producers, points out that chickens never take a day off and always lay an egg per day.

"All of our folks are doing the best they can," said Head, whose organization represents farmers that own 95% of the nation's egg-laying hens.

--Jonathan Berr wonders if he should have bought a snow-blower. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.

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Tags: Food
Feb 8, 2013 6:15PM
I live in Ohio.  Blizzard of 1978, we were one of the very few with bread and milk, because I kept an "emergency" shelf of flour, pwdrd milk, yeast. Also canned meat,and veg. It is just a matter of common sense. No matter where you live you can bet at some point there will be some sort of weather related mess.  Just be prepared.  Also, lay in a good supply of Crown Royal, and a good Brandy. It really helps when an entire family is getting cabin fever.
Feb 8, 2013 4:42PM
My wife and I always laught at these people going in a frenzy at the news of some storm coming their way. Not us, it would have to be really bad for us to get exited as we are always prepared and that goes for power outage also, I will leave the lights on for you....
Feb 8, 2013 5:26PM
This is not Little House on the Prairie.  We will not be snowed in for months, so there is no reason to buy 17 loaves of bread, 14 gallons of milk and 9 pounds of cheese.
I ran to my grocery store last night because I forgot an item from my regular trip earlier in the week.  ALL of the bread was gone!  Rolls, bagels, Italian, tortillas, hot dog rolls, etc.,   ALL of it except wheat and whole grain breads.
Feb 8, 2013 5:45PM

It;s going to warm up on Sun, rain on Mon , 40's on Tues' more rain Wed and all the snow will be gone

What's the big deal

Feb 8, 2013 4:37PM
When I was on the farm as a kid " Egg a day hen" would have been "Chicken and Noodles" come sunday LOL
Feb 8, 2013 4:34PM
anyone who hasn;t been to a wegmans is in for a suprise if they ever get to one, best supermarkets around.
Feb 8, 2013 4:40PM

What is really bad is when people hoard milk and bread and those of us who work and need bread and milk can't get it.  Also if the power goes out what do they do with the meat and bread.  I am just glad we bought a generator years money we saved from hoarding milk and bread.  Thanks from snowy Pa.


Feb 8, 2013 6:51PM
Buy six months worth of groceries for a 1-2 day storm? Does that make sense to anyone, but the screaming weathermen. 
Feb 8, 2013 6:29PM
I would have to go with Mr. Lesser on this one...never quite understood it myself. And if power goes down for a few days, that could mean several gallons of spoiled milk. I always keep a few basic staples and canned goods on hand but I refuse to create a doomsday stockpile. My last stop before an impending weather event of this nature would likely be a package store.
Feb 8, 2013 7:00PM
I agree these people that rush to the stores  and buy up all this stuff are looney @ best. This is like the people that wait for blizzard to happen to buy a snow blower or for a heat wave to buy an air conditioner or fans...just no common sense.
Feb 8, 2013 6:41PM

I still can not figure out this urge to hoard dairy product.  Once you lose power, the stuff goes bad real fast.  You don't look quite as stupid in the winter because you can always stick your six gallons of milk in the snow.


What I am a big believer in is having a substantial stockpile of protein-rich and calorie-rich foods. My rule of thumb is minimum two months supply, preferably three.  Irene and Sandy are all the proof you need to know that EMA is not up to the job, and their recommendations are not worth a damn.  Protein and calories equal survival.  When you talk emergencies and survival situations, you work rate is going to increase, which means the number of calories you burn will increase.  You're not going to get enough calories into your belly to get the job done eating crap like vegetables, granola bars or peanut butter and crackers.


The must-haves:  protein bars, tuna, canned chicken, canned chili, canned stew, canned soup (not condensed), and rice.  I prefer the 15 ounce sizes on the chili and stew because of they are easier to store and easier to toss into a kit.  When I see the stuff a buck a can, with a 30 month shelf life, I'm picking the stuff up at least a case at a time.  Rice has so many advantages.  You can get a lot of it cheap and it's easy to vacuum-seal by servings.  My rule of thumb for food preparation:  all you should need is the means to start a fire and safe water for the rice; anything in a can can be cooked in its container.  But you would be astonished at just how many people are unaware of such basics.


One other thing to be aware of: snow is a poor choice if you're looking to hydrate yourself. Stuff enough of it into your mouth and the net result will be hypothermia because the snow will lower your body temperature.  Think about how much of the stuff you would have to melt to fill a one-liter bottle and ask yourself if it's really a good idea to ingest it.


All that food in the freezer won't help you if the power goes out.  Canned goods will be the best bet.

Do with powdered milk for a day although it's nasty.  Eat leftovers or something.  You can always

borrow something from your neighbor and pay them back I'm sure.  If you are afraid eggs will be sold

out, then get the other sizes available as an option to substitute for the size you normally buy.

If I am snowed in, I can walk to the store for something.  Get out the cook books and fix something.

Learn how to fix meals instead of depending on microwave dinners.  I have a generator that will

power my furnace and kitchen. Candles and kerosene lamps light the rooms. 

Feb 8, 2013 4:20PM
Wegman's is not based in Schenectady, NY.
Feb 8, 2013 8:41PM
I was raised in Ohio also. It was just normal to keep a good supply of water, beans, rice, flour, sugar, canned vegetables canned fruits in our basement. We also had sleeping bags, battery operated radio and clock,  blankets, lanterns, flashlights,batteries,candles and matches stored just in case. I also remember having to hunker down in the basement with my family several times, until  severe thunder storms blew over. It was pretty intense!! Those times remind me of the scene on the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy couldn't get into the fall-out shelter, pretty scary!!.
Feb 8, 2013 8:01PM
we should be prepared for anything, not just  this big snow storm hitting us in mass, it could be rain, wind, people flock the stores to buy what they need the day, stock up people when they sell those items cheep when the season changes for the next  seasons , be ready
Feb 8, 2013 8:56PM

My biggest fear was running out of Twinkies or Candy and Booze...


Don't have to worry about the Twinkies anymore....I'm gonna go to my room and cry now.

Feb 8, 2013 8:15PM
if you lose power it stinks to have a electric stove, we have a gas stove so were in good shape  just light the burner with a match, plus just bbq outside with you propain grill ,we have before in past storms
Feb 8, 2013 5:58PM

Why do you have to bring him into this???  If need be, get a life!!!


Feb 8, 2013 6:44PM
I've spent 20+ years in retail grocery. It balances out is true. As far as sales goes. Once these people realize they spent their wad for this weeks groceries they wont be back in till next week. Usually Fri,Sat is sales day in groceries but if it happens on Monday you can bet Fri-Sat will be down. But since its already Fri the business would have been good to begin with. Next Mon-Thurs will be down. Its funny that the world considers US citizens to be fat,spoiled and lazy and when weather has any impedance on possibly missinga meal people go nuts and bum rush the stores.hahahaha
Feb 8, 2013 8:53PM

Sorry we just call them woosies...Or WORSE...


NO SENSE, making a run on Stores if you may only be snowed, flooded or shut in for a day or two..

And much of the time it's not even that long...

Doesn't anyone know how to walk anymore, down to the corner, the restaurant or the bar..??

Most times they may have a Generator or alternate cooking methods or at least cold stuff, like whiskey or beer..?

We don't hoard or store too much stuff, but think we can last about 3 months without going to a store....We have large freezer and fridge freezer, along with pantry.

We can drink water, pop/soda, coffee,tea, juice, booze, beer or wine..

Probably run out of bread in two or so weeks, milk in a week, because of cats and wife.

Have a generator and well water, but would run out of gas in couple days, have to siphon out of cars or truck....

Frozen food/ or others can be put outside in cold weather.....Needs to be hung up or eaten..

Have alternate power supplies, gas, electric or fuel/wood...All helps.

Yes, we are lucky to live in the Country, and have some common sense..

Living in snowbound areas will teach you that..Worst 8 days, usually no more then 2-3..NBFD. 

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