Why do we stock up on milk and bread ahead of a snowstorm?

WATE 6 On Your Side Staff - KNOXVILLE (WATE) - It's a constant in East Tennessee. The first things people grab at the grocery store in the days leading up to a snowstorm are milk and bread - and toilet paper - but why these items when there are other nutritious items available with longer shelf lives?

Gallery: Milk and bread vanish with a snowstorm hits the South says the tradition started in New England. The website reports during a major blizzard in 1978, many people were trapped in their homes for weeks and they stocked up on the staples.

Pittsburgh Magazine reporter Virginia Montanez discovered in 2014 that during a snowstorm in 1950, milk was the only food item that stores were seeing a shortage of, while bread had to be "doled out" in some stores. Montanez says Pittsburgh residents were likely proactive ahead of the next snowstorm and stocked up on those items just in case.

Experts say there are far better items to stock up on, especially if power outages are anticipated. Michelle Hankes with the Red Cross recommends stocking up on toilet paper, pet food, dry goods like crackers, peanut butter, and canned fruits and vegetables. It's okay to find items to help with a quick sugar or caffeine fix as well.

WATE 6 Storm Team forecast for the Knoxville area

Still, the tradition has inspired a number of Internet memes. Comedian Vic DiBitetto released a "Bread & Milk" song on YouTube in 2013.

There's even a "French Toast Alert" Twitter account.

WATE 6 Storm Team Meteorologist Trent Magill even got in on the hype leading up to the snowfall on January 20, saying the "Panic-o-Meter" was not yet to the level of buying milk and bread.

Don't think bread and milk are the only items people stock up on. Liquor store owners in the Knoxville area say they've been busy as well. The biggest sellers - wine and whiskey.

Related story: Liquor store sales up ahead of winter storm

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