So here’s a new term: “Bomb Cyclone.”

It’s a thing, and it’s supposed to impact something like 41 million Americans starting tomorrow….including we New Englanders. Currently, the weather forecasters are estimating that our city here in RI will get as much as 14 inches of snow, plus high winds; the kids’ school principal sent an email basically first thing this morning letting parents know that he’s not bothering with waiting and has already decided to close school. If this storm goes the way they’re predicting, I’m going to guess school will also be closed on Friday, and depending on the status of power, roads and plowing of parking lots, we may not be going anywhere on Saturday, either.

People in New England are funny. I’ve lived here for 15 years now, and it still amuses me how much New Englanders freak out over snow. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t relish the idea of the possibility that our power will go out, taking our heat with it, making our living conditions unbearable and potentially freezing our pipes in the bargain. Really, really hoping that doesn’t happen. Nor do I enjoy the prospect of all the shoveling that will need to be done — yes, J. and the boys will likely do most of it, but I’m not so delicate and helpless that I can’t or won’t pitch in. Still, it’s snow. In New England. You’d think we’d be good at handling this kind of weather by now.

Instead, people have been rushing out for the past two days, buying up all the available bread and milk in a panic, clearing shelves of candles and batteries, and generally operating in a state of mayhem. I’m told it has something to do with the legendary Blizzard of ’78, when apparently only a few inches were called for, but instead a huge storm walloped the area and caused a total shutdown for days…? Anyway, despite the fact that our predictive modeling is way better now, and we have a pretty good idea what we’re in for, and technology and emergency preparedness and so forth have also improved in the past 40 years, people are still worried that they’ll be snowed in and starve because they don’t have enough bread. Or milk.

Leading me to ask: What’s in your freezers and pantries, anyway?

Not that I begrudge anyone who’s running out to get a few things because they’re running low and they want to beat the weather. I’m just baffled by the people who are stockpiling like Armageddon is coming. I actually had to reluctantly head out this morning because I realized that we WERE a bit low on milk and eggs, and I needed some probiotic help because I’ve been taking an antibiotic to clear a nasty sinus infection and it’s not doing my gut any favors. So, rolling my eyes at myself, I went and got milk and eggs and probiotics, and while I was at it I grabbed some new flashlights and batteries, a carton of yogurt to supplement what’s on hand, and a big bag of onions.

Why onions? Because once I had the milk and eggs, I needed only one more thing — a good supply of onions, as mine was dwindling — to be able to comfortably feed us for at least the next six or seven days.

Looking around me at the cash register, I saw people with huge carts heaped with shelf-stable foods, several loaves of bread, cans of everything under the sun, jar after jar of peanut butter…and I legitimately wondered for a second if I had lost my mind and failed to adequately plan for what’s coming.  And then I snapped out of it and realized that it’s not that I haven’t planned for the snowstorm; it’s that a lot of other people don’t plan well for meals IN GENERAL, so when something like this comes along they just don’t know what they’re going to eat, how they’re going to make it, and they don’t have a ready supply of potential ingredients on hand.

For a lot of my neighbors, prepping for the storm, at least food-wise, means that they’ve got to scramble to try to plan for some sort of meals that won’t require them to rush out at a moment’s notice to get that ingredient they need or that thing they forgot. They have to think more than a day or two in advance, and I know plenty of people who just don’t operate that way. That’s why they’re scared now and fighting the lines at the grocery stores to get the last loaves of bread and gallons of milk; they really DON’T have freezers and pantries that are stocked with the basics they need to pull together some decent emergency meals, or if they do, they don’t realize it. They don’t have the kitchen skills necessary to look at what’s on hand and figure out how to feed everyone for a week if they need to.

For me, being a meal-planner means the storm prep is something entirely different: I’m looking at the basic staples, like onions and olive oil, eggs and grains, to make sure I can pull something together if I have to. It means I’m double checking my freezer for pre-made homemade meals and for extras of meat and vegetables that I can press into service. And it means doing a couple of other quick things before the storm hits to ensure we’re ready, like soaking a pot of beans that I can cook overnight in the slow cooker and activating my sourdough starter to set some batter overnight, which will be ready to turn into waffles or pancakes tomorrow — an easy way to extend our food supply, and a good substitute for the bread I didn’t bother to buy in case we really end up missing it.

I can’t control how much snow we get, or whether we lose power, or how long we’ll be snowed in, or how long it will be before the city is back up and running normally in the event of a really severe hit. But by having meals planned in advance (and the groceries on hand for those meals for at least the next few days), some additional meals already cooked and put by in the freezer for emergencies, and a pantry, refrigerator and freezer full of staples plus the basic skills necessary to turn those staples into decent meals, I can relax knowing that everything I can control is well in hand.

Snow Day Menus:

Breakfasts: Sourdough waffles/pancakes, cereal, yogurt, eggs, oatmeal
Lunches: Peanut butter waffle/pancake sandwiches, quesadillas, dinner leftovers, egg salad, tuna, beans and rice
Dinners: Turkey tacos and beans, as planned; Shepherd’s pie (converted to filling served on a bed of mashed potatoes, if we lose our oven), as planned; Chicken milanese, risotto and vegetables, as planned. If we need to go longer without shopping, we’ve got enough supplies in the house to make an alfredo or mac and cheese plus several different simple soups, we can make nachos or burritos using meat and bean filling from the freezer, and we have frozen chicken and dumplings that can be reheated. That would get us through at least next Tuesday without grocery shopping, and without much inconvenience. Hopefully things will be back to normal by then!