What food do you stock up on when it's stupid cold outside?

Photo: fantail (iStock)

Here in bright, balmy Chicago, we’re getting slammed today with several inches of snow, which will freeze tomorrow, just in time for possibly the coldest day in city history on Wednesday. A state of emergency has been declared throughout Wisconsin, and many schools have already canceled classes until Thursday. Even Atlanta has a winter watch advisory right now. This is shaping up to be one sucky weather week for a large swath of the country. And if you have just Marie Kondo’ed your entire house, your fridge and pantry shelves may even be more bare than usual, stripped of expired food and donated cans.

While this particular cold/snow snap is only set to last a few days, we at The Takeout still got to wondering: What’s the best way to stock up for hibernation weather? Why do people always head straight for the milk and bread?

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A trip to TJ’s

I probably can squeeze in one more Trader Joe’s trip before it gets too cold to go outside. Thinking about some frozen Orange Mandarin Chicken, peanut butter, extra oatmeal. Granola bars to toss at the kids when they’re getting stir-crazy. I am a sucker for the bread and milk, and also large supplies of breakfast cereal, which can also be turned into an afternoon snack, or late-night dessert. A Crock-Pot full of chili may help to lift my sagging indoor spirits. And baking something (anything, like cookies or muffins) tomorrow will not only feed us, but offer a sorely needed afternoon kid project. [Gwen Ihnat]

Colorful citrus

When the weather is truly gross, I have a habit of reverting to what a friend of mine once deemed “war soup:” beige, heavy stews that look like foods you’d cook only if your city was under siege. Those foods are filling, but not morale boosting. To compensate, I try to pick up a half-dozen blood oranges or red grapefruits before a big snowstorm. They taste fresh and bright and stay ripe (but not spoiled) for days. Bonus: No scurvy! [Kate Bernot]

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Combat frozen with frozen

Like Gwen, I’m of the belief that Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken is really tasty (my advice is to use only half of the sauce packet).

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Being stuck indoors is also a great excuse to indulge in something I’d almost never buy: frozen TV dinners. It’s not the most delicious meal I could prepare, but I get a warm and fuzzy feeling bundled on the couch, eating a plastic tray of barely-crisp fried chicken and molten mashed potatoes. Maybe it reminds me of snow days growing up.

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Another thing I love to heat up in my microwave: Costco’s Italian-style beef meatballs. Next to IKEA’s, these are my favorite frozen meatballs, with zesty flavors of bell peppers, garlic, and cheese in the spice mix. It’s the quickest route towards an Italian meatball sub: warmed marinara sauce + meatballs + mozzarella + toasted bun.

You know what else I’m rediscovering? Packets of Lipton’s Cream of Chicken Cup-A-Soup. Yes, I can make better soup, but I dig the convenience of dumping a packet of dehydrated soup mix into my mug and having soup within 45 seconds. There’s not much depth to its flavor (does savory hot cream sound appetizing?), but like frozen TV dinners, it reminds me of something from the past.

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About the author

Gwen Ihnat

Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.

Kevin Pang

Kevin Pang was the founder and editor-in-chief of The Takeout, and director of the documentary For Grace on Netflix.

Kate Bernot

Kate Bernot is managing editor at The Takeout and a certified beer judge.