After an amazingly mild November, the weather has finally gotten cold here in Georgia. Well, “cold” is a relative term. Temperatures have occasionally dipped into the 30s and 40s. People are bundling up here, but that’s still considered shorts weather in some parts of the Midwest.

Regardless of where you are, the winter brings a change in cuisine. It’s time to put away the outdoor grills and break out the crock pots. Cold salads are out, and hot dishes are in. This is comfort food season.

When we had our first really cold evening here, my wife made a big pot of beef stroganoff. Other favorites in the family during the winter are chili, meat loaf, pot roast and chicken & dumplings. Some recipes are new, and others go back to our grandparents. But when the wind is howling and we have to break out our heavier coats, those old-fashioned recipes just hit the spot.

Many independent grocers have found great success by offering ready-to-eat meals. As the days grow shorter, people are coming home from work in the dark. It’s not a great time to whip up a meal from scratch. This is the perfect time to offer a variety of traditional meals that are already assembled and just need a little time in the oven to cook. Think about things with lots of sauce or gravy. Thick soups are also a hearty option to offer.

If you need inspiration for meals to offer, look no further than your own history. Think about those meals you enjoyed as a kid, the ones that warmed up your stomach on a cold wintry day and spread that warmth throughout your limbs. The spring will bring light meals, and summer brings grilled brats and burgers. But now is the time to offer up a rich and savory taste of home that fits with a glass of wine and a cozy night in front of the fireplace.

Sam Gazdziak