Heather shares her pain point: Having a somewhat limited kitchen in the office and getting tired of eating the same, what feels like, limited foods all the time.
Without knowing how limited “limited” is, I’m going to assume you’ve probably got the standard office equipment: microwave, fridge and sink. Maybe, you also have a little bit of counter space or small table for prepping things.
What’s your commitment?
Eating better at work does take a little extra imagination and preparedness, but worth it for your health…and often your financial health. For example, in college, I’d go home monthly to mass-produce and freeze mini-Shepherds Pies to pop in my contraband toaster oven while I studied. It took time, but kept me from ordering junk when the dining hall was closed. Before you take on your work kitchen, some questions to consider are:
- Are you down with leftovers, a.k.a. the fruits of your cook-once-eat-twice labors, if you’re going to pack? Be honest with yourself.
- What can you delegate to your loyal “kitchen robots” (like crockpots, dehydrators, and bread makers) while you’re at work?
- What’s a good, realistic starting place for you? Is it a jar of homemade soup or salad dressing? Is it the fully prepped components of a meal? What are you willing to make & take?
- What will make your coworkers go bananas? It’s one thing to whip up some porridge in the kitchenette, but another to have the whole hallway smell like fish.
What cooking gear won’t get you fired?
I’m a huge fan of asking for forgiveness instead of asking for permission. If you like to follow the rules a little bit more, ask what gadgets are allowed in your workplace. Each office has totally different policies (and levels of enforcement). Let’s consider what the following options can help with:
- Chef knife and cutting board: Having these two things alone can help you create a wealth of healthier snacks and meals. A past coworker made these gorgeous salads in less than 10 minutes of chopping and weekly trip to the Farmers Market around the corner. Ingredients were in-season, organic and money saving. Plus, a knife is awesome for slathering protein-rich nut butters on fruit slices and hummus on chopped veggies or desk drawer-friendly brown rice cakes.
- Blender: Some office kitchens come equipped with these now. High-speed models like Vitamix are creating more compact versions (with to-go jars, too). A juice or smoothie can really pack some nutritional punch, but these bad boys can do so much more. Think: Fresh salad dressing, a peanut dipping sauce for pre-cooked chicken & raw veggies in rice-paper wraps, or a bowl of hot tomato soup on a cold day.
- Rice cooker: Beyond plain rice, you can also make amazing risottos and pilafs. Plus, many new models come with an additional tray for steaming additional veggies or animal proteins. Don’t forget multi-grain porridges are a snap and can be loaded with nuts, fruits and seeds to keep you sustained and energized.
- Toaster oven: Combined with a mini-sink and a mini-fridge, you can practically create gourmet meals. Seriously, reheat, toast, roast, bake, and broil. My first Manhattan apartment was 110 sq. ft. with no oven, so I can vouch for this set-up.
- Coffee Maker: I couldn’t resist sharing this outside-the-box take on cooking. I dare you. http://coffeemachinecuisine.com/tag/coffee-maker-chef/
Except for the coffee-maker cuisine, I’ve road tested a lot of these gadgets in the workplace (or that teeny NYC apartment). One word of caution: When your meals at work look really delicious, it’s really tempting for your coworkers to lurk around or try to snatch them.