Pantry tips

I used to have lunch outside the office all of the time. I thought of it as a nice break. It also helped that my office @the time was within walking distance of a Costco so lunch rarely cost more than a couple of bucks. Now I work in a fancy suburban area where the lunch options are the usual DC suburban suspects: Panera, Chipotle, Potbelly, Baja Fresh, etc. Not only does lunch at any of these places run upwards of 10$ or even more, the portions are ginormous.

So recently I decided to free myself from the tyranny of both hunger and conspicuous consumption and make my own lunches. I know, I’m not the first one to come to this conclusion as takeout lunches are usually the first things to be cut by people trying to save calories, money, or both, but you can get sick of frozen entrees really quick. So here are some things I found to make dining @the office almost pleasant – almost:

  • Condiments and spices: having a nice stash of these makes eating in an office building tolerable. I found disposable (filled) salt & pepper shakers @Giant Food for about a 1$ for the set. Just having salt & pepper around will make your life easier. Here are some other shelf-stable condiments to consider:
    • Honey & cinnamon to make peanut butter on crackers interesting;
    • Tabasco sauce for all kinds of stuff (I like it in my mac & cheese);
    • Garlic powder for pizza and pasta, just not too much, or italian seasoning and crushed red pepper (aka red dots) if you don’t want to stink;
    • Peanut butter: a shelf-stable source of protein;
    • Soy sauce: soy sauce + peanut butter + lemon juice + honey + red dots + 2 minutes = pretty good peanut sauce for noodles, dips, etc.
  • Nice plates & flatware: who wants to eat on plastic all of the time? Plus, what if you want to eat an orange and it’s really hard to peel? A plastic knife just won’t do!
  • Boxes or cups of instant noodles: either from a Asian market, Trader Joe’s, or the International section of whatever grocery store. They’re very carb-heavy, but if you go to a salad bar to get a few ingredients that don’t weigh much (spinach, mushrooms, fake crab meat, etc.) and throw them into the microwaveable noodle container while you’re cooking them, and you get a nice meal out of it.
  • Cooking spray: If you have one of these, you can make scrambled eggs in the morning and they won’t get stuck in your plastic container.
  • A refillable water bottle: free yourself from the soda machine.