Author Topic: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator  (Read 4861 times)

Inkedup

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Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« on: December 19, 2014, 11:28:23 AM »
Hi Folks,

After tracking my spending and seeing how much cash I was hemorrhaging on lunches (ugh!), I gave myself a face punch and starting preparing my own.
Unfortunately, we have no refrigerator and the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are getting so old that I find myself slipping back into old habits.

Is anyone else in this situation? The place where I work is also tropically hot (year-round, it seems) so I need some advice as to what other lunches I can bring that will not spoil in these conditions.

Thoughts? Suggestions? 
 

Inkedup

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Re: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« Reply #1 on: December 19, 2014, 11:33:48 AM »
No microwave, unfortunately :(

Most of my co-workers eat out. One brings food from home that sits in our office all day, but she has a stomach of steel (I have observed her eating sandwiches made with moldy bread and she has suffered no ill effects.) 

Rural

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Re: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« Reply #2 on: December 19, 2014, 11:52:11 AM »
You can freeze almost any kind of sandwich and it will thaw by lunchtime, too, and no microwave needed. Just don't freeze any crisp veggies you want; stick them in your bag next to the frozen sandwich and they'll stay cool without getting limp.


This works well for cold cuts, tuna salad (you'll have to determine how thick you can go and still have it thaw), chicken salad, hummus, etc. You can make up a whole bunch of sandwiches and freeze on the weekend and then just grab one on your way out. I do a loaf of bread's worth of sandwiches at once.

TexasStash

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Re: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« Reply #3 on: December 19, 2014, 11:52:55 AM »
All of the suggestions above are good, but I also want to mention that there are halfway points to get you started as well.

While I have a refrigerator at work and do bring my lunch as often as I can, another option I have done is the "half bought, half brought" lunch. I bring a can of soda and a bag of chips or other non-perishable snack with me on some days, and then I go out and buy a relatively inexpensive sandwich from any of the places near me. Even paying 3-4 bucks vs 6-7 (or more if you're going to non fast food) is an improvement over eating out every day. Something to consider as a starting point.

I really like the ice pack and thermos suggestions though. They will probably get you farther than you think.

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Re: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« Reply #4 on: December 19, 2014, 11:54:37 AM »
Look up jar salads.

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Re: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« Reply #5 on: December 19, 2014, 11:55:10 AM »
I have a thermal cool bag for lunches - stick a lunch box in that with an ice pack and its fine all day.
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Re: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2014, 11:57:32 AM »
I used to freeze a juice box and put it in with my insulated lunch bag.  Everything would stay cool until lunch time, no biggie.  You don't have to drink the juice, just bring it home and freeze it for the next day.  No microwave sucks though, I like warm food.  Can you bring in your own?

Dicey

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Re: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« Reply #7 on: December 19, 2014, 11:57:48 AM »
I had to read this twice to make sure I got it, but I'm still not sure.

DH walks to work every day with a lunchbox packed full of good food lovingly prepared and packed by me. At the bottom of his cooler rest two thin, frozen Blue Ice thingies from Target. He often works out in the field and nothing has ever spoiled, even in the dog days of summer. He does not have access to a microwave most days, either.

There are a boatload of insulated lunchbags and coolers to fit every situation. Even if you pay retail for one, the payback is ridiculously fast.

To answer your question specifically, once you have the proper equipment, you can put anything you want in your lunch.
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Re: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« Reply #8 on: December 19, 2014, 11:59:07 AM »
Just get a little lunch cooler and some ice packs.  I like to make what I think of as dense salads.  They might contain tuna, chicken or egg, beans, avocado, olives, celery, bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, or whatever else seems appealing.  Of course you can make many other sandwiches other than PB&J, too.  Sometimes I'll just grab a hunk of protein, a piece of fruit, and some raw veggies.

Inkedup

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Re: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« Reply #9 on: December 19, 2014, 12:11:13 PM »
Thanks for the suggestions, everyone! I may look into getting some ice packs for my lunch bag (which I love but is not insulated).

I love those little crock-pots, but don't have an outlet near my desk. I work in a old building.

I'm curious about freezing sandwiches--how you avoid soggy bread?

BarkyardBQ

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Re: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« Reply #10 on: December 19, 2014, 12:16:58 PM »
I bring my lunch every day and it sits on my desk until lunch. If it's been in the fridge all night or made fresh in the morning, it's not going to go bad sitting on your desk before lunch.

Inkedup

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Re: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« Reply #11 on: December 19, 2014, 12:24:27 PM »

Some people are ok with keeping food out for several hours, but I prefer not to take too many chances when it comes to food safety.
http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/HealthEducators/ucm083057.htm

The_path_less_taken

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Re: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« Reply #12 on: December 19, 2014, 01:01:41 PM »
If it's hot you'd probably enjoy a cool drink anyway: I freeze water bottles and use those as the ice pack in my lunch. It keeps everything cool in there and then once taken out into the heat provides cool drinks for hours.

I would freeze the bread separate from the filling if you're worry about soggy bread: they make little plastic containers that could fit your home made hummus or whatever.

My fave lunch because I'm often pressed for time is an apple and some cheese. But I also like hummus and celery and crackers...all pretty easy to pack.

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Re: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« Reply #13 on: December 19, 2014, 01:24:50 PM »
When I commuted by train into NYC, I took my lunch every day. I had a cooler bag with a shoulder strap. I had a small thermos for soup or hot food and blue ice for cold food. I made a lot of salads, usually in a quart sized soup container, and had small bottles of olive oil, vinegar and Spike ( my favorite salad seasoning) in a desk drawer. Also small salt and pepper shakers. If my colleagues made comments, I would ask them what they paid for lunch (usually about $9). Then I would tell them what I paid for mine (usually less than $1). Then I would multiply the difference by the number of work days per year (say 250). In this example, I paid $2,000 less for lunch per year than my colleagues. I know many people here try to hide their thriftiness, but I never did. When I cut down my work hours a few years ago, my colleagues knew it was because I was already FI.

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Re: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« Reply #14 on: December 19, 2014, 07:13:21 PM »
Since it would help you every day, I'd look into getting a refrigerator.  If you're talking about a "just you" fridge, you can get a used dorm-sized model for less than $50.  If you have other co-workers who'd use it, look into pooling money towards a full-sized refrigerator (we did, and I've certainly had $20 of use out of that thing).  Or point out to your employer that this would make your workplace nicer.

Same thing for a microwave.  Even new, they're pretty cheap. 

FarmerPete

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Re: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« Reply #15 on: December 19, 2014, 09:08:20 PM »
Is this a joke?  Really?  I take it your parents never packed you a lunch for school.  Insulated bag + ice pack = cold enough.  Most food could sit out for a couple hours and be perfectly fine, and using an insulated bag and an ice pack keeps it close enough to the safe zone to be fine for the 4-6hrs that you have it out of the refrigerator.  Stop trying to come up with excuses and learn to do what school kids everywhere are doing already.

Inkedup

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Re: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« Reply #16 on: December 19, 2014, 10:57:45 PM »
Is this a joke?  Really?  I take it your parents never packed you a lunch for school.  Insulated bag + ice pack = cold enough.  Most food could sit out for a couple hours and be perfectly fine, and using an insulated bag and an ice pack keeps it close enough to the safe zone to be fine for the 4-6hrs that you have it out of the refrigerator.  Stop trying to come up with excuses and learn to do what school kids everywhere are doing already.

No, it's not a joke. Really. Perhaps you missed the part where I said that my work environment is hot. As in we run fans and wear short-sleeve tops, even at this time of year. If the climate control wer as comfortable as a school kid's classroom, I wouldn't have asked.

Herbert Derp

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Re: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« Reply #17 on: December 20, 2014, 01:46:01 AM »
Can you get your own refrigerator? I got a mini-fridge from Craigslist and put it under my desk, and the guys in the aisle next to me have two mini-fridges of their own.

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Re: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« Reply #18 on: December 20, 2014, 07:09:41 AM »
Can you get your own refrigerator? I got a mini-fridge from Craigslist and put it under my desk, and the guys in the aisle next to me have two mini-fridges of their own.

The OP doesn't have an outlet nearby.  But perhaps there is a spare outlet elsewhere. Would some of your co-workers get together to buy a small fridge?  Is there a kettle?  Remember that thermoses can keep items cool as well as hot.  You can also probably buy a thermal liner for your favourite lunch bag (or buy a second bag that is thermal and only use your unlined bag for sandwich days).

Some other ideas:
Hard boiled eggs (if you keep them in the shell, they'll be safe until lunch), mini canned tuna bought on sale (can be added to vegetables or grains or toasted bread, they're pricey but less than buying out), hard cheese/pickles/salted meat (they're _designed_ for non-refrigeration). 

I have made mung bean noodles and couscous at work using water from a kettle and covering a mug.  For the noodles I drained them in my tea strainer.

Mustard and vinaigrette salad dressings don't need to be kept in the fridge.
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Re: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« Reply #19 on: December 20, 2014, 08:26:22 AM »
Is this a joke?  Really?  I take it your parents never packed you a lunch for school.  Insulated bag + ice pack = cold enough.  Most food could sit out for a couple hours and be perfectly fine, and using an insulated bag and an ice pack keeps it close enough to the safe zone to be fine for the 4-6hrs that you have it out of the refrigerator.  Stop trying to come up with excuses and learn to do what school kids everywhere are doing already.

No, it's not a joke. Really. Perhaps you missed the part where I said that my work environment is hot. As in we run fans and wear short-sleeve tops, even at this time of year. If the climate control wer as comfortable as a school kid's classroom, I wouldn't have asked.

My schools growing up didn't have air conditioning and my ham and cheddar cheese sandwiches survived until lunch just fine even on 90+ days without an insulated bag much less a freeze pack. Trick was no condiments. No mayo or mustard. Or lettuce or tomato. And whole wheat or some other heartier bread.

My husband considers such a basic sandwich unappetizing, so he uses an insulated bag and a freezer pack and his more elaborate sandwiches survive just fine too until lunch even if he has no fridge or forgets about it. There the trick is to separate the bread from the cold and from the wet ingredients. So instead of bread mayo lettuce cheese ham bread, try paper towel bread cheese mayo ham bread paper towel and then wrap the lettuce in cellophane separately to be added later. Hummus is a great condiment to subsititute for mayo too.

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Re: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« Reply #20 on: December 20, 2014, 09:11:33 AM »
Since it would help you every day, I'd look into getting a refrigerator.  If you're talking about a "just you" fridge, you can get a used dorm-sized model for less than $50.  If you have other co-workers who'd use it, look into pooling money towards a full-sized refrigerator (we did, and I've certainly had $20 of use out of that thing).  Or point out to your employer that this would make your workplace nicer.

Same thing for a microwave.  Even new, they're pretty cheap.

Came to say this.  Craigslist microwaves can be had for about $20... and walmart has new ones for not a whole lot more.

The amount you'd save... you could buy it and put it in a common area for everyone to use.  Even if you didn't get it back when you leave, you are coming out ahead pretty quickly.
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We have 2 refrigerators at work.  (It's a pretty big office.)  And they're so full of stinky rotting crap that I always just keep my lunch in a little insulated pack with some re-freezable ice packs.  They're plenty cold at lunch time.
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Re: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« Reply #21 on: December 20, 2014, 09:21:04 AM »
I agree that this is a joke....... a joke in the sense that it is not a real problem.  Inconvenient sure, but I expect most would know how to find a solution.

How do you pack a meal you'd eat at the beach or a picnic in warm weather?  Do the same.

But, really, I think the solution is to get some support for having an individual fridge or a common fridge.  No outlet nearby shouldn't matter.

If that fails, keep a cooler in your car and go out to get the food at lunchtime.  Buy cheap frozen meals - there are healthy ones now.


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Re: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« Reply #22 on: December 20, 2014, 09:24:22 AM »
Is this a joke?  Really?  I take it your parents never packed you a lunch for school.  Insulated bag + ice pack = cold enough.  Most food could sit out for a couple hours and be perfectly fine, and using an insulated bag and an ice pack keeps it close enough to the safe zone to be fine for the 4-6hrs that you have it out of the refrigerator.  Stop trying to come up with excuses and learn to do what school kids everywhere are doing already.

No, it's not a joke. Really. Perhaps you missed the part where I said that my work environment is hot. As in we run fans and wear short-sleeve tops, even at this time of year. If the climate control wer as comfortable as a school kid's classroom, I wouldn't have asked.

Can you clue us in to the environment you are in so that we may be of more assistance?

Inkedup

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Re: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« Reply #23 on: December 20, 2014, 12:13:22 PM »
Thanks to everyone who posted suggestions. I am going to carry frozen beverages in my existing lunch bag for now, and move on to something insulated if the former creates too much of a mess. I had never heard of jar salads before but I am definitely interested in giving them a try.

The only joke is to continue buying my lunch every day. I stated my decision to make that change in the original post. (If you think the question about non-perishable lunch options is a joke, then why waste your time replying to nonsense? You can't shame others into making a change that they've already decided to make :)

I work in a old building. My boss has attempted to get a fridge/microwave for us, and was told that any such pieces of equipment that require more juice than a coffee pot will blow a fuse in our corner of the building. In other words, my boss's boss said no. The good news is that plans are in the works to replace the existing hvac system and move us to a new office space, but that is a few years down the road.
« Last Edit: December 20, 2014, 12:21:12 PM by Inkedup »

FarmerPete

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Re: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« Reply #24 on: December 20, 2014, 05:06:33 PM »
If you are looking for things that need absolutely no refrigeration, than good luck.  There are plenty of options, but most are expensive, processed, and unappetizing to me.  Think Tuna, summer sausage, PB sandwiches, etc.  The problem is that your premise is wrong.  You can bring items that need refrigeration using a $5 insulated lunch box and 1 or 2 $1-$2 ice packs.  I, like millions of people, have all successfully used such a setup, even in +100F weather successfully.

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Re: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« Reply #25 on: December 20, 2014, 06:45:42 PM »
I think it's great that you're going to bring your food.
Lots of great advice from folks already.

I want to point out that the fridge is not the magic - it's the planning and execution. I live in some hot humid weather.
I use insulated lunch bags and bring appropriate foods.  Plus I keep a few backups such as canned tuna.

The microwave isnt magical either.  Years ago when I was doing field work, I would wrap tacos, burritos, etc, in foil and set them on the car dash to heat. By noon they were really warm.  But the food temperature wasn't a huge issue for me - it is only 4-5 hours until lunch.

We have a fridge and a microwave at my work which I will no longer use, although I did post a note on the fridge when I decided to not to use it anymore.  It read:
To the person who stole my lunch: that wasn't chicken.

Which is why I no longer use the office fridge.

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Re: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« Reply #26 on: December 20, 2014, 06:55:27 PM »

I work in a old building. My boss has attempted to get a fridge/microwave for us, and was told that any such pieces of equipment that require more juice than a coffee pot will blow a fuse in our corner of the building. In other words, my boss's boss said no. The good news is that plans are in the works to replace the existing hvac system and move us to a new office space, but that is a few years down the road.

A coffee maker is actually pretty huge.  You're probably in the 8-10amps while brewing.  A microwave is probably around 5.

Now: if you used the microwave and the coffee maker at the same time ... throw in some lights and miscellany ... all on a 15amp circuit... Yeah, you're blowing it.
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Timmmy

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Re: Need Advice: No Work Refrigerator
« Reply #27 on: December 22, 2014, 06:18:44 AM »

I work in a old building. My boss has attempted to get a fridge/microwave for us, and was told that any such pieces of equipment that require more juice than a coffee pot will blow a fuse in our corner of the building. In other words, my boss's boss said no. The good news is that plans are in the works to replace the existing hvac system and move us to a new office space, but that is a few years down the road.

A coffee maker is actually pretty huge.  You're probably in the 8-10amps while brewing.  A microwave is probably around 5.

Now: if you used the microwave and the coffee maker at the same time ... throw in some lights and miscellany ... all on a 15amp circuit... Yeah, you're blowing it.

This is actually a really good point.  A mini-fridge would be about a third the draw of a coffee pot.  I spotted a couple online that are less than 2 amp draw.