Is your office fridge improving your diet at work – or is it a health hazard?

by Ali on April 14, 2008

If you’re lucky, your workplace might have a big shiny fridge in a beautiful, well-equipped company kitchen. More likely, if your office is like mine, there’s a small domestic fridge shoved in a corner by the mugs and kettle. Either way, so long as you can carve out a chunk of space to call your own, the office fridge is a great asset in eating healthily at work.

Using the office fridge to save time and make healthy eating easier

So long as you can manage access to a plate (buy your own if necessary) and sink, you can easily keep the makings of lunch in the fridge. You’ll need small containers rather than family-sized tubs, and foods which need little or no preparation, such as:

  • A bag of mixed leaves, and a box of cherry tomatoes
  • Snack-sized packet of ham and tub of cream cheese (individual portions, such as Dairylea or Laughing Cow triangles work well)
  • Small tub of cottage cheese, either plain or flavoured
  • Jar of pickle or chutney, if liked

Bread can be difficult to keep fresh in the office – if your fridge has a freezer compartment, try freezing it (pitta breads work well). Take it out when you get into work in the morning and it’ll be defrosted by lunchtime. Alternatively, crackers, crispbreads and ricecakes keep well in an air-tight container, stashed in your desk drawer.

Dealing with problems: sticky shelves and sticky fingers

I’m lucky in my current workplace that many colleagues seem to subsist on pizza, Doritos and black coffee… (how can you tell I work in IT?) The fridge is never very full, and I’ve never had a problem with my food being taken.

My experiences as a student, however, taught me the two hazards of a communal fridge: sticky shelves and sticky fingers. And some of the entries posted to the passive-aggressive notes blog suggest that many workplaces suffer from similar issues.

If you avoid the office fridge like the plague because you suspect something even nastier might be brewing in there, you may have to be brave, don rubber gloves (or possibly a full bio-hazard suit as in the photo above…) and clean it out. Even if it’s not technically “your job” to do so, and even if the month-old cartons of milk and the rotting vegetables lurking in the depths are nothing to do with you – your colleagues will love you for the Herculean effort. Be ruthless in chucking away anything past its sell-by date, take out, wash and dry all the shelves, and try to stash what remains back in so that there’s plenty of spare space.

If, though, the fridge itself is clean but food keeps mysteriously going missing – try these (in order from “sane” to “over the top”…)

  • Label EVERYTHING with your name, very prominently – especially if other colleagues buy similar items.
  • Get a Tupperware box (such as an empty ice-cream container) and stash your food inside it. Label the box too.
  • Talk to your colleagues. Is anyone else having problems with food theft? Write a note and pop it on the fridge – try to keep the tone light rather than outraged, or it’ll just be met with laughter.
  • Buy yourself a mini USB fridge and keep your food close at hand. This may not work if you have problems with impulse-snacking…
  • Set up a web-cam pointing at the fridge to catch the sticky-fingered culprit …

(Image above by Pierre Lascott)

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