One way to stretch your budget is to bring lunch to work. In almost all offices, every square inch of refrigerator space is prime real estate. Access to it is limited to a lucky few who managed to get to work before everyone else.
So, what happens to the rest of us? Well, there’s no doubt you’d benefit from some lunch ideas for work with no microwave or fridge.
What To Prepare Beforehand
For some of these ideas to work, you would need a few things. One is a bento-style lunch box with several compartments. These boxes will allow you to pack the different components of your lunch separately and keep them fresh.
If you want to, you can invest in a freezable lunch bag. This special bag should keep your food cool until it’s time to dig in. You could also get a portable mini oven that you can fold and transport with zero trouble.
Another alternative is the packable cooler, which you can easily fit in your lunch bag. There are also adult lunch boxes that are insulated and can keep food cool or warm for hours.
If you buy one or two of these items, you can enjoy delicious and affordable homemade lunches at work every day. However, if you are facing significant budget constraints, you can simply stick an ice pack in your lunch bag.
Is It Safe to Eat Food Stored at Room Temperature?
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you should not let food sit at room temperature for over two hours. This two-hour rule applies to perishable grocery items, leftovers, take-outs, and, yes, packed lunches.
The FDA has a few more words of wisdom. For instance, they don’t advise putting too many things in the fridge. The refrigerator needs some space to circulate cool air and keep the food at the ideal temperature. It is all the more reason to keep your packed lunch out of the fridge that the entire office shares.
So, what happens if you do not follow these rules?
Leaving cooked food out at room temperature for more than two hours gives bacteria enough time to grow and multiply to dangerous levels. When this happens, it becomes unsafe to eat.
Reheating food that was left out for too long won’t make it safe either. Some types of bacteria can release toxins that heating cannot destroy. Make sure that your budget-friendly, no-fridge packed lunch is safe. It’s no good to save a few bucks if you end up getting sick, missing work, and being saddled with hospital bills.
Lunch Ideas for Work With No Microwave or Fridge
A stale sandwich, an expensive takeout, a vending machine snack—take your pick. All of them are equally sad, whether for your taste buds or your budget.
Fortunately, there is a loophole in this problem. You can break free from the office fridge and microwave! Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Marinated White Beans
Marinated white beans are unique in that they taste better the longer they sit, which could not be said about some other foods. This characteristic makes them a great addition to our lunch ideas for work with no microwave or fridge.
You can buy marinated white beans from the deli section of most grocery stores or prepare them yourselves. Put them into your bento box, add some olives, grape tomatoes, pita chips, and hummus, and enjoy a healthy lunch.
Veggie Burrito Bowl
Another healthy option for a packed lunch is a grilled veggie burrito bowl. For this recipe, you will need bell peppers, red onions, and sweet corn—all grilled to your liking. You will also need some tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and black beans. Throw in some brown rice, and you are good to go.
This dish will not disappoint, even when not heated up. Just keep the toppings separately so that they won’t wilt.
Open Steak Sandwich
Sandwiches are usually not heavy enough for lunch, but this recipe is an exception. Start by cutting up some eggplant and tomato in thick slices. Season them with salt and pepper, then chargrill until tender.
Next, season your sirloin steak to taste and cook as preferred. Once done, slice it up into smaller pieces. After preparing the meat comes the sauce. Mix one tablespoon of natural yogurt with an equal amount of balsamic vinegar.
Next, grab one piece of sourdough bread. You can also add a cup of arugula or rocket vegetables. You can prepare all these the night before and just assemble your sandwich at work.
Sandwich on Stick
A not-so-subtle variation of the open sandwich is the sandwich on a stick. As you can guess, it is not your standard sandwich because it looks more like a skewer.
To make this dish, you would need a bread slice cut into eight pieces. You can use them as is or spread butter, cream cheese, or pesto on them. Other ingredients are two pieces of deli meat cut into strips, cubes of hard cheese, bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, cubed cucumber.
When making the skewer, spear some pieces of all the ingredients as you like. Then, add one piece of the cut-up bread to either end to complete the sandwich.
Chicken Noodle Salad
If you want something to boost your energy while at the office, try the chicken noodle salad. Firstly, cook some diced chicken breast over medium heat. Next, prepare some lettuce leaves and spinach in a bowl and add some lemon and oyster sauce. Add the chicken to this bowl.
Finally, cook your noodles as per instructions and then rinse in warm water. Once done, mix with the salad bowl and enjoy. This dish is packed with nutrients and will give your body enough fuel for the rest of the day.
Outgrowing Your Office Fridge and Microwave
If you are looking for ways to save money, packing lunch for work is a big step in the right direction. Even better, it gives you more control over what you eat, making it easier for you to stay healthy.
While doing this comes with its own set of challenges, these problems are easy to overcome. Just invest in the right accessories and choose the right ingredients, and you can live a frugal and healthy life.