Get Rich With: The Secret Food ‘Stash

Yesterday I ran into a friend while perusing the Yogurt section of the local grocery store. It was around noon on a Thursday, and my friend explained to me that he had just come from his office job to grab a few necessities for lunch because he had forgotten to bring anything to work that day.

I was glad to see my friend, and also impressed that he had decided to hit the grocery store instead of a fast food joint. A Fairly Mustachian Move, compared to most people, who go out to lunch almost every work day, spending about $12 including food, drink, tax, tip, and car expenses. Plus an hour of otherwise productive time that could be used either to get ahead in their careers or go home earlier that night.

But I have a secret for you that is a thousand times more powerful than even a trip to the grocery store: The Secret Mustachian Under-Desk Food ‘Stash.

You see, I have an unusually high need for food. As a tall man without the food-conserving advantages of Car Transportation or Television Leisure, I burn through a good number of calories each day.. which means during my career as an office worker, I had to become quite an expert at Delicious In-Office Eating.  Each day I had to plan for a good Second Breakfast, Mid-Morning Snack, Lunch, Afternoon Snack, and Pre-biking-home Snack.

The solution I found was keeping a permanently stocked fridge hidden under my desk.

So here is how it works: You get a nice little bar fridge from your own basement, from a friend, or from Craigslist.

Stock the fridge with a loaf of whole wheat bread, natural peanut butter, a jar of good jam, some bananas, apples, carrots, cucumbers and any other snacking vegetables, almonds, hot sauce, cheddar cheese, nice yogurt, and even some Beer for when you work late with the coworkers. Also bring your own plate, cup, and cutlery.

Each Monday when you begin the workweek, bring in groceries to re-stock it as needed. If you ever forget this step, there are enough long-lasting items in there to allow you to improvise a lunch to get you through until restocking.

And Pow! You are suddenly on the career fast-track! You are always in a good mood at work because your mind and body are constantly kept in perfect running order with the utmost in nutrition.

You have freed an hour of each day to work smarter, and the $12 of savings per day will compound to about $45,000 over your ten year career. It would be more over an even longer career, but YOU will get to retire and move on to eating from your real fridge at home as I do.

I donated my own office worker fridge to a friend in need and I hope it is now contributing to someone else’s early retirement.

What will YOU keep in your own secret food ‘Stash?

  • No Debt MBA June 17, 2011, 9:05 am

    I keep a stash of dates and tea at work and sometimes will have fresh fruit in my desk. The rest I bring in with me every day. I keep a fork and knife in one of my drawers since I habit of forgetting to pack them. I also have a mug from home.

    I’m not sure how well a fridge, especially with beer, under my desk would go over here. But I definitely agree that there’s a huge advantage to having good food on hand and avoiding going out to lunch both in time and in money.

    What do you do with the fridge when you quit your job? Gift it to the poor sap who’s left behind and inherits your cube?

    • MMM June 17, 2011, 9:46 am

      Haha.. indeed – there were various controversies regarding my fridge over the years. I used them as a gauge to determine whether the company was worth working for. A smart company values its employees and encourages them to customize their workspace and express creativity.

      At one point, the building owner that my company leased from got all stupid about fridges in cubicles because of “fire hazards” (because everyone knows that UL-approved refrigerators built in the early 2000s shoot fire out the back of them as soon as nobody is looking). So I disguised it as a small rack of test equipment with a hinged front and lots of dangling wires – that trick got me through the rest of my career with no further complaints.

  • Heidi June 17, 2011, 9:23 am

    Your fridge under the desk ROCKS! Fantastic. Its especially nice to hear from someone who needs a lot of food and doesn’t rely on packaged goods. I’d also suggest a homemade granola bar or nut cookie stash. My family’s diet includes all those meals and snacks you mentioned–it keeps us running.

  • Liz Tee June 17, 2011, 9:45 am

    Excellent food-management tips! This is a stupid nit-picky point, but refrigerating bread makes it stale faster, and no, I’m not just making that up. Better to keep it in the freezer and pull out a slice or two as needed. Toaster or 10 secs in the wave wrapped in a paper towel will do it. If no freezer in the secret fridge, keep the loaf in the home freezer, throw the day’s needs in a baggie and take it with you. It’ll thaw before you need it.

  • Madison June 17, 2011, 9:49 am

    I love this idea, wish I could do something similar! I’m a transient worker – meaning every few weeks I’m at a different office, so I couldn’t do something like that.

    I get frustrated trying to bring my own food sometimes – because some of these places don’t have a working fridge in the break room, or my lunch gets stolen between when I put it in there in the morning and when I go to eat.

    My solution was to get a nice insulated lunch bag from the thrift store, and a cold pack, and then just bring my cold food in each morning and keep it at whatever desk I’m working at so it can’t get stolen.

    I also bike to work, so that is another limitation (most of the time I’m in places where there is no grocery store within biking distance).

  • eva June 17, 2011, 10:09 am

    If I had my own office, I would:

    Put in a mini-fridge like this
    Replace my chair with an excersize ball, and keep free weights or resistance bands in a drawer
    Listen to music while I work
    Keep a pillow on hand just in case of naptime

    But every job I’ve worked at, none of the lower-ranking staff get offices. At least at this one I have my own desk and don’t have to share with a temp. But I can’t do any of those things…I do keep an extra change of clothes and many snacks in the desk but that’s about all I can get away with. Next job, maybe.

    • MMM June 17, 2011, 10:57 am

      Oh yeah – I didn’t mean to sound like Mr. Fancy Executive by implying I had a real office. Just a cubicle. It was private enough to have a fridge and lots of customized decor, but it still required headphones rather than speakers for music listening.

  • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple June 17, 2011, 12:09 pm

    Very good post. I work at a company that has grown from 20 to 90 rather quickly. I am the self-appointed “fridge police”. It got to the point that people would use the one fridge as their home fridge (store several jars of food), some people would put going-out leftovers in there and forget them, and others would put entire small coolers in there. When I came in to work at 7:30 am on a Monday morning and there was no room for my lunch, it was the last straw.

    That was the day I went on craigslist and found an actual bar fridge (had been used for booze by college students). It fits perfectly under my desk and is black. So unless I am getting something out while someone is outside my cube, they don’t know it is there.

    It is generally stocked with: salad dressing (homemade or bought) because I bring salad to work for lunch often. Now, I am not so lucky to be able to eat a lot – I’m a 40+ year old woman – so stocking it with a lot of other yummy foods like peanut butter would be a disaster. I do stock with fruit though.

    It’s also the backup storage for hot sauce. This office goes through a lot of sriracha and tapatio. I buy about half of it. I store it in my cube for when the main bottles run out. “Emergency stash.”

    I also store half and half for coffee, and occasional juice box if my kid is going to visit.

    I definitely use it as an opportunity to get 8.5 hours worth of work done in 9 hours at the office (I often take a 30 min walk at lunch). It’s both getting ahead and going home early.

  • Steve June 17, 2011, 12:10 pm

    I take a diet Mt Dew, a bowl of leftovers, a few chips, 2 bite size candy bars to work every day. I don’t bike to work, so my metabolism isn’t high, even though my appetite is. So, I need to keep a limited amount of stash so I don’t have to go out and buy new larger clothes.

    • MMM June 17, 2011, 12:40 pm

      Chips! Candy Bars! Diet soda!! Hmm, Steve, I don’t know.. health equals wealth, health equals wealth … ;-)

      • Steve June 17, 2011, 1:06 pm

        The diet Mt. Dew makes life worth living. However, I should cut out the candy bars…just a lousy habit I’ve gotten into.

        • Pachipres June 17, 2011, 5:51 pm

          Diet pop can lead to symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. Better to have real pop. Not that this is healthy for you, but the diet stuff is so full of chemicals.

          • Steve June 20, 2011, 7:21 am

            I have been drinking diet soda for 20 years with no ill effect. In my family we have some that don’t like the taste of diet soda and some that do. The only difference I’ve noticed between the two camps is about 10 pounds of body weight.

            If you have PKU, you shouldn’t be consuming meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, cheese, legumes, milk..and you sure as hell shouldn’t consume Nutrasweet products, but PKU only affect 1 in 15,000 births here in the US and all infants are tested for it.

            • GregK June 4, 2012, 9:06 am

              The 10lbs of body weight are certainly not attributable to the difference in diet and non-diet sodas. Unfortunately your pancreas doesn’t know the difference between sugar and Nutrasweet, so it releases insulin when you drink diet soda. This completely screws up your insulin levels, since there isn’t as much sugar in your system as your pancreas thought. Elevated insulin levels leads to increased appetite; those who drink diet soda tend to consume more calories in a day than those who drink regular including the calories from the regular soda.

              Screwed-up insulin levels can also lead to type-2 diabetes… I’d get my blood sugar levels checked if I were you…

          • Ian Turner May 25, 2013, 10:17 pm

            Real pop leads to diabetes and obesity (not just symptoms). Best to avoid it also.

          • Kevin February 10, 2017, 2:28 pm

            That’s nto true at all.

            http://www.nationalmssociety.org/What-is-MS/What-Causes-MS/Disproved-theories – National MS society says there’s no evidence supporting the connection between diet sodas and MS.

            http://www.snopes.com/medical/toxins/aspartame.asp – Good snopes article on it.

            Aspartame was blamed for all sorts of things, but none of those had any scientific basis.

  • Kevin M June 17, 2011, 2:07 pm

    If only people had those types of food in their ACTUAL HOME refrigerator, maybe America would be in better shape. No office fridge here, just some almonds in my desk and sometimes a bag of apples in the office fridge.

  • Pachipres June 17, 2011, 5:53 pm

    Good article. My dh has taken his lunch to his corporate office for 22 years and now self employed, is still taking his lunch. Good thing since our expenses are still too high to retire but your blog is totally inspiring me to get back to my goals of dh retiring sooner.

  • rosarugosa June 17, 2011, 7:17 pm

    You know, I could never get away with a fridge under my desk at the large corp where I work, but I do have the pleasure of a good cafeteria with a great salad bar. Today I had arugula with strawberries and blueberries and chicken and goat cheese with watermelon and tomato salad for less than $3.00. Now that was one sexy salad and I enjoyed every bite! So I do bring lunch once or twice a week, and I always pack my own snacks, but I have no guilt when I buy lunch.
    I would also prefer to build a wine cellar under my desk because I’m not a beer drinker, but to each his own.
    I do think that the folks who go out and spend significant bucks on lunch each day are kind of crazy. If I spend $10 on lunch, I decrease my profit for working that day by $10. But when I can toss in some berries and goat cheese for less than three bucks, well then my world becomes an even more beautiful place:)

  • Dee June 19, 2011, 12:46 pm

    I’m doing a lot better at keeping snacks at the office lately. I like a lot of things at room temperature that most people prefer refrigerated so I just keep stuff in a cupboard. My snacks include apples, bananas, almonds, whole wheat crackers, fruit cups, fruit sauce cups, and various snack bars, including a really neat cracker and strawberry spread selection I found in the ethnic food aisle — only $1.29 for a 6-pack.

    While this obviously does save money over buying lunch while at work, it should also be pointed out that, depending on work location, buying lunch can be done for a lot less that $12. When I buy lunch, I am usually able to keep it under $7, and often closer to $5. One trick to that is to never buy beverages (I just drink water from the fountain on cooler). Subway in my region has a few $5 footlong sandwiches, for example.

  • Mike Hathaway July 4, 2011, 10:02 am

    If all you do is keep your drinks in there, Drinks add $2,00 to most lunches. I keep a 2 quart restaraun grade drink carafe that I can brew ice tea in. A great way to avoid all the chemistry even in our favorite diet soft drinks. I also load up at the beginning of the week with those sliced apple packs and cut up a celery stalk or two for the week, then I only have to remember the sandwich. Saves a fortune. And go high end with your sandwiches you are saving money. You can buy a loaf of your favorite at panera bread and have it thick sliced, spread on the fresh avocados and buy some sprouts to add that zing.

  • Brendan Flynn July 4, 2011, 7:02 pm

    I have been thinking about getting a fridge for a long time. After reading this I was motivated and finally broke down and purchased one. Now, time to stock it and break the habit of eating out every day. Love your site, just discovered it!

  • Mike September 8, 2011, 12:52 pm

    Am I the only one who noticed that MMM is a big Shiner Bock fan?

    • MMM September 8, 2011, 1:23 pm

      Of Course!! Ever since my first trip to Austin, Shiner Bock has been one of my top beers, because of its refreshing richness (i.e. not a watery pilsener like the bud/coors/millers of the world). But now that I brew my own beer, I haven’t had a shiner in months.

  • Nathan October 23, 2011, 6:01 am

    Is that 45,000 taking into account the amount you were spending to stalk your fridge? How much per month did it cost to stock your fridge.

    • Gerard July 27, 2012, 7:39 am

      If it costs $10 a week to stock the fridge, the savings drop down all the way to $37,600.

      • Emily August 11, 2016, 4:52 am

        Stalk the fridge? I’m not stalking, we’re in love. Fridge has just been too busy lately to call me back. CALL ME, FRIDGE.

        But anyway–yes, the $45k figure assumes the fridge food is completely free. I love the blog and this post, MMM, but come on. $37,500 + more time + better health are more than persuasive–there is no need to fluff the numbers. Your numbers are almost always rock solid so I will put this down to lightheadedness between snacks.

  • Danielle May 20, 2012, 5:23 pm

    Love this! I no longer feel bad about constantly eating at work! Commuting by bike will do that to you….

    Although, I like to get up from my desk and move around every once in a while, so I think I’ll continue to use the community fridge in the break room.

  • Melissa August 23, 2012, 7:40 am

    If your office kitchen has a microwave, it opens up a cheap, healthy option for breakfast. I keep a canister of plain oatmeal (the minute kind works best, but you can also use old-fashioned oats for a more al dente texture) in my desk along with a box of raisins, craisins, or other dried fruit, and a shaker of cinnamon. The fruit is so sweet, you don’t really need sugar, but that keeps well in a desk drawer too, if you want a treat. A big canister and big box of raisins will last almost 3-4 weeks, all for around $10!

    • TomTX October 12, 2012, 5:07 pm

      I highly recommend adding some walnuts or slivered almonds to that oatmeal for some protein – and it’s just darn tasty!

  • Frank July 23, 2013, 1:08 pm

    As I have to drive 80 miles one way to work (yeah I know.. but I am very frugal in other areas) and our workplace has fridges and microwaves, my solution is Turky sandwiches and brussel sprouts that I steam in the microwave)

    The car does 35mpg and I rebuilt it myself from a $350 car with a blown engine..:)

  • Karl August 19, 2013, 1:21 am

    I always have a packet of fresh popcorn, fruit and tea in my desk. We have fridges and a kitchen space at my work so I just bring in some sliced roast meat each week, buy some quality bread and sauces, and make my own tasty, nutritious lunch each day. Go out to a cheap and tasty Asian lunch once a week on Friday ($7-9). Simply, cheap, tasty and healthy.

  • Chris September 23, 2013, 3:53 pm

    Weird. I read this and looked down under my desk to find my black mini-fridge there. And the cheap stuff is exactly what I keep there – sandwich materials, inexpensive fruits, and a few bagels from time to time. I’ve virtually eliminated all going out for lunches. Best park – picked it up on craigslist for $35 from a guy that had it in his garage and never used it. Like new.

  • John December 29, 2013, 1:04 pm

    MMM is right on target again. I did almost this exact thing. The only difference was I worked at a test lab and one of the many things we tested was mini fridges. The one that ended up under my desk was put onto “extended test status”. I had to find my own microwave though. My last day of work was in 2005 at 42 years old. (should have gotten serious earlier on like MMM did).

  • Red January 1, 2014, 9:29 pm

    Hello, suuuuper late response to this. Can you recommend a mini-fridge size and brand? There’s a mind boggling variety of them out there!!

  • Angela M February 10, 2014, 9:09 am

    Great idea, MMM! And a great blog.

    Not being allowed to have individual fridges at work (or having the guts to go against this), I’ve survived with a food bin under my desk.You can keep a lot of food safely at room temp! My bin has:

    Fruit: pre-packaged individual serving cups of mandarin oranges, pineapples, pears, low-sugar applesauce, pickles (guess these are veggies)

    Whole Grains: high-fiber crackers, oatmeal, granola bars

    Drinks: teabags, cocoa mix, apple cider mix

    Forgot-my-lunch backup: two cans of Healthy Soup

    Other: almonds, walnuts

    This bin is supplemented by fresh fruit (1-2 items daily, bought cheap weekly at Aldis) and reusable water bottles dishwashed twice/week. Also dependent on a real-silverware knife, spoon, fork, stoneware plate & bowl.

    This is in addition to the meals I bring daily for lunch. It’s a system not usually shared because it seems a bit crazy to those who might not have thought deeply about the rational behind it. But I feel safe sharing it on the MMM blog!

  • Nigel February 25, 2014, 9:25 am

    You were perusing the yogurt section of the local grocery store??? A small container of yogurt costs 60 cents in my store, which works out to about $15 for a gallon. Milk costs about $2.79 per gallon at the same store. Yogurt and milk are the same dang thing! Here’s what you do:

    1: Buy a ridiculously expensive single-serving yogurt, any flavor.
    2: Heat some milk up to hot but not boiling (putting a smaller pot into a bigger pot with boiling water works best – ie. a double-boiler.)
    3: Wait 15 minutes
    4: Plop the pot of hot milk into some cold water in your sink to cool it until it is lukewarm, about body temp.
    5: Stir in a spoonful of the ridiculously expensive yogurt, then pour everything into a convenient container(s).
    6: Put the container in a cooler along with a pot full of hot water. Congratulations, you are are now a microbiologist: you have inoculated a liquid growth medium and placed it in an incubator in order to grow a bacterial culture.
    7: Come back in about 8 hours. Before you put your delicious yogurt in the fridge to cool, set aside a spoonful in a small sealable container. Keep this in the fridge to inoculate your next batch. You only have to buy the ridiculously expensive yogurt once.
    8: Add jam or fresh fruit, enjoy a snack, and put the money you just saved into your stash.

    I find that yogurt usually lasts at least a month in the fridge before it starts to get nasty, so you can make a big batch if you eat a lot of yogurt.

    • Oh Yonghao April 15, 2014, 3:48 pm

      I actually have written an article on this very thing. It worked out to about $0.12 per normal size yogurt. I did that for a couple months then stopped for a long time. After moving much closer to work I now have more time to spend on things like this and I make yogurt about once a week to use in smoothies.

      I did it with a yogurt incubator though, it is pretty cheap, and at a gallon a month usage it pays for itself after 3 months. If you use more then it will pay for itself even faster.

      Myself I have found no need to boil the milk first, I am going on three months of using the same starter yogurt and it is turning out fantastic every time. I do boil the glass jars I use for incubation though, and generally incubate between 8 and 12 hours. I also boil anything that will be coming in contact with the yogurt, including the spoon I use for dishing out the yogurt from the last container.

      The specific article can be found here:

      I do use the lids now during incubation, I have found it doesn’t seem to make a difference and allows me to easily mark which jar is my starter jar for this batch. That jar gets used first, then a random jar is my new starter when I get down to one jar.

      Another recommendation is to buy the plain yogurt, for some reason this only comes in pints, greek yogurt will work too. Take the pint and divide it into small containers which can be stored in the freezer. If your yogurt ever starts to not taste like yogurt then you can throw it out and grab a new starter from the freezer, thaw it out in the fridge for a day or so and restart your batch. This can make a single investment of $2.50 for a starter end up lasting 4 or 5 batches. I find that at first before I became more stringent on sanitizing equipment before use that I might make it about 5 batches before needing to restart. As I indicated above I have now made it three months averaging one batch a week, or around 12 batches on a single starter.

      If you use the above method please make sure you have sanitized your containers, especially if you want to use one for your next batches starter. Your milk has already been pasteurized and shouldn’t need to be pasteurized again unless you drink from the container, or in some way contaminate the milk. I don’t use it for breakfast, and have no children, so your mileage may vary on this. If you are sure your equipment and containers are sanitized and still cannot make yogurt past a few batches then try boiling the milk.

      Currently I use Nancy’s Yogurt which I find at Winco. If there are any questions on what sanitizing means please ask a homebrewer, or read the cleaning and sanitizing section of John Palmer’s freely available How to Brew found here:

      • Sarah May 12, 2016, 7:24 pm

        Super late to this, but if anyone is pressed for time and can’t incubate the yogurt, I buy mine at the ethnic grocery store —> $3.99 for 4 pounds of plain yogurt. I keep this tub, and a jar of jelly in the break room fridge. When I want a cup of yogurt I pour out a serving into my cup and add a spoonful of jelly. :-)

    • Linda April 20, 2017, 3:25 am

      I was taught years ago how to make home made yogurt and was surprised at how rediculously easy it was. Sometimes a batch fails but it is very magical and awesome to make your own. If you have a thermometer bring the milk up to 160f and let cool to between 115-120f before adding in your “starter”. You do need to use whole milk, the lesser fat milk or milk alternatives won’t work with this method. I make mine in one big pot so as soon as you stir in the starter wrap the pot in a couple of thick blankets to hold the warmth in, go to bed and let the magic happen.

  • Eurteb April 6, 2014, 6:07 pm

    Awesome yogurt tip, thanks :-)
    & nice original post

  • Loretta June 4, 2014, 4:54 pm

    Ah hh, one of the pleasures of being at home: I can make myself delicious, healthy lunches every day! I haven’t worked in an office for 14 years, but when I did I always kept a stash of snacks like crackers, nuts, cans of tuna and fruit in my desk drawer, as well as bringing leftovers for lunch. The guys from IT would be hovering around my desk at 3pm every day, asking what I had for them to eat. If I was feeling generous I’d share:-) My female boss thought I had an eating disorder because I was constantly eating but not putting on weight, while she’d be going out for expensive, calorie-laden lunches! I also get teased unmercifully for bringing a coffee plunger (French press?) and my own coffee, rather than drinking the execrable International Roast instant coffee work supplied. Back then there wasn’t the all-pervasive Melbourne coffee culture there is now. I now have friends who spend $8 on takeaway coffees every day. Not that I felt deprived at all, I would plan the occasional cafe lunch for special occasions, or sit in a cafe and sip a coffee, so it was a treat, and I did agonise over the money I spent being a natural tight-arse.

    • ginna June 17, 2018, 9:11 pm

      responding 4 years late ;)

      Yes!! I eat lots of small healthy (ish?) snacks all day instead of an official “lunch”, and people comment that I should be fat by now. Then they go out and eat a plate of pasta and a soda.

  • Erik August 16, 2014, 5:09 pm

    One of the things that has always blown my mind is the amount of money spent on lunch break. It is a very rare occasion that I don’t bring a home cooked meal and snacks. A) because home cooked is far better than anything bought on the go and B) it pains me every time I need to spend the $ on it. I see my coworkers buying breakfast, lunch and dinner with snacks in between. I can’t imagine how much they lose because of this habit, but it makes me feel better every day I keep the wallet in my pocket and stick to the plan.

  • Angie December 30, 2014, 1:18 am

    A good friend of ours recommended this blog to us at my company’s children’s Xmas party this year. Up until then, I had never even seen a blog – but now I am an addict :) I can’t get enough of this valuable information crammed into my brain fast enough! Many many thanks…

    I read this particular post with special interest for the sake of my partner. I’ve got it easy with free food about to expire at the organic grocery store I work for… He on the other hand has a great deal of challenges when packing his own lunch for his job in construction.

    He works all across the city from morning until night almost 7 days a week at times. All of these meals would have to be kept in the truck which can be scorching hot in the summer and down to far below freezing in the winter. Is it realistic to think that he could get a fast, hearty n’ hot meal at least once a day without resorting to crappy fast food joints?

    Thanks for all the snack suggestions already posted ;P

    • Fargles August 30, 2015, 5:57 pm

      Hi Angie- one idea for a hot lunch in winter is soup in a thermos. It can be a nice, hearty stew.

    • Popeye February 15, 2020, 6:03 pm

      Anyone who uses a truck or van for their work place is in a great situation … because various clever gadgets can then be installed to help with meals. Anything from water kettle to mini fridge is available for connection to a car battery. Plenty of small size cooking equipment is also available (as intended for camping, RVs etc)… This kind of thing just takes a bit of ambition and engineering..!

  • Jess January 7, 2015, 8:35 am

    I don’t have my own personal fridge, but there are two large refrigerators in the building where my husband and I work. Yes, we work in the same building, so though it’s not really safe to bike to work, we carpool every day that I don’t have to make the dive (in the opposite direction) to class (I’m investing in myself and finishing up my undergrad degree – paying as I go to incur no additional debt).

    Back to snacks! We have a little zippered lunch box (with a lock! Damn food thieves!) that we keep in the break room stocked with plain, hormone-free, not 0% fat yogurt, some maple syrup (for yogurt flavor – we like to control our own “add-ins”), paper plates, and the cleanest sausage we can find. We each have our own teas in our desks and we each have taken a different approach on this.

    He likes green tea, so he bought his green tea in bulk at Costco.

    I like flavored/spicy/herb-y teas (usually about $4-5/box!) and I’m saving … well… I’m not that great at math, but I’m pretty sure I’m saving a lot! The box has 16 tea bags with a net weight of 1.27 oz and I bought (in the bulk section) 1.6 oz of licorice root for $1.50 and a box of 100 tea bags for $4. I’ll make my own blends using bulk-section herbs (spearmint, cinnamon, clove, slippery elm, lavender, chamomile, etc) which I usually spend less than a dollar on for each, and then I usually double or triple brew my teas. I’m not really sure what the monetary savings are, but I’m pretty sure I’m coming out ahead.

    For pricy things like herbs and spices, I highly recommend the bulk section – you can buy exactly how much you need and pay less than a dollar, OR you can fork over the $8 for the big container of say… basil…. and you’ll end up not being able to use it all before it goes bad. Yes – spices go bad and lose their potency and flavor. Buy only what you need, when you need it, and keep your spice drawer fresh!

  • Jonathan January 21, 2015, 12:49 pm

    I whimped out on riding my bike into work this morning because of a forecast of 2 inches of snow (I have road tires). I arrived at work in my cozy automobile and reached over to grab my bagged lunch off the passenger seat when I realized it was still in the bag on my bike which I packed the night before.

    My stash of almond butter and raw honey helped me get through the day without needing to visit the cafeteria and shell out extra money for lunch. I had already wasted money on gas, and I wasn’t going to let myself waste money on food as well. I wasn’t awesome enough to fast; that would have been a better option.

  • Bernhard September 27, 2015, 4:27 am

    While I totally approve of the benefits of bringing your own food to work, I’d like to add a few points concerning running your own fridge at work:

    – Doing so will consume quite some electricity even if you have a rather new fridge – Small devices are always less efficient than bigger ones. Of course its not your own bill, but I have the impression that many readers of this blog are ecologically motivated and the additional electricity will add to your ecological footprint or similar measures.

    – Also a lot of the food mentioned doesn’t actually need to be stored in a fridge (bread, many fruits and vegetables), some keep their nutrients and vitamins longer at room temperature. I admit dairy products are a problem, but I wouldn’t want to operate my own fridge for a cup of yogurt and a piece of cheese.

    So I suggest that if you don’t have a fridge at work, you should lobby for a larger fridge you can use with your coworkers together!

  • Fran October 3, 2015, 2:10 pm

    I am quite the prepper, since I tend to waste food when I don’t portion it well enough. Since I do almost everything by cycling (I don’t even own a car) I am also very often in need of being fed. Fortunately, my job allows me to graze all day – I don’t have a representative function of anything, the only risk is that I sometimes have to swallow a hardly chewed carrot when the phone rings.

    I usually bring wholewheat bread (that I’ve already spread with hummus or something), a roll of mueaslibread (both breadtypes being bought before and safely stocked in the freezer, so that it’s fresh every day) , two servings of fruit, two servings of veggies, a boiled egg, a handful of mixed, unsalted nuts and two dried apricots (my own nutmix the way I like it). I prep this all the night before, together with the boyfriends lunch for the next day (which contains about the same stuff).

    The fun thing here is, in my opinion, that it allows us to eat really good stuff (and not necessarily the cheapest: the not-so-mustachian boyfriend eats a lot of roast beef on his bread, for example) and still be off cheaper than with lunching out. We both feel like eating in luxury each day, and we both really enjoy our lunch.

  • Hairless Mustachian August 20, 2016, 1:13 pm

    I love the idea. Easy access, time-saving, and economic. However, at my workplace, I’m not allowed to have a personal/mini refrigerator :( But I make do by buying raw organic nuts, dark chocolate (low sugar), tea, and coconut oil to mix in the tea. Not a huge variety, or enough to really make a meal, but hey, sometimes the choices aren’t perfect.

  • Michael Hart September 25, 2016, 12:34 pm

    “Each day I had to plan for a good Second Breakfast, Mid-Morning Snack, Lunch, Afternoon Snack, and Pre-biking-home Snack.”

    The truth comes out… MMM is actually a Hobbit.

  • tinypresence January 18, 2017, 11:53 am

    Ah, even more validation! I’ve been a long time participant of desk dining (actually doing it right now!) and it has three benefits for me:
    1. It’s cheaper! My coworkers spend at least $10-$15 a day on going out to lunch.
    2. It’s healthier! I bring healthier food to work than I would get out at a restaraunt.
    3. I have ‘Me Time’ to learn and grow. I read blogs (like this one) to help with my personal life and my professional career. I also go outside for walks or exercise on my break.

    If anyone is interested in how I do it, I bring a lunch everyday of mainly protein and veggies. I bring a fruit snack and I have food stores of almonds, oatmeal, larabars, soup, and more in my desk and I only drink tea, coffee, and water. :-)

  • Elizabeth July 6, 2017, 11:06 am

    I am a teacher with a minimal 30 minute lunch. Constructing food or even waiting for the microwave kills at least ten minutes. My favorite tool for staying on track with not eating terrible food and for consuming leftovers each day (reducing waste!) is a CrockPot Lunch Warmer. It is not a traditional slow cooker, as it just warms the food not actually cooking it. I bring my little liner home each day, fill it with food. I pop it into the warmer and plug it in about an hour before my lunch period. It provides me with a warm meal every day for what I figured was a reasonable price ($20). Then I am not breaking any appliance rules with the school district. (We are not allowed to have additional appliances in our rooms to reduce energy costs.) This is one of those areas where saving time and getting to eat at a less frantic pace was worth the price.

  • Teresa August 10, 2017, 9:41 am

    I don’t have a personal office for a fridge, but I’m all about the stash of food in the workplace. I keep scoops of plant based protein powders, quick oats, yummy seed/date bars, cans of soup (lentil/bean based), pistachios, and some other random snacks. This year I have spent <$50 at our cafeteria, which was mostly on the craving of a latte and is quite an improvement.

  • Gideon Drake October 30, 2017, 9:03 am

    For those concerned about the electricity costs or for whom this might not be an option, I’ve successfully worked around this while traveling to various very-remote locations for work by practicing intermittent fasting. Give it a google, but the gist is that you have a limited eating window each day. For men, the max is 8 hours of eating, for women it is 10. I choose to eat from 5-11 each day, as I can’t stand going to bed hungry.

    It has a bunch of lovely health benefits; my blood glucose is down and more stable, I don’t suffer from low blood sugar even after fasting for 20 hours, I don’t obsess over food like I did when I had an eating disorder, and I get to eat like a king every evening when I get home from work. I’ve also lost significant weight by design, but that is more due to my caloric deficit than any eating window (though research suggests that fasting improves the body’s ability to burn fat and not muscle.) I actually also lift fasted in the morning, and while there is an initial strength reduction, the benefit of being able to basically anything I want without concern for timing my eating has been wonderful.

    I keep an emergency ‘stache of protein powder for days when I get really hungry or shaky at work, but I haven’t touched it in months. Once my body got used to not eating for the majority of the day, I actually feel more awake and on-point at work! Add not planning lunches, getting an hour break to meditate, go for a walk, or do anything else that I want, and the option to skip my break altogether and get out earlier, and it makes for an excellent plan for me.

    Happy to answer any questions about this too, I hope my experience can help others!

  • Sophie May 17, 2019, 10:08 am

    Great! I bring packed lunch and wouldn’t buy a fridge but I keep food in my locker (we hot-desk). Just ’emergency’ food like biscuits and cups of instant ramen.

    • Popeye February 15, 2020, 6:19 pm

      That’s not food, though…
      Bisquits as well as ramen would be, umm, 100% carbohydrates? Not suitable for human consumption!

  • Dr. J, CPA June 26, 2019, 11:58 am

    Already put a minifridge in my office, but could definitely use it more efficiently. I have been bringing leftovers or lunch ingredients daily, but stocking weekly would definitely be more time efficient. I normally work out during lunch time at a gym about a half mile away and then eat a quick lunch from the minifridge while working.

    I also just started reading the Mr. Money Mustache blog from the beginning as a recommendation from a friend, so I have a lot of catching up and “Stache” work to do.

  • Cristina August 3, 2019, 5:45 pm

    Hard to have a mini fridge as a pilot, but a lot of us on the road have developed the same thing- a really good cooler bag that you pack for the trip. Personally I bring lots of snacks, plus at least 1 meal a day (really helps when getting into a layover after everything is closed for the night). I recently got a hot logic mini too, which warms up food like a mini oven (for those times the hotel room doesn’t have a microwave).

  • Steven Hobbs August 28, 2019, 7:38 am

    I’m so lucky my job has a cafeteria with free lunches. I don’t have to leave work, cook, buy or think about food anymore. I don’t miss the $10 a day eating junk fast food at all.


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