The definitive guide to office eating (including an important note on fish)

If we had the budget and the time, we’d all love to pick at multiple-course meals at a streetside café over a leisurely lunch hour – or two – during the week. But the reality is that deadlines and budgets need to be met, and that means eating at the office. Don’t lose hope, however. We have some handy tips to help you whip up tasty meals in the communal work kitchen.

Keep good salt and pepper in your desk drawer

It makes a big difference having decent seasoning. If you’re anything like Eat Out staffers, you’ll look down with derision on anything that isn’t sea salt, i.e. those horrid white towers filled with chemical-tasting crystals. Coordinate with your colleagues to buy communal grinders for good-quality salt and pepper.


Friends don’t let friends use table salt.

Buy a dedicated bottle of olive oil, jar of mayo and bottle of sriracha for the office

Don’t try to decant them into dribbly Tupperware bakkies. Just buy one each for the office and let them live there – well labelled, of course. (Especially that sriracha.) If you need ideas of how to keep wandering fingers out of your food, read these classic passive-aggressive notes.

Make friends with free-range eggs

It’s quick and easy to ‘poach’ them in the microwave. Online editor Katharine Jacobs recommends the following: “The key is to crack the eggs into a bowl on top of some veggies – or something that provides liquid – so that the eggs cook evenly. Chopped baby tomatoes work, so does baby spinach, and pesto is really great. It takes 90 seconds in our microwave, but would be quicker in a more powerful one. Always use the plastic hat [protective cover], or risk a messy explosion. The egg yolks do occasionally explode, so it’s good to check around the one-minute mark if it’s going okay.”

How we roll at Eat Out: Olyfberg tapenade on sweet potato toast with poached eggs &herbs. #breakfast

A photo posted by Eat Out (@eatoutguide) on

Keep a couple of tins of salmon, tuna and chickpeas on standby

Just make sure you also have a tin opener. (There are no hacks for that… )

Fancy salad titibits

For higher-grade salads at work, prepare in advance (or just buy) some grated cheese, toasted seeds and nuts, or croutons for sprinkling into your salad. This poor man’s parmesan is delicious, and a cake of dry ramen (aka two-minute noodles) crumbled into a salad adds good textural dimension.

Fancy salad titibits

Why yes, I’d love to put some bread in my salad.

Get some toaster bags

These babies are great for crisping up slices of leftover pizza or already-assembled cheese sandwiches. Begone, foul microwave sogginess!

Get some toaster bags

Microwaved cheese sandwiches can cause blisters, disappointment and hopelessness.

Store some good salad dressing in the fridge

A sachet of good dressing can rescue a can of chickpeas, nub of cucumber and handful of leaves and transform it into a tasty, tangy salad.


“There’s no dressing?” Gerald smiles while dying inside.

Honey cures all ills

A squeeze of honey livens up bland bowls of oats or granola, and can sweeten the deal for salads. Plus, everyone knows you can’t drink rooibos with sugar.

Avoid the 1pm-2pm rush (if you can)

Try to sneak into the kitchen just before the mad scramble, or wait until just after lunchtime ends. Enjoying an unobstructed path to the cutlery drawer, fridge and microwave is key to maintaining civil workplace relations with your colleagues.

Transfer your leftovers onto proper crockery and use decent cutlery

Oh, sure. Go ahead. After you.

Transfer your leftovers onto proper crockery and use decent cutlery

Not only because it can be dangerous to warm up food in plastic, but because it just feels better to eat off a proper plate, with a fork that won’t snap as you try to spear a cherry tomato.


Leave your desk

If you don’t have an office rest area, find a spot on the rooftop balcony or walk across the road to sit on that bench under a tree. It will make a world of difference to leave behind the recycled air, ambient hum of florescent lights and the worrying ping of your inbox filling up.

A note on fish

Don’t put fish in the microwave. Ever. And don’t drain your tuna on the washing-up sponge in the sink. I condemn these actions in the strongest possible terms.

A note on fish

Just no.

Keep it clean

Don’t abandon your chicken bones for someone else to scrape bin-wards. Wipe the counter and return your plates to the kitchen once you’re done. If anything, be even tidier than you would be at home. We’re all silently judging you.


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