Richmond Proper: On office kitchens

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas most offices see an increase in food brought in to share, whether it’s leftovers from a big family meal or an overzealous baking spree. Take a look at the following tips to keep office kitchens bearable despite the holiday influx.

For many of us who bring lunches to work, the shared office kitchen is a battleground strewn with last month’s leftovers and dirty coffee cups.  And that’s just during the rest of the year. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas most offices see an increase in food brought in to share, whether it’s leftovers from a big family meal or an overzealous baking spree. Take a look at the following tips to keep office kitchens bearable despite the holiday influx.

Respect the rules of the kitchen.
Take note of how many people you’re sharing the fridge with, and use space accordingly.  Don’t bring in a month’s worth of groceries; bring only what you need for a week at most.  Keep your items corralled to your specific area of the fridge or cabinet, so that others don’t have to push 41 of your tiny yogurt tubs out of their way when they want to reach something else. If a coworker is deathly allergic to peanuts or gets nauseous at the smell of popcorn, don’t bring those foods in to work. You can enjoy them just as well at home. If you use up the last of the coffee, plastic utensils, or other resource, be a big kid and replace them or make arrangements to replace them.

Clean up your mess.
Each time you leave the office kitchen, take a second to make sure it looks exactly the same as when you entered.  If necessary, throw away trash, wash dishes, wipe off countertops, and clean the microwave.  Never, ever, ever leave your dirty dishes or leftover containers sitting in the sink.

Keep up with your own food.
If you are storing food in the office refrigerator (and don’t forget the freezer), check it every once in a while to make sure it hasn’t expired. Make sure not to leave a bunch of questionable containers in the fridge, growing mold and grossing everybody out. Seriously, someone else should not have to purge the kitchen of your leftovers from two years ago. Labeling things with permanent marker will help you if you’re forgetful.

Don’t help yourself to others’ lunches.
Apparently this is an actual issue that exists among grown-ass adults. Do not take food that does not belong to you unless the owner has given you special permission to help yourself. There is nothing worse than hungrily trotting to the office fridge only to find out your lunch has already been eaten.

Keep opinions to yourself.
Please resist the urge to comment on every single thing your coworkers eat. Do not chirp out things like “Something smells like cat food,” “Hey, your whole meal is the same color,” or “Pizza again?” These comments are humiliating for the other person, and they really show off your rude side. Your coworkers do not appreciate having their eating habits monitored and narrated back to them, no matter how food-conscious they are.

As Judith Martin points out, the underlying creed of office etiquette is “Look, we’re all jammed in here together, so let’s try not to get on one another’s nerves.” Amen. Richmond Proper would love to hear your office kitchen horror (and success?) stories.

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Tess Shebaylo

Tess Shebaylo is a freelance writer, crafter, history geek, and compulsive organizer. She works at Tumblr and lives in Church Hill with her daughter, Morella.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. Wipe up any fridge or microwave spills promptly, and even be a nice guy and wipe out the fridge or microwave even if you didn’t spill something—once every other month doesn’t take long and makes everybody think you’re super nice. Pro Tip: Don’t ask the secretary to do it, she might stab you.

  2. It’s amazing that some people don’t equate eating other people’s food with stealing, but that’s what it all boils down to. This has been an issue at pretty much every company that I’ve worked for…it’s ridiculous! Most people wouldn’t mind sharing with someone if they asked first. Great article that probably will be printed out and posted in many office kitchens…I know one it’s going into right now! :)

  3. I once had a co-worked steal an Amy’s Pizza Pocket out of the freezer and eat it. When I asked her what happened to it she said, “Well I’m pregnant and I got hungry. I saw it in there and I ate it.”


  4. Tess Shebaylo on said:

    Yeah, I think most of the theft problems could be solved by just asking first. I’d be happy to share my lunch with a coworker who forgot his, or whatever. But when you just take the food without asking, you’re showing that person what you think of them. You’d think we could live without hidden cameras pointed at our office fridges. ::sigh::

  5. oh, the timing of this article!

    just an hour ago, i went into my office kitchen to find my lunch eaten/thrown out. though, in this case, i’d assume thrown out, as it was pretty clear that the cleaning lady had made an appearance. but come on — i just put that in there this morning!


  6. Tess Shebaylo on said:

    That’s annoying! At one of my old jobs, they would put a sign up that said “On such-and-such date, the refrigerator will be cleaned out. Remove ALL items from the refrigerator on that day, or label each item with your name and date.” That worked quite well. I can’t imagine them just purging the whole fridge with no warning! Uncool.

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