Fruits & veggies you a) can eat raw, and b) don't have to refrigerate
September 6, 2013 7:15 AM   Subscribe

Office full of "Why no, I didn't see any baby carrots in there *crunch crunch gulp*" fridge thieves. I can lock food at my desk, but I want FRESH fruit and veg, not just peanuts and raisins!

I want to snack only on fruits and vegetables (and some nuts) at work. We have a fridge, but this office is notorious for "Has anyone seen the bag of super-awesome grapes I bought yesterday?" kind of disappearances. I have a lockable drawer at my desk, and I'd like to put fruit and veg in there that I can snack on. We have knives and such here, so I can cut things up, and I can bring ziplocs to separate stuff, but what are the fruits and vegetables that won't rot in 3 minutes inside a non-refrigerated drawer? Can you keep a cucumber in a desk drawer? What about oranges?

Suggestions, please!
posted by tzikeh to Food & Drink (45 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Apples, pears, bananas, edamame, peapods.
posted by xingcat at 7:18 AM on September 6, 2013

oranges, peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 7:20 AM on September 6, 2013

Tomatoes actually do well without refrigeration. Grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes may not be a bad idea.

Alternately - have you also considered some kind of a sealable, opaque box that would itself go in the fridge, and then you put your food inside that? You know, like a Tupperware box only you can't see through it? That may discourage a number of the thieves, who may not feel any compunction about helping themselves to bags of baby carrots sitting out in the open; having to actually open a box to see whether or not there's any goodies inside may cause them to think twice (even if that thought is only "if this takes too long I could get caught and then everyone would know it's me").
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:22 AM on September 6, 2013 [14 favorites]

Vegetables: Tomatoes, cucumber, avocado. Carrots that have not been cut or peeled yet.
Fruit: Apples, pears, clemetines, oranges, bananas, grapefruit, mango, grapes, peaches, nectarines...

Won't last for weeks, but bringing them to work and eating them later in the day? No problem!
posted by Ms. Next at 7:23 AM on September 6, 2013

Most produce is fine at room temp for short periods. In fact I can't think of anything that wouldn't still be fine at lunchtime or even as an afternoon snack if you brought it that morning.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:24 AM on September 6, 2013 [25 favorites]

(Except maybe some of the more delicate lettuces, I guess.)
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:25 AM on September 6, 2013

Oranges (these are very fragrant, so if that's an issue in your workplace, be mindful)
Grape/cherry tomatoes
Blueberries (and I guess berries of many types)

Most things should be good for a few hours to a full workday. It matters how you store them in the drawer. Are bugs an issue?
posted by heathergirl at 7:25 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

You could also keep ice or ice packs in the freezer (assuming your work fridge has a freezer) and use that ice to cool a lunchbox-sized cooler that you keep in your desk.
posted by workerant at 7:26 AM on September 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

At my office some people also have mini-fridges at their desks. Not because people steal, but because people are lazy.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:27 AM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

It depends on how long you want to keep them there (from AM to lunchtime or bring in Monday and keep to Friday). For single-day survival, you can bring most things and they'll survive outside the fridge (us Americans are refrigeration-obsessive; I can't think of a single uncut veg/fruit item that actually needs refrigeration to be safe to eat).

Things that will keep longer than a day are: apples, pears, bananas, stone fruits, citrus, avocado, kiwi, berries, grapes, tomatoes, mangoes, bell peppers, cauliflower, broccoli. Baby carrots or cut carrots will last the day at least. If you buy your produce from a farmers market it will have a better chance of lasting longer than if you buy it at a supermarket (where it's likely to be older at time of purchase).
posted by melissasaurus at 7:27 AM on September 6, 2013

Response by poster: Oh man, this is what comes of thinking you said what you meant, when you missed vital words.

I mean to keep for a few days in a drawer, not a few hours. I can't tote fruit and veg to work with me every morning.

Bananas tend to immedately ripen in enclosed, dark spaces, and rot everything around them, don't they?
posted by tzikeh at 7:27 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Or get a little thermos bag with a small ice pack.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:28 AM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Hell, I'd put one of those padlocked fireproof boxes in the fridge to make my point. But pretty much all fruits and vegetables grow outside in the sun and are only refrigerated to lengthen life, not for safety purposes. Anything uncut can stay for days, and anything cut but "dry" should be fine (carrots). I'd take little persian cucumbers instead of the big ones.

I know people who swear by those green tupperware ethanol-sucking containers, or the bags. Maybe keep more delicate stuff in the drawer in those?

One place I worked had a mouse problem so bad we couldn't keep any food at our desks except in glass jars, so keep an eye out for the tiniest thieves.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:28 AM on September 6, 2013

There is such a product as a fridge locker.
posted by kmennie at 7:32 AM on September 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I think your question means that you awnt to bring a quantity of fruit and veg in to the office and store it there to eat at will.

Navel oranges can absolutely be kept in a desk drawer. Not in a huge quantity, but you could bring a week's worth. Apples too, but you'd want to keep them in a different drawer. Bananas will ripen pretty quickly in a closed space, especially with other fruits, because they respond to the gasses let off. Apples will be fine, but really prefer a cool dark place to a warm dark place.

If you want to microwave regular or sweet potatoes in the office, you can keep a few in a drawer, but again, not too warm. I'd say just bring one a week and eat it by Thursday. Rotten potatoes are probably the worst thing you can find anywhere. Air circulation is really the only thing that prevents that in the long term.

If your office has shelves that you can rearrange you can sometimes hide things behind a strategically placed binder or other thing. You could have a box of vertical stacked apples and one of oranges somewhere. Or even make them decorative, if your office is private OR open enough.

A whole cucumber would be fine in the drawer for a day or two. But once you cut into it, all bets are off. I'm not promising that it will go bad, but I'm certainly not saying that it won't.

Tomatoes are also great at room temperature and I never put them in the fridge, have a little salt on hand to sprinkle on them. Ditto avocado and mango if you can get them. Papaya as well, but you'd have to eat the whole of each in one go. Which might be tough for some people...But if you had half an avocado around mid morning and then the other half around mid afternoon it'd be fine at room temperature. Mind the enormous amounts of calories in an avocado though, but remember that it's the "good" fat.

If your question means "bring fruit daily that won't go bad if kept out of sight for a few hours" then really any fruit except the softest and ripest of them (I'm looking at you, raspberries of mid-july!) should be alright.

If you're interested in the third possibility of frozen fruit, I find that no matter what people will pilfer from the fridge, they don't touch the frozen fruit. I think it's because the waiting time is so long, that instant gratification plus plausible deniability is missing. You have to put it in a bowl and wait. I like this because I'm not always in the mood for a whole nectarine, but maybe just a few slices.
posted by bilabial at 7:33 AM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I used to have a cute little cooler that I think was intended for a 6-pack, as it was just about big enough for one with a little ice. Could you get something like that to stick in your drawer?

Otherwise, my favorite non-refrigerated produce would include tomatoes, kiwis, apples, and maybe some hard peaches or mangoes that can ripen over a few days. Maybe you could also take a cue from the way various fruits and veg are displayed at your grocery store? It's not perfect, but I would assume that anything that wasn't displayed in the refrigerated section would also be okay for a few days in your desk ...
posted by DingoMutt at 7:33 AM on September 6, 2013

User of a of a SMALL container at the office fridge here for items that MUST be fridged. My items disappear no more. I used to use an opaque container, but I've had stuff stolen out of it; now I use a mostly-clear container. Using up too much space gets a whole lot of people mad at you, and "lockers" tend to really piss people off.

As others have said, though, critters are the main issue with fruits (veg I might not leave out, YMMV) outside of your desk. How "clean" or clear must your desk be? I'd think the main issue with keeping at your desk is ventilation.

I'd say get the fruits you want, and keep them on your desk UNDER a mesh basket that is critter-proofed. This is a good, sizeable example, except for the handle-holes. Just put the food on a plate, cover with something similar (or with smaller holes if you're worried about ants - I'm only thinking roaches and mice). I do something similar for apples in my house as we tend to get ants and I don't like cold apples.

Holy moley, a better box.
posted by tilde at 7:36 AM on September 6, 2013

Another thought (that hasn't changed theft levels, which are minor) is to bring food to share. I experiment with my kids with foods, and things they don't like are brought in and put on the counter for sharing out. Maybe sometime when grapes or other fruits are on sale, bring them in and put them on the counter.
posted by tilde at 7:38 AM on September 6, 2013

In my experience bugs are everywhere. We don't have much theft in my office. I keep fruit and vegetables on my desk because I hate cold food.

Apples, oranges, pears, tomatoes, green beans, carrots, and celery are fine for a week or more. All berries and soft fruits need to be eaten the day you bring them in unless you want tiny mystery bugs buzzing around.

Don't ask me how bugs make it up two elevators.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:44 AM on September 6, 2013

Honestly, fuck 'em. Get something like this small safe and keep it in the fridge for your stuff.
posted by kate blank at 7:45 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just ate a banana that I brought to work and put in a drawer on Tuesday. It was pretty green when I brought it and just perfect now. One trick about bananas is that if you are storing more than one, you should peel them apart to help them last longer.
posted by Kimberly at 7:57 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Dude, the whole point of fruit and veg is that they don't need refrigerating. Most are actually worse after being put in a fridge. Unless they are cut up, you should be able to keep them for about a week at room temperature. Get a fruit bowl for your desk. Keep the bananas separately. If something's looking a bit delicate or squishy, eat it right away.
posted by Acheman at 8:18 AM on September 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

Even baby carrots will keep at your desk for a few days. I've done this by accident many times.
posted by mskyle at 8:20 AM on September 6, 2013

Sweet peppers store well for a few days unrefrigerated until after you cut them up. If you don't think you want to consume a whole raw pepper in one day, you could get a bag of the little mini peppers that are all the rage these days.
posted by drlith at 8:23 AM on September 6, 2013

Radishes keep well if the leaves have been removed.
posted by snorkmaiden at 8:27 AM on September 6, 2013

I usually buy a sack of apples, bring em in on Monday, and eat them by Friday. I've never noticed any problems, although I suppose I keep them out on my desk rather than in a drawer.
posted by AmandaA at 8:31 AM on September 6, 2013

A good rule of thumb is if they aren't refrigerated by the grocery store, you generally don't have to refrigerate them yourself.
posted by General Malaise at 8:49 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Apples keep a long time. Mandarins, are great I have no idea what you call them in the US, I want to say they are like "Cuties" I see in the supermarket but bigger. They keep easily out of the fridge and are easy to peel etc. Oranges keep for ages unrefrigerated, the skins make dry out a little eventually (after weeks) but the insides are still nice and juicy. Baby carrots can last a while as can cut celery, actually anything put out as standard on a crudite plate would last a couple of days in a tupperware in a desk.

Could you bring dried fruit?
posted by wwax at 8:50 AM on September 6, 2013

(Clementines are the variety of mandarin you see most often in the US. And yeah, they keep great.)
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 9:19 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

FYI fruit and vegetables kept at room temperature really do last much longer if you use Blu Apple.
posted by bearwife at 9:25 AM on September 6, 2013

Also, "adult" carrots I guess you'd call them — I mean, normal whole carrots that haven't been run through a machine to peel and trim them down into adorable shapes — keep better than baby carrots in my experience.

(For that matter, they're probably less likely to get stolen out of the fridge, since most people have a weird preference for the tiny adorable mechanically-trimmed ones, even though it's the same vegetable either way.)

And for maximum effortless storage: do pickles count as vegetables?
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 9:29 AM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ethylene absorbers will help fruits and veggies last longer in confined spaces. We run a fruit fund at work too. I just buy an extra bag of something at the grocery store and put it out on Mondays. A few other people do this too, and others leave cash in a cup by the fruit. It seems to have cut down on any theft, though I'm certain someone is stealing the clementines at night. They are the most popular. Pears and apples are the second and third most popular respectively.
posted by jwells at 9:32 AM on September 6, 2013

Ditto the fridge locker, linked by kmennie above. One of my colleagues did that when we had a similar problem at our office, and he never had another lunch snarfed. It also made for a very public demonstration of how bad the fridge theft problem had gotten, and seemed to cut down on thefts even against those who didn't have their food under lock and key.
posted by deadmessenger at 10:16 AM on September 6, 2013

An off-the-wall idea: if you want to get a Tupperware container for your refrigerated stuff, glue some little bells on it so they make a noise when the container is opened/moved. Maybe that will discourage some of the freeloaders.

For your desk, nthing apples, grapes, and clementines - those are my favorite portable fruit snacks as they are so easy to eat out of hand. Now there are two has a great suggestion about the carrots. Get "adult carrots" to keep in your desk - they will keep fine for a few days if it's cool and dry in there - and cut them up when you are ready to eat them.

A cooler or storage container would be a good idea if you have an insect or mouse problem. Make sure any storage container is ventilated enough so that things don't get too damp, which will shorten the shelf-life of your veggies/fruits.

My sympathies, as I hate refrigerator thieves with a passion and I've been in too many workplaces where "what's yours is mine!" was the attitude regarding other people's food in the lunchroom. It's shitty to just help oneself to other people's food.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:00 AM on September 6, 2013

I would feel ridiculous locking my fruit away in fridge. My solution was to have a bowl of fruit on my desk and invite colleagues to help themselves.
posted by BenPens at 12:35 PM on September 6, 2013

Best answer: Cucumbers actually stay crisper and happier if they are not stored in the fridge. I read an article, with a really great photo. They also link to a UCDavis informational poster that lists the best place (fridge/counter/etc) to store various fruits/veg.
posted by aimedwander at 1:44 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Another thought (that hasn't changed theft levels, which are minor) is to bring food to share.

I just buy an extra bag of something at the grocery store and put it out on Mondays.

My solution was to have a bowl of fruit on my desk and invite colleagues to help themselves.

Yeah, clearly none of you subsist on food stamps. This is part and parcel of why I can't put anything in the fridge anymore. I can't afford to lose the food I bring to work.

As one might assume from the above, I can't afford to buy a small fridge to put at my desk, either.

And for maximum effortless storage: do pickles count as vegetables?

I love pickles, but don't they usually say "refrigerate after opening?"
posted by tzikeh at 1:44 PM on September 6, 2013

Whatever you do, I suggest that another thing you do is speak to either a manager or something about how this is a really freakin' annoying thing and maybe some kind of polite-but-firm memo could be sent out about it.

The memo itself may not do much in and of itself, but it could pitch the water cooler talk to " you know, yeah, that's really annoying, isn't it?" and shame the culprits into laying off.

Or go with really big and unwieldy things like melons. It'd probably be okay to leave them in the fridge, because it's a hell of a lot harder to "subtly" steal a canteloupe.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:55 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

You know, I've always assumed the "refrigerate after opening" thing was a cover-your-ass move. I've had open jars of pickles last for a week or two unrefrigerated. But maybe it's better not to risk it.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 1:57 PM on September 6, 2013

Well pickles normally contain sugar and vinegar and what not all of which acts as preservative. In fact pickles predate refrigerators. So yes the jars say keep refrigerated but if I planned to eat one jar over the course of the week or two I'd be happy to keep it in my drawer. As disclaimer, I generally go by smell, appearance and taste to determine if things are edible and my digestive system is generally very resilient so if your constitution is more delicate you may feel more reluctant to ignore manufacturer storage instructions than I do.

As for most other fruit and vegetables they normally taste much better at room temperature than straight from the fridge. So not putting them in the fridge will improve the culinary experience in a lot of cases.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:58 PM on September 6, 2013

Yeah, clearly none of you subsist on food stamps.

Ah, then. Yes. Changes the discussion significantly, now that that has been added to the calculus of the situation.

Split bananas, or bring in two a day from home (after bringing in your fruit/veg for the week to put in your drawers).

If you can, get the fruit holders from the store (they generally get recycled) or use some crumpled up news paper to lay them in the drawers but still allow airflow.

Before you bring any of it in, wash it with water/vinegar mix, especially the citrus - and keep an eye on the citrus as it can spoil on the underside quickly (at least for me, here in Florida).

if you're concerned about humidity in the drawers, have an open cup of rice in there.

Be aware any food you leave simply "tossed in a drawer" may attract vermin, hence my links to a few meshy items that would minimize mice and roaches. If you can source cheap/used sealable containers and some mesh fabric and duct tape (laundry bag from dollar store) and cut a hole in the container then duct tape the fabric over it. Breathable bug-mostly resistant container.

If you want to know about pickles, read a pickle jar. Some say that, some don't - how fast are you going to eat them? I'd say buy a big jar, keep it at home, slosh in what you need per day. I don't fridge 'em but I don't leave them in the car.

I know you originally specified raw, but considering the calculus change, I'd think about potatoes. A few min in the microwave, a pat of butter (like melon, who is going to swipe it) and a dash of salt - hot nutritious lunch.
posted by tilde at 1:59 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Before you bring any of it in, wash it with water/vinegar mix, especially the citrus

What? I have never heard of this. What does using vinegar on fruit do? And what ratio of vinegar:water for washing? Do you do this to fruits you eat the skin of (berries, peaches, etc.)?
posted by tzikeh at 2:38 PM on September 6, 2013

I wash everything.

Fruit trays.
posted by tilde at 3:02 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I actually eat baby carrots after several days unrefrigerated. I have a tendency to open a bag, eat some for lunch, carry it home intending to put it in my home fridge, find it in my purse a day or so later, eat some more for lunch... after 4 days, they're usually either dry or slimy, and personally the dry kind doesn't bother me. If you drain the water out as soon as you open it, and leave the bag sitting open to air out befoe you put it away, it'll last a while.
posted by aimedwander at 6:09 PM on September 6, 2013

Slightly not what you are asking, but could you get a lunch bag with double zippers and keep your food in the fridge in that while using a luggage size lock so people can't get to the contents without opening it?
posted by nobeagle at 8:20 AM on September 8, 2013

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