How to Build a Work Pantry


work pantry working momYou’re almost ready to leave for work when one kid tells you he wants home lunch and the other can’t find his backpack.

Mornings like that usually leave you sitting at your desk with coffee – and starving. You didn’t have breakfast, didn’t even think about lunch and now? You’re wandering the halls for the closest vending machine or hoping the donuts from yesterday are still in the conference room.

Enter, the work pantry.

My work pantry saves me when breakfast doesn’t happen, you didn’t plan ahead for lunch and for when a snack attack hits. If you have food in your work pantry, you’re also less likely to hit up the vending machine or local restaurants.

I am 100% the person who has the crazy mornings and doesn’t feed herself properly. I tend to look for things that are shelf stable, I enjoy eating, and also have some nutritional value.

Create your own work pantry

drawer filled with snacks from work pantry
My work pantry fits in one of my desk drawers. I keep my sparkling water in the common area fridge.

Shelf-Stable Food

I know, we’re supposed to eat fresh, fresh, fresh, but that’s not always a possible reality when you’re at work. Keep things on hand that will last a month or more and that are going to satisfy your hunger and your cravings! Use this concept for both meals and snacks. This way, you can replenish at the beginning of every month and you’re set.

  • Popcorn – bagged or microwaveable
  • Flavored pretzels – less boring than regular pretzels
  • Cocoa-roasted almonds – protein and a sweet treat
  • Granola bars – a great breakfast bailout or afternoon snack. Check out these protein bars if you need a meal replacement.
  • Soup – this is a total bailout lunch but if you have it, it’s one less lunch out
  • Peanut butter – pair it with crackers or bread

Busy Food

When I am really concentrating on a project, my mouth needs to be moving but I’m not necessarily hungry. Anything that keeps my body mindlessly busy while my brain works has a place in my work pantry. Busy food is also shelf stable and you can usually get by with stocking up once every couple of months.

  • Gum
  • Tootsie pops – yes, I am a child but these are perfect! They’re good and have chocolate in them. It’s a win.
  • Hard candy – Jolly Ranchers and Gobstoppers top my list

Fresh Food

This is harder for me and I am hit or miss on it. Keeping a big bowl of whole fruit on your counter at home right where you walk out the door helps form a habit of grabbing a piece or two on your way to work. Whole fruits with the skin on will keep a couple of days and you don’t need to refrigerate them. If you have a fridge at work, you can also stock up on things that will last a couple of weeks. You’ll have to replenish more often but if you’re willing to do that, it could work for you.

  • Whole fruit
  • Yogurt – don’t forget to keep spoons on hand!
  • Cheese – cheese sticks last forever and they’re probably in your fridge at home already
  • Deli meat – it won’t last long but if you know you don’t plan ahead for lunch, keeping deli meat, cheese, and bread (or wraps) on hand could be a good solution. I’d also keep a bottle of really good deli mustard if you go this route – it’ll spice up a boring sandwich.


Keep a stash of your favorite drinks on hand. They’re even better if they pair well with one of your snacks.

  • Sparkling water – I used to be a Diet Coke addict. One day, I randomly stopped to see if I could. I can – but needed a replacement like sparkling water.
  • Water flavor packets – Some people hate water. If you do, try out a few different brands of the water flavor packets or consider bringing fresh fruit to throw in your water bottle.
  • Tea – If you have access to hot water, keeping tea bags and a mug at your desk can be a great afternoon break.
  • Canned products – If you’re buying a canned/bottled product every day, consider buying in bulk and keeping it on hand. It’ll be cheaper!

What are your favorite work pantry items?

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Brittney and her husband, Tyler, have been married for 10 years and live in Ames. Their two sons, Beckett (5) and Hudson (3), keep them on their toes with constant wrestling, dinosaur-related questions and daily inquiries as to when their next trip to get ice cream will be. Brittney works full time in marketing and communications. She likes to bike (the kind with pedals), visit family, hang out with friends, be in or on water - and always has good coffee and red wine on hand.


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