Readers request: locker load

This is the first post in a series of posts I’m working on for everyone who has requested that I share my tips on packing food for a long work day. 

As some one who (a) has 12 hour shifts and (b) has fairly high standards for what I put in my body, it’s easier for me to pack my own meals. 

The obstacles for such a feat include: access to a fridge, storage space for ‘yo extra stash, and anticipating cravings.

I’ll address packing my daily eats in a future post.  For now, I’m going to share what I keep stored in my locker.  There are several things I keep on hand at all times and that’s because I’m a former girl scout unwilling to resort to sub-par processed food options. 

The things I’m going to list are my personal faves.  I have a locker that I can keep most of these in, but as I eat things, I sub new items in.  Either way, I make sure my stash is always loaded with choices.  Salty, sweet, quick, just-add-water, chewy, crunchy, whatever.  For those of you who have desk jobs, you can just as easily devote one of your drawers to the following. 



No, I don’t keep that entire box at work.  That’s part of my home supply. 

1.  Options with chocolate/peanut butter/nuts for dessert-like cravings. 


They are healthier than a candy bar and do the trick if I’m in the mood for a treat. 

My favorites include:

  • Larabar (chocolate chip brownie, peanut butter chocolate chip, peanut butter cookie, cashew cookie, etc.)
  • ProBar Halo (s’mores, rocky road, nutty marshmallow, honey graham)
  • Clif bar (peanut toffee buzz, coconut chocolate chip, and the seasonal flavor iced gingerbread)
  • MoJo bar (peanut butter pretzel, dipped chocolate peanut)
  • Z bar (chocolate chip, chocolate brownie, honey graham)
  • Odwalla bar (choco-walla, dark chocolate chip walnut, mocha-walla, chocolate peanut butter)

There are many many others, but those are my top picks.  Costco sells great flavors of Clif bars and Z bars in bulk. 

2. Options with fruit and/or berry flavors for when I’m wanting a non-dessert-like bar.  


Some of the best in this area are:

Corazona’s oatmeal squares (apple cinnamon, cranberry flax)

KIND bars (blueberry pecan, cranberry almond, apple cinnamon and pecan)

Odwalla bars (berries-go-mega, strawberry pomegranate, blueberry swirl, superfood, super protein)

Mrs. May’s bars (blueberry, cranberry, strawberry & tropical Trio bars) – also available in bulk from Costco

Clif bar (blueberry crisp, spiced pumpkin pie)

Larabar (blueberry muffin, coconut cream pie)

This list of bars is by no means exclusive, because I pick up new ones to try at random all the time.  At any given point in time I will have 3-5 bars in my locker.  I keep the ratio pretty much 50/50 between the chocolate category and the fruity category.  While some of these bars are processed more than others, they are still generally healthier choices than what you’d find in a vending machine.  And on night shift, there’s nowhere else to turn.  So there’s lesson one: stay stocked in the bars department.

Drink Mixes

These are helpful when you aren’t necessarily hungry, but you also need something to keep you going.  For me, this is often on night shift. 

And the best thing about drink mixes is that they take up little to no space.  Also, they don’t go bad, so you can keep them on hand indefinitely.

1.  Green mixes


If you are die hard, Amazing Grass makes plain wheat grass and green mixes.  If you are into the more (ahem) flavorful options, I’m right there with ya.


I adore Amazing Grass’ chocolate and orange creamsicle green superfood drink powder packets.

Seriously, these are SO good.  Just add water or milk and you’re instantly ready for the rest of the work day!  Patient in four-point restraints?  Bring it on!  [Ok, nothing makes me that amped]

2.  Emergen-C

I like nearly every flavor, but I usually get the pink lemonade because a portion of the proceeds goes to breast cancer research.  The fizz gives me an instant boost (and some mega Vitamin C too).

3.  VIA packets/tea bags


Hospitals should have coffee available for their staff 24/7 if they want what’s best for patients.  Obviously, I bring my own java to work…but let’s be real, I have way more than one mug-full of caffeine over the course of a 12 hour shift.  Our cafeteria serves Starbucks coffee, but I can’t exactly leave the unit for a refill.  Plus, it closes at 10 pm, which doesn’t help me at all on night shift.  If you are lucky enough to work in a place that has a coffee maker in the break room, props to you.  We do, but it’s not good.  For these reasons, I rely on Starbucks’ VIA packets and the likes.  Instant coffee isn’t as good as the real deal, but it’s ok in a pinch.


As for teas, I have many favorites.  I guzzle tea (way more than I guzzle coffee) so I go through my supply crazy fast (and am therefore constantly replenishing it).  I’m planning to write a detailed post on my favorite teas later, so for now, I’ll just say that I have a wide variety of tea bags in my stash.  Decaf, semi-caf, mega-caf, etc.  Tazo, Yogi, and Numi are my go-to brands.  Flavor-wise I love me some chai. 

4.  Protein powder


I use these far less often that the previously mentioned drink mixes, but they are still good to have on standby.  Vega’s vanilla chai mix is the best.  Obviously it’s preferable to use it in a smoothie (blended with spinach, banana, and almond milk), but what can you do?  It’s still grrrreat when shaken not stirred into water, milk, yogurt or oats.


1. Oatmeal mixes

DIY baggies of oats are simple enough to make – just throw oats in a ziplock bag and add in whatever extras you enjoy (dried fruit, nuts, stevia, brown sugar, cinnamon, etc.).  Then, when you are out of food and thinking you’re screwed because there’s nothing in the vending machine but Snickers and Lay’s, you’ll remember you have oats in your locker.  Pour into a cup, add hot water, and voila! 


If you have enough room, you can always store Dr. McDougall’s hot cereal cups.  They have great flavors and they are pure, wholesome, and really yummy.  But if you’re lacking in space, the DIY baggies are way more practical.


Three Sisters Cereal makes instant flavored oats too (plain grain, dark chocolate, cinnamon & apples, brown sugar & maple) that have nothing but pure, quality ingredients.  They are cleverly crafted to function as a measuring cup for the water too, but I already know how much water to add to my oats.  This brand is only sold at WF. 

In any event, having something healthy and hearty like oatmeal as a back-up is definitely a must.  Plus, if I ever feel crummy and/or my packed eats aren’t doing it for me, oatmeal is one thing my stomach can always handle and never gets tired of.

2.  Snacks


Kaia foods has stellar products that defy the laws of packaged eats.  I love their raw granola and nut/seed mixes (they are usually in the raw section of the grocery store). 


Love Grown Foods (among other companies) makes individual packets of items like granola, but don’t worry if you can’t find these in stores.  I get samples from companies, so I often bring them to work because the size is perfect.  But I also portion out cereal and granola into ziplock bags (just like I do with oatmeal) to keep on hand.  This is a more green (aka hippie-friendly) approach to food storage anyway and it’s generally cheaper than buying mini-servings of products.  Just remember to bring home the plastic bags to reuse once you’ve eaten their contents.  


Annie’s Home Grown sells mini-snack packs too.  I don’t eat these frequently but I have some of the Bunny Fruit Snacks in my locker for no reason other than emergency purposes. 

3.  Nuts/trail mix


Costco sells lunchbox friendly packets of both nuts and trail mix, which Kyle brings to school every day.  Even though, I also pack nuts in my lunches, I keep a backup plastic bag of nuts in my locker…just in case. 

Same goes with trail mixes.  DIY nut/fruit/cereal mixes are one of the most basic snacks and they are also what I turn to first.  For reals.  I go through home-made batches quicker than Gaga goes through hair dye. 

Here’s my #1 mix:

  • almonds
  • carob chips
  • dried cranberries
  • raisins
  • cereal (two kinds- ie cheerios, honey grahams)

4.  Dried fruit


This is another simple snack that has a long shelf life.  I don’t keep the entire bag in my locker – just enough to get some fruit in my system when I’m running on empty.  It’s definitely a more healthy option for when I’m scrounging. 

5.  Nut butters


My locker is small, so I don’t have room for an entire jar.  Thus, squeeze packets are my next best option.  In terms of storage, these are real estate gold.  They are tiny in size, but super nutrient dense.  Artisana, Justin’s, and Sunbutter all make a variety of nutbutter flavors in squeeze pack form.

Add to oats or on top of rice cakes, crackers, pitas, tortillas, whatever.


I guess there’s nothing wrong with a straight shot of PB to the mouth either.

Just remember that variety is key, as is having healthy (but satisfying) options.  And you have to be realistic.  Bringing in a pound of carrots is neither practical nor pragmatic.  I try to anticipate my cravings, and rather than nip them in the bud, I honor them, but with a more wholesome food choice than whatever I would turn to without my back-up supply. 

So there you have it!  Locker loading 101 – lesson complete. 

Go collect these goodies to stash in your work space and you’ll never resort to crappy food again.  Questions?  Ask away. 


Coming up next…power lunches!  Fresh fare to keep your appetite at bay the healthy way. 

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Comments (23)

  1. PB&Jenny

    alright I’m going grocery shopping in your locker. Do you take debit?

  2. Kelsey @ Unmitigated Grub

    DUDE you are the best snacker ever! I’m in awe.

  3. Red Deception

    That is similar to what I take to work, too. However, when it gets busy I don’t always get time to eat what I prepare! Right now I made some miso soup to take to work tomorrow, just needs to be nuked and it’s good to go!

  4. falafelwaffle

    I love this post. Very helpful. I love seeing what people bring to work. 🙂 both because it’s helpful and I’m nosy 😛

  5. Chelsea M

    I just found your blog recently and I am in love already! I’ve been a night nurse for the last 2 1/2 years and snack cravings are always my downfall. There’s something about messing with my sleep rhythm that makes me crave the worst things. I’ve added your ideas to my shopping list so I can stock my locker. Looking forward to your future posts!

  6. Janice

    Thank you so much for this post Elise. Night shift is horrible especially when you are hungry & there’s nothing but lays & snickers in the vend machine and caf is closed. Medical staff should avoid being too hungry while on duty or else they’ll be grouchy to the patients. 🙂

    I’ll be looking forward to your next post. What dressing to bring for packed lunches that wont make your veggies soggy. Thanks! 🙂

  7. Valerie

    I’m curious to know how much you spend on groceries each week.

    Good tips!

  8. Cecilia

    Loved this! I always bring my lunch and snacks with me to work. I try to pack a few different snacky options for the cravings that come up during a long day at work.

  9. abznoats

    You are a rock star! I love this post because I am a snack machine at work and usually end up eating my body weight in graham crackers. Seeing these different options definitely gives me some new inspiration of things to pack!

  10. Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga

    omg elise, FABULOUS post!

    love that you broke things down into category

    my fave category is “Options with chocolate/peanut butter/nuts for dessert-like cravings. ”
    I know you probably dont do them but Luna cookie dough bars, Balance cookie dough, and Balance Gold are all decent. But not vegan and not GF.

    love your stash. I’d like to raid it!

  11. Pure2raw twins

    great things to have in a locker…love vega!

  12. Dominique

    I pack my lunch for work everyday, and I would love to have some fresh ideas to keep it from getting too boring!

  13. Heather @ Kiss My Broccoli

    Ok, so I’m totally picturing your locker bursting at the seams now! I try to keep a good supply of “emergency food” in my locker too, but the other day I was caught with only a Larabar to eat when I forgot my lunch at home (Ugh)! Luckily, we were slow that day and I just ran to the grocery store on my lunch break and grabbed a microwaveable sweet potato, a small jar of PB and a carton of cottage cheese….the perfect lunch…although the hummus sandwich that I’d actually packed was pretty stellar too (when I had it for dinner!)

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  15. Rebecca

    How do you get samples from different companys?? I love this idea and am super interested. I often find myself waiting till I’m super hungry and then end up binge eat 🙁 Love your locker load idea and I did the same thing!! Thanks for the great tips!

  16. Karlee

    love this post! i want to buy all of these things. perfect for work, and vacations!

  17. Kairii

    Good to see real exeriptse on display. Your contribution is most welcome.

  18. Pingback: Vegetarian snack ideas

  19. Amanda

    Hey Elise,

    Did ya ever do a post on your favorite teas? If so could you link it? I’d love to read but am not sure how I’d find it among your millions of wonderful posts. 😉

  20. Elise (Post author)
  21. Ashley

    Hello Elise! I just LOVE your blog and webpage! I have gastroparesis and have read that a low FODMAP diet would work well for me and have been using your page to help me chart my path. I LOVE your recipes and just purchased some Amazing Grass’ chocolate packets. I cant wait to get them in! thanks for putting so much effort into this page around your hectic and bust life! I sure appreciate it!

  22. Elise (Post author)

    hi ashley! thanks for such a nice comment. glad you are finding my site helpful – i hope you find success with fodmaps.

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