How to Improve (or Not!) Culinary Skills from Home

I have been working predominantly from home since March 2020. Remote work began as a result of the pandemic, like it did for so many of us. A job change, relocation and fast growing company resulted in my working remotely for the foreseeable future. We are now at three years and counting. My productivity and work product dialed in fairly quickly. But other elements of the workday routine have taken more time to adjust. One of these elements is my diet. How I’ve fed myself during the workday has evolved since leaving a formal office environment behind. 

Early on, when the world was on pause, Mr. Vine spent about a month at home on layoff. During these weeks, he would prepare my lunch most days. It was amazing. But alas, he eventually went back to onsite work. Then, a few months after that, he relocated before I did. He would leave Monday morning and return on Friday evening. I was solo for all of my meals during the week. This coincided with an extremely demanding time at my new job. So, I found myself frequently skipping meals, eating ramen noodles and whatever else I could quickly shove in my face. I would invite a friend over for dinner as often as possible to ensure that I would break from work and eat something. This continued for about six months, until early 2021. 

For the first part of 2021, we spent some time in a temporary studio apartment while our new home was renovated. The apartment had a small, but serviceable kitchen. But we weren’t there long enough to establish a solid routine. Then, we moved into our still-not-complete house. During this time, I relied heavily on convenience foods–instant noodles, frozen breakfast sandwiches, deli sandwiches and bottled iced coffee.

Our kitchen has been fully functional for about two years now. I’m still working on an effective routine for meal preparation. Sometimes I manage a great salad or a glow-up for leftovers. But I still struggle. Am I alone? I will very occasionally treat myself to a take-out lunch. Most of the time, though, getting fast food or takeout sounds more challenging than finding something at home. The worst part of remote work is figuring out what to eat for every single meal, all the time. 

My broken ankle and long recovery again disrupted my workday meal routine. For several weeks, I wasn’t able to be up and around enough to prepare food. Mr. Vine had to cook for me once again! For the past several months, now back to full capabilities and finally having the space to establish new habits, I am once again focusing on improving my work from home food program. 

To this end, I recently started making a regular shop at Trader Joe’s for prepared or convenient foods. I usually supplement these items with things already in my kitchen. The goal is always a quick to prepare, nutritious meal that is as appetizing as takeout, but at a fraction of the cost. I wanted to track this shop to see how many meals I get for my money, how easy the meals are to prepare and how much I enjoy them. I thought my fellow remote workers might appreciate this, too. In the coming weeks, I will share a post reviewing how I used the Trader Joe’s haul. This experiment is intended to help shape future grocery shopping trips. 

In the meantime, share your favorite quick and easy meals in the comments. Do you work from home? Have you ever had any challenges cooking for yourself (at lunch or for any other meal time)?

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