Eating on the Clock


Entering the real world is tough. Instead of going to class for two hours a day and then flopping around the library for the rest of the day, I, like many of my fellow graduates, am working two jobs serving the public. As a seasoned cashier, I am a certifiable expert on at least one thing: how to eat at work. Let me be your guide, so you too can be full and happy, even if someone is yelling at you because you stopped selling the type of bologna they like.

I know what position you are probably in, and I can help you. You moved home after college, telling acquaintances and professors that you are “taking a break” and then “applying for jobs.” Well, weeks turned into months turned into you are currently working in retail or in a grocery store (or both if you are lucky like me). If you have just started your position, maybe you are unsure of the eating etiquette. The question is: to snack or not to snack? Don’t make the mistake I did and arrive to your first day unarmed with at least one snack and only half a bagel eaten.

Eat before your shift: This is so important. You will be running around all damn day, so you might as well eat a large meal beforehand. Even if you don’t feel that hungry now, you will thank yourself for chowing down when you’ve been ringing up those steaming hot rotisserie chickens for the past five hours with no relief in sight. Eat before you start a shift, and eat a lot. Fry up an egg or two, and don’t forget the toast. Heat up some pasta. Eat more than you think you want, because in a few hours, you will be starving and there will be no escape.

The precious 30 minute break: This is, for the most part, all the time you may have to eat at work (at least visibly), and you should eat a meal. You will have many hours prior to the break to ruminate on the food choices you have, so make sure your ultimate decision is a wise one. Don’t get suckered into just eating a handful of stale jellybeans or buying a bag of chips. Try to find something substantial: peanut butter and bread, an apple, a hearty handful of mixed nuts… Also smart: pre-pack your lunch/dinner/ambiguous 4 PM meal.

Sneaking snacks and finding your sweet spot: It is very important to hold onto some sort of emergency stash in your pocket. I will bring an emergency granola bar in my pocket, covertly peel off its wrapper, and then sneak small chunks when no one is looking. Another great snack: nuts, which are hardly noticeable and easily sneaked. Sneaking snacks also allows you to be constantly grazing throughout the day, which is helpful if you don’t get a good chance to leave. Also, always take advantage of snacks offered to you. Did your coworker buy a box of candy that she doesn’t want to finish herself? Jump on that ASAP! That little bit of sugar will help you push through!

Choose your snack wisely: As you may have been told, customers are never supposed to view you eating. You are there to serve their every want and need, not to get Cheeto dust all over the merchandise. At my job in a retail space, the rules are lax, but that doesn’t mean I can be walking around with a dripping ice cream cone (though that is the dream). I bring a number of snacks to have throughout the day to equal some sort of “elementary school lunch”-themed meal (usually a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, chips, and an apple). Bring snacks that you can easily destroy the evidence of, or that are easily hidden when someone wants you to open a box for them or something.

Free food: Finally, this is one of the biggest perks to working a minimum wage job. People know you are poor and will take pity on you. It’s imperative that you take advantage of this. Is an event happening at your place of work? Did the caterer make more chicken skewers than she can handle?  Stick around long enough to see if you get free food. Do you get expired food for free? Take it, because sell-by dates are conservative (trust me, I work at a grocery store). Free food is the ultimate perk to working a minimum wage job. The more free food you take, the more money you will save, and the sooner you will move out of your parents’ house!

Post by Lucy Morel. Art by Molly Johanson.