update: tubs of butter are taking up all the room in our tiny fridge

I am on day 3 of illness and do not have the ability to write a short-answer post for today, so instead please enjoy this update from the letter writer earlier this year whose tiny office fridge was crammed full of tubs of butter.

Thank you for answering my question.  Unfortunately getting a larger fridge was not going to happen. The building manager laughed when I asked.  Really laughed.  Like head back full mirth.  Other departments with more people have the same size fridge so it was never going to happen.

Your readers were so helpful though and it really enabled me to clarify my thinking here.  I realized what I was bothered about was the lack of cold Diet Coke.  I could live with merely cool lunch, but not having that cold Diet Coke felt massively unfair next to their big space-hogging butter.

One of your readers also suggested using an emptied butter container for the Diet Coke as well, which pleased me immensely. That way it wouldn’t get knocked over or taken out of the fridge for someone else’s lunch. 

So I have attached two photos. First is the Diet Coke in a clean empty butter container and the second is our fridge when I was first in the office — mine is the Country Life container front and center.  Please note the other five butter/margarine containers that live in there as well as the Dairylea, which technically is a cheese spread but I think should count here.

For the record, I take the empty container out of the fridge when I’ve had my Coke at lunch so if anyone gets some shopping they can put it in the fridge until they take it home.  I’m not a monster.

I have cold Diet Coke and feel satisfied at the subterfuge which allows me to put up with this insanity. 

Thanks again for the response and reader support.  

{ 401 comments… read them below }

  1. Middle Cottage*

    Oh, I LOVE This. You are truly not a monster. I would probably leave the container in for consistancy.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      I am laughing SO HARD. Like, guffawing! This is effective and awesome and hilarious, and I’m so glad it worked out for Butter LW (non-butter LW?).

      Feel better, Alison!

          1. MtnLaurel*

            This is a great solution and example of thinking to get to the bottom of what’s bothering you. Genius and self-aware!

      1. madge*

        SAME. I’m snorting. Letter Writer, can we be friends?? You’re my hero. We have full-on grocery trips in our fridge.

        Hope you’re back to 100% soon, Alison!

        1. Op*

          Let us be friends and co workers and bring small amounts of condiments for personal use only.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’m imagining the perplexed view of a co-worker who notices that the butter container is sometimes not there….
      “Does OP just not know that butter should be kept refrigerated? They can’t be using that much butter can they?

      1. tallteapot*

        Butter does not need to be kept refrigerated. It’s perfectly fine at room temp for a week or three, depending on the room temp. Margarine, that might be different, but I won’t eat that nasty stuff.

        1. MatKnifeNinja*

          I hear yah, but everyone I know keeps real butter in the fridge. (US)

          I keep real butter out, and no one but me and my cousin will use it. Everyone else softens it up in the microwave.

          Because…food poisoning..you know (sigh)

          My sister has tossed out butter sticks that have sat out overnight.

          I’ve showed everyone all the info 5hat butter CAN be left out. It’s an whole heap of nope.

          1. Artemesia*

            Our friends are aghast at us too — we never refrigerate the butter once the hunk in use is out on the plate — we go through it fast enough that it doesn’t get rancid. I don’t think it is much of a food poisoning threat

            1. Indigo a la mode*

              It’s nice to keep some cold because it’s easier to cut for cooking purposes, but when you bake a lot like I do it’s soooo time-saving to just keep a pound on top of the fridge.

          2. ThatGirl*

            I keep my butter in the fridge because I don’t know where else I would put it. I don’t need another thing sitting around on my counter.

            1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

              My cat *loves* butter, leaving it on the counter even for half an hour is asking for a furry incursion. However, she has yet to figure out how to open the refrigerator.

              1. zapateria la bailarina*

                most butter dishes come with covers! :)

                although, if your cat tends to knock stuff over/onto the floor that certainly wouldn’t help

                1. Kate*

                  We have a covered butter dish — one with a lid that snaps into place. My (very food motivated) kitty treats it like a cat toy. If he knocks it around enough it will pop open and whoo-hoo! butter! So we put it up in the cupboard most of the time. But the rest of the sticks not currently in the dish go in the fridge because that’s where they fit.

              2. Shoes On My Cat*

                I sometimes have flies (dogs-in/out) but I like my butter easily spreadable too so I found a ‘not quite antiques/inexpensive antiques “ store in a nearby small town and bought a pretty cut glass butter dish circa 1940 that is the right shape for modern butter sticks. The butter dish has a flat bottom and a raised top. Et voila-fly less soft butter! Maybe you have someplace similar nearby?

            2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

              We do too, but mostly because dogs. They aren’t typically counter surfers, but butter would definitely tempt them more than most things!

              My mother-in-law always used butter keepers. And, like her, we buy Kerrygold, so I know it would be fine (especially the salted butter).

            3. Safetykats*

              Butter dish. Covered butter dish. We have three cats who are all butter-eaters; don’t have any problems with the covered butter dish. You can buy them at almost any home goods store.

              And then you can butter your toast without tearing it apart.

              1. EH*

                Yep, this is what we do too – we have a big, chunky, glass butter dish with a heavy lid. I grew up with butter in the fridge, but once my partner introduced me to the joys of room-temp butter I never looked back. I haven’t had food poisoning even once since we moved in together eight years ago (knock on wood), even in the summer.

                I grew up in California and now live in Oregon (it gets up over 100 here in the summer now, too. Still no issue).

                1. Tin Cormorant*

                  I buy butter at Costco, and I will often have butter in a dish in the spice cabinet, in the fridge, AND in the freezer. One stick in the cabinet so it’s soft for spreading, two or three sticks in the fridge for cooking, and all the rest in the freezer for later use. I live somewhere that routinely gets 90+ degrees for most of the summer, and I’ve never had salted butter go bad in the cabinet.

            4. Lady Kelvin*

              We have to keep our butter in the fridge because leaving it on the counter will result in a pool of liquid butter. Also, ants are problems and if you don’t believe me that ants like butter, I’d like to introduce you to our ants…

              Actually I keep my butter in the freezer because i primarily bake with it and the colder it is the more likely I can get my pastry made and back in the fridge before it melts and ruins the bake. Baking when it rarely drops below 80 is a challenge.

              1. Hodie-Hi*

                Try a butter keeper… not a butter dish. A local potter made mine, but I’m sure you can find one online. It’s two parts.

                Mine has a lid from which a cylinder protrudes downward, which you pack a full stick of butter into. That drops into a globe-shaped bottom. I fill the bottom about half way with cold water and leave it on the counter in a shady spot. The butter is secure from counter surfing pets, stays soft, and won’t melt into a puddle. It’s easy to refresh the cold water, and about once a month I put it in the dishwasher.

          3. Manon*

            So weird that no one else would use butter that hasn’t been refrigerated. Growing up (in the US) my family always had a stick of butter on a little covered dish on the counter.

            1. londonedit*

              Yep, in my childhood it was perfectly normal to keep butter in a covered butter dish out of the fridge (our butter generally comes in 250g blocks rather than the sticks you have in the USA, so our butter dishes are a slightly different shape!) But nowadays I think more people use the buttery spreads, or spreadable (straight from the fridge) butter, and so people are more used to keeping butter/spreads in the fridge.

            2. Annie Dumpling*

              My aunt kept her butter dish full, and when not in use it was kept in the cupboard with the clean dishes, ready for the next meal.

          4. ggg*

            I leave my butter out. Every once in a while my mom does research hoping to prove that I should put it in the fridge. Then she sends me a bunch of articles reassuring me that it’s OK to leave the butter out.

            1. Vax is my disaster bicon*

              That’s kind of charming, ggg! She just winds up reassuring herself in the end.

            2. MJ*

              Before the advent of electricity and fridges, butter would have been kept out. So would cheese.

          5. tink*

            My mom keeps out 1-2 tbsp at a time in a small container. Sometimes less in summer, but they’re in the southeast and don’t have A/C, so her thinking is she’d rather only have a little spoil if any’s going to spoil, and those few tbsp are plenty for a week of breakfast toast. I do the same thing if I think I’m going to want softened butter for something.

          6. Falling Diphthong*

            I learned this trick from people in Maine (Maine: the state where it’s always okay to keep your butter outdoors), and now keep it out until the weather turns really hot.

          7. SunnyD*

            Butter does go rancid eventually, if left out when it’s hot enough, but that’s what those French crocks with water are for.

        2. Magenta*

          The stuff in tubs like that is “spreadable butter” it tastes the same as butter but is blended to spread out of the fridge, if you leave it out it will basically melt into a thick liquid.

          1. not really a lurker anymore*

            Yep. And it separates too. I’ve stirred it back up and put it back in the fridge and it’s been fine.

        3. Sarah Simpson*

          We always left our butter out growing up and I love having soft butter around. I used to keep it on a plate and then I got a cat and had to get an actually butter dish with a cover because I came home one day to a butter stick that had been lightly licked from one end to the other.

        4. MJ*

          …”depending on the room temp.” This is key. Living in the subtropics, you can watch butter melt when left out. We’re talking minutes here for a small pat.

          “Margarine, that might be different, but I won’t eat that nasty stuff.” Having avoided margarine for decades, I was surprised to learn that the nasty industrial oils have been removed and are now much better for you. Of course, these healthier (not stick ones) margarines and (olive/vegetable) oil spreads just don’t cut it on a slice of toast.

      2. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        My butter sits in its dish all year round until summer. I usually stash it in the microwave because I have cats and a dog. My Irish wolfhound cured me of leaving it out on the counter because butter began disappearing. I couldn’t figure out how we were going through so much butter until I put a stick out, walked away and five minutes later it was gone and I found a wrapper. Yep, Coolie would snatch it off the counter–his head was exactly counter level.

        1. Massmatt*

          Whoa that’s a big dog! But I guess they are called wolfhounds for a reason.

          I am surprised he was able to be so neat about it.

        2. starsaphire*

          We started calling the microwave the “kitty safe” because our cats were master ninja-level counter thieves. Like, working the lid off the butter dish, opening cabinet doors, level.

          I permanently cured my old housemate of leaving butter on the counter by showing her the kitty-tongue marks… ;)

      1. Elspeth*

        LW takes the tub out of the fridge when she decides to have her coca cola though, so that won’t happen.

    3. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      I would like to applaud you for finding a butter container that so perfectly fits your diet coke – you are not taking up any extra room whatsoever. I’m so glad you get to have your icy cold pop!

    4. Cedarthea*

      I was thinking the OP should bring a warm Diet Coke from home every day (or stash at desk) and swap it, one warm coke for a cold coke and no one would be the wiser. And you would still have a cold diet coke every day!

      1. Mr. Shark*

        Yup, that’s the way to do it, so you don’t have to remove the butter tub from the fridge. You just keep it in there with your Diet Coke getting nice and cold!

      1. SunnyD*

        It’s all so ridiculous and awesome. OP is my hero.

        (But also, what about little wrapped squares of butter and margarine that they all can use?)

    5. MommyMD*

      Coke in the butter tub is freaking genius. I’d leave it in there too lol to mark my spot.

  2. Myrin*

    Now that must be one of the more creative solutions to a problem I’ve seen here!

    (And best wishes and a speedy recovery to you, Alison!)

    1. Japananon*

      I love it!
      OP, that’s like… the default size fridge where I live so I feel your pain. Alas our “full size” butters are also smaller than that so I can’t conceal anything in them. I tend to move things to the drawers on either side, on top of that slope on the bottom… you learn to get very good at Tetris!

      1. Food Safety Paranoia Girl*

        The trouble is that a completely-packed, frequently-opened fridge rarely stays at a safe temperature. I would never trust an office fridge to do its job for food safety purposes, and would never use a condiment that was permanently stored in there. But keeping a daily lunch cool-ish ’til noon or chilling a completely safe item like soda is fine.

        1. Kit*

          You are indeed quite paranoid! I work directly with potentially hazardous foods and am therefore well-trained in food safety and room temperature butter is not a concern. We leave butter out to soften for use in recipes and our (extremely strict) health inspectors do not bat an eye.

          The fluctuations in fridge temp may impact shelf life but I would be very surprised if the fridge spends enough time above 4•C to render prepared food unsafe.

    2. Artemesia*

      This. You will go far in corporate America. Congratulations on both figuring out what you actually needed and figuring out a hilarious way to get it.

  3. Natalie*

    I just snort/laughed and scared the dog. This is awesome.

    (I hope you feel better soon, Alison)

  4. Buzz*

    Good thinking, OP!

    I am intrigued by what appears to be a Lush container in there. Do some Lush products need to be refrigerated…?

    1. Sam Sepiol*

      I really, really hope that the lush container contains something completely different too. That would truly make this The Fridge Of Subterfuge.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Must….resist…posting a link to the Oprah Winfrey meme… because Alison doesn’t need to work when she’s sick…

        1. RJ the Newbie*

          Plus 1000 for that.

          OP, I bow to your savvy. That is a great way around your butter wars. You would have loved the yogurt war conferences at my office. Never have I seen dairy cause so much commotion.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            >Never have I seen dairy cause so much commotion
            AAAAH crap now I have to shut down. That laugh will have been heard four cubicles away, and my coffee’s mostly gone anyway.

          2. Op*

            Yoghurt wars conferences conjures up a big table with serious people sat behind the flags of their yoghurt tribes. Tell us more.

            1. SunnyD*

              Read Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series. There is one scene where the off-duty house guard is startled awake by yelling, dashes down in skivvies and holster, and slides right into the middle of a desperate attempt to foil kidnapping with flung tubs of very slippery butter.

              That’s what I’m imagining here.

        1. mcr-red*

          I kept wondering if it was all everyone’s lunches, as a lot of people I know reuse butter containers that way.

          1. valentine*

            What if…NONE of it was actually butter?
            This is the best scenario. Peak would be a cupboard full of cookie tins.

    2. FairPayFullBenefits*

      Yes! A lot of them do. I’m curious if an employee is shopping at Lush on their lunch break and needs to store it for the rest of the day, or if someone is bringing products in to use during the day!

      1. Jasnah*

        I’d be very surprised if an employee brought in a face mask that need to be refrigerated to use during work hours… and I’d be super grumpy if that was one of the things blocking me from storing my lunch in the fridge!

        1. Dr Useless*

          Of course the mask won’t be used during work hours, but if you buy one during your lunch break to use at home, it will have to go into the fridge in the meantime.

          Signed, someone who’s put lush pots into the work fridge.

          1. Lucy*

            Does it not stink out the fridge? Lush products are pungent (I have to cross the road to avoid walking past the shop door).

            1. Grassy*

              Not every single product is pungent. The shops smell very strongly presumably because they have so many products there and also use them. Just one tub of cream or whatever isn’t going to stink out an entire room.

              1. Bagpuss*

                It does depend an awful lot of on the product. A lot of them are very strongly scented and do stink out a room (Even if they are wrapped)
                A friend once sent me a gift box and even though everyhting was wrapped and small quantities, I had to put it out in my shed until I could re-gift it, as even with the items in the box, and the box in a pastic bag, it was too smally to have anywhere in the house!
                But I would expect a facemask to be less likely to smll than other things, f only becuase it is, presumably, a liquid or gel so neds to be properly selaed.

                1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

                  this. I bought a stick of deodorant from them and could smell it well before opening the box even wrapped up.

              2. Gumby*

                I use their henna and it is indeed pungent! I have taken to bringing the glass container in which I store it at home (because I don’t use the whole block at once) when I go shopping just to cut down on lingering scents in my car. From the 10 minute drive between the store and my house. OTOH – it totally covers my greys, looks great, and still probably smells better than other chemical-type dyes not that I would know having never used one.

                1. SunnyD*

                  I like Mehandi – I put 2 drops of cinnamon oil (no more or it’ll burn the scalp!), a few shakes of orange oil, and a drop or two of rosemary (cuz it’s there) to cover up the henna smell, which really bugs my husband. The essential oils really help.

            2. NEWBIEMD19*

              The face masks don’t smell; they’re in a tightly closed container. They are, however, delicious.

              1. Elitist Semicolon*

                I feel so much better about having once tasted my satsuma body lotion. (It was…not delicious.)

            3. Eillah*

              Former Lush employee here (don’t ever work for them, their liberal image is total bullshit): the masks don’t smell, that’s the bath bombs.

            4. Jadelyn*

              In the shop, you’re smelling the piles and piles of bath bombs and soap chunks out on display. The stuff that’s in containers usually does have some scent to them, but when the container’s closed you’d never smell it.

        2. Angwyshaunce*

          What if none of it is actually butter and everybody is simply using the same technique to hide their lunch?

          1. Patty Mayonnaise*

            My mom used to reuse butter containers for leftovers. I would often go searching for butter and find last night’s broccoli instead. And there’s been moments of me holding a stack of butter containers out to my mom and saying “which one of these is actually butter?!”

              1. AKchic*

                Psh. Nobody *ever* puts cookies in the sewing tin. I don’t know why they ever put festive cookies on the sewing tin to begin with!

            1. Elitist Semicolon*

              I do this with pretty much all reusable containers. The cottage cheese container holds leftover enchiladas, the feta container has shredded chicken, and the spaghetti sauce jar looks like it’s sauce. but it’s the tomato mixture for red chili rice. I have a dip container of something in the freezer right now that I can’t identify without opening other than to be 100% confident whatever’s in there is Not Dip.

            2. Matilda Jefferies*

              Same. I once poured soup on my cereal because my mother had put her homemade soup in the milk pitcher. That was…interesting!

            3. Rebecca in Dallas*

              Hahaha my grandmother used the Country Crock containers for leftovers! And Cool Whip containers, too, if memory serves. Yes, always frustrating to have to open multiple containers to find the actual butter!

              1. nonegiven*

                It’s not. I was 17 before I found out my mom had been perpetrating a hoax all along. I thought oleo and margarine were names for butter.

                Now, margarine will enter my house over my rotting corpse.

            4. Hapless Bureaucrat*

              Butter, sour cream, yogurt, gelato, pudding… nothing in my Mom’s fridge is guaranteed to be what it actually is.

              1. Elitist Semicolon*

                My dad opened a (clear) tupperware of what he thought was leftover canned peaches that turned out to be three egg yolks. Fortunately he realized this upon trying to cut the yolk with a spoon rather than upon actually trying to eat one.

          2. pentamom*

            Probably not all of them, since “I have toast for breakfast” was one of the excuses.

    3. Karen from Finance*

      I googled the product in the picture, it says “Catastrophe Cosmetic”. It’s a face mask that’s supposed to be left on your skin for 15 minutes, then rinsed off with warm water. It also says: “to ensure the freshest mask possible, store in the fridge between uses and be sure to finish within 3 weeks.”

      OP also said that they were first in office that day, so it’s not a situation where someone bought it on their lunch break and stored it in the fridge for the rest of the day.

      I’m assuming it’s someone using the container as tupperware, similarly to OP. Or else someone’s being really weird.

      1. Karen from Finance*

        Now I’m imagining OP opening the Lush container only to find MORE BUTTER.

      2. J.*

        Or someone bought it on their lunch break the day before and forgot to grab it on their way out.

    4. Yuan Zai*

      Most Lush products are shelf stable but some of their fresh made face masks do need to be refrigerated.

    5. CoveredInBees*

      Yes, they have many products that require refrigeration. You know what doesn’t need refrigeration? Butter. Butter, especially when it is being used regularly to smear on bread, is better off NOT in the fridge unless you live somewhere hot and don’t have A/C.

    6. Op*

      I do not open other peoples containers and peek inside. That would be icky and weird. Unlike smuggling Diet Coke in a butter container which is incredibly normal.

    7. Miso*

      Yeah, the fresh face masks like the one in the picture (I zoomed in) need to stay in the fridge.
      But surely noone is using a Lush face mask at work, right? Right…?

    1. Krickets*

      Ain’t that the truth!

      Whoever came up with that idea is a GENIUS! Congrats, OP, for outsmarting the competition. :D

      I hope AAM gets “butter” (i mean “better”) soon!

  5. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    Genius solution! Thanks for the update and sorry the building manager was a jerk.

    Allison, so sorry to hear you’re ill and hope you get well soon!

  6. Hardwood Floors*

    One of the containers says ‘face mask.’ I hope it is a reused plastic container that has someone’s lunch and not face mask trumping space for lunches!

  7. Lena Clare*

    Great idea :)
    That fridge is really clean, did you have to clean it before taking a piccie? Our work fridge would not stand up to such internet scrutiny!
    And get well soon Alison.

    1. Jenner*

      That is what I was thinking. Our work fridge is full enough that you cant see the back of it on any level. But we dont have any butter so…

  8. Anonymouse*

    *slow clap*

    My office’s mini fridge is full of several half full bottles of non-dairy creamer, which I think is an even more depressing low. I have access the full size fridge in the staff room, but since the staff room is on a different floor (no elevators), I’ve taken to creatively cramming my lunch-containing Pyrex as best I can.

  9. londonedit*

    This is wonderful, and also possibly the most British fridge I’ve ever seen. Top marks all round.

    1. Lizardlady*

      I was thinking that exact thing. I had my suspicions when the original letter was published that this was something only brits would do and I feel oddly vindicated to discover that I was correct and my fellow country people could get so petty over butter.

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        And yet every British office I’ve been in has a communal butter tub as well as jam, milk, and peanut butter. I have not been in that many, granted, but the proliferation of butter substitutes seems peculiar.

        1. londonedit*

          Ooh, I’ve never come across a communal workplace butter tub! Milk yes, because the company usually provides that, but nothing else is usually communal.

          Our office fridge is mainly full of milk (skimmed and semi-skimmed, plus various non-dairy milks that people bring in themselves) and people’s yogurts and lunches in Tupperware. Not even sure if there is butter but now I’m going to have to go and check.

          1. londonedit*

            I have now checked the work fridge, and the only butter there is half a block of foil-paper wrapped Anchor. There are however 12 pints of milk, which take up the entire bottom drawer and half the bottom shelf.

          2. SunnyD*

            In my US corp, our fridges are ruthlessly cleaned to bare glass and metal, no exceptions, every week. Nobody bothers. We just put ice packs in a lunch cooler bag.

        2. Pandop*

          We can’t even manage communal milk in our office fridge, as some people want whole, some semi, and some skimmed. We are all in agreement though, that the certain someone in our office who keeps leaving stinky cheese in there, is ‘not on’.

        3. TechWorker*

          Our company provided company margarine for exactly this reason – lots of tubs taking up all the space…

        4. Bagpuss*

          We don’t!
          We have milk (skim and semi-skimmed ) which we (the firm) buys, which I think are the only communal things in there.
          (I just looked. there are 2 tubs of butter-type-spread in the fridge at present, but as there is plenty of sapce we don’t seem to have a problem. )

      2. misspiggy*

        Me too! don’t think it’s just the pettiness that marks it as British, but the creativity that goes into getting round unreasonable rules rather than facing out a conflict.

        That kind of thinking can be a huge asset when transferred to the situations of corruption and dysfunction that I work in, but I feel for people from more straightforward places who come to work in the UK…

      3. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        You haven’t seen Americans over creamer or coffee. I think all people have food wars.

    2. Lucy*

      Ha ha that was exactly my thought too! I hadn’t noticed the Britishness in the original letter, but this is indeed the Britishest work fridge possible.

      LW, you’ve made my day. Enjoy your cold pop and have a virtual understated appreciative nod from me.

    3. Magenta*

      It is the epitome of a British office fridge, so much so that I thought it was our office fridge!

    4. Veggiesforlife*

      Ok, American here, and I have to ask. What’s with all the butter? Is toast a breakfast staple?

      1. londonedit*

        Is toast *not* a breakfast staple in America?? Tea and toast is absolutely up there in terms of classic British breakfasts.

          1. SunnyD*

            I maybe can’t manage making a breakfast burrito* at home if in a rush, but toast? I can manage that at home, even on a tight schedule.

            *Trevor Noah has a really funny stand-up bit about how tacos (and I’m lumping burritos in with tacos) are the one thing that truly binds US Americans, and it’s hysterical because it’s so true. I felt panicked just *imagining* being his friend, faced at 10 pm with a foreign-born friend who hadn’t ever had tacos, and mentally mapping all taco restaurants and trucks in the city for immediate emergency tacos, in case that awful situation ever arrived. We can’t talk about, like 84% of life anymore with other Americans because it’s too awful, but Tex-Mex is our unifier.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          I think here toast is more of a side to a big breakfast of bacon, eggs, maybe hash brown potatoes, and toast.
          I think cereal with milk is more of a breakfast staple here, though I’ve heard people say they eat toast for breakfast at home.
          Since I have to eat a special diet because of allergies, I’m going by what I’ve seen and heard, not what I do.

          1. londonedit*

            misspiggy is right that toast is a mainstay of British life. It’s absolutely part of the classic cooked breakfast (sausages, bacon, eggs, toast etc – the other possible elements of a cooked breakfast such as mushrooms, baked beans, potatoes, tinned tomatoes, black pudding etc are the source of much debate which I will not even attempt to go into here) but it’s also breakfast in its own right. Usually with jam, but also often with Marmite, marmalade, honey, or just butter. Beans on toast or cheese on toast (where you put the toast with cheese on it under the grill so it goes all melty) are classic lunch or light dinner options. Buttered toast is a snack or light meal for just about any time of day, especially with a cup of tea. There aren’t many British problems that can’t be solved with some tea and toast.

            1. iglwif*

              … and now I am craving cheese on toast at 2:30 in the afternoon, and my spouse finished the loaf of bread at breakfast time.

            2. SunnyD*

              Ok so I’ve always wondered – the beans on toast are canned beans, I got that from Bend It Like Beckham – but what kind of beans are they? Kidney beans? Lima? Spicy? Twice baked with lard?

              1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

                Like plain old Heinz baked beans from a can. Not as sweet or elaborate as American baked beans, at least in my family, because the can of beans is only a starting point.

              2. londonedit*

                I’m pretty sure you have tinned spaghetti in the US, right? We’d call them Spaghetti Hoops, but I think it’s Spaghetti-Os there? It’s basically the same sauce as that. Haricot beans in a slightly sweet sort of tomatoey sauce (though I believe our Heinz beans are less sweet than the ones they make for other countries). Ironically Heinz baked beans were an American invention, and they were brought to the UK in the late 19th century and originally stocked by Fortnum & Mason in London (the Queen’s grocer; basically the poshest food shop you could imagine). People went mad for them because tinned food was a novelty, plus they were American and therefore exotic. Since then they’ve become an absolute staple of British life – beans on toast is the perfect cheap and filling lunch or dinner and most Brits grow up eating baked beans either on toast or as part of such classic childhood meals as egg, chips and beans (or even a cooked breakfast, though some people will argue to death that beans on a fry-up is wrong). If you’re struggling for money at the end of the month, you joke about ‘living on beans until pay day’ and everyone knows you mean baked beans.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          I’d say it’s a breakfast staple at work, but not at home. Most office kitchens won’t have a toaster (at least in my experience).

          1. iglwif*

            My offices (in North America) have always had toasters or toaster ovens … but I haven’t worked for that many different places, so perhaps they were anomalous!

        3. Ann Perkins*

          I would agree with Michaela, Americans tend to think of toast as more of a side than a real breakfast. Cereal and milk or instant oatmeal are probably more standard quick breakfasts. Overnight oats has become popular as well. A more protein-heavy breakfast would be eggs and a meat.

          1. Blerpborp*

            I’ve never worked anywhere with a toaster or toaster oven so it’d never occur to me to eat toast at work. Is a toaster commonplace at offices in England? I love toast and would definitely be cramming some of my own butter into the fridge if we had a toaster!

            1. Ann Perkins*

              We have a toaster in our American office that people use for bagels also. Part of the reason I would never think to eat toast at work is that bread isn’t as easily portable as something like a packet of oatmeal.

            2. Rebecca in Dallas*

              We have a toaster and a toaster oven! It’s nice to have, especially if some nice person brings in bagels to share because a toasted bagel is the best!

            3. Working Single Mom*

              I once worked at a place (in the US) that had a toaster in the break room, and one day someone tried to re-heat leftover tacos in the toaster. Whole thing caught fire, the toaster got thrown into the sink, the smoke alarm went off, and we had to evacuate the building and wait for the fire dept to clear us. It was glorious.

          2. Chinookwind*

            You have just cleared up a mystery that I didn’t know existed – why my (anglo-Irish born) father insists on toast for breakfast and snacks while my (Canadian born) mother is a big believer in cereal and milk. I thought it was personal preference but now realize that it might be the same cultural upbringing that means their is always a choice between coffee and tea and fruitcake vs. sweeter Christmas baking.

    5. Marzipan*

      No Branston Pickle, and only green milk. It could still be a tad more British, in my view…

        1. Marzipan*

          My colleagues absolutely would. Personally I don’t eat the stuff, it’s vile. (And personally I don’t keep nice homemade chutney in the fridge because preservation is literally the entire point of all the vinegar.)

  10. rider on the storm*

    Maybe I am missing something but I see plenty of space in that fridge and also room to stack the butters?
    Anyway, glad you found a solution OP.

    1. Jasnah*

      That’s what I thought, but in the original letter OP says that there’s no room “unless they’re first to work,” which is when OP took the fridge picture. I imagine everyone puts their lunch in on top of that, even taking things out if necessary, except nobody touches the precious butter (x5)

        1. Quadra*

          I’m with you and still confused. It seems like you could put a Diet Coke on top of someone’s butter tub, unless that imperils the can in this office(!)

    2. Lucette Kensack*

      Yeah, I don’t really get what this.solution accomplishes. If the butter container fits, so would the can by itself.

      1. MicroManagered*

        I think this is probably the fridge first thing in the morning. The OP is saying that people bring in lunches, then run to the grocery store during the day and store their purchases, etc. At least in MY office, stuff like cans getting knocked over or (as the letter seems to indicate) removed, starts to happen as the day goes on.

        1. Lucette Kensack*

          Ohhhhh. If folks were removing the Diet Coke because it doesn’t require refrigeration, that makes sense.

          1. WellRed*

            Yuck, why would people think it’s OK to leave someone’s Diet Coke to get warm?

            1. MatKnifeNinja*

              Because salad needing to be chilled trumps pop that can be chilled using ice cubes.

              In my lab, when space was filled up, that sort of stuff which didn’t need to be chilled would be pulled out.

              I agree with you, but that’s the reasoning behind bottled/canned drinks being moved.

            2. Heidi*

              They might not understand how much better Diet Coke is when it’s ice cold. But it’s hard for me to comprehend that people would take someone else’s food out of a refrigerator. It seems indecent somehow.

              I also think there might be a bit of an optical illusion going on in the photo that makes it appear like there is more space in the fridge than there is. When I first saw it, I imagined that the big tub in the center was the size of an ice cream tub, but then I remembered that it’s the size of a Diet Coke, and it’s taking up a lot of space on that shelf. This fridge is small.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                Our fridge always has meeting leftovers in it and I almost always have to move stuff to store my dinner on days I bring it.

              2. Blerpborp*

                Yeah I can’t fathom someone just taking my item out of the fridge and just leaving it out! My work fridge gets full but not so full a soda couldn’t be stuck in the door or wedged in upright somewhere.

            3. epi*

              Because the Diet Coke won’t spoil if taken out, and some of the other food will. Diet Coke can be chilled by putting some ice in it, and food can’t.

              1. Blerpborp*

                I might be wrong but I’ve always thought it affects sodas to go from cold to warm to cold again too many times but even still…a coke can is small and seems like it could still fit in the fridge and people are just being rude by taking it out! But could this come down also to the general obsession we Americans have with our beverages being super duper cold that the rest of the world doesn’t seem to share as much?

        2. Op*

          Yes, this is first thing and it gets so full of lunches and yoghurts you can’t get a Diet Coke in there. It doesn’t have to be in a butter tub but people won’t take it out and also gives me immense happiness at thwarting the butter space hogs.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        I think the idea is the can always fit, but others have no qualms about removing a can from the fridge to make room for their own stuff. But they wouldn’t remove butter to make room. So it’s a measure to ensure no one else takes the soda out of the fridge in favor of what the Remover deems something more needing of refrigeration.

      1. Hey Karma, Over Her*

        Apparently people took it out of the fridge to make room for the butter. Because this fridge is for butter and the butter police are vigilant. So OP couldn’t beat ‘em, and had to join ‘em.

      2. WellRed*

        I guess I am just spoiled at work. The idea that people would take part of someone’s lunch, in this case the soda, out of the fridge to make room for themselves is beyond me.
        LW: Butter away!

    3. Rebecca in Dallas*

      Yeah, I don’t understand why people aren’t stacking the butter tubs? At home we have several tubs (not of butter but of parmesan, goat cheese, feta, I forget what else) and if we didn’t keep them stacked they would take up a whole shelf. But glad you found a solution and can keep your coke nice and cold!

  11. Seeking Second Childhood*

    In thanks for all you have written… and for demonstrating that EVERYONE needs to use sick days occasionally…. I’m sending get-well kittens. Doubly virtual kittens. I’m resisting the urge to post a link so you don’t have to do work on your day off.

  12. Clare*

    Alison, get well soon. I hope you’re ringing the bell for room service; plus
    hot and cold running kittens?

  13. Weegie*

    This is hilarious :-) And also ingenious! Thanks for waking me up this morning in such an amusing way.

  14. Lucy*

    Get well soon, Alison. Hope the kitty-nurses are administering healing purrs (yes, that’s a thing, Google it).

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      “Do you need a purr-a-medic?” is the kitty link I resisted posting!

  15. Mami21*

    Wow that fridge seems tiny to me! I work for an IT company and we have a fridge/freezer + 2 bar fridges. Milk, skim milk, butter, spreads, juice, soft drinks etc are provided by the company. OP you have my sympathy for your limited fridge space, and my admiration for your nifty hidden solution!

  16. Tiny Soprano*

    God it’s like the butter aisle at the supermarket… You weren’t kidding!

    1. New Job So Much Better*

      Maybe it’s not really butter in the other tubs? Maybe something good hidden inside.

  17. Decaffeinator*

    Hey!! Someone else rocking the caffeine free coke! And here I was thinking I was the only one. Everyone at work has to come over and look at my ‘weird gold coke’ whenever I have one.

    1. Dragoning*

      I drink caffeine free coke, too! Can’t have caffeine.

      I don’t do diet, though.

      1. Dragoning*

        (They’re still gold, but they’re also red–the top and label are gold instead)

    2. AlexandrinaVictoria*

      Count me in as part of the caffeinc-free club! Gold cans for the win!

  18. coffee cup*

    This is like our old fridge at work! Always the same problem. Loads of milk, loads of THE SAME butter. Now we have a much bigger fridge, which is great, but there are still about seven of the same butter. I have sometimes wondered if we should get a communal work butter, but then I remember I don’t really care.

    Anyway, great update OP, really made me laugh!

  19. elodieunderglass*

    I was deeply concerned that this was my own workplace, but having checked our own fridge, thankfully, it isn’t. The milk threw me for a moment, but I realised that we have a completely different distribution of brands, and we are skilled multi-stackers.

    For what it’s worth, my Lurpak has a note on it saying it’s okay for the office to share – and by God they do!

    1. naha*

      Did you open all the butter in your fridge to see if any of them have diet coke in them?

        1. Iconic Bloomingdale*

          What if someone opens your butter container to use it (thinking it’s butter) and finds your Diet Coke? They may revert to removing your Diet Coke from the refrigerator again.

            1. valentine*

              I don’t know which is better: that you chose a different brand or that the tub looks like a bespoke cradle.

  20. Anon and on and on*

    I love this!

    Reading the letter I kept picturing the coke was poured into the butter container :-D

    1. Say It Ain't So*

      I thought so too! And I imagined OP sipping out of her butter container with a straw. I giggle just thinking about it.

  21. jDC*

    Too cute.

    Sorry you aren’t well Allison. I just recovered from a stomach bug that I thought would hospitalize me. Long week!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      We might have the same thing. I went to the doctor yesterday because I seriously feared I had a rupturing organ (I apparently don’t — but days-long fever, abdominal/stomach pain, headache, ugh).

      1. Myrin*

        Goodness gracious, Alison! Take good care of yourself and I hope you’ll be better soon!

      2. Michaela Westen*

        That’s horrible! Stay hydrated and get plenty of rest! Be sure to watch fun stuff on TV! :) Dick Van Dyke, The Nanny and I Love Lucy are my favorites. The internet says Dick Van Dyke and Lucy are on Hulu!

        Hulu also has another Lucy show called Here’s Lucy that’s cute too. The characters work at an employment agency so I don’t know if that’s too close to working for you!

  22. Mallory*

    I’m still genuinely curious what the insane amount of butter is for. What are you all eating?!?!

      1. Myrin*

        And I still don’t get why there can’t be one tub of butter everyone shares (or like, two, if someone needs lactose-free). Sure, many people have brands they prefer (I do, too) but surely using another one for their toast in the morning isn’t going to kill them.
        (And when OP brought it up, some people even said they’re sharing. So why not share with the whole office?)

            1. Buzz*

              In a lot of offices the milk is provided by the company. Employees don’t have to pay for it.

        1. Ella Vader*

          If it’s just for me, I’m not very careful about whether I “double-dip”, as in, if I need more butter after I’ve started to spread my toast, I’ll use the dirty knife to reach back into the margarine or butter. If it was a shared tub, I probably wouldn’t do that myself, and I’d be really grossed out if someone else did. And I don’t even have allergies, either to wheat or to peanut butter.

          I bet that’s part of it.

          1. SunnyD*

            Other people’s toast crumbs in the butter make me feel ill. Which is beyond ridiculous – it’s toast crumbs – but is still a thing.

  23. MicroManagered*

    Alison’s intro to this post made me wonder how many updates she has just laying around in case she needs them…. lol

    1. AngelicGamer, the visually impaired peep*

      Considering how she can take off all of December – and she should! – probably lots. :)

      Get better soon, Alison!!!

  24. SallyF*

    I confess, I got really ragey just now seeing all those butter tubs hogging fridge space.

    1. Elitist Semicolon*

      Me too. I also got irrationally angry every time I opened the fridge at my old workplace and saw, like, six insulated steel thermoses all belonging to the same colleague placed in primo real estate, while my lunch had been relocated to the bottom shelf that everyone knows is reserved for the graveyard of takeout condiment packets and that one tub of spring mix that everyone denies bringing in and that has turned into such a rotting ooze that new life forms are evolving in it.

  25. naha*

    i’m reading ask ao managet at 4am as my insomnia entertainment, and i just laughed out loud at those pictures.

  26. boredatwork*

    oh LW this is a hilariously perfect start to my Friday. I will echo the sentiments of others, why not replace your lunch time diet coke, with a fresh one? That way you are always ensured space in the fridge and a cold diet coke.

  27. Sabrina Spellman*

    This is a great alternative! What an amazing life hack. Can I just say that what bothers me the most in this photo, though it could just be the way it’s cut off at the bottom, is that there is absolutely nothing else on the bottom of the fridge next to the milk. Does the milk create a black hole where nothing else could exist?

    1. Clorinda*

      According to OP’s description, this is the fridge first thing in the morning. Imagine three or four lunches in there, and it will get pretty crowded, even down around the milk.

      1. pentamom*

        Plus people do their shopping and lunch and store the perishables until they leave.

        Which strikes me as pretty inconsiderate, given the size of the fridge. When there’s barely enough room for the things that are actually used during the workday, stuffing it up with your shopping just so you don’t have to go later is rude. If there were an ample fridge, it would be different.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Looks like they took out the vegetable drawer…possibly the reason this fridge doesn’t get as many crazy scary science projects as the communal fridges in this building. Somehow when things are put in there, they vanish from co-worker memory…

      1. Dragoning*

        This happens to me with my fridge at home, too, though, so I stopped using it.

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          Me too. Then I bought a fridge with clear veg bins, which I use for cheese and baking supplies (because my house has an ant problem). The produce goes on the top shelf where it’s harder for me to ignore.

        2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          I use my produce bins for beer, soda, and candy (ant problem – all food is stored either in the fridge or in sealed containers, mostly canning jars, since that’s the best way to discourage ants). It turns out that I will remember I bought beer and look for it before it goes bad, whereas spinach needs to be in my line of sight so I remember to eat it every day when I have it. (It helps that beer keeps for a lot longer than veggies.)

  28. Free Now (and forever)*

    I’ve discovered, through a skincare reddit, truly miniature refrigerators on Amazon—they hold six cans. And cost about $50. This might be a solution for those who want to/need to store lunch/drinks, medication. This size is about 7” x 10” x 11” and weighs 4 pounds. There are also ones that hold the equivalent of 12 cans. You can locate them by using the search term “mini fridge skin care.”

    1. Gumby*

      I saw those too and briefly considered it (I have a perhaps unhealthy attachment to diet coke) but all of the reviews seem to indicate that they barely cool things off at all.

    1. LaDeeDa*

      No, OP did not have any butter in there when she wrote the letter. She brought a tub in to hide her Diet Coke, and removes the empty tub when she drinks her coke so that other people can have the space back.

      1. Butter confuze*

        Yes, I saw that, but the bigger Country Life they mention having front and center…

        1. Myrin*

          I mean, OP presumably had that one at home, cleaned it, and then brought it to work with a purpose.

    2. ChimericalOne*

      When OP writes, “the second [picture] is our fridge when I was first in the office — mine is the Country Life container,” they don’t mean that the picture is from when they first *started* in that office. They mean that the picture is from a day when they were the first one into the office (so no lunches have started to crowd the fridge yet, it’s just purely the stuff that gets left day-to-day).

      I was a little bit confused by that, myself — thought they were going to show a before & after, at first!

  29. Art3mis*

    I can’t believe they have that small of a fridge for that many people. My last office had ~14 people in it and we had a regular full size fridge with freezer.
    Also, I have a tiny fridge that can be set to cool or warm and can even plug into a car for a road trip. I use it for cat food cans because I feed our cats upstairs. It was less than $50, maybe you could get something like that to keep at your desk.

    1. Quinalla*

      I feel really spoiled now, we have 2 full sized refrigerators for 9 people. Granted, we know that it is way more than we need.
      Also, all the applause to the OP, this is the best update I’ve read in awhile and love the creative solution! Send us another update if anyone catches on that your “butter” isn’t really butter, LOL!

    2. AnotherAlison*

      My office has 5 floors, one fridge per floor and like 100+ people on each floor. It’s disgusting and is absolutely jam-packed by the time they have the monthly clean out. Even with 100 people sharing one fridge, some people think it is their divine right to bring in a 64 oz juice container and label it “Bob’s Juice – don’t take” and “don’t throw away” on milk cartons that have been there for weeks. And there are people who put their freaking insulated lunch box in the fridge. Jerks.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        Yes, I worked in an office like that. They would all come at the same time and start microwaving the frozen dinners in those big insulated lunch containers, at 5-10 minutes each. The day I realized I would wait 1/2 hour to get to the microwave, I went back to my desk and took my lunch later.

    3. Ann Perkins*

      I’m stuck on that too – is it not as common in British offices to have full size fridges? We have about 50 people here, two full size fridges and freezers in our main break room, and two mini fridges in other areas as well.

      1. londonedit*

        Nope, under-counter fridges like OP’s are the norm in my experience. Our fridges in general are much smaller than American ones (because the kitchens in our houses, and our houses in general, are also typically much smaller!) and while ‘American-style’ fridges are more common in people’s homes now (mainly because newer houses are being built with larger kitchens, and people are extending their homes to make their kitchens bigger and more open-plan) they are still expensive and seen as a luxury item. Most larger British fridges are fridge/freezers (fridge on top, freezer below) and I’ve never worked anywhere that’s provided a freezer, so under-the-counter single fridges are pretty normal in my experience. I also have one at home, because my kitchen doesn’t have the space for a tall fridge/freezer, so I have separate ones that sit next to each other under the counter.

        1. Marzipan*

          We have a fridge-freezer in our office and it is AMAZING. (To be fair, it wasn’t strictly provided for our office, it was supposed to be in one of the flats but they wanted a smaller fridge so swapped with our office one.)

          I bulk-cook a vegetarian meal once a week, box it up in portions, and then freeze it at work. I’ve gradually filled it up with all sorts of things. It means I can have a different lunch every day, and also my colleagues know they’re free to have a lunch if they forget theirs/fancy a change/don’t have cash/can’t get out of the office. It’s genuinely such a civilized thing, I love it!

  30. JJ Bittenbinder*

    I feel like the LW could turn this into a Situation-Action-Result answer to a tough interview question, that’s how impressed I am with the problem-solving skills displayed here. (OK, maybe I’m not really serious about that, but…maybe I am!)

    1. LaDeeDa*

      If I got this answer in an interview it would crack me up AND impress me, both are things I love to happen in an interview!

    2. Hush42*

      You can also get single can desk refrigerators that plug into a USB port so you can have cold soda at your desk and not even have to get up.

  31. Twenty Points for the Copier*

    This is an excellent update. If you can’t beat ’em, pretend to join them but really just conceal your diet coke in a butter tub!

  32. Rusty Shackelford*

    This is my new favorite thing!

    My personal pet peeve is people who keep bread in the fridge. They’re taking up space for such a bad reason, because the refrigerator is actually not a good place to store your bread.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I have heard this about bread, but my 20+ years of experience begs to differ. My parents kept theirs in a cabinet when I was a kid, but my own family doesn’t go through that much bread so we have always kept it in the fridge. I enjoy my refrigerated, cold, not-stale bread so much more than the bread I grew up with, and it lasts forever and does not get moldy. I don’t get sick very often, so I’m going to go ahead and say that moldy refrigerated bread has not been a health issue at my house.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          But it doesn’t in my experience! IDK. As long as everyone is happy with their own bread storage choices, and no one is storing a family-size loaf in a work fridge, no skin off my back what people do. There are probably differences in fridge settings and home humidity environments, brand/type of bread, etc., that factor in here.

          1. Jaybeetee*

            The same for me – an ex-bf taught me about keeping bread in the fridge. I used to never get through it quite fast enough, and it would always go moldy – that rarely happens since I started storing it in the fridge.

            At this point, I’ve been living alone for years, so I’m the only one eating whatever bread I buy, and I’m also a weirdo – I generally only eat bread on the weekends (because I rarely eat breakfast during the week, batch-cook work lunches ahead of time, and sandwiches for dinner tend feel kinda … sad? To me?) On weekends I like to make breakfast sandwiches, but of course I’m not going through a whole loaf when I do that, so a loaf of store-bought brioche lasts me a good 3 weeks usually.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              I don’t find sandwiches sad, but I’ve never found them sustaining enough for a meal. I’d have to eat three or four.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            and no one is storing a family-size loaf in a work fridge,

            That’s what is happening here, and that’s why it annoys me that they’re using the fridge for this purpose in the first place. Especially since the bread is used up at an astonishingly slow pace.

            1. Elitist Semicolon*

              A colleague of a colleague did this, too – she did her weekly shopping and left it all in the work fridge on the grounds that it’s inefficient for her to take it all home and then have to bring it back day by day for lunch. So much better to take up the entire fridge (for about 75 people who work in the building) with a loaf of bread, a giant thing of milk, lunchmeat, salad mix rather than to take it all home and bring a lunch every day, apparently.

              Her logic did not fly with her supervisor, I should note.

          3. Birch*

            Everyone definitely has different preferences, but it’s a scientific fact that bread stales faster in the fridge–the cold encourages crystallization of starches. There’s a good Serious Eats article about it called “Does Refrigeration Really Ruin Bread?” Important to note: staling is a completely different process to going moldy. The best way to keep bread at its (majority-preferred–YMMV) peak quality long term is to freeze it, spritz with water and reheat in the oven straight from frozen.

            1. Green great dragon*

              Indeed – or just drop a frozen slice straight in the toaster (mine has a ‘frozen’ setting so must be fairly normal).

        2. Tara R.*

          Stale is different than mouldy though, and my experience has been that it takes way longer to go mouldy in the fridge. Since I’m one person who is transforming 1-2 pieces of bread a day into toast, I don’t really care if it’s stale, it just needs to not be mouldy.

          1. iglwif*


            If you’re going to make toast out of it anyway, it makes MUCH more sense to keep it in the fridge (or even the freezer!) so that you can enjoy your toast without pressure to use up the loaf before it starts to go green. This is especially true if, like me, you like to buy the pricier and less preservative-ier loaves with interesting seeds and such in them — if I’ve spent $6 on a loaf of bread, I do *not* want to end up tossing a third of it into the compost bucket because I didn’t use it up fast enough!

            1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

              I also buy the kind of bread that is less preservative heavy and have been advised to keep it in the fridge so it doesn’t mold.

              I only eat my bread toasted (even for sandwiches) so I’m totally fine with leaving it in the fridge.

      1. ChimericalOne*

        Whenever I’ve stored bread in the fridge, it’s lost its softness right away. I’d rather risk mold than give up my preciously-soft American white bread (which is apparently “as sweet as cake,” according to my British friend… makes me shudder to think of British cake!).


    2. MatKnifeNinja*

      People in the US are weird about refrigeration.

      I have college educated friends who will never eat butter that hasn’t been pulled straight from the fridge. My cousin keeps his bread in the fridge because he doesn’t want it to go bad. He had a loaf go moldy, so now bread has to be in the fridge.

      My sister does the bread thing too.

      People have had it beaten into their heads, if edibles aren’t store at 34F, the food will kill you. I’m not talking chicken, potato salad, the usual food poisoning suspects, anything.

      My mom never ever served cheese at room temperature/not straight from the ice box. I didn’t learn about that until age 30.

      1. iglwif*

        My (American) mom does the butter-must-be-eaten-straight-from-the-fridge thing and it drives me bananas. When I was a child, every friend’s house I went to had soft butter on the countertop or table for spreading, and I couldn’t understand why our house never did.

        She’s also convinced that if I leave a couple of eggs out for half an hour to come to room temperature before using them in muffins or cake or whatever, Something Bad Will Happen. Mom, I’m putting this thing in a 350F oven for half an hour, I think we’ll be OK.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      In the US. I’m not weird about refrigeration….my butter’s on the counter until we hit 75 or 80, and I’m now looking at the water-keeper Alison mentioned.)
      But we refrigerate bread after the first day. We buy a lot at one time because we live ~5 miles from a grocery store that isn’t on my way home. Some weeks we eat it immediately…and sometimes we’re distracted by rice & potato dishes. When that happens, any unrefrigerated bread goes bad.
      Cold beats mold!
      *Side track about eggs & refrigeration: There’s two ways to reduce salmonella risk. Either vaccinate the chicken, or wash the eggs. Once you’ve washed the eggs you have to keep them chilled because the protective outside layer is gone. Here’s the title of a great LA Times article to google if you’re interested: “Here’s why you have to refrigerate eggs in the U.S. but not in Europe”.

      1. pentamom*

        I freeze my bread, and pull it out as needed (or as need is anticipated, really.) One loaf in the bread box, the rest in the freezer until I see that the loaf that is out is nearly gone. It doesn’t go stale, and I don’t have to worry about it running out. In a pinch I can microwave a couple of slices, or if I’m packing a sandwich to eat later, just pack it frozen.

    4. HappySnoopy*

      Its a climate thing. Hot humid areas, bread can get moldy fast (couple days, well unless you really pay attention to freshness date). Most of the year, I leave bread (and actually butter) unrefrigerated, but if not making daily sandwiches and its the dog days of summer, as Seeking Second Childhood says, cold beats mold.

    5. KayEss*

      I refrigerate my bread because for some reason I just like it better cold, possibly since I grew up with refrigerated bread (no idea what my parents’ reasoning was… even when they didn’t refrigerate the butter, the bread stayed). I wouldn’t do it at the office, though. Loaves are big, and that’s just uncourteous.

  33. blink14*

    This is amazing! I have a Coke daily with my lunch, and just cool or lukewarm would never do!

  34. Amethystmoon*

    Moooove over, butter. :)

    I like your solution and now I have to wonder how many people are doing the same thing with their butter containers at my workplace.

  35. esra*

    I love everything about this so much, so very very much. Ain’t no drama like petty drama, and I’m so pleased at OP’s sneaky solution.

  36. Clever Girl*

    This is such a great example of really analyzing why you are upset about a thing and then taking steps to fix what you actually have control over, rather than just fume and stew over it.

    1. Op*

      That take makes me sound really logical and reflective when it just felt sneaky and satisfying. I like yours better.

  37. Karen from Finance*

    TBH this fridge looks half-empty to me. I was expecting the fridge to be actually PACKED with butter. Or maybe it’s just me, where I’m used to fridges just overflowing with stuff that’s tetris-skill-requiring, suitcase-level crammed in there.

    1. ChimericalOne*

      This is the beginning of the day, before everyone’s brought in their lunches (and gone shopping for perishables, etc.). The butter is more of a problem when folks start actually trying to use the fridge. Think of it not as half-empty, but as half-full… BEFORE anyone’s even started to use it!

    2. Jaybeetee*

      Yeah, once you add about 4 lunches in there, I can see it getting pretty crowded.

      What I’m noticing tho is apparently no one is trying to stack these various small flat-topped containers? They could be saving some significant surface area stacking the smaller containers 2-3 high.

  38. 'Tis me*

    I am really glad that a photo was included because I too was picturing a container into which Coke had been poured… A can is a much neater idea, and that tub is a perfect size for it :D

    I am going to have to look in the fridge when I’m in the office Wednesday as I didn’t realise that multiple butter options were a British fridge staple… However, I don’t think we have a toaster so this may affect the results.

    1. BadWolf*

      Yes, my first thought was trying to pour coke in a butter container and that would be a mess (Well, for me anyway)…but then the perfect fit butter container for the can! Love it!

      1. peachie*

        …though the image of OP punching a hole in the top of a butter tub and drinking the Diet Coke through a straw is, frankly, priceless.

        1. BadWolf*

          Ahh…and this is why it would be a mess for me. I was picturing trying to drink out of the butter tub like it was drinking glass. Cover + hole + straw is a much better plan.

  39. Madam Secretary*

    We’ve had a La Croix box in our fridge for about a year. Recently, I got curious about how many cans were left in the box. Turns out it wasn’t La Croix. It was being used to store bottles of beer. I let it stay put as it is.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I’m telling this story to my family the minute I walk into the house after work! (We are big LaCroix drinkers and also big beer drinkers.)

  40. Emmie*

    That’s a ridiculous amount of butter, but also an incredibly clean office fridge.

    Thank you for the laugh this morning, OP!

    Get well, AAM!

  41. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    Plot twist: there’s beer in all other butter containers.

    (I promise I thought of it before I read the LaCroix comment!)

  42. Else*

    I don’t usually get sent straight into the cackle-laugh from things on this column, but thank you. :D Also, now I’m wondering how many OTHER butter containers also contain things that are not butter.

  43. Angela*

    Honestly, I’d go even further and just bring in 4 additional, huge tubs of butter. And then when people say ‘I can’t fit my groceries in there because of the big tubs of butter!’ you’ll have your victory.

  44. Annie Dumpling*

    How much bread does this office eat? (or does everyone heat up corn on the cob for lunch ?)

  45. BadWolf*

    I forgot my butter related story. A coworker sat in an area with a shared small fridge (for the US readers: a dorm fridge). Someone would get the individually wrapped butter pats with their lunch, not use them all and then leave them in the shared fridge. Apparently thinking others might share them. Except no one else is in need of butter and it’s not their butter even if they needed it. So this supply of little foil wrapped butters slowly built up… I think person left and they tossed all of the butters.

  46. Elizabeth West*

    I missed this letter but I’m just gobsmacked at all the butter containers. Did they have other food in them? Were they all butter? Who needs that much butter?!?!?!?!

    I’m glad you worked it out, OP!

  47. AnotherAlison*

    Just another Diet Coke option. . .stick it in the freezer 30 minutes before you want to drink it. I’ve done that because there’s no room in the fridge, and the fridge is so packed that it’s not as cold as I like it. The trick is that I set an alarm on my watch so I don’t accidentally leave it in the freezer so that it explodes.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I do the exact same thing, down to the 30 minute alarm. (20 oz bottles can stay in there for an hour, and they turn into a luscious slushie.)

    2. Op*

      You have seen the size of our fridge and have the optimism to think we have a freezer?

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Ha ha, fair point. . .although, I have seen that option. I have a dorm fridge with a little freezer box not in use in my home basement.

  48. CM*

    Not counting the OP’s faux butter, I count six different butter substitutes, plus a big container of mayo and a refrigerated face mask, in that tiny fridge. If you consolidated it all, you would have one entire shelf full.

    This is a great example of adapting to office culture. OP’s office values cold butter over cold Coke. So the OP turned her Coke into perceived butter. Ingenious. And also genius.

  49. Rusty Shackelford*

    If I ever get back to the U.K. I’m going to buy a tub of that butter just so I can have a Union Jack-emblazoned can cozy. I don’t need it, I just want it.

  50. CatCat*

    I expect this is going to be the best thing I’ll see all day and it is indeed glorious!

  51. A Nony Mouse*

    I would joyously offer up a PB&J to the gods in tribute if our office fridge was EVER that clean….

  52. Veryanon*

    I am DYING at this. As a fellow Diet Coke addict, this hits particularly close to home. I was finding that people were stealing my Diet Cokes out of the shared fridge even after I put my name on them, so I now keep them in an insulated lunchbox at my desk with an ice back.

  53. DanniellaBee*

    This is so funny and such a creative way of handling the insanity of multiple butter containers. I love it!

  54. Slice of Cheese*

    my office refrigerator is full of 10 (at least) bottled salad dressings, a handful of half full bottles of pop/tea, four cans of whip cream, 6 LARGE bottles of creamer, 4 salsa bottles, 3 egg cartons (we have no way of cooking them in the break room) and two coworker’s overly large lunch bags/purses complete with matching cold cloth napkins. A week ago there was a full size watermelon! There is no room for my dinky little salad and slice of cheese. drives me batty.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*



      I can honestly say I have never seen this in a work refrigerator before. What kind of anarchy is this? Hopefully the watermelon was from someone’s lunchtime shopping trip and went back home with them at the end of the day? And I hope whoever owns the eggs is not planning to microwave them?? So many questions.

      1. bibliospork*

        Maybe the eggs are already hard-boiled and someone just takes a couple for lunch every day?

    2. Michaela Westen*

      Get a small cooler with an ice pack and keep your lunch in it at your desk/office. Sit back and watch others fight over fridge space.

  55. Btdt*

    Are you allowed to have a tiny cooler / refrigerator at your desk? I use a wonderful cooler for my lunch/ diet cola.

    1. Becky*

      One of my coworkers has a tiny Frigidaire at her desk that can hold like 2 sodas. She picked it up during black Friday last year.

  56. MP*

    I like your solution! I totally am ITCHING to reorganize that fridge. All butter tubs must be stacked at the bottom with the milk. Then, lots of room for sodas, lunches!

  57. Granny K*

    The next time you interview and someone asks you ‘how are you resourceful’ you need to show them this.

    1. Op*

      Would you want to work with someone whose greatest need for work place advice was this?

      1. valentine*

        Yes. No boundary stomping; nothing best left to police. You adapted to the butter overlards, but, rather than a full “When in Rome,” you remove your tub each day to properly share the space.

  58. Nana*

    In my Jewish non-profit’s office, we had a full-sized fridge. The building was expected to honor Kosher rules (which meant EVERYTHING got thrown out if not taken home at Passover, when the fridge was deep-cleaned)…and a co-worker had a mini-fridge in her office in which one could ‘hide’ shrimp salad, ham sandwich, or other ‘forbidden’ food.
    The big issue with soda, everywhere I’ve worked, was that people stole it — sometimes blatantly. [Boss put a 12-pack in the fridge…someone opened it from the back.]

      1. valentine*

        mini-fridge in her office in which one could ‘hide’ shrimp salad, ham sandwich, or other ‘forbidden’ food.
        Doesn’t this render the business non-kosher?

  59. LadyCop*

    As a fellow Diet Coke aficionado…I SO appreciate this. Also glad to see the OP was in no way exaggerating the weird butter priorities of their co-workers.

    Best part is the Lush container in the fridge. Mud masks at work are clearly also a priority for someone! LOL…but also luv

  60. LuJessMin*

    Heh – the fridge at my work is full of worms (mealworms, that is. I work at a wild bird hobby store ).

  61. Jo*

    Just to give you a laugh, I’ll share my rather daft misreading of the letter writer’s update. I imagined she was pouring a bottle of diet coke into an empty butter tub and storing the liquid in the tub. I did feel a bit of a numpty seeing the pic and realising it was a can. Evidently the three cups of tea I’ve had today haven’t provided enough caffeine. And I did drink them out of a mug, not a butter tub in case you were wondering…. :)

  62. AL*

    Wait, wait, wait……

    Why is there a Lush face mask in the fridge (middle shelf)????

  63. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    LOL. That’s a great solution. I sympathize. I have the same issue, on a grander scale. Numerous butter tubs and cream cheese tubs, oodles of bottles of salad dressing and mayo and mustard, etc. Then there is the woman who brings a week’s worth of groceries to make her lunch from scratch each day–a dozen eggs, a head of lettuce, bags of produce, etc.

  64. Noah*

    One one hand: yes, this is hilarious

    On the other hand: there is plenty of room in that fridge for your diet coke without the butter dish. And, unless you’re Emilio Estevez in the Breakfast Club, it looks like you could comfortably get your lunch in there, too.

  65. Bowserkitty*

    I appreciate the photos, because I didn’t even consider OP could fit an entire can in the tub. I was legitimately picturing OP pouring Diet Coke into the clean butter tub and then pouring it into a glass for lunch.


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