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Prepare a Snack Tray for Easy Holiday Entertaining

Be prepared for guests and have your larder stocked with quick snacks and appetizers. Pulling together an impromptu snack tray will be quick and easy.

Hospitality Reminder: Prepare a Snack Tray | Good Cheap Eats

Tomato Salad on Toast

We like fun food around here. We like snacky food. We like to eat fun, snacky food with friends and neighbors.

And sometimes, especially around the holidays, friends and neighbors might drop by unexpectedly. I love a spontaneous little party. I love it even more if I have some snacks to offer my guests. There’s just something about being prepared for the unexpected and being able to extend hospitality without freaking out.

Am I right?

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting a weekly “hospitality reminder” to help you gear up for the delicious holiday season. This week’s project (in addition to dealing with Thanksgiving) is to stock up on snacks.

You already know that the snacky dinner is one of my favorites. I plan for it on a weekly basis, usually Sundays because I like to have one day to rest from kitchen labors.

The snacky dinner model, aka charcuterie or cheese platter, also works really well for an impromptu meal with guests. Lay out a bunch of different things and you’re set for all kinds of makeshift “entertaining”.

Hospitality Reminder: Prepare a Snack Tray | Good Cheap Eats

(These cute little flags are part of the Instant Holiday Brunch Kit.)

Prepare a Snack Tray

Consider adding the following items to your grocery list this week to stash into the pantry, fridge, or freezer:

Crackers, rice cakes, plantain chips, pretzels – You can easily snatch these up on sale and store them in the cupboard. They’re shelf-stable, but be sure to check the best-by dates.

Olives, pickles, and roasted peppers – There are so many delicious and creative commercial pickles to load up on at the holidays. Buy several different varieties: spicy, sweet, stuffed, etc. They make for a quick relish tray that looks like something fancy.

Tortilla, potato, or pita chips – You can’t really go wrong with chips, can you? Be sure to read ingredients labels and make sure you’ve got some gluten-free options on hand.

Nuts and seeds – Likely you’ll find some good sales on these items over the coming weeks. Depending on their dates, consider stocking up with several months’ worth. If you’ve got a little extra time, make these Maple Spiced Pepitas and Almonds for a fun addition to your snack tray.

Hospitality Reminder: Prepare a Snack Tray | Good Cheap Eats

Hummus, salsa, or guacamole fixings – I love buying a box of the mini pods of guacamole and hummus. These are great for longterm storage in the fridge so you don’t have to worry about using up a large container. Keep salsa fixings on hand. You can whip up a fresh batch in just minutes.

A variety of cheeses – Small packages of fancy cheeses will stay good for awhile in your fridge unopened. Load up on small wheels of Brie and chunks of other cheeses like Emmenthal, Gruyere, Havarti, or Cheddar. Small pods of soft spreadable herbed cheeses usually go on great sale this time of year.

Small packages of different deli meats – I usually buy several different packages of these at ALDI where they’re packaged in 6- or 8- ounce containers. They’re affordable and easy to keep on hand for impromptu snack trays.

Brie and a can of cranberry sauce – This Cranberry-Basil Baked Brie comes together super quickly and tastes delicious! If you prefer Homemade Cranberry Sauce, know that it freezes really well. Package it in 1/2 cup portions so this recipe can come together quickly.

Vegetable dippers – I’m not sure you can ever have too many vegetables at the holidays. Keep a variety of veggies on hand to add to your snack tray. I find that baby carrots, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, celery, and bell pepper seem to keep really well when refrigerated. I just refresh our supply as we eat them up. The grape tomatoes tend to have better flavor than other tomatoes in winter and go well in all kinds of bruschetta and tomato salads.

Frozen spinach, yogurt, and cream cheese – This Healthier Spinach Dip is a nice addition to your veggie dippers and crackers.

Apples and clementines – These are fall and winter fruits that go on sale and keep well under refrigeration.

Sliced baguette – You may not want to head to the bakery every time a friend stops by, but if you keep a bag of sliced baguette in the freezer, you’ll be set for appetizer toasts at a moment’s notice.

What do YOU add to your snack tray?

Hospitality Reminder: Prepare a Snack Tray | Good Cheap Eats

Originally published December 8, 2011. Updated November 18, 2017.

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Comments

  1. My kids love it whenI make a “tray”. Their favorites? Sliced apples, orange wedges, celery with peanut butter, colby-jack or cheddar cheese cubes, carrots and cucumbers with Ranch, graham crackers with peanut butter, grapes, pimento cheese with crackes, rolled up ham slices and pepperoni slices. I have a divided tray I use just for this purpose and when I find it mysteriously on the kitchen counter, I know what I’m pulling together for lunch or snack that day.

  2. Love this! I also think it would be a great way to promote healthy snacking. Just sit out a divided tray full of colorful, raw veggies with some dip and allow kids to “graze”.

  3. I love to have a variety of spicy and sweet nuts on hand. Just a little bit special, but not much work to pull out of the pantry.

  4. Billie Gann says:

    I love creamcheese w/ jalapeno jelly assorted crackers,grapes ,mini pickles,olives . My aunt gave us cranberry jalapeno pepper jelly for Thanksgiving and I can’t stay away from the spicy sweetness of it.

  5. jasi December 1, 2011 at 11:18 am
    i keep them in a few different boxes but same principle. i also have a snack fix. always have grainy tortilla and pita chips, cans of white beans or ceci for a quick dip, some trader joe’s eggplant pepper spread, nuts, fresh and dried fruit. instant party! i could probably even whip up a pie in a jiffy with frozen dough too.

    still true.

  6. What a good idea!

  7. Oh, some other things you can do is have cream cheese on hand with the crackers. You can make a quick cheese ball pretty easy or a cracker spread that is cheaper than serving sliced cheese with crackers.
    Also, sour cream for dip….

  8. I love the idea of this (who doesn’t love snacky food?) but my problem is that we don’t normally keep much of that on hand. Going out and buying it in case guests stop by seems to violate the “cheap” part of the “good cheap eats” plan. Do you normally keep all those things in your pantry or fridge?

    • @Kate @ Green Around the Edges, we actually do eat these items on a fairly regular basis. I simply apply my same stock up tips to these ingredients as I do anything else. Buy a lot when I see a good price.

      If these aren’t your norm, I’d think about what is — or what can be morphed easily to offer to guests — and make sure you have some of those items.

  9. If cost is a concern, when unexpected company arrives offer a drink rather than food. We routinely keep a pitcher of fruit water in the refrigerator — water with lemon, lime and orange slices. I always have an assortment of teabags on hand. It takes just seconds to heat water in the microwave. My husband is a coffee drinker so we typically have 2 or 3 types in the cupboard. We usually have orange juice, ginger ale and cranberry juice on hand. Mix the three up in a pitcher, pour over ice and you have a nice punch in a jiffy. We also have hot chocolate fixings ready to go. My grandmother always told me if you want to make guests feel welcome what matters is not what you offer but that it is offered graciously.

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