10 Foods to have on hand this holiday season

Dec 7, 2018 | Food and Culture

Don’t let surprise guests get you down this Holiday Season

At this time of year it is not uncommon for last minute guests to show up on your door step. Be prepared for the season by having the following 10 foods on hand. 


Cheese is delicious. Most people love it. Having a few good varieties on hand will insure that no matter what, you have a snack that your guest is more than likely to love. And a snack that takes no effort to put together. I suggest having a minimum of three varieties on hand. 

Blue Cheese

Even though not everyone likes it, I always suggest having one type of blue cheese in your fridge. For those who do like it, it will be a welcome treat. I do suggest sticking with milder blue cheeses which will please any palate.

Gorgonzola is always a safe bet. It’s not too pungent. Other varieties that work well for a range of people are Shropshire blue, Stilton, and Bénédictin blue.

If you happen to live in Nova Scotia Blue Harbour makes really good blue cheese which can be found at Pete’s and Sobeys. Another Nova Scotia cheese, Dragons Breath Blue from That Dutchman is always a crowd pleaser.  


Along with blue cheese a firmer cheese like a good quality aged cheddar is always nice as well. The key here is good quality. Avoid big brands like Kraft and Cracker Barrel. 

Go to the deli section and look through the selection of higher end cheeses. Spending a little extra money or a really good cheddar is absolutely worth it. 

Cows 2 year old aged cheddar is amazing. Balderson cheddar is very good as well. 

Soft Cheese

A soft cheese like brie or camembert can be served by it’s self with bread or crackers, even with some fruit. But it also works well as a part of a larger cheese plate. 


A good variety of crackers never hurt anyone. I am always partial to Breton crackers, Ritz, and Triscuits will please almost anyone. 

Nowadays it’s a good idea to have a gluten-free option on hand as well. Breton makes really good gluten-free crackers as does Mary’s

Having some good fruit and nut crackers, or crostinis on hand makes a nice added touch. Really though, just about anything crisp that can hold some cheese or dip will do. 


Whether it’s pickles, olives, jams, or chutneys having preserves on hand is always a good idea. They last long and work well with cheese, cured meets, and anything else you can imagine. 

I like gherkins a lot. Along with cocktail onions, good quality olives, and a savoury jam. 

Dips and Spreads

Dips and Spreads are good to have on hand but they don’t have the longest shelf life. But what’s really good about them is they are really easy to make. Whether it’s spinach artichoke dip, smoked salmon cream cheese spread, or whatever else you can imagine, you can make it. 

As long as you have ingredients on hand a delicious dip can be thrown together from almost anything. 

For example: Bacon cooked with onion, a pile of corn, some chipotle, and cream, and then puréed makes an amazing spread. Same with peas, prosciutto, and some fresh herbs. You don’t need much to make something that will blow people away.


Having a variety of alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages around is always a good idea. If you do have alcohol make sure that you have things to mix with it. 

I actually really like the idea of either learning or coming up with one really good cocktail that is your “Christmas Cocktail” that you make for all your guests. It doesn’t have to be complicated. But it will give yours guests something a bit surprising, and hopefully very delicious. 


You can cut it up and add it to the cheese plate, or just offer it by it’s self. You can’t go wrong with a variety of fruit. 

I like to have clementines, grapes, and apples around. 

Dried fruit like dates, apricots, and figs are great to have around because they last a really long time, make a great snack and go great with cheese and meats. 

Cured Meats

This could be as simple as the three pack of antipasto meats you get at the grocery store. However you could also go out and get some high-end pâté. 

Whatever you like just have it around. Worst case scenario is that you get to eat it all by yourself. 

Having some cured meats on hand makes it easy to put a quick last minute snack platter together. 


It’s the holidays. Have chocolate around. 

Baked Good

Any kind of cookie, cake, square, or whatever else is good to have on hand because they are great at any time of day. If you have someone drop by for tea on Saturday morning you likely aren’t going to want to bust out a cheese plate. Same goes for late night visitors. 


I wasn’t going to include this on the list because a lot of people have nut allergies. However, unless you know that someone with nut allergies is coming to your house, I would have them around. 

They work great on their own or can be added to a cheese or snack tray. 

Other things

I’m sure that there are other things that you like to have around at this time of year. I’d love to hear about them in the comments. 

I personally always have smoked mussels and cream cheese around because it is one of my all time favourite things. Maybe you like to have a shrimp ring. 

The point really is just to be prepared to be a good host no matter how big of a surprise your guests are. I think that’s a big part of what this time of year is all about. 


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