While we carefully try to get together, here's how to be prepared with tasty treats.
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Every day in 2020 seems like a new set of rules and challenges, right? As we slowly and carefully consider how to see loved ones during a pandemic, we’re faced with important choices: When to have people over, and how?

As a couple that works from home, my husband and I have always loved to see people on a regular—and often spontaneous—basis, and we’ve put some serious energy into finding careful ways to do this as we continue to live with the need to social distance and keep ourselves and everyone around us safe.

But it’s possible! And because you shouldn’t run out to the market on a whim because company’s coming, we’ve created a strategic pantry stockpile of snacks to have on hand when folks are coming over. If you’re feeling ready to thoughtfully do a little socializing, here are my top finds that will be shelf stable and easy on your budget.

Credit: Andrea Migliarini/Getty Images

Andrea Migliarini/Getty Images

Old-School, Mini, Savory Snacks for Comfort Visits

Nostalgia is the ideal vibe when it comes to COVID-appropriate nibbles, right? Lunchbox-size bags of chips and snacks that take you back are always fun to serve, especially at a grown-up gathering. Little tubs of Pringles (36 for $20, instacart.com), bags of Combos or Corn Nuts, boxes of animal crackers, peanut butter (12 pouches for $5, instacart.com) and cheese cracker packs have all been super popular. I keep an eye out when doing my online shopping at Costco or ALDI for on-sale items and stock up. Think less-obvious snacks like Munchos, Funyuns, Bugles, Fritos, or go regional with mix packs from companies like Utz or Wise.

Fancier Salty Snacks for Those Kinds of Nights

Sometimes you want something a little more upscale, and boy do we deserve it in this moment. Some snack packs I've stocked are things like Oloves (little packets of olives for one; 24 packs for $28, amazon.com) and Sahale nut mixes in elegant flavors like honey almond or pomegranate pistachio (24 packs for $50, amazon.com). I now buy my hummus at Costco not in the giant vat, but in little individual snacking tubs (20 2.5-ounce tubs for $8, instacart.com), and pair it with a small bag of pretzels or pita chips or the mini baby carrot bags. Hillshire Farm makes little snacking packets that include salami, cheese, and a few little Melba toasts, which is essentially a charcuterie plate for one, and those little protein packs that are everywhere with cheese cubes and fruit and nuts are a great thing to keep in the fridge.

Sweets for Brunch, Tea, or Dessert

The challenge here, of course, is not to eat all these delights yourself and be empty-handed when the doorbell rings. My Costco carries buckets of Dark Chocolate Milano cookies in little two-packs (30 2-packs for $11, instacart.com), and everyone loves Pocky (12 packs for $29, amazon.com) for a sweet treat that doesn’t feel like a dessert. For my gluten-free pals, Whisps Cheddar and Parmesan Cheese Crisps (12 for $15, amazon.com) are a great thing to keep on hand. And little peelable whole fruit options like clementines or baby bananas are always a nice bit of something healthy.

Cocktail Hour!

Lastly, we have started to experiment with new canned cocktails that have hit the market. I am now a big fan of Five Drinks Co. They have six cocktails: gin and tonic, margarita, paloma, mojito, Moscow mule and watermelon vodka soda, which are low alcohol and low calorie, a sweet spot for many of us. And they ship! Do I look forward to shaking up a craft cocktail for my friends again someday? Of course. But in the meantime, these are fun and safer options for entertaining.

Most Importantly: Set Up Your Outdoor Space Safely

If you want to stage your gatherings like we do, make sure you’re measuring out your six-foot (or more!) distances, have small tables at each sitting station, and then leave a small basket of the snack options, a couple bottles of water (or cans of cocktails!), and a packet of sanitizing wipes on the tables. Because right now? The most loving, hospitable act you can do is to welcome your guests in a manner that ensures their safety. And the more committed we all are to this style of entertaining, the sooner we can all get back into our kitchens to cook for each other again.