How to Stock Your Pantry For Impromptu Summer Gatherings

It finally feels like summer, which means barbecues, picnics, and long dinners on the patio are full steam ahead. But events like that take planning — figuring out a menu; seasoning and smoking your meat just right; setting the table with all the Instagrammable trappings. But what should you serve when a spur-of-the-moment gathering occurs? Even if it's just kids coming over after a soccer game or friends visiting for happy hour, you'll need something on hand.

Luckily, we've got plenty of ideas for those last-minute guests. With just a few pantry staples and freezer favorites, your guests will have everything they need for a delicious snack — and you won't need to spend all your hang time in the kitchen, either.

A Great Nut Mix

Whether they're paired with a glass of wine or a can of Coke, mixed nuts never disappoint. You can make your own mix by drizzling almonds, cashews, and whatever you like with some olive oil, dusting them with herbs, and toasting them in the oven. But if that's not in the cards, we love these everything-seasoned cashews that are topped with sesame seeds, garlic, onion, salt, and poppyseeds. For sophisticated palates, there's also lavender-glazed almonds, and kids will always devour trail mix filled with plenty of chocolate and dried fruit.

To round out the offering, cut up some shards of imported parmesan, take out some olives, and place everything in a few pretty bowls. Talk about a snack that takes seconds — and might be gone in seconds, too.

Easy-to-Prep Hors d'Oeuvres

For something hot to serve your guests, turn to your freezer. Before your busy season, stock up on tasty hors d'oeuvres that you can heat up in the microwave, air fryer, or oven, like these crispy little empanadas.

For a semi-homemade approach, keep puff pastry in your freezer and break it out when guests are over. Brush it with your favorite pesto, dust with cheese, cut it into strips, give them a twist, and then bake. Voila: homemade cheese straws with very little effort. Want to get your friends involved? Brush the puff pastry with all sorts of different sauces and dips (Nutella included) and have a tasting once they're all done.

Something Sweet

Ending the occasion with something sweet is always nice for kids and adults alike. For something simple and delicious, put out some cookie-dough bites. If you have a little more time, we suggest you make boxed brownies as your palate likes for a tasty dessert. Top them with a sprinkle of fleur de sel for a salty-sweet finish. Or bake them with leftover candy bars in the pantry. Cut them in fun shapes for the kids, or just eat them right out of the pan gooey and hot. We don't think anyone would complain about that.