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The other day, my friends and I busted out an old card-based game that we hadn’t played in quite a while (it was Codenames, if you’re curious) and recoiled when we were hit by the heavy stench of moldy cheese and funk.
As it turns out, when food particles get smudged onto cards and stuffed into a box and stowed away for months or years, an odor develops. Has this happened to you? You can avoid it by cleaning your cards (too much maintenance for me) or keeping your cards clean (much easier). Same holds true for board games with solid pieces.
How does one keep their games clean?
In essence, it boils down to one of three options: 1) don’t eat while you play, 2) eat foods with a utensil, or 3) eat dry finger foods that leave no residue. Here are what I’ve found to be the cleanest foods to eat when playing card games and board games.
1. Cut Up Fruits
This one’s my absolute favorite. There’s a little prep work up front, what with all the cutting of fruit, but the reward is worth it. All you need is a fork to enjoy the deliciousness of strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, apples, peaches, pineapples, mangoes—it’s all fair game!
2. Veggies and Dip
If you don’t want to get utensils involved, grab a bag of baby carrots or celery sticks. Or cut up some slices of apples or pears—any fruit that’s relatively dry works. Serve them with something tasty to dip into, like Greek yogurt or hummus. It’s insanely good, much healthier than bags of Doritos, and cleaner.
3. Corn Dogs
Looking for a no-effort food that’s more filling than simple side snacks? Corn dogs are super underrated. They come frozen, they can be microwaved, and they’re yummy, especially when served with a side of BBQ dip. Do you really need to look any further than a food that has its own wooden handle? I mean, come on!
Pretzels are the next best thing when you want something like chips but none of the grease. Pretzel sticks, pretzel twists, pretzel bites, soft pretzels—it’s all good as long as you avoid the chocolate-covered or flavored varieties. You don’t want melty chocolate or flavoring dust to get onto your cards, do you? Absolutely not!
Popcorn is the next best thing if you don’t like pretzels. Avoid any popcorn flavors that are buttery or powdery (like white cheddar). My personal favorite is Angie’s Sweet and Salty Kettle Corn, but be aware that some brands of kettle corn may be oily and will get on your fingers. Caramel popcorn can also be a good option.
6. Nuts and Nut Mixes
Roasted almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, peanuts. Throw them all into a bowl and have at it. Salted nuts taste better than unsalted, but the salt does get on your fingers and will transfer to your cards, so you may want to stick with unsalted.
For those who want to take it up a level, try eating Wasabi Peas. They’re crunchy, snackable, and sharp. They’ll kick you awake when you’re dozing off because your buddy has been wrestling with analysis paralysis for the last 15 minutes on their turn…
7. Gummy Bears
Haribo Gummy Bears, and other kinds of gummies, are great if you’re into sweet chewables. Again, stay away from the sour types that are covered in dust and powder. Normal gummy bears are the best because you can pop them into your mouth one at a time. We don’t recommend sugar-free gummies because they can cause gastrointestinal issues like cramping and diarrhea.
8. Cheese and Crackers
Ritz Original Crackers make an awesome base for any kind of finger food creation because they aren’t as crumby as most kinds of crackers, and you can’t go wrong with tried-and-true crackers with cheese. But instead of going with cheese cubes—which are totally fine if you like them—I recommend Boursin’s Garlic and Herbs Cheese, which is creamy and spreadable and delicious.
9. Individually Wrapped Snacks
Maybe it’s the Korean in me, but I think snacks like Choco Pie are perfect for game nights. If you don’t have an Asian mart near you, you can always turn to Twinkies, Rice Krispies Treats, or even Granola Bars. Just use the wrapper to shield your fingers from food residue and you’ll be good to go.
10. Simple Sandwiches
When all else fails, you can whip up a few three-ingredient sandwiches—bread, cheese, and cold cuts—and cut them into bite-sized triangles. Anything else gets too messy: tomatoes, lettuce, and sauces are all no-go. This is the ultimate finger food, but you’ll have to find a bread that isn’t too crumby.
What is your go-to food for game nights? Do you have any other tricks up your sleeve for keeping your cards and components clean while scarfing down snacks? Share with us in the comments below!