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How to Hack a Boring Grocery Store Veggie Tray

Created January 26, 2017
Veggie Tray Hacks
When life hands you boring veggie trays, you make veggie tray Christmas trees. (Or shrimp cocktail Christmas trees. Or meat and cheese Christmas trees.) Hack inspired by the December 1974 issue of Bon Appétit magazine, by way of one of our very own editors’ moms. MORE+ LESS-

Moment of honesty: no one wants to be a party’s Veggie Tray Person, because there are only two kinds of people that buy veggie trays:

  1. The person who picks up a veggie tray on the way to the party, because they were never going to spend their precious non-office hours looking up recipes and cooking something ahead of time. (And then feels guilty for not trying harder.)
  2. The person who loves planning ahead and putting extra effort into wowing fellow party guests with the dish they bring, but was told by the host to “just bring the veggie tray!” and that’s not exactly a creative outlet.

But don’t be sad, Veggie Tray Person! Because whether you’re a 1 or a 2, we’ve got an easy hack that fixes everything: Appetizer Christmas Trees. Behold:

A Little Background

To be honest, when a Tablespoon editor first told us about the shrimp cocktail appetizer trees her mom made every Christmas, we thought she surely was joking. But a quick Google image search proved that it was definitely a thing.

Why We Love It

Here’s why this hacks so genius: If you’re Person 1, this 5- to 10-minute hack turns the same old veggie tray you always bring into something you made. It’s all about the presentation, and it’s totally on-point for holiday parties. It implies effort and planning ahead.

And if you’re Person 2, you still get to be creative and make a fun presentation of your dish. Maybe you didn’t cook it, but you DID make it into something special that delivers on the wow factor you crave. 

What You’ll Need

  • Styrofoam floral cones, various sizes (available at craft stores)
  • Plastic wrap
  • Toothpicks
  • Lettuce leaves
  • Store-bought deli tray (vegetable, shrimp, or meat and cheese)



Gather your supplies and cover a foam floral cone in plastic wrap.


Use toothpicks to cover cone in lettuce leaves to make your “tree.”


Use additional toothpicks to decorate with “ornaments” from the veggie, shrimp or meat tray. Serve immediately (for best results) or refrigerate 2-3 hours.