Pack a Perfect Picnic

April 23, 2014

Pack a Perfect Picnic

Picnic season is officially here! Pack your baskets, grab your blankets, and head outdoors to enjoy a picnic with family and friends. Whether you’re going to the park, the beach, a concert, or on a hike, we have great ideas to plan the perfect picnic, complete with packing tips and menu ideas to get you started. With just a little planning, you’ll be packing your picnic basket like a pro all season.

First, you’ll need a way to keep your food cold and tote it in style. Why not invest in a pretty basket or picnic-specific insulated tote? If it’s going to be a particularly hot day or you’ll be out a long time, a cooler might be a better choice.

When you start packing, the bottom layer should be ice packs or better yet, frozen water bottles that will be drinkable once the ice melts. Plan to tuck the most perishable foods near the bottom, on top of the ice packs. You can also pour homemade drinks like tea or lemonade into sealable containers or water bottles to freeze.

On the menu? Think of hand held foods that hold well at room temperature: cheeses, fruits, baguettes, sandwiches and wraps, chips and dips, hummus and pita, and veggies and dip are all picnic faves for that reason. Simple is often best. Make serving easier by packing food as you would eat it: salads in (trendy!) mason jars, sandwiches wrapped in wax paper, or even individual meals portioned into small boxes. Skewers are another easy hand-held option. Try fruit kabobs or our recipe for Italian sub skewers. The fewer utensils, the better!

For dessert, stick with cookies, brownies, or other sturdy, hand-held, pre-portioned treats. A watermelon to cut up on the spot is, of course, a picnic classic!

Of course, wine makes any alfresco experience better. Pick up some plastic wine glasses to stay safe and serve in style, a portable wine chiller if you favor white wines, and don’t forget the bottle opener!

The top layer of the basket should contain all the utensils and serving gear you will need, including plates, cups, knives, forks, spoons, napkins, etc. Many picnic sets come with their own gear. You may need serving utensils and a cutting board and knife as well. Opt for plastic plates over soggy and unstable paper. Want to take your picnic up a notch? Pack cloth napkins and real silverware. Store them in a large zippered baggie to tote dirty utensils home. If you picnic frequently, keep a stash of pre-wrapped “fork-knife-spoon-salt-pepper-napkin” combos from your favorite deli to have at the ready to toss in your basket.

Tip: Run through your entire menu before heading out to make sure you have what you need to serve it, including plastic platters, serving spoons, sharp knives, and condiments.

Don’t forget a small trash bag! As any good scout will tell you, leave a picnic spot as clean as you found it.

Finally, consider all those little extras to make everyone comfy. If you don’t want to dirty a good blanket or quilt, try using a vinyl or disposable plastic tablecloth as an underlayer. Small folding chairs, ground cushions, or a roll-up table can make any outdoor dining experience more gracious. It might be a good idea to have bug spray, sunscreen, or citronella candles on hand. Disposable hand wipes are great for sticky post-picnic fingers. Toss a Frisbee or deck of cards in for some post-dining fun.

One last tip? Get all your favorite and necessary picnic gear together and store it in one place with your picnic basket or tote. You’ll be ready for impromptu picnics all season long!

What’s your favorite picnic food?

Julie Hartigan

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