Summertime is made for picnics with delicious food, drink and friends. Think about the last time you had a summer picnic at the park with the kids or attended an outdoor concert with your friends. What did you like or dislike about the experience? Our picnic tips are sure to make your next alfresco outing easier and more enjoyable.
Picnic Tips #1 – What Food to Take to a Picnic
Appetizers – Make individual appetizer trays for each picnic goer. Use an egg carton and fill the egg cups with different kinds of nuts, cubed or shredded cheese, berries, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, raspberries filled with dark chocolate, small crackers and of course a hard boiled egg.
Use small baskets to make a complete meat with wrapped sandwich, chips and a drink. Have individuals carry their basket from the car to the picnic spot. Packing individual “lunch boxes” makes serving so much easier than a food bar. Everything is prepped and ready when you arrive. Pack mayonnaise, tomatoes and condiments separately for picnic goers to add at their discretion and to keep the sandwiches from getting soggy beforehand.
Picnic Tips #2 – Keep Picnic Food & Drinks From Spilling
Let’s face it, most ground is bumpy and not friendly to open containers. There are all kinds of small portable tables for camping or picnicking, but if you don’t own one, then use large cutting boards for a stable surface. Your cookie sheets or jelly roll pans are perfect to hold baskets of sandwiches or salads. Use muffin tins to hold loose small items like fruit, tomatoes. The muffin tins even do a good job as a cup holder.
Use paper muffin liners for different uses beyond the standard cupcake. Turn them upside down on your drink, pop a straw through the paper muffin liner and it will keep bugs out of sweet drinks. Or pop them on the stick of a Popsicle to keep drips from little fingers.
Little mason jars make great picnic containers for salads or wet ingredient items. Make sure to include a fork or spoon. Another great picnic tip is to use those little see through plastic cocktail cups.
Wooden wine boxes (you can get these from your local liquor store) make great picnic baskets and serve as a table too.
Picnic Tips #3 – Keep Food and Drinks Cold
Freeze water bottles or juice pouches and use as a cooling agent until you arrive at your picnic. But you’ll most likely need more cooling than just the frozen water bottles. Put ice in large gallon size resealable bags like Ziplock. That way when the ice melts in the cooler the water won’t get into the food and you will also have fresh ice for drinks. Of course refreezable ice packs are a great option as well.
You can also make your own popsicles in zippered plastic pouches. Make sure to bring straws in case the Popsicle has become a slushie by the time you are ready to eat them.
Picnic Tips #4 – How to Prepare Food For a Picnic
Salad – mix the salad before you leave for your picnic but keep wet ingredients in containers to be added later, like tomatoes and dressing. For dressing I reuse store bought jam jars. Once the jelly is gone I put them through the dishwasher and reuse for this type of thing. The jars are also useful when delivering dinners to families so that the family doesn’t have to return any items.
Any fancy food that you don’t want to lose integrity should be prepped at home and finished onsite. Deviled eggs come to mind. Or cupcakes with frosting. If you put the egg mix or frosting in a large ziplock bag, then you just need to cut the bottom corner and pipe into the egg whites or on top of the cupcakes. Just make sure you have a cutting board and a sharp knife to cut the bag. A lot of people carry a pocket knife or Leatherman with small scissors on them.
Picnic Tips #5 – What to Bring To a Picnic
Utensils – The knife and fork of choice is your good ole fashion plastic kind. If you choose this then get the stronger utensils, otherwise you are likely to end up with a sharp plastic fork tine in the roof of your mouth. Why not bring along your everyday stainless steel? When people are done eating have them place the utensils in a resealable plastic bag. Then just dump them in the dishwasher when you return home.
Serving Utensils – Don’t forget large spoons, tongs or salad servers. Think carefully as to what utensils can serve multiple purposes so that you aren’t lugging your entire kitchen to the affair.
Knife – You will probably find that you need a knife. Use a blade safety or wrap the blade in a kitchen towel. Prepare as much as possible before you leave so that the knife is only used for food that needs to be cut at last minute. Crackers and cheese is a popular choice, but you may find it easier to cut the cheese beforehand for ease.
Plates – Paper plates are convenient, we all know that. But they also leave something to be desired if you have heavy or wet food at your picnic. Bringing enamel, plastic or melamine dishes makes a great alternative and adds a touch of class to your picnic. After eating, wipe the plates briefly with a paper towel and place back in the container you brought them in, or place in a covered dishpan. You can initially use the dishpan to bring the plates and utensils to the picnic and its light enough for a child to carry. Easy in easy out.
Trash bags – This depends on the size of your party. If it’s a small group then a few plastic grocery bags may suffice. A little larger group and you’ll want a full size plastic garbage bag. I like to tote food in paper bags, like Trader Joes gives you, and then line a double paper bag with a plastic garbage bag for trash, the paper bags act as a rigid structure and hold the plastic garbage bag up. Just keep changing out the plastic bag. The big paper bags are easier and tidier to tote food containers to your destination than the plastic grocery bag.
Other – corkscrew, bottle opener, Wet Ones or wipes for messy faces and sticky hands, small condiment bottles, flavorings like salt, pepper, and other herbs or spices, napkins, paper towels for napkins or to wipe up any spills.
Bug repellent. If you don’t want to spray deet around your food there are actual food ingredients that are said to ward off insects. Grapefruit and bananas to name a few. It’s unclear if it’s the actual food or how the food interacts with your body. But if you are choosing between different foods you can’t go wrong with grapefruit and bananas.
Blanket – any kind of blanket, light rug or several beach towels will do. And if you don’t have to walk far stools or folding chairs make the picnic much more enjoyable. For the blanket you may want to bring a plastic tarp or shower curtain to lay underneath if the ground is wet.
You’ll find a wealth of ideas at camping stores and websites.
We’d love to hear any feedback for picnic tips that you want to share.