Summertime is the perfect season for the perfect picnic! If you're planning one, we've put together a handful of tips to follow to make sure everything comes out well. Whether you're planning pit stops on a family road trip or a fun outing to the park, these guidelines will help your food stay fresh and delicious!
Consider A Cooler
First, invest in or borrow a good cooler. This is an essential component of the perfect picnic, and without it you're likely to be dealing with drinks that are lukewarm or improperly chilled at best. A Styrofoam cooler is also an option if you're in a pinch.
Not only does a cooler keep your drinks chilled, it also helps protect your family from the dangers of food poisoning. Avoid letting food enter the "danger zone," which is the area between 40º and 140º Fahrenheit. In this range, the number of bacteria produced is practically doubled in just 20 minutes and food can spoil fast. Spoiled food often looks and tastes exactly the same as good food, so you might not know the difference and could unknowingly eat it. This will not lead to a good end to your picnic!
Grab Enamel Plates
You might be wondering why the simple paper plates aren't on our list. Well, after you let a wet dish such as coleslaw sit on a paper plate for half an hour, your plate will very easily deteriorate and rip, spilling the contents into your lap. Enamel plates are affordable, light, and easy to transport. They're more environmentally friendly than plastic plates as well!
Salads. Lots Of Salads
A good picnic needs a good salad. This doesn't have to be lettuce if that's not your preference. It could also be a fruit salad, a grain salad, or even a potato salad. Be creative in the salads you bring! You can bring a variety of salads to please different palates. You could go international and make a tabbouleh salad. If you go with traditional salads, you can bring dressing in small jars with lids to keep them from spilling.
Don't Forget Energy Bars
Energy bars are the perfect grab-and-go snacks to include in a picnic and they appeal to all tastes in the family, even picky eaters. Energy bars can be consumed as a dessert after your picnic or even as an appetizer prior to the picnic, and they have minimal mess. They don't require utensils, are quick and easy to pack, and don't require any set temperature to stay fresh.
Fruits & Fruit Juices
Fruits and juices are also important staples for a picnic. There's nothing like a fresh piece of fruit on a summer day to cool you down and make you feel refreshed. You can slice watermelon or pineapple in advance and store it in containers; make a fresh fruit salad with strawberries and bananas and other much-loved fruits; bring pre-washed grapes. Either way, fruits can be a simple and easy picnic dish to pack, and all your picnic attendees will love it.
Pack Foods That Don’t Make A Mess
For your main course, carefully consider foods that don't make a huge mess. You don't want items that require elaborate utensils and serving requirements. Think wraps, sandwiches, and tortillas. All of these are quick and easy to prepare and can be eaten with your hands, so you don't need forks and spoons. With salads as a starting point, you can add a sandwich or wrap on the side and have a full meal that will leave everyone satisfied.
Be creative with your salads and wraps. Look online for a variety of recipes and ideas. Use spreads and toppings to create variety. Go beyond turkey or ham and try pastrami, roast beef, Portobello mushroom, roasted red peppers, or any unique variety of toppings. If you have picky eaters in your bunch, try traditional pimiento cheese or egg salad. For those who don't eat meat, you can easily create vegetarian wraps.
While you're preparing all your salads and sandwiches, don't forget the sauces! From salad dressing to dipping sauces for your main courses, these will add lots of flavor. Invest in small containers with air-tight lids that you can pour sauces into and carry in your cooler. This way you aren't having to lug entire bottles of condiments that might be wasted after the picnic.
Pack Some Fun!
We've covered the food, but that's not all there is to a picnic! You also want to have some fun activities. After all, isn’t that the whole point of a picnic? Start with a good speaker so you can play some music. A portable Bluetooth speaker is a worthwhile investment if you plan to have picnics so that you'll have music to set the mood. There are even specific playlists on Spotify created just for summer picnics.
Look into fun outdoors and lawn games. Stick to traditional favorites such as cornhole, horseshoes, or bocce ball or explore alternative games. You might even bring a ball and bat and start up an impromptu baseball game.
When you're finishing your picnic plans, don't forget maintenance and clean-up items. For starters, always bring a good blanket or two for everyone to sit on. Sitting in grass can be itchy and uncomfortable, and most people prefer to eat on top of a blanket. Pick a blanket that's large enough for all your guests and to spread out food. Avoid itchy fabrics such as wool or yarn and bring something soft and light. Waterproof blankets are a great investment if the ground or grass are likely to be slightly damp.
Keep Bug & Flies At Bay
Consider bringing a food cover — there's nothing more unappetizing than a bunch of flies crawling all over your picnic, and you might want to leave things while you get up and play a quick game. A food cover will allow you to come and go at your leisure and not worry about flies and other bugs getting into your food.
And bring bug spray for your friends and family to keep pesky mosquitoes from having their own personal picnic! Choose a bug spray that has been EPA-approved because these will be the safest options for your loved ones.
Don't forget to bring garbage bags for your clean-up! Pack more trash bags than you think you need, as it's better to have extra than not to have enough. Also don't forget extra napkins and hand sanitizer. People tend to get messy when they are eating at a picnic, and you might not have a sink nearby to wash off hands. Wet wipes work very well to clean people's hands and faces, so pack an extra container for your picnic.
As you can see, planning a summer picnic takes a little more effort than grabbing a cooler and throwing some food into it. However, with a little thought and planning you can create the perfect picnic that will provide your family and friends with memories for years to come.
Put the most time and effort into picking your menu and food selections wisely, because these will be the crux of your picnic. But once you have this under control, don't forget all the accessories required! Ensure you have proper entertainment, proper clean-up gear, and proper items to make sure everyone is comfortable and bug-free during the picnic.
Now that you know how to plan the perfect picnic, all you need to do is decide the perfect date and occasion for your picnic.