Bring Back the Picnic! How to Pack the Perfect Picnic, Plus Recipes
Picnic season is officially here! What better time to take advantage of the warm weather than on International Picnic Day this Saturday? Pack your baskets, fold up your blankets, and head out with family and friends to enjoy a meal in the great outdoors.
Whether you're going to the park, beach, or on a hike, here is our guide to planning the perfect picnic with some tricks, tips and recipes to get you started. With just a little planning you'll be packing your picnic basket like a pro.
See the gallery below for picnic recipes.
Follow these Tips for Packing a Picnic Basket• Pack it Cold: You'll need a way to keep your food cold. So start by putting ice packs into the bottom of the basket. Or freeze water bottles and use them instead--the water will be drinkable once the ice has melted. Keep the most perishable foods near the bottom, closest to the ice packs. In place of a picnic basket, a cooler would also work well.
• Food to Pack: Salads and sandwiches are some of the easiest and most transportable foods to make for picnics. Anything between bread or in a tortilla wrap is the easiest to eat. With other foods, you'll have to have utensils on hand. Try to choose recipes that are make-ahead. For desserts, cookies or other items that are hand-held or single-serve are the best.
Sometimes simple is best. If you don't want to go overboard with food choices, pack items like cheese, bread, fresh fruit, and drinks. You don't have to pack an entire three-course meal--unless you really want to.
• How to Pack: Pack food in sealable plastic containers to make sure they don't spill. Keep food in the middle layer of the picnic basket. Make serving easier by packing the food as you would serve it or portion the food into individual boxes. Homemade drinks, like tea or lemonade should also be poured into sealable containers or screwcap bottles. These drinks, too can be frozen and used as ice packs. Make sure to leave space at the top of the bottle so the liquid can expand in the freezer. Do not freeze glass bottles.
• Extras to Pack: The top layer of the basket should contain all the utensils you will need, including plates, cups, knives, forks, spoons, napkins, etc. You may need serving utensils and a knife for cutting. Purchase plastic utensils that can be reused or recycled. These will be easier to eat from than paper, which will get soggy and unstable. Some picnic baskets do come with utensils.
And don't forget the blanket! If you don't want to dirty a good blanket or grandma's quilt, you could always use a vinyl tablecloth as an underlayer. Depending on where you're picnicking, it might be a good idea to have bug spray on hand.
• Some Warnings: When readying for a picnic, make sure all food is cooled before packing them in the basket or cooler. Do not place warm or hot foods in the cooler to get them cool. Once you've eaten at your picnic, discard any food that has been out of the cooler for more than 2 hours. Mayonnaise dishes should always be kept in a cooler to maintain the proper temperature. This includes potato salads, pasta salads, and coleslaw. It's also a good idea not to transport the basket or cooler in the trunk of your car, where it will be the hottest. Put it on the back seat.
Picnic baskets we recommend:
• For the traditional look, go with this classic wicker basket, all decked out with plates and utensils.
• This modern basket is perfect for two and it's easy enough to take on a hiking trip since it can be slung over the shoulder.
• Here's the cutest picnic basket for kids.
• For the ultimate in coolness, try this cooler on wheels.
Favorite Picnic Foods
- Homemade Potato Salad
- Turkey-Tortilla Wrap
- Antipasto Chicken Salad
- Crabmeat Salad Sandwiches
- Spinach-Cheese Swirls
- Peach-Flavored Green Tea Punch
- Chipotle-Citrus Coleslaw with Cilantro
- Tomato-Basil Skewers
- Spaghetti Carbonara Frittata
- Creamy Avocado and White Bean Wrap
- Herbed Olives
- Lemon-Raspberry Bars
- Cucumber-Lemonade Chiller
- Quinoa Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Bell Peppers and Arugula
- Southern Fried Chicken
- Refreshing Watermelon Salad
- Crunch Bars
- Sparkling Fruit
- Strawberry Jam Bars
- Tuna Nicoise Sandwiches
- Watermelon Agua Fresca