Don’t you just love a good picnic? They are the age-old, quintessential form of relaxation. With a little preparation and the right equipment, a picturesque, al fresco meal is totally achievable! I think the reason picnics are such a success when it comes to entertaining is because the main attraction is being outdoors and that part has already been done for you! All you have to do is pick the scenery, and provide the feast (this part is much easier than you think).
Here are some helpful tips for packing a picnic, as well as sample menus for a variety of picnic themes with links to some awesome recipes.
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Set the mood: Kid friendly? Casual and classic? Paris-chic? Romantic and elegant? Set the scene with fresh flowers, lounging pillows or cushions, a great playlist and appropriate place settings (in other words, if you’re going for romantic and elegant, ditch the paper plates).
Anticipate nature: Check the weather and be prepared. Insect repellent, citronella candles (here’s a cool DIY version), portable canopy, portable fan, tablecloth clips (on a windy day), sunscreen, or blankets (if it’s chilly).
Control the mess: Hand sanitizer, napkins, wipes, and a trash bag. If you are bringing non-disposable place-settings then be sure to bring a resealable plastic bag to contain the dirty dishes until you get back to your kitchen sink.
Food preservation: Whether you’re packing a traditional wicker picnic basket, a cooler, or something innovative like this backpack, it’s really less about what you’re packing into, and more about how you’re packing it. Keeping your food the right temperature is essential. For cold things: Re-freezable ice packs are a great start. You can also freeze plastic bottles of water; they keep your food cold until you are ready to eat, and become the perfect, ice-cold thirst-quencher by the end of your outing. There are even freezable totes to keep your wine or 6-pack cold! Thermoses are great for keeping things hot.
Sample Picnic Menus
I created some sample menus as a springboard to help you start planning your perfect picnic. Each of these menus have a great balance of easy, no-prep food and food you can make ahead of time. All of these recipes hold up well and won’t get soggy during transportation.
Italian Summer Picnic
Pandora Station: Italian Cooking Music
For Munching: Red and Green Grapes, Cheese, Crostini or crackers, prosciutto, marinated olives. (Let cheese come to room temperature before serving).
Main Course: Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta with Root Vegetables from COOKIE + kate
Dessert: Mocha Custards in mason jars
The Perfect Picnic for Littles
Pandora Station: Kids Beat Radio
To Drink: Juice Boxes
For Munching: Seedless Watermelon Wedges and Cheese Sticks
Main Course: PBJ Skewers, Clementines (peel ahead), Chips (veggie chips are a healthy option)
Dessert: M&M Cookies (these aren’t just for kids!)
Classics with a Twist
Pandora Station: (Artist) Vitamin String Quartet
Flowers: Orange-tipped Yellow Tulips
To Drink: Bottle fruit sodas or fruity sparkling water
For Munching: Pineapple Salsa and Chips (bonus points for this salsa bowl being decorative & disposable!)
Healthy Eating Picnic
Pandora Station: Jazz Covers Pop Radio or Indie Folk Revival Radio
To Drink: Spiced Thyme and Lime Iced Tea
Main Course: Farro Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
Dessert: Gluten-Free Vegan Banana Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (Leftover cookies might be delicious for breakfast…maybe…I wouldn’t know from having actually eaten cookies for breakfast *wink*)