Nothing says summer quite like a picnic lunch shared with good company. Of course, you want your picnic to be a relaxing experience that all the guests can enjoy, so take the time to plan ahead. The trick to having a stress-free meal in the great outdoors is to pack your basket well.
Food Prep for Your Feast
Picnics can be both delicious and relaxing. Here's how to create a simple, yet tasty, spread.
- Do as much ahead of time as possible. Not only will pre-picnic food prep let you focus on enjoying the meal during your outing, but it will also mean you'll have less trash to clean up at the site. For example, de-stem grapes and cube watermelon before packing them in reusable containers.
- Pack a variety of salads. Lettuce salads get wilted in the sun, but potato and pasta salads are picnic classics. Grain-based salads like those made with quinoa are a good picnic choice, too. Not only are salads filling, but they are also an easy way to incorporate plenty of fruits and veggies in your meal.
- Save sandwiches for when you arrive. Sandwiches are the exception to the prep-ahead rule, as they can get soggy when assembled in advance. Instead, pack a variety of meats and cheeses, so people can fix their own sandwiches when it's time to eat. Select a sturdy bread that will hold up better in the picnic basket than a loaf of basic sandwich bread.
- Drinks are a must. To stay hydrated in the sun, pack plenty of liquids. Bring a few jugs of water or lemonade, so there's enough for refills.
Keeping Food Cold
Food safety is a priority, so be sure to pack your cooler the right way.
- Refrigerate food ahead of time. Don't whip up a batch of pasta salad just before placing it in the cooler. It's better to make it the night before and put it in the refrigerator, so it's fully chilled before being packed.
- Remember the ice. Both ice cubes and blocks of ice will keep your food cold, but blocks don't melt as quickly. Reusable gel packs are one option, but you can also make your own by freezing water in plastic containers. Just leave a bit of space at the top, since water expands as it freezes. Dry ice might be a tempting alternative, but it can actually freeze your food, so it's best reserved for transporting frozen foods, like ice cream.
- Pack tightly. Coolers work best when they're packed full, so don't use a cooler that's too big for your needs. If you need to fill space, homemade ice blocks are a good, cheap way to do so.
- Separate food and drinks. Perishable food stays cold longer when the cooler isn't opened frequently. Put beverages in their own container, so you aren't exposing your food to warm air every time someone goes to grab a drink.
Essentials to Remember
Food is the focus of your picnic, but there are a few other items to toss in your basket, as well.
A waterproof blanket: Whether you spread it on the ground or use it as a tablecloth, a blanket provides a nice covering for your picnic area. Tuffo's Water-Resistant Outdoor Blanket folds up and has a carrying handle for easy portability.
- Tableware: Remember plates, cups, silverware and napkins. Disposable is easy, but reusable plastic and cloth items are both portable and earth-friendly.
- Garbage bags: Don't leave behind a mess. Pack a bag that your scraps and wrappers can go into.
- Kitchen utensils: You don't need to pack the kitchen sink, but if your meal requires a can opener or a corkscrew, be sure to grab it. Consider tossing a multifunction tool, like the Victorinox Swiss Army Huntsman, in your basket, so you'll be covered for just about any need that may arise.
- Sporting Equipment: Before you head out the door grab a frisbee, bat and ball or a volleyball just incase anyone wants to have another activity to do, besides eating.
Meghan Ross is a freelance writer covering all things home and living. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.
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