This summer, we’re celebrating the happy marriage of two of our favorite activities: hanging around outdoors with friends and noshing on tasty tidbits. To get the party started, we’ve put together this handy guide on packing the perfect picnic. Got other favorite tips? Add them in the comments!
1. Start with a roomy carrier or container. We love an insulated basket, like this handsome fella from Picnic Plus or this Rolls-Royce of coolers from Brookstone. Pack food in the order you’ll eat it—so desserts on the bottom, entrees in the middle, and appetizers and utensils on top. If you’re driving, store the packed basket inside your car rather than in a hot trunk, so all the goodies won’t spoil.
2. Take a comfortable, toss-in-the-wash cotton blanket or two, depending on the number of peeps in your party.
3. Keep pests from ruining your day. While citronella candles and insect-repellent coils are great for shooing away bugs, leave them at home and opt for spray or lotion repellents if kids or pets are part of your picnic.
4. Save valuable cooler real estate with multipurpose items like this sandwich wrap/placemat and this innovative fork-spoon-knife combo. Don’t forget to throw in some colorful, eco-friendly napkins and wet wipes.
5. Include a variety of crowd-pleasing drinks, like juice, soda, water, and wine. Pack them in a separate, sturdy market tote stuffed with reusable cooler inserts to keep bottles cool and standing at attention. (Bonus: this leaves more room in your basket for food.)
6. Plan your menu around finger foods and cold, vinegar-based salads (mayonnaise-based salads spoil quickly). Our favorites include cheese and crackers, cut fruit, sesame noodles, chicken and hummus wraps, and pasta and rice salads. Luckily for us all, cookies, brownies, cupcakes, muffins, and brittles/barks pack brilliantly for dessert and need no refrigeration.
7. Toss anything you don’t finish at the picnic. We know it’s tempting to turn the leftovers into a midnight snack, but go there and you might just spend the next day worshipping the porcelain god or, worse, in the ER (where, we should point out, the doctors usually don’t look anything like the ones on Grey’s Anatomy.)