One of our favorite summertime traditions is a plethora of picnics, whether taken while camping up north in the middle of nowhere after a canoe trip through a system of lakes, after a hike through one of our many state parks or right in our own neighborhood.
We also ended up taking several impromptu picnics on nice days while we were out. Rather than head to a drive-thru in between errand running, we’d grab some deli fare and head to a local park instead. It was rewarding in every way possible, but some days it didn’t work out as well as others.
After quite a few years of picnicking with kids, other families and on our own, here are a few tips we’ve picked up that lead to a successful picnic experience.
1. Know where you’re going.
The more you know about your picnic location, the better. This is especially important when picnicking with kids. Bathroom locations are key, as well as knowing what, if any, dangers could be lurking around the picnic area like poison ivy, rivers, etc.
2. Pack your food in containers to eat out of or bring disposable.
Rather than pack separate containers with all the salad fixings or sandwich toppings, just pack them up in something you can eat straight out of. You won’t need to carry serving containers and plates for everyone, and your back will thank you. (Note: This is dependent on what type of picnic you’re having as well and the location you’ll be eating at. Sometimes it’s just not possible.)
3. Finger foods are where it’s at.
The French know what they’re doing: A baguette, cheese, a spread or meat, small cakes and plenty of easy-to-eat fruits and vegetables does a perfect picnic make. One knife and small cutting board and a communal picnic is ready to eat.
4. Prepare your own go-to picnic basket.
A picnic basket that’s readily available with all your essentials will make those impromptu picnics easier and more accessible. Plus, it decreases the chance that you will forget something important. Things to add: silverware, napkins, insect repellant, sunscreen.
5. Freeze it.
If you’re planning ahead of time, however, keeping a couple of frozen water bottles in the freezer that are easy to throw in the picnic basket to keep food cold while you’re traveling to your destination, and then they also provide extra hydration for the trip back.
6. Know what not to take.
Know what foods and items just make picnics harder rather than more fun. If you’re going to a heavily wooded area, for instance, packing a kite for the kids will only lead to their disappointment rather than delight. Additionally, foods like ice cream and Jell-O and anything that will leave a sticky-fingered mess are best left at home.
7. Clean it up.
Plan for clean up. Extra paper towels or hand towels, wet wipes and zip-top bags to toss dirty utensils or tablecloths in will keep you sane when it’s time to pack up and go and then again later when it’s time to unpack at home.
These are some of our ways to make picnics easier for our family so that we can enjoy the warm summers while they last. Sometimes life is all about seizing the opportunity that is right there in front of you.
What are some of your favorite picnic foods?
|Shaina Olmanson is the home cook and photographer behind Food for My Family and Olmanson Photography, a daily contributor to Babble.com’s Family Kitchen Blog and the editor of the food channel for Lifetime Moms. Shaina can usually be found in one of three places: cooking, at the computer or behind the camera.