It’s nearly summer and time for picnics again. There’s nothing more fun than packing a large basket of goodies and heading off to the beach or the park.
Or maybe you’d prefer a small hamper with dinner for two and an evening listening to music under the stars. In fact, almost any occasion is right, so long as you know how to plan a picnic.
Everyone knows the basics, or they should: food and drink for everyone and a few extras, plus bags or baskets to carry them in. You need a tablecloth, you can’t have a picnic without a tablecloth, and preferably it should be red checked.
You’ll need some outdoor games and maybe a scavenger hunt. To be a real expert in how to plan a picnic, you also have to have a plan to repack the used and empty dishes and carry out the trash.
What’s A Good Occasion For A Picnic?
Birthdays, music concerts, a day at the beach or in the park, hiking, or just a beautiful day to be outdoors: any occasion is right for a picnic.
With the weather cooperating, meals outdoors are one of the joys of summer. It does take some planning and effort to pull off a successful picnic that everyone will enjoy.
One of the basic principles for how to plan a picnic is to make sure that there’s enough food and drink and that it suits everyone’s tastes and preferences.
After all, a picnic is meant to be a happy occasion, and it’s no one fun if one or two people can’t find anything they can eat or drink.
Picnics can be family reunions, kids’ parties and impromptu meals with neighbors. You can celebrate special occasions like Fathers’ Day and the Fourth of July. They can welcome new neighbors or bid farewell to old friends.
A specially fun type of picnic is if you can add it to a berry-picking expedition. Different kinds of berries ripen at different times in the summer, beginning with strawberries, then blackberries and raspberries, and finally blueberries. There’s always some kind of fruit to pick, and you don’t have to bring any dessert: just some whipped cream!
How To Plan A Picnic
If you can master how to plan a picnic, you’ll have the secret to making people happy; especially the people you care for most of all. It does take some planning, though.
You need enough food and drink for everyone plus the one or two extras who are somehow always added to the party. You’ll need some way to transport the food to your picnic spot, and that’s a big decision.
Once you’ve found the right bags, baskets, and coolers to carry your stuff, you need to do is to plan some games and maybe some music. Tablecloths, napkins, and rugs to sit on (in case the grass is damp, which is very often is) are also picnic basics.
A red checked tablecloth can be a very cheerful setting for your picnic food, so it’s worth investing in one that you can use again and again over the years.
A new and positive trend in how to plan a picnic is avoiding the use of throw-away plastic and paper items as far as possible. Reusable flatware, washable melamine plates, and mugs, and even earthenware dishes are much more eco-friendly and also more attractive than plastic. It’s also important to remember to bring along bags so you can take away the trash and uneaten food.
Choose Your Location
The location you choose will also play a major part in your planning and ensuring the success of your picnic. In fact, the location can also become the occasion for a picnic.
To start with, you must pick your location based on the occasion. For a large family reunion, with older relatives, an easily accessible park is a good choice.
For a family outing, a state park with hiking trails or pools for swimming is a good idea. The exercise will hopefully tire out the kids so the meal can be eaten peacefully. A family beach picnic is an eternal favorite.
You don’t really have to go far for a picnic, and some of the best outdoor meals are at home in the backyard.
And then there are the romantic picnics, when you pack a small and luxurious hamper with gourmet food, fine china plates, champagne flutes and, of course, champagne for two.
Finding The Perfect Picnic Basket
There’s a secret to finding the perfect picnic basket and it’s this: the perfect picnic basket is whatever suits your style and the occasion.
There are no hard and fast rules about what you can use: it may be a bespoke Victorian-style wicker hamper with specially made silverware and plates and crystal drinking glasses, or a canvas tote bag that you normally use to carry your swimming things.
At a pinch, you can even use a backpack. What’s important is that the container or containers you choose should be large enough to hold the food, drink, plates, flatware etc.
They have to be sturdy enough, with straps or handles to carry it to the picnic site. A flat bottom is better for stability, which will help prevent spills and breakages.
If you’re feeling super-organized, you could get two large bags, one of which is insulated, to carry the food and drink.
Or you may be among those for whom a picnic isn’t a picnic without a cooler full of drinks and ice. Another great suggestion for packing a picnic basket is to substitute plastic and paper with reusable cutlery and plates.
Washable melamine is lightweight, earthenware pottery has character, and fine china will add a nice touch of luxury. Always remember to bring a bag or two to pick up and carry out the trash.
Plan Some Games
This part may not take a lot of planning, and you can just bring along a frisbee, bocce ball or softball and catchers’ mitt to add some activity to the day.
If you’re feeling creative, you can plan a scavenger hunt. If you know the location well, you can make getting to the site a scavenger hunt for your guests.
It’s a good idea to bring along some board games for quieter times and older guests.
Choosing A Picnic Menu
Choosing the menu is probably the most crucial part of how to plan a picnic. This is when you do all the planning and hard work that makes for a successful outing.
There are some tried and tested favorite picnic foods that are easy to make, pack and eat outdoors. You can vary these with new flavors and ingredients.
The best picnic foods stretch, which means that if you have an extra guest or two there will still be enough food for everyone. When planning a picnic menu, it’s a good idea to have something for everyone.
That’s because any picnic is supposed to be a happy occasion, and you don’t want anyone to feel left out. And you certainly don’t want anyone to go hungry just because no one bothered to take food preferences and allergies into account when planning the menu.
Some Basic Picnic Menus
Some foods are just easier to make and carry, while others are so closely associated with the idea of a picnic that it would be incomplete without them. The classic picnic menu includes a macaroni salad, some kind of baked, grilled or fried chicken, salad, fruit, and lemonade.
You can plan all kinds of variations on this menu by adding bacon to the macaroni salad or Thai, Mexican or Cajun flavorings to chicken.
Sandwiches and wraps are always popular. Lemonade is a picnic staple for a number of reasons. It’s a great thirst quencher, everyone loves it and it’s inexpensive. Flavors like strawberry, raspberry and watermelon give this old favorite a new taste twist.
Salads are also a picnic staple, but again, you can vary the ingredients almost infinitely. Substituting grains like quinoa for lettuce solves the problem of wilting greens.
Fruit salads are refreshing and easy to make. Cookies, brownies, and any kind of pie make the best desserts. If you don’t mind the extra work, you can go for more elaborate and seasonal desserts like fruit parfait, with individual servings in easy-to-carry jam jars.
Helpful Tips For Carrying Food
It can be important to keep food cool in hot days. The ideal temperature for storing food is 40F. You can achieve this by lining the bottom of your cooler with ice or freezer packs.
There should be about one part ice to three parts food in the cooler. If there is any room left, pack the cooler with ice.
Picnics are one of the best things about summer. Once you know how to plan a picnic, you’ll find it easy to set up outings that your family and friends will love.