How to Pack the Perfect Picnic
From over-the-top feasts to simple pick-ups, picnics are the perfect way to celebrate summer. Use our tips, secrets, and recipes to make yours memorable.
Follow simple safety tips when packing picnics to ensure that the only bugs around your picnics are the jealous mosquitoes. When planning your picnic, scan our 16-item checklist to make sure you've covered the basics of keeping food properly chilled, handling leftovers, and ensuring that your eating area and hands are clean. A good rule of thumb? Upon returning home, if the ice in the cooler has melted, the leftovers are likely no longer cool enough to be considered safe to eat.
For mid-trek meals, follow tips from Real Simple to lighten your knapsack's load with handheld food that doesn't need an ice pack.
• Store water in a collapsible bottle–They're 80% lighter than the hard-plastic variety.
• Pack crushable food (think chips) in zip-top bags filled with air to create a cushion and prevent crushing.
• Pack double-duty items, like a sandwich sleeve that doubles as a place mat or napkin.
Follow the Picnic Packing Checklist from RealSimple.com to ensure you don't find yourself ready to eat, but lacking plates.
Portable Picnic Chicken
Skip the go-to PBJ and pack picnic fare that's guaranteed to please. Browse our 8 best chicken picks, made for on-the-go munching. Cold chicken is always tasty, but if you'd rather pack a sandwich, be cautious of dishes made with mayonnaise or other ingredients that may spoil in the heat. Go for vinegar-based salads and spreads, which keep well in the cooler and shave a few calories, too.
Summer Pasta Salads
Depending on your tastes, and your crowd, pasta salads make a great side dish or main course for outdoor gatherings. Bring a large batch of one of our 12 delicious pasta salad recipes to the next neighborhood block party or casual park gathering. Keep salads cool by nestling serving bowls in store-bought bowl chillers or our homemade version–a larger serving bowl filled with ice.
A Day at the Beach
Follow tips from Real Simple on how to pack enough for a day without overloading your basket.
• Use multipurpose utensils to save space and reduce to risk of misplacing a utensil beneath the blanket.
• Easier to manage than a cooler but less bulky than a classic wicker tote, insulated baskets keep food cool then collapse when they're empty.
• Carry drinks in a handy tote. Packing drinks separately saves you space and lightens the load of the picnic basket.
Be sure to check out our list of Must-Eat Bikini Body Foods to get in your best swimsuit shape.
Sweet Victory: Treats for Tailgating
Packing a picnic for a summer sporting event? Don't stop with the main dish; rally the troops in the last inning with portable treats that pack well and require no refrigeration. Cupcakes, brownies, cookies, and peanut brittle are all fun-to-make and easy-to-transport ideas. Check out our 10 best crowd pleasers.
Brown Bag Alternatives
If the occasion calls for sandwiches, break out of the everyday ham-cheese-spread mold and serve one of our 5 favorite gourmet-style stackers. From Peanut Butter-Banana Spirals to BLT Wraps, these stackers are anything but square.
Make a Night of It
Transform your picnic into an elegant affair by following tips from Real Simple .
• Sittings is for sissies–Encourage lounging with weather-resistant pillows spread around the blanket.
•Sip in style with shatterproof wine glasses that feature removable stems. Nothing says "upscale" like ditching the plastic cups.
•Add mood lighting with a tealight lantern, or a pretty cintronella candle that casts a lovely glow while keeping the bugs away.
Check out our collection of summer appetizers, perfect for a night on the lawn or an evening on the back porch.