Are you looking for tips on how to pack the perfect picnic? Once the weather warms up, one of the first things I want to do is eat outside. Although I love sitting on a local restaurant’s patio, a picnic can be just as special and a lot more affordable! Plus, with limited seating at restaurants these days, it’s much easier to ensure a wonderful experience if you do it yourself. Here are my thoughts on what to bring on a picnic.
Where to go on your picnic
In order to pack the perfect picnic food, you’ll need to decide where you want to go on your picnic. Different venues lend themselves to a different list of picnic food items. Although there is always the traditional state park (which is an excellent option), there are other less common options:
- Local park. If you don’t want to make a day of it, this is an easy choice.
- Nearby lake or riverfront. This is especially fun if the lake has a beach or beautiful scenery.
- Local winery or brewery. Many local wineries and breweries don’t offer food and so you are welcome to bring your own – just make sure to call the location first to check.
- Park bench downtown. If you have a cute and safe downtown area, sitting on a park bench and people watching while enjoying a simple dinner can be a lovely break in the day.
- The beach. If you are lucky enough to live near the ocean, you should definitely pack a picnic and enjoy a day at the beach.
These are just a few ideas that popped into my head. I’m sure if you spend a little bit of time brainstorming you could come up with even more interesting and unique locations for your picnic.
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Types of picnic food to consider
Once you’ve narrowed down your location, try to come up with food that fits where you’ve chosen. Although a picnic can consist of any food you choose to bring, I always want to use easy picnic food ideas and for those, there are four general categories.
Regular picnic food. This is probably the most common and usually consists of sandwiches or wraps, chips, fruit, and veggies. I like to pack a variety of sandwiches and cut them in half so everyone can have a few different types.
We pack old standbys like peanut butter and jelly and lunchmeat, but also I often include tasty wraps full of hummus and veggies or our favorite Picnic Perfect Black Bean Wraps (recipe below). On this type of picnic, I almost never pack dessert as we like to stop at a local ice cream stand on the way home. It’s always the perfect end to a fun afternoon outside.
Take it up a notch and bring a grill. When I was a kid, these were the picnics we always had. We’d meet my grandparents at a state park and spend the day hiking, playing frisbee, and eating delicious food fresh from the grill. This menu would include hamburgers with all the toppings, fresh watermelon, chips, and usually some type of pasta or potato salad. After hiking all day the food always tasted incredible.
It’s definitely more work to grill the food and you’ll probably have to pack a bigger cooler, but it can be a wonderful way to spend an entire day outdoors. If you’re going to put in the extra effort, why not invite friends or family to join you – then it becomes not just a picnic but a party!
Create an upscale menu. Sometimes we just like to be fancy. Especially if the location we are picnicking at is a winery or even an outdoor concert (when food is allowed). On these picnics, pack a variety of cut-up cheeses, crackers, olives, specialty meats, and a fresh baguette. Fresh fruit like grapes or apple slices can round out your meal. Although this picnic food feels special, it’s actually one of the easiest to put together. If you haven’t packed a “fancy” picnic, give it a try for a memorable evening!
Try Carry-Out. Last-minute picnic? Or just don’t feel like preparing any food at all? Get take-out food from your favorite local restaurant. It’s easy and could encompass anything from simple sandwiches at your local deli to a full course meal from your favorite spot. Pizza is another great picnic option. Every year when we go see Shakespeare at the Park, we pick up a pizza or breadsticks and enjoy it with drinks I pack from home. Simple and fun.
Carry-out is also the perfect solution for an impromptu picnic when you are thinking about picnic food ideas for a road trip or you are out on a day trip. Find a local restaurant and instead of eating inside, get the food to go and enjoy it while exploring a new park.
Don’t forget the extras!
You’ve got your location and your food narrowed down, now don’t forget the extras. These are the things that make the picnic easier and more enjoyable:
- Chairs or an outdoor blanket. I usually pack both so we have options. Most of the year, they are just in the trunk so we are ready to go last minute.
- Games. Have a deck of cards, some dice, and maybe a simple game like Uno on hand. Frisbees are fun, as are yard games like washers.
- Something to eat with. Double check that you have silverware, cups, serving utensils, napkins, etc.
- Wipes, table clothes, a trash bag, and anything else you might need for cleaning purposes.
- Cooler or picnic basket to transport your food.
For more ideas on everyday adventure essentials that might come in handy on your picnic, check out my post on creating your own everyday essentials kit – with these items on hand, you’ll be covered no matter what comes your way!
Hopefully, this guide will inspire you to create many wonderful and memorable picnics! If you make the effort once or twice, you’ll quickly discover what works for you and how worth it is to pack the perfect picnic!
Picnic Perfect Black Bean Wraps
As a great meat-free alternative, these have gone on many road trips and picnics! Once they are rolled up, I typically wrap them in aluminum foil for easy transport.
- 4 oz cream cheese
- 1/4 c sour cream
- 1/4 t garlic powder
- 1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 c black beans (cooked or from can)
- 3 tortillas (burrito size)
Mix cream cheese, sour cream, cheddar and garlic salt until all ingredients are incorporated.
Place 1/3 of beans on tortilla, smash them a little and then add 1/3 of cheese mixture.
Roll up and repeat with other two tortillas. Refridgerate for at least 30 minutes.
Serve chilled with salsa
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