You’ll need more than just a picnic basket this summer. These picnic ideas will help make you the master outdoor eater.
Now that warmer weather is upon us (and if it’s not, it’s just around the corner), you should only have one thing on your brain: it’s picnic season! Because warmer days means eating outdoors, and as we all know, there’s nothing better. But you don’t want to be a mediocre picnicker now do you? You want to be well known for your spreads and your outdoors hospitality. Which is why when planning your outdoor eating adventures, you what to be sure you master these six picnic ideas that go beyond the basket.
1. Master the art of small food
A glorious picnic isn’t about cramming one big main dish into your picnic basket – it’s about many small dishes that make for an interesting plate. In fact, the perfect picnic food is really just an assortment of food. This is helpful as smaller dishes – like salads and spreads – are easier to pack, which is helpful if your picnic requires walking or bicycling (and it probably should).
Another note on picnic food: it doesn’t all have to be prepared in advance. That’s right, drag your camp stove along and boil water for coffee. Or make a vinaigrette and stash in a small glass bottle until it’s time to serve your salad. The key with picnic food is to break down the food into manageable parts, so pre-wash, pre-cut, and make sure all your stuff is ready to go so that it’s easy to put together when the time comes.
2. Master the art of getting there
Driving to a picnic? Not as cool as hiking in to a remote beach or biking to a park now is it? Turns out, picnics are about more than the food – if you have to work a little to get there, the reward will be much sweeter.
3. Master the art of reusable, durable, sealable containers
You want to pack your food in stuff that won’t break and won’t leak. This is key, particularly when you are eating outdoors. Reusable containers that do double duty can be good as well. For example, I am a fan of the Innate MC2. It’s a stainless steel base with a food grade silicone top, that can fold out into a bowl.
The same goes for drinks. If you want to serve mixed drinks, make them ahead of time and bring in a reusable water bottle (but be sure it’s one that seals well). Or if you want to do some cocktail mixing on site, prep the individual ingredients you may need ahead of time, like a simple syrup, garnishes, etc.
4. Master the art of the perfect cutlery, plates and drinking vessels
The days of paper plates and plastic forks are over. Not only are disposable items like this bad for the environment, but nobody enjoys the process of eating with them. Just like with your food containers, you want real, reusable stuff. So you’re not eating with your fingers, bamboo cutlery sets are great – like the ones by To Go Ware which are housed in a pouch made from recycled PET – or if you want to simplify, opt for a utensil that can do double duty, like the titanium spork from Snowpeak.
When it comes to drinking, you could just pass around your reusable water bottle, but no one feels special about that. If wine is in order, water bottle maker Lifefactory just came out with a new set of picnic-friendly wine glasses, perfect for outdoor drinking. You’re serving pints of IPA? Try a stainless steel pint glass from Klean Kanteen.
You can also simply invest in a picnic basket that has it all; just make sure you don’t overload it so that it’s too heavy to carry.
5. Master the art of “setting the table”
If you’re eating on the ground, you’re not really setting the table, but don’t let that stop you for doing your best to lay out a good spread. This is easiest when you have a tablecloth or a small blanket. For smaller picnics a tea towel can work great as well, giving you a clean space to put out your food. Your cloth of choice may also serve as a watermelon sling, helpful for carrying the bulky, yet tasty, summer delight.
6. Master the art of clean up
Clean up is easiest if you bring along an extra bag for dirty dishes. Or if your picnicking in more remote places, you can always invest in an outdoor cleaning kit. Most importantly: leave no picnic trace. Make sure that the picnickers that follow you will have just as nice of a time as you did.
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Image: Alex Lang