Back in January, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to: “Play outside more with the kids.”
Well guess what earlier-version-of-myself, I’ll see your “play outside” and raise you an “eat outside more with the kids.”
Picnics. They’re my new favorite thing.
Poolside picnics, to be precise.
From a logistical standpoint, are picnics intimidating to you? They were to me, at first. (What should we bring? What will we carry it in? And what about mayonnaise?!?!)
But now that we’re halfway through June, they’re just plain fun.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
1. PACK YOUR BAG (AND LEAVE IT PACKED!):
Pack a big bag with plenty of plates, cups, napkins, plasticware, beer and wine openers, and a large durable tablecloth. Put the napkins and plasticware in large Ziploc bags—this will keep them organized and dry. And pack extra Ziploc bags for good measure; I keep my wallet, keys, and phone in one so I don’t have to lug around my purse.
Leave this bag packed throughout the summer, sitting by the back door or in the trunk of your car. This bag would also be appropriate for things like bug spray, sunscreen, or diapers and wipes . . . basically whatever essentials can be stored at room temp for long periods of time.
2. GET A GOOD COOLER OR TWO:
Get one that suits your family. We have a large cooler on wheels, which is easy for me to transport even when I have both kids by myself. I also have a smaller cooler with a shoulder strap, which is great for when we just need to carry drinks and a few snacks.
Get some reusable ice packs to go inside. A bag of ice is fine in a pinch, but it’s one more thing you have to remember at the grocery store, and it can get messy when the ice melts.
3. FINGER FOOD IS MY FAVORITE:
I have two criteria when it comes to picnic food: (1) it can be served cool or at room temperature (this is assuming you don’t plan to grill on-site); and (2) it’s fairly easy to serve and share.
So, for example, these are some of my go-to goodies (nearly all of which can be purchased already prepared and packaged!).
— Mixed Greek olives
— Cheese cubes
— Hummus or baba ganouj
— Roasted and salted nuts
— Raw veggies (carrots, radishes, endive, celery, tomatoes, snap peas)
— Potato chips, Pirate’s Booty, or Veggie Chips
— Boiled shrimp with cocktail sauce
— Cans of wine, beer, water, and juice
— Fruit (cut up, or easy to serve like grapes and tangerines)
— Seared or smoked salmon
— Roasted asparagus or steamed broccoli florets
— Pickled veggies (okra, cornichons, peppers, pickles)
— Cilantro-lime sauce (for dipping)
— Chicken or tuna salad
— Pasta or grain salad
— Chicken nuggets or tenders
— Deviled eggs
— Sliced fresh bread
— Bite-sized desserts
Of course keep your drinks, eggs, seafood, meats, desserts, and mayonnaise-based salads in the cooler until ready to serve.
Then just serve, eat, play, swim. Repeat.
So what am I missing? I would love to hear your best tips for summer picnics!