Picnic season is on its way—and odds are, we'll all be doing even more picnicking than ever this summer. So how do you make sure your picnic basket is stocked with everything you need to make a memorable outdoor party? Start with these suggestions for dining al fresco to help make sure you're packing a picnic basket that everyone will enjoy.
Plan your menu around where you're eating—and when
Items like frosted cupcakes or salads with dressing can be magnets for sand on a beach—and cheese, meats, and mayo-based salads could spoil if left all day in the hot sun.
Choose a menu that'll keep for as long as you need it to. (We have a few great picnic menus to consider, depending on when and where you're picnicking.)
Some salads, like panzanella, pasta or potato salads with a vinegar-based dressing, and tabouleh are easier to transport and leave at room temperature than mayo-based options. (Make sure you keep food safety in mind when you're packing your picnic basket!)
Choose the right container for your goodies
The traditional wooden or wicker picnic baskets look gorgeous, but they generally aren't as good as coolers at keeping everything temperature controlled.
If you still want that traditional picnic aesthetic, consider using the wicker basket for nonperishables like bread, baked goods, plates, and other picnic gear, and keeping anything temperature sensitive in a separate cooler or thermally protected container.
Control the temperature
Chill things that you'd like served cold, such as soda cans, in advance. Use coolers, ice packs, or thermal containers to keep things hot or cold, as needed. If you're going to be outdoors for a while, keep your cooler or picnic basket in the shade to minimize temperature fluctuations.
And don't forget the old trick of freezing some items, like water bottles, yogurt tubes or even PB&J sandwiches—if you aren't eating for a few hours, they'll defrost and be perfect eating temperature when you're ready (and they'll help keep your other items nice and cool in the meantime).
Keep it safe for everyone
Tiny packets of condiments and preportioned containers of salad and desserts make it easier to avoid the potential of sharing germs as you pass around bowls of food.
Go light on the planet
Disposable plates may be more convenient to pack in your picnic basket, but they're more likely to blow away, and they're not eco-friendly. Look for lightweight, break-resistant dishes (melamine is a great picnic-friendly material) that you can reuse for every outdoor meal.
Don't forget the tools and utensils
It's a major picnic fail if you have a gorgeous bottle of wine or flavored sodas and you forget the opener. Make sure you pack along a bottle opener, serving utensils for salads or desserts, a sturdy knife, and plenty of napkins.
Pack the picnic basket with things to keep you comfy
A generously sized picnic blanket is great (preferably thick and with a lined side to reduce any dampness from the ground beneath)—but consider adding folding chairs or cushions to make things more comfortable, if you don't have to schlep your picnic goodies far.
Throw something in to entertain your crowd—a lawn game like bocce ball, a bluetooth speaker to play your picnic playlist, or a simple ball for a game of catch would be perfect.
Related: Packing Your Picnic Basket Checklist