Venturing into the great outdoors with a heaving picnic hamper to a favorite al fresco setting, for a meal after a tedious hike, or even a trip to the beach, is one of the greatest ways to take advantage of the warm, beautiful days ahead. However, before you settle down to enjoy your sandwiches, there’s plenty of planning in advance — from choosing your equipment to transportable treats. Here’s how to keep it simple so you have the best picnic ever!
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Besides the must-have checked tablecloth, straw hamper and practical blanket, choose your gear carefully as nothing crushes morale more than a leaking cool box. Before you set out, check that your plastic containers are shut tight and wrap other items in a sealed plastic bag. To dodge soggy sandwiches and salads, keep dressings or fillings in separate containers. Add ingredients like goat’s cheese or pre-chopped fruit to your dessert at the last minute, and serve up with confidence. Choose small-sized recyclable cups (preferably eco-friendly) to avoid them cracking. If you plan to bring wine glasses (you can buy pretty decent recyclable ones) bring a lightweight tray to balance them on when pouring and between sips… don’t forget the bottle opener for the wine!
There’s no need to risk an upset tummy if you plan and pack sensibly. Keep items such as meat, fish or dairy dishes that you store in the fridge cold with ice packs or put them in a cold box. Avoid mayonnaise, but take salt and pepper. If you need more condiments, some ketchups and mustards come in mini sizes that can be easily thrown in your tote.
Tuck in as soon as you’ve reached your journey’s end so food doesn’t bake in the sun and sour. You can cut up quiches and say lasagna into wedges so you can serve them up and keep the rest in the cooler bag. Remember to pack anti-bacterial gel or hand wipes!
Once you’ve gathered your gear, plan your picnic supplies. For casual, classic crowd pleasers take finger foods that don’t require utensils (other than serviettes, paper towel, and disposable plates) and transport well. These include a selection of cheeses, quiches, sandwiches, chicken drumsticks, Scotch eggs, vegetarian falafel, and well divided mini pies.
Salads (you’ll need disposable spoons for these) are perfect for picnics, but place heavy ingredients and sauces at the bottom of your container to avoid the rest going soggy. Some basics: potato salad, pasta salad, and ordinary green salads. A good storage idea is to wrap chilled dishes from the fridge in foil and then bubble wrap them before placing in your cool box. Delicious essentials: breads, dips and baguettes — you’ll need a cutting knife (either with a cover for safe transportation or wrapped in a kitchen towel) and a small cutting board.
Picnic-friendly puddings include easy to pack finger deserts from cakes that can be sliced up before packing, to biscuits, brownies, shortbread and cupcakes.
Also, pack in kid-friendly and adult thirst-quenchers, such as bottled juice, and water (ice cubes —nothing worse than warm drinks). If the weather is cooler, a flask of coffee, tea or hot chocolate (sugar and milk too!) will be welcome. Throw out whatever is left over for a lighter trip home. You must pack trash bags for cleaning up afterwards — don’t leave a mess behind!