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Plan That Picnic!

There are few things that make the heart go pitter-pat quite like knowing that you have a basket (coolers work great too) packed full of delicious things with which to enjoy the company of your loved ones in the great outdoors. The best way to keeping your picnic on track is planning ahead so once you’re on the road and on your way, you can simply kick back and enjoy those memories you’re about to make.

Anjou Baker sandwiches

What’s Your Picnic Style?

Part of this planning process is determining what type of picnic you’ll have. 

Will you be doing a romantic picnic in a location somewhat close to your vehicle

Will you be having a family picnic? 

If you want to up the romance level OR if you want to make some of those beautiful Instagram-worthy food photos with the whole family, plan your picnic where you can take it in an actual picnic basket. Now we know what you’re thinking—food safety! Yes, we agree. We’ll talk about simple ways to keep your food safe in your adorable picnic basket below. If you don’t have a picnic basket and have no desire to find one, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned cooler. And as a matter of fact, you probably ought to keep one in the car as well, just in case. Perhaps you’re planning a day-long hike and need your picnic to be more on the portable side. Whatever your style, just plan accordingly.

Picnic at Blue Lake

Picnic Checklist
How You’ll Hold That Picnic: 

  • basket
  • cooler
  • insulated container that can fit inside your backpack

How You’ll Keep Your Food Cool: 

  • ice packs, bags or baggies of ice to keep foods cold

Pro tip: freeze some water bottles the night before you leave to tuck in between your food and drinks. Not only will they help keep your food cool and safe but they’ll no doubt melt throughout the day and be pretty darned refreshing as well as hydrating.

What You’ll Be Sitting On: nobody likes a picnic where you get up and your tush is covered in mud. Pick a picnic blanket with a waterproof side. Can’t find one? Well, a regular towel will do in a pinch. Just choose your location carefully!

Picnic with goodies from the Bay Leaf

Don’t Forget the Gear:

  • Plates/bowls
  • Utensils for eating
  • Utensils for serving the food (don’t forget a knife for slicing)
  • Cups and glassware (plastic for the kiddos)
  • Bottle openers/corkscrews
  • Roll of paper towels (we know this doesn’t seem so dreamy but it’s way easier to grab a roll of towels floating down the hill than a stack of napkins blowing in the wind
  • Bug spray (as much as we loathe the idea of huffing some Deep Woods Off while we’re mowing down our pasta salad, it’s wayyyy better than slapping away a hungry hoard of mosquitos)
  • Wet wipes and hand sanitizer. We simply can’t be too safe. Wash your hands kids and wash them well—before and after eating
  • Extra bags for garbage
  • Food & hydration!
Twisp Farmers Market

Food & Hydration

Picnics Are All About the Food. A surefire way to sabotage your dream picnic is not to plan ahead regarding your food and drinks. Now you may well be the newest Martha Stewart out there and plan to prepare and beautifully package everything ahead of time, OR you might be like most folks and need a little help in the form of take-out and pre-made foods. This is entirely FINE, but just know that you’ll still need to do some planning. 

Picking Up Pre-Made Picnic Foods

If you’re planning to build your picnic out of delicious deli foods or restaurant-prepared dishes, you should pick them up near your home—not the destination you are traveling to. We can’t stress this enough. It is NO FUN to arrive at the location you were counting on only to find that they are closed and you are hungry. 

Food Safety 

Another thing we can’t stress enough: all foods including those prepared by others absolutely still need to be held at cool temperatures to avoid the risk of food-born illness. Trust us. Foods including meats, fish and dairy really MUST be kept in the coldest part of your cooler, basket or insulated pack. No romantic picnic was held during the throes of botulism. 

What’s In Season Tastes Best

Odds are, if you’re planning a picnic, it’s probably warm outside which means SOMETHING is probably in season in your area. Whether it’s picked from your garden or picked up from your local farmers market, in a nutshell—what is freshest always tastes best


There’s nothing quite like eating your way through a massive antipasto platter with 6 kinds of cured meats, cheeses and pickled veggies only to realize that you have zero water—Just that big jug of dry red wine. This is NOT a good idea. Also just in case it crosses your mind: you CANNOT drink the water out of that stream or lake, no matter what your dehydrated mind tells you. As you’re packing if you think you might each need a couple bottles of water for the trip, then double it, just in case. As noted earlier, freeze some extra water bottles and slip them in and around all of your other food and drinks. You’ll be happy you did.

Make Sure Foods Are Prepped In Advance & Appropriate

Not only is it no fun to arrive at your picnic location with your beautifully ripe watermelon in hand with no knife with which to slice it, it also isn’t going to make anybody happy when you hand them that 20 pound melon to place in their backpack. Likewise, think about the temperature and weather predicted. If it’s going to be a blazing 95 degrees Fahrenheit, perhaps that cheese fondue for two isn’t the right call (for a whole host of reasons). If the weather will be warm—think cool and refreshing. If it’s set to be chilly, perhaps bring that ginormous thermos that your dad gave you, loaded to the brim with piping hot soup.

Finger Foods Rule

Even if you have the nicest picnic blanket, dishware, etc., it’s a real bummer when that plate of last night’s spaghetti gets accidentally dumped onto it. Think light, balanced and easy to serve AND eat when planning your menu. If you can aim for a 75% to 25% finger food to dishes that require utensils, we think that’s just about right.

All Picnics Need Dessert!

Now we KNOW that practically everyone these days is saying no to dessert but we feel like picnics are that one time that even the strictest dieter needs to end their meal with a little something sweet. Now it doesn’t have to be your great aunt’s county fair award winning triple layer yellow cake (although now we REALLY want that) it could be as simple as some really good fresh fruit or a bar of chocolate. What ever floats your boat, but just make sure your boat is floating. With dessert.

Picnic plate

Menu Ideas

While we all have our favorite family dishes or places to pick up take-out, sometimes we’re just left scratching our heads. If this is you, we thought we’d throw a few of our favorite picnic staples your way. Please feel free to employ the power of Google on these to either locate a recipe of your liking or a takeout option near your home:

  • Fried Chicken, scotch eggs, meat pies
  • Sandwiches (chicken salad, ham swiss and apple, roasted veggie, *sit-on-it sandwich) 
  • Salads (pasta, potato, wild rice and veggie, tabbouleh) 
  • Antipasto (cured meats, cheeses, pickled veggies and beans)
  • Fresh seasonal fruit and veggies
  • Cakes, pies, brownies, cookies (basically anything with chocolate)
  • Portable snacks for backpacks: fresh or dried fruit, sandwich, small cheeses, kale chips, fresh veggies, pitas and hummus, whoopy pies for dessert 

*actually a vegetarian pain bagnat. Seriously, my daughter road to many local picnics sitting on and squishing this sandwich filled with pickled, cured and preserved goodies until it was nearly pancake-height

Important Tips & Reminders Before You Head Out

Happy Picnicking!