Picnics are a fun, affordable way to gather as a family during the summer months. I know our family enjoys them! Children love picnics, too! The whimsical thought of eating outside where manners and napkins are optional appeals to many children (both young and old). One way to fully enjoy your picnic outing is knowing what and how to pack for a picnic.
Packing for a picnic when you are only having cold foods is a little different than if you are grilling. Less work, less packing actually.
But packing for either type of picnic is very similar on the day before.
The Day Before
- Ice! Fill several ice cream buckets almost full with water and put them in the freezer. This way you don’t have to stop and buy ice for the coolers and the watery mess is mostly contained in the bucket.
- Ice Cubes for Drinks. I can’t stand watered down drinks. If I’m serving iced tea, the week leading up to the picnic I begin to freeze tea in my ice cube trays. Lemonade: do the same. Iced coffee? Yep, freeze coffee cubes. One thing I learned recently is to freeze the completed drink in trays. I learned this because I was serving Arnie Palmer and I froze only the tea. I mixed in the lemon juice the day of the picnic. The drink was good, but overly lemony. As the tea cubes melted I got a perfectly balanced Arnie Palmer.
- Make the Salads. Mayonnaise salads always taste better if the flavors have time to blend a bit. Lettuce salad will be fine overnight in the fridge. And gelatin salads need time to set up. This gives the salads time to chill completely through before removing them from the fridge for the picnic.
- Cut up Veggies and Fruit. Make any dips.
- Gather all the Things. Pack everything that is nonperishable in a box or clothes basket. I love packing in clothes baskets because they are stiff, sturdy and easy to carry. If they get wet, they don’t disintegrate and they aren’t all floppy like a tote bag.
- Pack all the little, loose things on the bottom. I put the salt, pepper, napkins, serving utensils, etc. all on the bottom. I also like to include a bottle of hand sanitizer in case the restrooms don’t supply soap. Throw in a dishrag and hand towel, too. I also like to take a box of zipper baggies to send home leftovers with others.
- Then I put in the bigger things like paper plates and paper towels in the middle layer of the basket.
- Next, I put in the tablecloth or blanket. You will want this near the top because it will be the first thing you lay out.
- Lastly I put in the chips or bread. Anything fragile goes on top. This is easily removed to get to the tablecloth or blanket and can be laid on something unclean like a table or the ground.
The Day Of
- Place all the frozen drink cubes in the drink coolers. Fill with the drink.
- Put the buckets of ice in the bottoms of the coolers. Place the salads, sandwiches and meat around the ice buckets. These items are more crucial to stay cold. Things like ketchup, cheese and veggies can be the farthest from the ice.
- Load the vehicle. Make sure you put the things you want to access first in last!
When You Are Grilling: How to Pack for a Picnic
Packing for a grilling picnic will be the same as a cold picnic listed above. In addition, you will want a laundry basket just for grilling needs.
The Day Before
- Do as listed above for a cold foods picnic.
- Prepare the Meat. Pre-cook the brats. Make sure the hot dogs are defrosted. Pre-shape the burger patties. Have the chicken defrosted and cut up. Marinate steaks or chicken.
- Grilling Basket. Have a separate laundry basket for grilling needs only. This way it can stay by the grill master and no one else will have to be rummaging through it.
- On the bottom you will want to pack any spices or sauces.
- Next throw in your grilling utensils and some hot pads or grilling gloves.
- Make sure to include tin foil! You will want to cover the grills at the park or use it to cover hot meat.
- Throw in a clean pan or dish to put all the cooked meat into to stay warm.
- Put a bottle of hand sanitizer or wipes to clean your hands well after handling raw meat.
The Day Of
- Pack everything as listed above for a non-grilling picnic.
- Load the charcoal, lighter fluid or chimney starter, lighter (and grill if you are packing one) in the vehicle last so you can get it out first.
How you pack for a picnic really depends on how simple or elaborate you want to get.
So pick your date and ease the stress of preparation by making lists and implementing what you learned in “How to Pack for a Picnic.”