There is nothing quite like a picnic out in the fresh air, on the beach or a lovely ‘green space’ in the countryside, kids and dogs in tow! Not only that, but with the best part of two years being cooped up, we get to go out and stretch our legs and do our mental health the world of good. Green spaces in particular, are known to improve mental health.
You could be the kind of person who is a ‘throw it all in the car and get on with it’ type. Or you could be mega-organised. Whichever floats your boat, but from my perspective, and usually with a horde of us in convoy, it pays to organise everything beforehand. I’m not saying make it like a military manoeuvre, but spend that little bit of time to avoid leaving anything behind that you need.
Top tips for successful picnics
These are my hot tips to get your food to your chosen destination safely and still tasting good!
- Packing sensibly to avoid a jumble sale in your boot will help all your items get there in good condition. If you are ‘sit on a blanket’ family or friends, use the blanket to cushion anything in danger of getting broken or squashed. If you are taking chairs, try to form a little enclosure around the food containers, to protect them. Take chairs though, only if you really need them or your mode of transport is the size of a campervan.
- Don’t make platters or bowls of salads, put your salads in jars. If you are using dressing, put the dressing in the bottom of the jar, and shake it up when you get there. This will stop any soggy messes.
- Likewise, any dips should be in safe containers. Its amazing how much a dip can bring any of your nibbles up to speed.
- If you picnic a lot, arm yourself with strong, unbreakable crockery and cutlery. Paper plates just don’t crack it and you end up with a lap full of food. Plus you can wash it and use it again and it cuts down on unnecessary waste disposal.
- Remember to bring some waste bags and hand wipes. If there is nowhere suitable to dispose of any rubbish, do take it home with you and avoid littering the countryside or beach.
- Invest in flasks that can be used either for hot or cold drinks. They are worth their weight in gold and will last you for years and years.
- Unreliable weather is always a problem. Make sure you have some umbrellas or parasols. You don’t want to get soaked to the skin, but equally so, burnt to a cinder. Have a strong factor sun cream for the kiddies and those with fair skin. Something for insect bites is a good idea too. You don’t have to be a walking pharmacist, but a few precautions can make or break a picnic.
- Take some items for a bit of simple fun, that do not take up too much space. Bats, balls, music anything that you enjoy. If you plan on swimming, remember all that stuff too, along with some extra clothes for the children if they get messy! This trip may only be for a day, but a lot can happen!
Most importantly – the food!
You can choose which way you go with the food – simple and ‘fingers’ or a little more substantial. Just don’t be up all night preparing, you want to enjoy yourself too and not be worn out before you start the day. You won’t be letting the side down if you take finger ‘nibbles’ for the little ones that you have bought in the supermarket. On a picnic, the last thing they are worried about is the food, they are more interested in letting loose.
For older children and adults, one of the most successful things I have found is the ‘pan bagnat’. Versatile and tasty, these loaves or baguettes stuffed with a huge selection of items can be filling and delicious. You can use anything – different meats, tuna, hard boiled eggs, sweet sliced tomatoes, marinated peppers, olives – you name it. Slice the bread up when you have stuffed it full of yum, wrap each piece in greaseproof paper and what looks great – tie up with string. We can thank our French friends for this one. Add some jars of salads to jazz it up a little, trust me, it works.
Keep your desserts simple. Fresh fruit salads rather than very creamy desserts that will attract the local insect population for a long time after you have eaten. If there is an ice cream van nearby, by all means indulge and leave the insects to the van driver. You could also make a tray bake a day or so before, slice into pieces whilst still in the tray, and wrap the whole thing up to take with you. Just don’t ice it – too much sugar icing (you could have a drizzle instead) and the flying beasts will rapidly appear.
By all means have some packets of snacks like crisps, potato chips or snack bars, just in case you get the chorus of ‘I’m hungry’ on the way home.
Most importantly, we don’t want a stressed out host or hostess. Picnics are all about being together and having fun. Food is of course very important, and a little effort or a twist here and there will make a difference.