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How to Plan a Picnic | The Perfect Picnic

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It’s summer time and that means it’s the perfect time to go on a picnic. Picnicking is one of my favorite family outdoor activities. That’s why today I’m sharing some of my best tips about how to plan a picnic.

There are very few things I love more than sharing a picnic outside with my friends and family. Hosting a picnic is a great way to share the afternoon and/or evening with people you love and it’s the perfect environment for families with kids who need to stay active.

Knowing how to plan a picnic is super helpful in making the experience a fun and meaningful one!

How to Plan the Perfect Picnic

At our house we have two picnic tables in our front yard where we host many get-togethers – often with 20 or more adults and children. But we also love visiting local, state, and national parks for planned or even impromptu picnics.

Setting the Table

So, for me, setting the table is super important. Whether we are visiting a park, rest area, or eating in our own front yard, I love to cover the tables with pretty tablecloths.

First of all, the tables at public places can be kind of sketchy. Who knows what you’ll find when you arrive.

Eating on a table covered in bird droppings isn’t very appealing.   I love to spread out pretty cloth tablecloths and often use my vintage tablecloths just for this purpose – even when I’m serving children. If you worry about stains, pretty vinyl tablecloths are the perfect solution.  

Sometimes you want to serve a picnic on top of a blanket on the ground. I have several zip-up picnic blankets that I love. I also love to use inexpensive vintage quilts. And sometimes while the adults sit around the table, I’ll spread a sturdy blanket on the ground for the little kids to eat on.  

If I’m serving a large group, I usually stick with paper plates and disposable utensils just for ease of clean up. However, if it’s just a few of us {or a romantic picnic for two} serving the meal on pretty plastic or melamine plates feels more special. 

I also like to add a few extra touches like candles, a mason jar of flowers, and pretty napkins.

What to Serve

Picnic food should be simple, but there’s no reason why you can’t serve food that tastes amazing. Aside from the peace and relaxing atmosphere a picnic offers, I love to fill my plate with delicious food.

If you have friends or extra family joining you for a picnic, why not ask everyone to bring a dish or two? Having a picnic potluck style is a great way to serve a crowd! Often I’ll let others know what I’m bringing and ask them to bring something else – like a dessert, side dish, salad, or drinks.

Transporting the Food

Of course, you’ll need something to transport all that good food! For dishes that need to stay cool, pack a cooler with ice. We keep a few recycled water bottles in the freezer to throw in our cooler. The bottles keep everything cool and the dishes stay dry. 

Pack salads in a sealed plastic container like those from Rubbermaid or Tupperware. Sandwich toppings can be kept in individual baggies or in containers.

Drinks should have their own cooler packed with ice. Cakes and cupcakes can be transported easily in air tight containers made for just that purpose. And the traditional picnic basket or my favorite collapsible basket works for the rest.

Some great options are:

  • DIY Sub Sandwiches
  • Hot Dogs and Hamburgers on the Grill
  • Pickles
  • Potato or Macaroni Salad
  • Coleslaw
  • Corn on the Cob
  • Broccoli Salad
  • Angel Food Cake with Strawberries and Cream
  • Lemon Pound Cake
  • Cupcakes
  • Ice Cold Drinks

Cleaning Up

If you’re planning to grill your food, you will want to take along a steel brush to clean the grill if needed. Another option is to set the food on top of some aluminum foil sprayed with cooking oil and cook over the grill that way.

After the picnic is over, you’ll need to throw all of your disposable products in the trash bin, but it’s a good idea to have a few trash bags of your own handy in case you need to transport the trash or dirty dishes home.

Offering individually wrapped hand wipes to your guests or family members is also a thoughtful way to keep everyone’s hands and faces clean – especially when parks don’t always have running water.

Always take leftover food home or throw it away in an appropriate container so that bears and other wildlife aren’t tempted to snack on them later.

Planning for Impromptu Picnics

Knowing how to plan a picnic comes in pretty handy even when you want to enjoy an impromptu picnic with your family.

Sometimes our family will stop for an impromptu picnic when we’re traveling or driving past a park. But, even though these are “impromptu” picnics, a little planning makes these picnics so much better.

I mean, in my opinion, Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches and a bag of chips just taste better when eaten at a park in the shade of a tree on a bright sunny day. And, we’ve been known to grab Chinese takeout for an impromptu picnic at a rest stop at 9:00 at night… just for fun while traveling.

And while you don’t need more than a few napkins to eat your sandwiches on, enjoying a spur of the moment picnic is easier when you have a few items ready to go – like a basket pre-packed with a tablecloth or blanket, paper plates, plastic utensils, napkins, and some bug spray.

During the summer, keep a basket with these items in your trunk and a picnic is never more than a quick trip to the grocery store to grab a loaf of bread, peanut butter and jelly, some pre-made potato salad, and a bag of chips away.

Picnic Recipes You’ll Love

Do you love picnics as much as I do? How do you plan the perfect picnic? What’s your favorite thing to take on a picnic? Let me know in the comments below!

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