how to do a picnic everyone will love

How to plan a picnic and the essentials to take

Summer means warm weather (assuming nicer summer weather rather than rainy British weather) and warm weather means being outdoors more.  Given the chance we’d eat a lot more meals outdoors but for the high number of flies in our garden thanks to being on a farm. But going out for the day, or to friends means picnic opportunities. Here’s my guide on how to plan a picnic and the kind of picnic essentials that will help your picnic work for you.

Food seems to taste so much better when eaten outdoors. Whether it’s a formal arranged picnic, or just eating a snack outside.  

Over the years, we’ve eaten lots of picnics of varying standards, and I wanted to share how we plan a picnic. And to show how a picnic doesn’t have to be fancy. 

I’ve been to outdoor concerts at stately homes which are brilliant, and so much fun. We’ve sat there with our supermarket bought deli food, our blanket and camping chairs, while others sit around us with posh picnic table, chairs, gazebo and picnic basket with wine glasses and cutlery. It looks amazing, but I can’t be bothered carrying all that equipment and food from a car park ages away from the concert field and back again. The food all tastes good and you’re there for the experience and to be with friends and family. I much prefer a lazier picnic (unless there’s a catered option on offer, that would be a good option).

how to do a picnic everyone will love

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How to plan a picnic that works for you

My biggest tip is do what works for you. If you’re picnicking with family, make it easy. Choose food that’s easily prepared or that all the family eat. 

Make it lightweight or easy to carry, and share the load. You don’t need to do sharing options. Make each person carry their own picnic bag, and just share the blanket.

Ice packs are essential if you’re out for a while before lunch. You can just put drinks cartons or packs in the freezer beforehand to act as ice packs, which then thaw through the day to be drunk. It means you’re not carrying home heavy bags as well as there.

If you’ve got a way to walk from the car, then try a festival style wagon if you’ve got a lot to take with you. Then you can take chairs and other items rather than minimal picnic rug.

While it’s great to eat all the food and only have empty packets to transport home after, using reusable tubs is the best way to go. They avoid leaks and obviously are reusable. It means you only need to take the amount of food with you rather than full packs. Just decant what you want to take before you go.

If you’re sharing a picnic with friends, and each taking items, work out who’s taking what. You don’t want everyone taking sausage rolls and quiche.

Picnic food ideas

There are 3-4 different options for catering for picnics. From very convenient but expensive, through you self catering and home made. As long as the food is what everyone likes to eat, it doesn’t matter how the food is made.

1. Go catered 

If you’re going to organised outdoor concerts with picnics and want to treat yourself, why not order the catered options. Good for more adventurous tastes, as you’re stuck eating what’s on offer.  An alternative is to order party or picnic platters from catering companies or even supermarkets who usually offer catering platters.  You might need to re-pack into how you want to transport it, but could be good for larger formal parties where lots of people might want to contribute money in rather than making their own food.

2. Buy picnic food  

Supermarkets have summer picnic or deli foods* in their chilled cabinets, often with summer promotions on. It tends to be the same kind of food, but there’s a good variety, and is often slightly different to what you’d probably make yourself.

3. Trawl the cupboards at home 

A picnic is only food that’s eaten outside, so there’s nothing to say what should be eaten. Even if you don’t have time to go shopping for picnic food, most people will have plenty of food that can be turned into picnic food. 

A friend recently turned up with avocado, hummus, wraps, and cooked bacon, and literally made a wrap as she sat down to eat. They had popcorn, breadsticks, carrot sticks and mini cakes, after just digging through their kitchen cupboards.  It’s a good way to use up food that’s in the back of the cupboard, and it reduces costs and waste.

Picnic: an occasion when a packed meal is eaten outdoors, especially during an outing to the countryside.

4. Homemade picnic foods

It’s so easy to make sausage rolls, hard boiled eggs, mini quiches, flapjacks, cakes, biscuits, salads, crudites, pasta salad, fritattas, mini meatloaves, wraps and more. You can make exactly what you need (sometimes being able to freeze the rest for another occasion). If you’ve got people eating who’ve got allergies, it’s easier to cater for them. You can even get the children to help.

Other than food, what other picnic essentials do you need.

picnic set up on blanket

Picnic essentials to take

Picnic rug* or blanket – make sure it’s a plastic or waterproof backed on, and folds up easily (and preferably small). Lightweight is good, but you don’t want to feel every stone underneath, so look for flat grassy areas to set up.

Camping chairs* – good for those who struggle to get up off the ground. Yes, they’re something extra to carry, but if you’ve got plenty of people to share the load or a wagon, they’re a great idea to take.

Picnic plates – if it’s just N and myself, we don’t tend to both with plates. He’s just eat bits without a plate. If I’ve got a salad, I’ll add other items to a tupperware container and just eat from that.  Otherwise, we’ve got some camping plates and plastic picnic plates we can take with us. You can get lovely melanine plates* and bowls. 

Cutlery, plus a sharp knife if you’ve not already cut up everything into portions (I prefer to do this at home).

Cool bags and ice packs. We have solid ice packs, but the smaller more flexible ones work just as well. 

Treat yourself to a picnic hamper or rucksack – we have a picnic rucksack* which was a wedding gift. We don’t use it for picnics, just for taking camping as it’s a good size to pack lots of kitchen bits and pieces. If you’re going to be carrying it, then the rucksacks are great to keep handsfree. But for us, it’s easier to take a large or couple of small cool bags which folder down small afterwards

Outdoor toys and games – we like Nerf Vortex, badminton set, swingball, footballs, bubble wands, frisbee, rounders or cricket set

Water fight stuff – if you’ve got access to water, or take a couple of bottles of water with you or water balloons on a hot day kids will love it. Just make sure they know not to annoy other people are the same place, and to stay away from the picnic blanket/adults.

Bag for rubbish and wipes. Because someone always makes a mess.

If you’re out in colder weather, you can still enjoy a picnic but wrapped up warm. Think about taking thermos flasks with hot soup or pasta in (read my guide to using a food flask and what to put in them for tips). And hot chocolate is a must. We use insulated Super Sparrow bottles, Chilly’s bottles* or Hydro Flasks*, All keep hot drinks warm for quite a few hours. Not forgetting something to sit on to avoid getting wet.

Let’s hope we get plenty of suitable weather for picnics. They’re a great excuse to enjoy time outside.

What type of picnics do you have?

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