Posted on August 4, 2021 at 6:00 am
Eating outside has always been a great way to spend time with family and friends, especially during the summer months. It is one of my favorite things to do in summer that I am loathe to give up.
There are hazards when picnicking and eating outdoors though, namely wasps diving for your food, ants crawling over to get a taste, and rain, of course. Whether you are packing a picnic for the park or for the top of a mountain, there are ways to make it easier and more fun, and a little bit of planning before you leave the house can go a long way.
I usually picnic with just a few people instead of a big group, so I like to pack the food in individual portions. Then I don’t have to worry about packing plates or tableware.
If you need tableware for a larger group or if that is just your preference, then I highly recommend melamine dishes. They will not bend or get soggy, they’re reusable, and you can find really cool colors and patterns as well.
Another trick for picnics is to freeze grapes. They make a great yummy snack in hot weather. You can even use them as replacement ice cubes to cool down a drink! Just put them in the freezer overnight in a plastic bag or container and you are good to go. They are one of the easiest things you can take and very tasty.
Also you can keep everything cool with a frozen water bottle, instead of trying to pack ice. It’ll keep your lunch cold and be a cool drink at the end of the day. I really like this trick for hiking because it means I am not lugging weight that I won’t use.
This brings me to my next recommendation: Travel light. Lots of dishes and tableware look great in photos and video, but they’re usually more trouble than they are worth. I don’t have an army of servants waiting to carry it all for me, so I say let’s save the frustration and sore arms.
If you like your tunes, try bringing a plastic cup to use as a speaker. Put your phone inside the cup and it will amplify the sound. What’s great about a cup is that it doesn’t need batteries and is much lighter than a portable speaker.
All you need is a great spot, a blanket, and your meal. Although if you think you may run into some wet or soggy areas, from rain or sprinklers, you may want to add a shower curtain or plastic tablecloth under your blanket as a barrier. Luckily, this is a lightweight addition.
Now to talk about the invaders of most of my picnics. Wasps inevitably seem to find me whenever I eat outside. They really like my food!
I have learned to just plan for them and take steps to keep them uninterested, so they are not as bothersome. It is terrible to watch a wasp or other creepy crawly crawling all over your food.
My strategy is to pack containers with lids or that can seal closed easily. Mesh covers, plastic wrap, or even disposable shower caps work great for covering bowls and containers. Also, a great hack for your drinks is to use a paper cupcake liner as a lid. This way you won’t swallow a swimming bug that has climbed into your drink. Just put the cupcake liner upside down over your drink and poke a straw through.
Lastly don’t forget to pack all your trash out when you’re done, whether that means down the mountain or to the park trash can!
To make the whole experience easier take two trash bags: One for things that are truly trash, such as food wrappings and uneaten scraps, and another for recyclables and things you want to take home to wash, such as those melamine dishes. That way you do not have to sort it out when you get home.
I also try to estimate how much food will be eaten as closely as I can to avoid leftovers. Remember if you take perishable foods and they do not all get eaten, you will end up packing it out as garbage.
If you are at a loss on what food to prepare or just need some new ideas, check out these books. They have more tips and perfect picnic pairings.
Alison Johnson is an Education and Enrichment Librarian who creates programming and events for ages 8–18. This means she gets to play with everything, including paint messes and mini robots. When she has free time she enjoys watching anything science fiction, hiking trails, and reading with a cup of tea.