Turn off the TV and put down those cell phones; it’s time to picnic!
Summertime, a season filled with beautiful sunny days and outdoor fun, is the perfect excuse to pack up our picnic baskets and enjoy the weather outside. Head down to the local park, embark to the beach, or better yet, set up camp right in your own backyard. Wherever you choose to picnic, there are several questions you can ask to make sure things go as smoothly as possible:
Location, Location, Location
When deciding on the location of your picnic, be sure to consider the on-site amenities like restrooms. Being a mother of three and a female, tracking down the nearest restroom to anything we do is very important! Having access to running water is also important. Make sure the location you choose is also pet-friendly if you plan to bring your furry friends, or easily accessible if you have little ones (or a lot to carry).
Think about the needs of your guests. For example, do you need shady spots for pets, infants, or elderly guests? What about a few folding chairs for those that cannot sit on the ground? For those that prefer sitting on the ground or the grass, pack some old tablecloths, woven mats, quilts or large beach towels to sit on. Woven mats work great on the sand because they are sturdy and keep the sand out of the food. Old plastic tablecloths are great options when you need something waterproof.
What about activities? Is there a playground nearby for children? If not, be sure to plan activities for kids of all ages at the picnic. Planning a variety of games and entertainment that everyone can enjoy adds an extra element of pleasure to the event.
Supply and Demand
The first step to a great picnic is planning and organizing. Planning a picnic is like planning a party. Decide when the picnic will be, the location of the picnic, the people you would like to invite, the food and beverages you would like to pack, which games you would like to play during the picnic, and a list of all the essentials needed to make your picnic successful such as plates, cups, chairs, coolers and ice.
If your picnic area has large, open, flat areas of land, plan some games of skill that are fun for all ages, like Horseshoes, Croquet, The Potato Sack Race or the Three-Legged Race. You can adjust the rules to give everyone a fair chance of winning while they learn new skills and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.
Incorporating food or water into family picnic games adds an element of humor to the day. You can divide large groups of people by age to make the competitions even. Some games to try are the Egg and Spoon Relay Race, Toilet Paper Relay Race, Wet Sponge Relay Race, Tug O’ War, Pie Eating Contest, Water Bottle Game, Blanket Volleyball, Galaxy Ball, Soccer Ball Bowling, Duck, Duck Squirt, Smile Toss, Parachute Game, I’m Going Hunting and Photo Scavenger Hunt. Other things to think about bringing are baseball mitts, balls, Frisbees, kites, jump ropes, balloons, chalk, board games (chess, checkers, Twister), crayons, books and magazines. Don’t forget the music!
If a thunderstorm or spring shower interrupts your picnic, you may have to find shelter in a gazebo or park clubhouse until it passes. Keep a deck of cards and a couple of board games in the car to provide indoor fun until the sun shines again.
The time of your picnic is another thing to consider because it can affect your location and what you pack. Do you prefer a morning picnic at the park eating breakfast or an evening picnic on the sand at the beach enjoying dinner?
Be sure to pack insect repellant, band-aids, antibacterial ointment, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, condiments, extra napkins and paper towels. If your picnic will take place on a table, clips to hold down the tablecloth are something to bring. A pop-up shade tent or umbrella is great for areas with little shade.
As far as carrying everything, wooden crates, plastic grocery sacks, or beach bags can be used in lieu of the old fashioned wooden picnic basket. Just remember, whichever container you choose will likely be heavy. If you’re going on a biking or hiking picnic, a backpack might come in handier than a basket.
Now for the food – what will you be eating at your picnic? Will it be a potluck for a sizable group or a romantic picnic for two? Who will be at the picnic and where the picnic will be held will determine what food to bring. Think “picnic-friendly.”
What does “picnic-friendly” entail? Packing foods that can be easily eaten on a plate that is sitting on my lap or out of a wrapper! Foods like cheese, cured meats, bread, and other finger foods are delicious and easy to pack and eat. Sandwiches, hors d’oeuvres, and salads of all kinds are popular picnic fare. Simple is better!
Whatever menu you settle on, keep the food at the proper temperature to avoid food borne illnesses. You may want to pack a separate cooler if you are serving eggs, poultry, meat or items with mayonnaise. If you plan on grilling during the picnic, be sure to pack raw meat and poultry separately from the rest of the food.
Cheese fares pretty well, but you may want to keep it cool if you are not serving it right away. Ice packs are perfect for keeping things cool.
A dessert picnic is another fun idea. Dessert could be tarts, or macaroons from a local bakery, homemade brownies and cookies, fruit, or whatever else you prefer.
Packing bottles of soda, lemonade, iced tea or water in a crate is easier to carry. To save money, buy the larger bottles and bring some paper cups.
Of course, produce is one of the easier things to pack. Just box it up and bring it along! No prep necessary.
When packaging food, I use a combination of disposable and reusable containers, utensils, and plates. Dishes, paper, bamboo, tin, or sturdy glass are good to use. Cloth napkins add an elegant touch, but paper napkins are easier and don’t require washing later on. For flatware, I favor light-weight metal or disposable. Jars come in handy for salads or desserts. For block cheeses, don’t forget the cutting board and knife. A tray or two is nice for setting drinks on so they don’t tip easily. Bring a few knives just in case for cutting up fruits and veggies, slicing cake or tarts. Don’t forget the bottle opener to open soda and other drinks.
Finally, don’t forget the clean-up. Bring along extra re-sealable plastic bags, aluminum foil and plastic wrap for leftovers. Baby wipes can be used for fast and easy cleaning. Pack a few garbage bags so you can leave the picnic area the way you found it.
So go ahead, sit outside and enjoy your picnic, your company, your food, and the beautiful outdoors!