What To Bring On A Picnic: everything to pack, including lots of ideas for picnic food, activities and decor for the perfect picnic.
Picnics are such a fun activity, but it can be hard to know what to bring on a picnic, or where to start when you’re planning a picnic. We’ve broken down exactly what you’ll need to think about to create the perfect picnic.
Picnics are such a fun way to entertain and get together with friends. So often we worry that our homes aren’t big enough, not decorated how we want them to be, or we’re overwhelmed with getting our space tidy enough for company. Picnics are the perfect solution to all these problems.
Where To Picnic
The most popular setting for a picnic would be a favourite park. Near water is always a good choice too. Many parks have picnic tables which can be a nice option. Some parks even have bbq’s that you can use for picnicing. If there’s no picnic table don’t worry, a picnic blanket on the ground is a great choice too.
In some areas, if you have a large group of people, you may need to book a space in advance, but for small groups that’s usually not necessary. You might also want to consider that in most public parks you can’t drink alcohol. This can make your own backyard a great location too. If you have a backyard patio and table it makes things really easy to set up a beautiful backyard picnic.
Start With A Blanket
Even if you’re lucky enough to be somewhere with a picnic table, a blanket for the seats and a table cloth for the table are always a good idea. You might also consider clips to hold the tablecloth in place, especially if it’s a little windy.
If you’re picnicking on the ground you might want a special picnic blanket that’s waterproof on the back. Whatever blanket you use you might want to add a table cloth layered over top, or even some cushions to make things more comfortable and add to the decor. Faux fur rugs work great too.
We’ve also used an old pallet as a makeshift picnic table a few times. These are often easy to find near the garbage pile for retail stores.
The beauty of nature is the best decor of all, but it can be fun to add a few more pieces to really make the occasion feel extra special and festive. Think of adding some bunting to a tree overhead, or some balloons for a birthday. Another fun touch is always a vase of flowers. If you’re picnicking on the ground sometimes a wood crate that you can use to carry supplies can be used as a little table in the middle of your picnic blanket and be the perfect spot for flowers and drinks so they don’t get knocked over.
What To Pack Your Picnic In
One of the first rules of picnicing is to keep cold food cold. We don’t want anyone getting sick from spoiled food. So if you’re going to be in a hot car before hand, or not eating right away be sure to pack the food so it can stay cold with an ice pack or in a cooler or cooler bag. A cute bucket filled with ice is perfect for keeping drinks cold and looking cute. Likewise if you’re serving something hot -like a cup of tea or coffee which is always so welcome at the lake after a dip in cool water, pack it in a thermos to stay hot.
Vintage wicker baskets are a favourite of mine. They look so great, and can often be found really inexpensively at thrift or antique stores. They add a really authentic feel to any picnic. They’re not always the most practical though. Perfect if you are driving to a location and don’t have to carry things very far.
I also mentioned above that wooden crates can make great carry alls for picnics and can then be used as a little table as well.
If you do have to carry items any distance you might consider a knapsack, or picnic knapsack for it’s ease. As well, if you’re carrying things you might consider choosing food containers that are light and spill proof, and foregoing things like extra decorations, and cushions that would be too much to carry.
Of course no matter what you pack your picnic in, you’ll want to put heavier items on the bottom, like drinks, and containers, and more delicate things on top so they don’t get squished or crumble, like breads or desserts. Also, make sure liquids are well sealed.
You might also like to consider bringing some bug spray and sunblock, sun hats, and sun glasses. Another fun addition might be some outdoor games such as croquet, or bocce ball, or a soccer ball. You might like to fly a kite, or swim if there’s water nearby. Most picnics are improved with some music in the background, and book or magazine to enjoy.
What To Bring On A Picnic To Eat
When you’re choosing your picnic menu, you’ll want to consider items that travel well, and can be served at room temperature or cold. The classic picinic foods listed below all fit that criteria.
If you love you to cook, you can make all your picnic foods ahead of time and pack them up. Another option is always to make some items, and pick up some items already make, like sweets, from the bakery, or salads from the deli section of your grocery store. Take out is always another great option. And if you’re choosing hot foods, or things that are a little harder to transport, then picking them up from a restaurant might be a great option.
Sandwiches are the most traditional picnic fare. They’re delicious and so portable. They simply travel so well that they’re ideal for picnicing. Any kind of sandwich is a great choice for a picnic, so choose your favourite and bring it along, or bring the fixings for a sandwich and let everyone serve themselves at the picnic.
Charcuterie and Cheese Board
Charcuterie and cheese boards are also really great for picnicing. Bring a few different cured meats and at least two or three cheese choices. Add in crackers, baguette, and then some extras like veggies and dip, or fruit. You might also like some pate, or some nuts and nice jams or chutneys. The sky is the limit here. Charcuterie and cheese boards have become some popular lately that it’s easy to find great additions at the grocery store. Remember to pack a cutting board and sharp knife for this option as well.
This is a picnic classic. Pick it up at the your favourite take out place the night before and serve it cold with salads for a really delicious and easy picnic option. Another great option is a rotisserie chicken, you can pick it up at the grocery store and serve it hot or cold.
Always popular at a picnic as great mix with any of the options listed above. You might consider potato salad, bean salad, pasta salad, green salad, or a fruit salad. The more the merrier. Just remember that these will need to be kept cold in a cooler.
Hot Dogs and Hamburgers
If you have access to a bbq or have a portable bbq these are always a crowd pleaser. Kids and adults alike love them. Remember to bring great buns and all your favourite condiments.
Since picnics usually take place in the summer when fruit is in season and fresh and sweet, any fruit can be a great addition to a picnic. A bag of summer cherries, a fresh juicy peach, or a slice of watermelon are just a few great options.
One thing to consider when planning a dessert for a picnic is what will travel well. Any kind of cookie or brownie is usually a great choice for a picnic.
We love these easy one bowl brownies -see the recipe here.
These chocolate chip cookies are also a favourite and perfect for a picnic -see our recipe here.
Anything that you can bring in a mason jar makes them perfect for a picnic and easy to travel with. You might like our cupcakes in a jar -recipe here.
We also have a great recipe for Black Forest cake in a jar here, just remember to keep it in a cooler.
Soft drinks and juices are a great choice. Bringing individual bottles and cans make them easy to serve. Always make sure to have some bottles of water available too. If you’re picnicking somewhere where you’re allowed alcohol then a bottle of wine is a great option. Or you might enjoy bottles of beer or coolers.
A picnic can be elevated by using real china plates, cutlery, glasses and cloth napkins. Just pack them carefully and remember to think about how you’ll bring them home dirty and include a plastic bag to tuck them into.
To makes things easier and less breakable though, consider using plastic. They make such beautiful plastic dishes and glasses now.
There’s also always the option of paper plates and disposable. There are more and more environmentally friendly options now too in disposable dishes so look out for biodegradable options.
I also like using take out containers sometimes, things like paper boxes, or a Chinese takeaway box can be really fun.
Whatever dishes you choose to use remember that this is a chance to add lots of style and flair to your picnic. Choose a colour scheme and mood for your picnic and choose things that co-ordinate for a really pulled together look.
It’s sometimes fun to make individual picnic boxes for everyone, kind of like their own little packed lunch. You can use small cardboard gabled boxes for this or individual paper shopping bags, or small picnic baskets from the thriftstore would be a great reusable option too.
Each person will need a plate, cutlery, and napkins, and cup if you’re not using canned or bottled drinks. You might also like to add some salt and pepper, or any condiments that go with your menu.
Don’t Forget To Bring Some Clean Up Items
Don’t forget some hand sanitizer, and wipes for cleanup. You might also need some plastic wrap or ziplock bags for leftover food. You might also need some bags for garbage and recycling. Leave nothing behind.
Don’t Over Think It
Don’t over think what bring on a picnic. A picnic can be as simple as some takeout on a blanket at your favourite outdoor spot. It’s fun to bring all the extras and make it really beautiful, but don’t let it stress you out. Being with people you enjoy, eating yummy food outside in nature is all you really need for the perfect picnic.