How to Plan a Perfect Picnic
In many parts of the U.S., it’s picnic time, or nearly so. When the weather is warm and the skies beautiful, many people prefer to eat outside. But if you find picnics a hassle, or you’re looking for ways to simplify and improve this spring and summer’s picnics, you’ve come to the right place.
Picnics needn’t cause the chef or planner any more trouble than eating indoors – if you follow a few guidelines.
First consider where you’ll be picnicking. If your backyard is the location, hopefully you have a permanent or semi-permanent set up for eating, whether it be a patio table and chairs or a picnic table. If you’ll be at a park, try to reserve a picnic table ahead of time.
If that’s not possible, have a back up plan, like an old fashioned, sit on a quilt style picnic, in case no tables are available.
You can also greatly reduce the hassle of picnicking if you have a picnic basket or other container always filled with basics like utensils, a can opener, napkins, cups, and plates.
What things should you bring to make everyone more comfortable? Perhaps your own fold up chairs, seat cushions, a tablecloth, tablecloth weights, a tarp or plastic sheeting to place beneath a quilt, insect-repelling candles, and a beach umbrella or portable awning.
And don’t forget to bring bug spray, sunscreen, sunglasses, a charged cell phone, and a first aid kit.
If you plan to have more than 2 picnics away from home this spring and summer, consider packing up some or all of these items in the back of your vehicle, so you can just grab food and run to the picnic location. This will save a great deal of time and trouble.
When you leave the picnic area, it should be as clean as when you arrived, so don’t neglect to also bring trash bags, paper towels, a sponge and soap, and perhaps disinfecting wipes.
It’s difficult to keep foods hot at a picnic, so plan a menu that allows you to either grill or cook on location, then keep other foods cool on ice. Before heading out, thoroughly wash a cooler in hot water and soap, rinse, and add some fresh ice to the bottom.
Place heavy foods and meats (placed in sealable plastic bags) at the bottom of the cooler. Foods that crush more easily need to be on top. As you fill the cooler, keep adding ice, so it surrounds the food.
If you want ice for drinks, pack it in sealable plastic bags and place it inside the cooler. In addition, since keeping foods cool prevents spoilage and possible sickness, if makes sense to keep drinks in their own cooler.
You’ll be opening and closing the drink container a lot, and it won’t stay as cold as the cooler you use for storing food.
If at all possible, don’t place the packed cooler in the trunk; keep it inside your air-conditioned vehicle, and it will stay cooler longer. As soon as you arrive at your picnicking location, place the cooler in the shade.
Do no leave food outside the cooler for more than 2 hours. If food you bring home doesn’t feel cool to the touch, throw it out.
Before preparing food to serve, wash down the area with soap and water, clean thoroughly with disinfecting wipes, or cover with a clean tablecloth.
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