Skip to main content

How To Create the Perfect Picnic

Jun 27, 2017 04:03PM ● By Linda Ditch

As the temperature rises, so does the yearning to be outside. Why not enjoy a meal at your favorite picnic spot, whether that’s a neighborhood park, a sunny lakeside location, or even your own backyard? With a little advance preparation, dining al fresco is a snap.

To be ready for outdoor dining on short notice, assemble a picnic kit to have on hand. The kit itself can be anything that fits your lifestyle: a traditional basket, a backpack, a tote bag or cooler bag, or a cooler or suitcase on wheels. Just be sure it will work with the location you have in mind. You don’t want to find yourself wheeling a picnic kit over rocky terrain or carrying a heavy basket up a remote hillside.

Add the basics: a blanket, sheet, or tablecloth to sit on and a plastic tarp in case of dampness. Include dinnerware such as heavy-duty paper plates, napkins, and plastic utensils, which are available in many fun colors and designs. Be environmentally conscious and pack reusable plastic dinnerware and cloth napkins. Just tote everything back home to be washed. Many locations advise you to carry out whatever you carry in, so you’ll be ahead of the game and save some money in the bargain. Think Woodstock Home & Hardware for most of these items.

Other not-to-be-forgotten items include serving utensils and a sharp knife, a cutting board, a bottle opener, and a corkscrew. Hand wipes and paper towels help keep things clean, and include a couple of bottles of water if there isn’t a water supply nearby. Don’t forget to add a garbage bag, insect repellent, and sunscreen.

Now all you need is food. For a picnic, the rule of thumb is to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Start by choosing foods that taste just as good cold as hot (one of the reasons fried chicken is a popular picnic staple). Also, keep the menu simple—nothing too fussy.

Some easy choices include artisan cheeses, freshly baked bread or rolls, local fruits and vegetables, olives, and pickles. The Cheese Board, FH Gillingham & Sons General Store, and Jake's Quechee Market are a few good places to stock up on easy, ready-to-go foods.

Of course, sandwiches are a mainstay of picnics. To keep the bread from getting soggy, pack the ingredients separately and then assemble sandwiches at the site. The same goes for a salad; don’t dress it until it’s time to eat. And while mayonnaise is a well-known picnic no-no, vinegars and citric juices are acidic enough to help retard bacterial growth.

The easiest way to keep foods at the correct temperature is to wrap the containers in a towel, cloth, or newspaper. The wrapping keeps hot foods warm, and cold items can be wrapped with an ice pack to keep in the chill. Sturdy plastic containers with tight-fitting lids will minimize spills and keep foods from being crushed during transport.

Insulated thermos containers are also good for keeping foods at the right temperature. Preheat them with boiling water for hot dishes, or fill with ice water to chill before adding cold edibles.

With a little forethought, it’s easy to enjoy a meal under your favorite shade tree or while gazing at the nighttime sky. So, what are you doing indoors?

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to Woodstock Magazine's free newsletter to catch every headline