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How to Pack a Picnic Like a Pro

Mild temperatures and longer days make the perfect time of year for picnicking.  Whether it’s casual fun with the whole family or showing a special someone how much you care, picnics are an easy, affordable way to make any meal a celebration. 

To picnic like a pro, smart packing and prep are essential. Check out our tips and portable recipes for inspired meals to enjoy outside that are a breeze from cooking to cleanup.  

Tip 1: Pack light.

Choose a simple, streamlined menu with finger-friendly foods that don’t require many containers. Skip plates and utensils, and instead serve food in colorful parchment wrappers or paper food trays. Use toothpicks or craft sticks for single bites, or portion foods into paper cupcake liners. Be sure to pack extra napkins for messy hands. 

Tip 2: Keep cold foods cold.

Perishable items (anything with meat, eggs, dairy, or mayo) should go back in a cold cooler (40 degrees or below) after 2 hours; on especially hot days, chill after 1 hour. Fill your cooler with ice and treat it as a fridge for items like drinks, condiments, and dressings. If there’s room, nestle bowls with salad and other produce in the ice for optimal crispness.

Tip 3: For easy transport, think beyond plastic storage containers.

Glass jars with lids are perfect for drinks on the go. Fill with your favorite big batch cocktail or mocktail, seal tightly and pack, reserving any garnish or carbonated liquids until just before serving. For picnic-ready grazing boards, fill the cups of a muffin pan with assorted snacks and dips and cover in plastic wrap for portable, perfectly portioned snacking. 

Tip 4: Include an activity.

Turn your picnic into an afternoon-long affair by creating your own inexpensive outdoor games. A bean bag toss, egg and spoon race, or big bubbles made with dish soap are all easy, DIY options to get everyone in on the fun.

Tip 5: Keep your spread dry and cozy.

Along with a picnic blanket, pack a plastic tarp, waterproof tablecloth, or shower curtain liner. Spread out underneath your blanket as a barrier against wet grass.

Packed and ready to picnic? Just add these tasty, on-the-go recipes to your basket and find the perfect spot. 

Ham Salad Pinwheel Pops

Roll out a protein-packed bite that little ones will love to get their hands on. Craft sticks turn savory ham salad wraps into adorable, portable pinwheel pops.

Rainbow Three-Bean Salad

For color and crunch with a hearty serving of nutrients, try this vibrant take on three-bean salad. A filling, fiber-rich trio of garbanzo, green, and black beans with peppers and radishes eliminates the need for multiple side dishes.

Rocky Road Popcorn Balls

A carnival favorite gets a sweet, ice cream-inspired makeover in this microwave-only recipe. Marshmallows and chocolate help to bind balls of popcorn studded with crunchy peanuts (or substitute toasted whole grain cereal) served up on sticks. 

Blackberry Citrus Mocktail

Vitamin-rich, sweet-tart blackberries give this sparkling drink its vibrant violet color. Pureed berries with orange juice, lime juice, and a squeeze of honey make a family-friendly mocktail finished with a splash of chilled seltzer.  

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