The Ultimate Packable Picnic

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Practically any food eaten outdoors in the company of another could qualify as a picnic — "A jug of wine, a loaf of bread and Thou" being among the simplest and best menus still in use more than a thousand years after a poet first suggested it. But once the guest list numbers above three, a few more dishes are in order and a little strategizing pays off. To help plan your next outing, we've assembled a list of totable foods that are easy to eat sprawled out in the sun, plus some handy gear for serving it.

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Picnic Menu Checklist

A Refreshing Drink: Fill a thermos or water bottles with a serious thirst quencher.

Some to try:

 

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Juicy Fruit: Stick with what's easy to prep in advance — frozen grapes, cantaloupe wedges, pineapple cubes — so you're not stuck peeling oranges with sandy hands.

Some to try:

 

A Finger-Friendly Main Course:  Keep utensils at a minimum and serve a classic like fried chicken or prewrapped sandwiches that can be enjoyed in a canoe or perched on a park bench.

Some to try:

 

Vegetables and Dip: Cut-up carrots, celery and cukes make handy scoopers for a variety of spreads — store-bought or homemade.

Some to try:

 

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Dessert: A sweet treat at the end of a meal is a picnic necessity — and you can't always depend on the ice cream truck to arrive in time.

Some to try:

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Something Snacky: Afternoon munchies (or a long car ride home) shouldn't bring down an otherwise perfect day.

Some to try:

 

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Picnic Gear Checklist

  • Tote, basket or backpack
  • Blanket
  • Umbrella, sun hat or cap
  • Sunscreen and bug spray
  • Ice pack or resealable freezer bag filled with ice
  • Plastic grocery bags (for stowing trash)
  • Paper towels: If you're extra organized, stick a few damp ones in a resealable bag to have on hand for sticky spills.
  • Napkins
  • Beer opener or corkscrew
  • Condiments (salt, pepper and hot sauce): This is why you saved those cute little jars from your hotel breakfast tray.
  • Sharp knife (serrated or pocket)
  • Utensils (compostable, plastic or otherwise)
  • Plates and cups (paper, plastic or acrylic)
  • Water: Bring more than you think you'll need, even if you bring additional drinks.
  • Deck of cards
  • Football or Frisbee
More Recipes and Ideas
Napa Picnic

Recipe courtesy of