Food

8 Tips for a Summer of Perfect Picnics

Make picnics happen throughout the work week.

Eating outside doesn't have to be reserved for special occasions and finding ways to have casual picnics during the work week is a great way to recharge during the lunch hour. A small lightweight blanket or roll-up mat is all you need to get out in the sun while you eat, making it a healthy warm-weather habit with co-workers or alone with a book or a magazine.

1. Explore the world of hand-held food

Hand-held and made with minimal fuss, sandwiches will always be ideal picnic fare for those looking to leave plates and utensils at home. Get inspired by other hand-held foods such as soft tacos, rice paper spring rolls, and lettuce wraps the next time you're planning on having a picnic; the sky's the limit when getting preparing food that’s hand-held and full of tasty ingredients.

2. Be prepared for clean up

Make cleanup a snap after a picnic by packing wet wipes, hand sanitizer and small bags for garbage. Plastic or glass containers can be used to transport materials for the compost as well as being handy for sending home leftovers with your friends and family members.

3. Keep your cool by keeping it separate

Whether you're serving iced coffee, lemonade or sangria, avoid watered down drinks by packing ice separately in a thermos. Ice cubes will stay frozen for hours and can be added to beverages and even chilled soups as needed during the picnic and beyond.

4. Save time by visiting your local deli

The deli case is a veritable goldmine of picnic-perfect finger foods that can be enjoyed straight out of their containers. Summer staples such as bean and pasta salads, olives, dips, and fresh salsas are always welcome at a picnic, while specialty offerings such as dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), charcuterie, artisanal cheeses, roasted and/or pickled peppers, marinated feta, homemade tapenade, and dried exotic fruits can take an ordinary picnic to the next level.

5. Focus on seasonal produce

Enjoy the best of what the season has to offer by centring your picnic around the bountiful selection of local fruits and vegetables that are available during the summer. Tomatoes fresh off the vine need little more than a crusty baguette, a ball of creamy mozzarella or burrata, some loosely torn fresh basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil to make a tasty and satisfying meal. Pair super ripe peaches and nectarines with a crumbly blue cheese or shavings of Parmigianno-Reggiano for a sweet and salty entree requiring little to no pre-picnic prep.

6. Don’t let bad weather bring you down

Unexpected bad weather doesn't have to mean the end of an ideal picnic when backup plans are in place. Picnics can still happen under park pavilions, patio awnings and even in easy-to-set-up tents. If the outdoors is completely inhospitable plan a picnic indoors with blankets and beach garb, the experience of eating in a new environment will bring just as much pleasure as if you were outside.

7. Pack jars for an organized outing

Glass jars are ideal for transporting layered salads, dressings and sauces, cold drinks, condiments and anything else deemed fit for a picnic. Jars that are part of a set can be packed neatly into picnic baskets or coolers without taking up very much room and can also be used to portion out serving sizes.

8. Keep these essentials on hand

A small kit full of essential picnic accessories can be stowed away in the car or at the office for impromptu outdoor meals. A corkscrew, serrated knife (good for slicing bread and ripe fruit), a box of matches or a lighter, cloth napkins, extra cutlery and glasses, a small cutting board, and a thermometer to ensure chilled foods are served at the correct temperature are all valuable tools that can come in handy at a moment's notice.