It's the Hollywood version – a checkered cloth spread across a grassy field on a glorious, sunny day. The wicker basket overflows with homemade treats, easy snack recipes, wine, and all the beautiful accessories to accompany a charming, outdoor meal. The breeze blows gently, the food has traveled completely intact, and the fresh food and drinks go down like water on a slide.
Perfect, right? But honestly, where are the bugs and the squished food – some of which has spilled in the cooler or other awkward tote you're hauling? What about the warm wine and the missing utensil so desperately needed to eat the pasta salad?
Not that we're knocking picnics, not at all. We love the back-to-nature idea of it all. We adore this fresh, enjoy- the -sun -and- lay- back -to- nap -once -satiated kind of event. We also think the best way to approach a picnic is to be well prepared, and realistic about how it will turn out.
OK, let's start from the beginning. You've decided to go on a picnic. First you'll want to determine the location. Whether you're open to any locale or whether you have a specific place that is driving the whole adventure, think about the perfect spot wherever you wind up.
Does it have tables?
Are there flat areas?
Shade is nice, but birds overhead could be, well, messy.
Is there a lot of wind?
Just remember, half of the success of the picnic depends on your location.
Using a basket that is made for picnicking is great. All of those slots and spaces designed to neatly hold everything in place and to keep your easy snack recipes and drinks from shifting around alleviates some stress. Straps prevent utensils from sliding around and stabbing the food.
If fancy baskets aren't your speed, a sturdy cooler on wheels works fine. Make sure to pack food containers in tightly and include refreeze-able ice bars to keep food cold. Don't use ice – no one wants soggy anything on a picnic! You'll want to carry plates, napkins, utensils and cups/glasses in a separate tote.
Now the most important part. Think of food that travels well, that isn't messy to eat, and that tastes great. If you need a little help, we like this comprehensive list of picnic food and easy snack recipes. Each of these can be prepared in 20 minutes.
Planning a picnic should be simple and it should be fun - even spontaneous like the movie version. It should also include a dose of reality. Don't forget the sunscreen, bug spray, and plenty of napkins and hand wipes.