By Cassie Johnston
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We’ve lived in our house for almost four years now, and just a few weeks ago, we stumbled upon an amazing park right by our house. This might not sound like a big deal to city-slickers, but actual park-parks are few and far between in rural Indiana, so finding any park, let alone a great one only a few minutes from our door, is an awesome surprise.
One of my favorite parts of the park is that a nice river runs through the whole thing—it’s really beautiful, very tranquil, and Juniper loves splashing and skipping rocks (well, trying to skip rocks—she’s still learning). We’ve gotten in the habit of packing an awesome picnic and dining al fresco by the river before we head to the playground or splash in the water.
Packing a picnic makes a regular lunch feel fancy without spending a dime. It really is a great way to enjoy summer without dropping cash on concert tickets or theme park admission. You can still have fun this summer, even if your budget is tight!
I thought I’d pull together some of my favorite tips for awesome picnic packing—your picnic doesn’t need to be fancy. The real star of the show is the novelty of dining outside! No need to stress about packing gourmet foods and high-quality linens.
Yes, a picnic basket is all romantic and picture-perfect, but it’s also uninsulated and cumbersome. I much prefer a picnic basket style cooler. My cooler is similar to this one, and I love that it is easy to carry, insulated, and collapses down when I’m finished with it.
If you do want to use a classic picnic basket, make sure to only pack foods that don’t need refrigeration—and try not to stray too far from your car.
An awesome picnic can happen on the ground or on a table—but for both, you’ll want some sort of cover. If you’d like to picnic on the ground, an old blanket, quilt, or tablecloth will work well if it hasn’t rained or there isn’t any dew (make sure you don’t mind grass stains), but if you really want to make sure your bum stays dry, opt for a waterproof picnic blanket. Keep it in the trunk of your car for spontaneous picnics whenever the weather is nice!
We actually prefer to opt for a picnic table when the grass it wet, and that’s when I pack a flannel-backed vinyl tablecloth. You can nab these at almost any discount or grocery store in the summer for just a few bucks. Don’t forget tablecloth weights! I have these, and they make me laugh every time I use them.
I personally prefer to skip plates and utensils and stick with finger foods. Not only do you not have to worry about forgetting forks, but finger foods are also so fun!
Like I mentioned above, your picnic spread doesn’t have to be complicated! If you’re racking your brain for what to pack for food, try thinking of making a meal of your favorite snacks. Most snacks are finger foods, and if you gather a bunch of them together, it makes for a fun and different picnic (and chances are, you already have them stashed in your pantry).
Snack bars (like the line of gluten-free, whole grain snack and sandwich bars from Van’s Foods—they are perfect for a picnic), fruit, cheese, bread, dried fruit, pre-cut veggies with dip, and crackers with hummus all make great options for an awesome picnic that can be packed in just a few minutes. Sometimes, we even just pack a bag of tortilla chips and a container of guacamole and salsa—a meal can be anything. Keep it simple!
Grab your water bottle, or pack something fun to sip on. For a fun treat, pack a bottle of sparkling cider (or champagne if you’re picnicking within walking distance to your house) and some plastic cups. It’s amazing how a $3 bottle of something bubbly can make a simple picnic feel like a super fancy treat!
Fun, natural sodas, teas, or other drinks are also a nice treat (at least in our house—we pretty much only drink water and coffee).
Be a good citizen of the planet and make sure to pick up your trash and either carry it out or dispose of it in a garbage or recycling can. I like to pack a small plastic grocery sack to corral trash just in case there isn’t a trash can around.
And make sure to pack some wipes to clean up hands that maybe hit the monkey bars for a few minutes before lunch was served.
To help you get your awesome picnic going, the nice folks at Van’s Foods are giving away five coupons for free Van’s Foods snack bars, a grocery tote, and a water bottle (a $35 value). To get entered, just use the giveaway widget below.
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We love VAN’s products and have eaten them for years. I always love these posts of yours, they give me new ideas for bored summer days!
Straight out of the bag/box :)
Love granola on overnight oatmeal, gives you a little crunch!
Love granola eaten like cereal with unsweetened vanilla almond milk.
I like granola bars!
I like it with yogurt! Thank you for the opportunity to win :)
I like to eat granola on top of my oatmeal.
I like to take some wine, cheese and crackers!
I love to picnic!! I usually bring easy finger foods like grapes, blueberries, crackers and cheese and last time we did pasta salad which was a good twist.
A cheese plate in the park is the best!
Great ideas! Thanks for the tips. Will have to look for those Van’s Blueberry & PB treats next time we shop.
Does wine count as a picnic food?!
I love to pack croissants and a tub of chicken salad for a quick build-you-own sandwich. Add some chips, fruit and a drink and it’s an easy picnic straight from the grocery store to the outdoors!
I love that picnic basket and picnics! I love to take ice in an insulated thermos or tumbler to add to drinks later. ?
What an awesome tote! When we’re camping or out all day somewhere that doesn’t have water, we bring a mobile handwashing station. I use a water cooler with a spigot and a mini bottle of Dr. Bronner’s, but you could also use a leftover laundry detergent container on its side (the Costco sized ones). Works really well when you’re super bug spray-y/dirty/sunscreen-y and wipes just don’t cut it.
Now that I’m really thinking about it, I think the closest thing to a picnic I’ve ever done is eating while camping! My husband was super involved in scouts growing up so when we go camping him and his buddies like to make really elaborate meals over the campfire. My favorite is still probably cobbler/ dumpcake in the cast iron dutch oven in the fire!
Usually some type of salad (rice/pasta/potato), plus cheese and crackers, fruit, veggies and hummus. Love the idea of all finger foods though! Sometimes for a fun twist, we plan our date night as a picnic – get out Indian (or whatever) food takeout style and eat al fresco. The best!
I love making up chicken salad wraps to take along for picnics and dirt pudding in small mason jars.
I love taking deli meat, veggies, and hummus!
Thanks for the great ideas. I love finger foods anyway and this makes the picnic perfect.
My favorite picnic foods are sandwiches and watermelon!! ?
I love this post as I’ve been dreaming about going on a picnic with my family soon.. My favorite picnic foods are easy sandwiches i.e. pb&j, or some type of rolled sandwich. I also like fruit, cheese and crackers.
I’ve been wanting to go on a picnic lately, thank you for the tips!
Yummy sandwiches and watermelon!! I can’t think “picnic” without “watermelon”! Cut up veggies and dip are also a common sighting. :)
I have never tried Vans before, looks like yummy stuff – love all your picnic ideas, thanks for sharing and so fun to discover a new park, and so close, yay! Happy summer :)
Onigiri – Japanese rice balls with various fillings – are a great picnic food!
We like muffalettas, pasta salad, hummus and crackers (or cheese) olives, veggies with romesco sauce, and something sweet like date brownies
I love cheese and crackers!
I haven’t had a picnic in so long! I am definitely going to plan one, this inspired me. I love that cooler! My favorite picnic foods are easy dips/spreads and crackers. I like making quick sandwiches – and packing things that make for a quick clean up!
Picnics are on my summer to-do list, so perfect timing on the post! I like to pack rustic bread with cheese or pitas with hummus and toppings (feta, cucumber, tomatoes, etc.)
Our favorite food is turkey sandwiches.
Cheese, fruit or some easy subs!
I have never been on a picnic, but I imagine my favorite food would be cheese and crackers, because I LOVE cheese and crackers!!!
Wine, cheese, nuts, fruits
No matter how old I get, PB&J is still my favorite picnic food!
Love that basket! Super cute and I always over think picnics so it’s nice to see that simple is best
I love this! My husband and I were just talking about this the other day! We’re about to buy a new home and there is a park just around the corner!
My favorite picnic snack is wraps. Love, love, love tortilla wraps, lettuce wraps any kind of wrap makes me happy.
i love turkey sandwiches and grapes
I’m always a sucker for an egg salad sandwich!
Love this! I’m going on a picnic/movie tomorrow so this is perfect.
Definitely, fruit, salads, and crackers.
I love cheese and crackers in a picnic!
I just purchased a picnic blanket and can’t wait to try it. We love to bring cut up fruits like watermelon and veggies along with some turkey pepperettes and cheese!
I agree that finger foods are ideal for a picnic. I usually go to town on the veggies and dip ;-)
Love this! You guys know how to have a great picnic. We suck at it!
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