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.
Skip the basket
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.
Pack a blanket or tablecloth
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.
Think finger foods
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!
Don’t forget drinks
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).
Clean up easily
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.
Win a Van’s Foods prize pack!
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.