A picnic is a pre-planned, eating and/or drinking experience, typically between two or more people, in a casual outdoor setting surrounded by an inspiring natural environment (think trees, not traffic), whereby food and drink are toted to said location in a packed carry-all supplying linens, edibles, beverage, possibly tunes (via portable speaker or you and your acoustic guitar) with the intent to relax and soak in conversation and scenery.
Now if the idea of picnicking sounds like it's going to mean a heck-of-a-lot of planning and hoopla, let me assure you, it only requires a maximum of 1-hour of planning/prepping if you follow my tips:
1: Think outside the basket
No need to buy a designated picnic basket - save time and money but grabbing any hard-bottomed tote or decorative basket from home - like the one you have for those display-only birch logs by the fire. Hard bottoms (think flat tray not Olympic hurdler) keep items stacked, neat and secure from toppling over.
2. Pick your spot
Make sure that first and foremost, you are legally allowed to picnic in your desired location. Mrs. Hubbard's immaculate English garden with the pond and swans may appeal to you, but be respectful of private vs. public areas. Choose a nice flat area (if you plan on using a picnic blanket), free of ant hills (trust me...it happens) and with a desirable view of whatever you find desirable - for some it's a meandering creek nestled in a conservation area with birds singing their little birdie songs. For others, it's a smokestack next to the cement plant (not recommended, but to each their own).
3. Boomerang it
Not the actual game, but the concept: make sure that your supplies, containers, cutlery, etc... are all re-usable and going right back home with you afterward. It's better for the environment to leave nothing behind and will save you from having to buy plastic utensils or disposable napkins.
4. Make it, don't break it
Always use, whenever possible, non-breakable containers. Avoid glass and porcelain/stoneware - not only is it heavier to lug around, but your fine Olde English Rose china from Aunt Edna won't be of any use, or appreciated by others, if it's shattered into a zillion pieces along a hiking trail. There are many great, high-quality acrylic dinnerware options available at HomeSense or Williams-Sonoma that you can reuse, put in the dishwasher and store for years to come. Even Aunt Edna would have a hard time telling the difference (bifocals or not!).
5. Add the pizazz
A picnic is all about connecting and conversation. By adding a few easy personal touches, not only will you impress (yourself and others!), but it will help set the tone for your picnic - one that says, "I went the extra mile without walking an extra mile" (speaking of which, try not to venture too far off the beaten path or too far from your car - if you need to use your GPS to get in or out of your picnic spot, you've gone too far!).
Steal these ideas:
- Use hollowed out baguette slices as napkin rings! (Then eat them! Bonus!)
- Pre-fill mason jars with lemonade and add a handful of frozen berries to keep it cool.
- Grab that faux-fur throw you're not using in summer and lay it out as picnic blanket - soft, luxe and plush!
- Use tea-towels as serviettes.
- Pre-skewer fruit or veggie kabobs for easy munching.
- Bring a small portable Bluetooth speaker and find a streaming picnic play-list (Songza has a ton of picnic-themed playlists for any music-lover!).
Ice cubes are not a reliable long-term method for keeping foods cold, so do pack some freezer packs if you're planning on enjoying some perishable or heat-intolerant foods. No freezer packs? No biggie - but avoid meats, mayo-based salads or egg sandwiches and opt for mixed greens with vinaigrette or crackers and brie instead! Freezing an acrylic container of punch or a plastic bottle of lemon water can act as a freezer pack and keep drinks chilled too! Double-duty!
Have fun on your next picnic and watch the segment on CTV's Canada AM for more great ideas! Would love to hear your picnic stories: what's your fave picnic spot?
Canada AM: Perfect Picnic