Bugs, soggy food and other headaches can ruin a picnic. Here are some simple, frugal ways to make your next outdoor meal perfect.
Almost everyone loves eating outside, but a really good picnic is made in the details. Follow these easy steps to ensure your outside gathering is delightful, instead of an uncomfortable meal in a park.
1. Pick the right location
First and foremost, be sure to choose your destination for the features that you most need and want. Ask all of the following:
- Do we need a grill?
- Do we need easy access for an elderly guest?
- Will we need picnic tables or do we prefer to sit on the ground?
- What are the play options for kids, and what are the safety hazards?
- Does the destination have adequate bathroom facilities, or at least a fast-food outlet nearby?
- If we opt for a wilderness destination, will our picnic attendees be comfortable with roughing it?
2. Keep things dry
If you are planning to have your picnic on the grass, use a shower curtain liner under your picnic blanket to avoid dampening your experience. Even on a sunny day the ground might be wet — either from morning dew or earlier showers.
Shower curtain liners are inexpensive and can be picked up in almost any dollar store. Even better, they are reusable.
3. Conjure up muffin tin magic
Muffin tins and liners can help make your picnic a piece of cake. To avoid carrying multiple bottles and jars, place condiments in a muffin tin and wrap with plastic, according to Nanny.net.
Muffin or cupcake paper liners also can be used to prevent bugs from bathing in your drinks. Just place the liner upside down over the mouth of your cup, punch a hole in it, insert a straw and you’re set — bugs won’t be able to find their way into the cup.
4. Use Mason jars to transport foods
Mason jars are a convenient, spill-proof way to transport foods. They work especially well for salads and pastas.
You can layer all the ingredients in the jars without worrying the food might become soggy. Put the dressing or sauces on the bottom. When you get to your picnic destination, you can empty the jar into a bowl, and you’re set!
5. Use frozen bottles of water as ice packs
Instead of using bags of ice in your cooler — which can make reaching for the cold food messy and kind of gross — consider using frozen bottles of water instead. Tip: Empty a little bit of water from the bottle before freezing to avoid explosions.
An added benefit is that on a hot day, the water begins to melt and you can drink it.
6. Try the ‘no-blow’ picnic tablecloth trick
This is a trick that my mom taught me: take a fitted sheet — usually a twin sheet will suffice — that hugs the corners of the table. Use it as a picnic tablecloth that won’t go anywhere.
If the sheet is too big for the table, you can use clothespins to make the sheet tighter. Alternatively, you can always use rocks to hold down the corners.
7. Make meal kits
Consider packing your picnic lunches individually in brown paper bags, and fold the opening down. Take cutlery and run the handle of the cutlery along the fold. Then, clip the tip with a clothes pin. According to Nanny.net:
Everyone will have their self-contained meal kit, and you won’t have to wrestle with a mass of heavy silverware at the bottom of your basket.
You can also personalize each bag. For this to work, you have to know your guests’ tastes, food restrictions (allergies, gluten-free, vegetarian, etc.) and the amount of food that makes sense. Pack food that doesn’t seep through paper, or use plastic containers instead.
8. Create spill-free spices
Use those extra salt and pepper packets from fast-food restaurants; they are perfect for picnics. Alternatively, fill straws with the spices you need, tape the ends shut and put a small label on each so you know what’s in it. You can also reuse Tic Tac boxes or similar containers.
9. Pack items in order of use
Work It Mom suggests that packing items in the order you plan to use them keeps you from digging through your basket or cooler for items you want to use. One caveat: You probably want to pack your heavier items on the bottom of your container, so you don’t crush the more perishable items.
This blog also advises that if you are having a large picnic, pack drinks in one cooler and food in another. That way, the food doesn’t get beat up as people are grabbing drinks.
10. Keep the bugs away
If you put pennies in a baggie with water and hang it nearby — let’s say from a tree — or place the pennies in a jar of water, it is widely believed to keep the flying pests away. The theory behind this odd hack is that the way the light refracts through the bag repels flies, according to WonderHowTo.
To keep the creepy crawlers at a distance, sprinkle talcum powder around your picnic area. Ants and other bugs don’t like walking through this common household item, says Delish.
11. Keep desserts simple
Delish also suggests keeping your desserts simple:
A bag of fresh cherries, sliced strawberries tossed with sugar, brownie bites and a few butter cookies are easy to pack and will appeal to all guests.
If you have more ideas on making your summer outdoor feast a pleasure, please share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.