Andrea loves to design and plan events. She especially loves small events, garden parties, and weddings.
The Perfect Picnic
A good picnic brings you closer to your friends and family. It's a pleasant way to get outside, eat your food in peace, and take a moment to relax.
In this guide, I am offering my tips for the best picnic experience. There is a checklist for your picnic setup and the foods I recommend. The pictures for this guide were taken in September, one of the best months weather-wise (at least in the United States).
It doesn't matter where you're headed. If you know the essentials, you can pack up a great picnic in a matter of minutes.
Everything You'll Need or Want
When it comes to your outside picnic, you want to make sure you cover all your bases. There are affordable picnic baskets that come with cups, plates, silverware, and the like. My recommendation is to buy a picnic basket that's also a cooler.
I also recommend avoiding plastic or paper plates, cups, and utensils. These items fly away easily and often turn into trash. If you do go the plastic or paper route, please make sure the items are recyclable.
I think your picnic will look better with real dishes. If you're not too far from home, like your backyard, then it won't be too hard to carry these.
Even if you plan to use a park table, I recommend bringing along a blanket. You can use it as a table cloth.
For a successful picnic, I recommend the following items. Not all of these things are required, but the list should cover all your bases and inspire you:
A picnic basket with plenty of space. A picnic basket that's a cooler is preferred.
Bug repellent candle
A miniature picnic table to keep things organized.
Candle lighter or matches
A blanket large enough for your party. Test out your blanket. Make sure it is large enough for your party and all your objects.
Decorations: flower vase, string lights, balloons, ribbons, mason jars with eye catching pieces, and bubble wands.
Containers with lids
Games: lawn dice, bocce balls, corn hole, chess, and checkers.
A box or chest drawer to hold dishes and serving items.
Napkins, paper towels, or dish towels
Trash bag or waste bin
Letter board or other sign to put up messages.
General Planning Tips
Keep a Manageable Size
About four people can sit and eat on a blanket. Once you start adding more people, it's going to start feeling cramped. Especially if you're bringing your dog or another pet.
I recommend keeping a picnic size on the small side. It helps mitigate chaos. It takes a lot of thought and effort to plan a company or church picnic. My guide is for smaller, more intimate picnic gatherings.
Check the Weather
I would suggest when you're planning a picnic to consider the weather. If you live in a place with ever-changing weather, it will be key to plan on a day without rain, snow, and strong wind. Look for a day where it isn't too hot or too cold.
Also, make sure the ground isn't wet. If it's been raining for the past few days, the ground might be soggy and unsuitable for a picnic. Picnics are ideal in temperate weather—like in spring and fall.
Communicate with people about your event a few days before it takes place. Give them enough time that if they want to bring something they can, and it's not a last-minute rush to the grocery store.
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If they ask what they should bring some good suggestions are salads, desserts, a side dish, or drinks. Check with them to make sure they don't have any food allergies.
It might be best to suggest having a picnic first . . . and then figuring out a date when everyone is available. Picking a date first is more limiting.
For the most part, you don't need fancy invitations. Paper invitations are formal, which would mean your picnic should come off formal. I would communicate with people via text or email.
Bring Along the Dog
If you have a dog, consider bringing him along for the picnic. Your dog loves you. They love treats. They love to play.
Bring your dog a bowl for water and some treats. If you have a dog like mine that is well-behaved and won't run away, then your picnic adventure should be easy.
If you've got a wanderer on your hands, make sure to bring a leash. Think ahead about what you can bring or use to attach to the leash—that way your dog doesn't run away or go somewhere they shouldn't (like headfirst into the fried chicken).
A good dog will give you room while you eat. A bad dog would jump right into the middle of the action and run off with a chicken leg. Know your dog before you take them on a picnic.
Bring toys to keep them happy. Play fetch or tug-of-war with them. If you've got room to run and play chase, just do it. Your dog will appreciate an enchanting outside adventure with you, and they'll likely remember it.
Designing the Picnic
The perfect picnic needs a perfect view. I encourage you to think about a place in your area that has a dreamy vista. A lake, a river, a field of flowers, and mountains will add to the picnic experience. A good part of the fun is getting to be outside where you can enjoy yourself. It can be hard to find a restaurant with a good view.
The other benefit of a picnic is you can stay for as long as you want. You don't have to worry that you're holding up a table. You know the exact portions you'll be dealing with, and if you've done things right, it'll be easy to take home leftovers.
I would suggest placing your picnic blanket in a spot where you have a good view and also some shade. If you're having an afternoon picnic, it will be especially important to get some shade. (Please do lather up on the sunscreen!)
Also, try to place your picnic blanket in a spot that isn't too close to bugs. I do recommend taking along with you a bug repellent candle and bug spray. If you're near flowers, watch out for bees. Look for ant colonies. Spiderwebs aren't your friends.
If you use a bug repellent candle, make sure it's in a spot where everybody can see it. You don't want it behind people where they can accidentally knock into it. It's a good idea to put the candle in a central location or near the food.
Once you've found the perfect spot, I would assemble your picnic table, basket, and other decorations on one side. Leave as much room as possible on the blanket for you and others to sit. You want enough room for you and your plate.
I like to keep food in a basket and dishes in a box or drawer. The side of your blanket with these things should function like a buffet arrangement, where it's easy to grab what you want and need.
I would also suggest putting the basket and other items on the end of your blanket that faces the good view. You want to keep an eye on your food, so don't put it behind you. You also don't want so many things in front of you that it obscures your view. (Don't take too many things with you. It will be a pain to carry everything.)
All the Delicious Food
A picnic should have a variety of foods. Most people like to try small portions of a few different things. Bring foods that are not too sensitive to weather. You don't want to bring too many foods that require heat.
Finger foods are perfect. They're easy to grab, place on your plate, or just go straight into your mouth. You want your food to be easy to tackle. I recommend avoiding foods that require a steak knife or a fancy gadget.
For the main food, I would pick something that will be okay if it gets a little cold, like fried chicken or ham. Definitely don't bring too many foods that require heat. You may have a grill nearby, but most park grills have limited space. It's also hard to know if park grills are clean or not. Bring foil and quality charcoal if you plan to grill.
Avoid bringing foods that could melt. It's wise to bring a cooler with an ice pack for drinks and moderately cold items.
S'mores are a classic, so if you're planning a bonfire then grab the chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows.
Avoid leaving behind trash at the picnic site. It's a good idea to bring a bin or a bag for trash and recyclable items. Don't let food packaging fly away. Keep lids in case you have leftovers.
I prefer taking food out of its packaging and putting it into mason jars or other containers to avoid leaving behind trash. It's easier to stack containers than bags.
A wood cutting board and a sharp knife can come in handy for meat, cheese, and bread. Some cutting boards are small enough to fit inside a picnic basket.
I definitely have my favorite foods for a picnic. For your convenience, I've listed out what was on the picnic in the pictures. There are many fan-favorite items on here and a couple of surprises.
- Fried chicken
- Deviled eggs
- Potato salad
- Curried carrot pickles
- Sweet beet and garlic pickles
- Moon pies
I used the jams in recipes for the moon pies and Danishes. I believe a picnic should come with desserts and treats.
I included moon pies with sprinkles to make things more magical. Besides—who doesn't love chocolate? Picnics often come with chocolate and wine pairings. And two cookies coated in chocolate should satisfy anyone's cravings.
The Danishes are a nice finger food. Pastries don't have to be the last thing you eat. They can be eaten at the same time as your meal. They're good for cleansing the palette if you've had a lot of garlic or savory items.
You can find the recipes here:
The Perfect Table
Miniature Picnic Table
For my picnic, I used the Ollieroo Portable Wine Picnic Table. It folds. It's made of bamboo. It makes for a great snack table and nicely holds wine glasses. For my picnic, I placed jam jars on it and other snack treats.
The mini table is durable, lightweight, and easy to assemble. It was easy to clean off any spills. It comes with utensils for spreading ingredients, poking meat, and lifting food off plates.
You can see the table in many of my pictures. You could comfortably fit about two meals on it. It holds four wine cups and a wine bottle. The slots for the wine cups also have sinking platforms that make it easy to rest other drinks, like cans.
This table can be turned into a board for a cheese platter or charcuterie arrangement. It has grooves to hold foods like deviled eggs, crackers, fruit, and sausage.
© 2021 Andrea Lawrence