Picnic Foods - What to Take & What to Leave

Summertime is here… and what’s better than eating fresh foods outdoors? OK, there are several things… but picnics can be a great experience if they are planned well. Here are a few tips and ideas for packing picnic foods that will stand up well to the occasion.

picnic foods

Picnic Foods

Picnic Food Safety and Convenience Tips

TIP #1: Do all the preparations at home. Pack things that are ready to go when you arrive at your picnic site so that everyone can relax and enjoy the day. Our picnic foods suggested below will all allow you to do this.

TIP #2: When making and packing lots of sandwiches for a picnic, use a cutting code to easily tell your sandwiches apart. Simply cut the mayonnaise sandwiches diagonally, the mustard horizontally and the ones with pesto vertically (or whatever spreads and/or cheeses that you need to easily differentiate). The only problem with this method is remembering the cutting code, so devise one that you can remember. This process helps prevent all the peeking into each sandwich that is likely to occur from grubby little hands.

TIP #3: Keep the mayonnaise sandwiches and mayonnaise based salads in the deepest area of your cooler. If it’s really hot and sunny, you want to protect them from the constant opening of the cooler lid. Place these sandwiches and salads on the table for serving and then return them first to the cooler after serving.

TIP #4: Try to find a table in the shade to display foods for a buffet. Even foods fresh off the grill will appreciate a slightly cooler table to rest.

TIP #5: Stick foods back into the cooler as soon as everyone is done. The 2 hour rule is for normal temperatures, the sun can provide a dangerous situation very quickly. Hot weather allows bacteria to multiply at faster rates.

TIP #6: Finger foods and foods on sticks are usually easy to transport and to eat anywhere. Don’t forget the hand sanitizer if traveling off the beaten path.

TIP #7: Don’t forget the hand sanitizer if traveling off the beaten path.

TIP #8: Transport salads in containers where the lids fit really tight. The snap tight and stackable ones work great for this purpose. It usually works best to dress lettuce salads at the picnic site to avoid a soggy mess when you open the lid.

TIP #9: Nets actually work pretty well to keep flies and other creatures out of your foods.

TIP #10: Make carrying your picnic to the site easy. If you’re also into hiking, a backpack works really well. They come in 2 and 4 person packs and provide everything you need except the actual food. Note that it is difficult to fit enough food for 4 people into the cooler space provided in a 4 person pack, that’s why we’ve highlighted the 2 person packs. Everything is washable so there is no trash to worry about.

These are a couple of favorite backpacks, perfect for a romantic hike:

Picnic Food Ideas

A Few Ideas on What to Bring

We came across this recipe that has rave reviews and will travel well in your cooler. It’s called a stuffed hollowed baguette.

Stuffed Baguette

This log travels well and is best sliced while still cold. Substitute feta or brie cheese if you are not fond of goat.

Croissant sandwiches actually travel very well and don’t smash like regular white bread. We found that a pack of 12 croissants (like available at Costco) divided into half can easily make a picnic tray to please a crowd. Fill half with ham, havarti and a sweet mustard and the other half with chicken salad and lettuce. That choice will please most everyone in the group, another vegetarian option may also be wise depending on your group.

This salad travels well as nothing will get soggy, limp or wilt. It’s just grape tomatoes, sliced Persian cucumber, balls of fresh Mozzarella, and a drizzle of Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic salt, pepper and oregano (or use your favorite Italian dressing).

picnic foods

This jicima & papaya salad is light, colorful and flavorful. You can just slice the two fruits and serve them naked or add some butter lettuce and a dressing of orange juice mixed with a little olive oil, cider vinegar, fresh cilantro and pepper.

picnic foods

Get some little wooden skewers and start piling on bite size pieces of your favorite foods. These skewers can then be laid out in airtight bags so they don’t take up much room in your cooler. Here are a few combination suggestions of picnic foods for skewars:

  1. Grape tomatoes, tiny mozzarella balls and basil leaves – then drizzle with balsamic vinegar. We suggest grape tomatoes to save some shirts from the burst often experienced with the use of cherry tomatoes.
  2. Your favorite fruits like watermelon, strawberries, honeydew, grapes and canteloupe. You can then drizzle them with a squeeze of yogurt, honey or chocolate at the picnic site, if desired.
  3. Alternate chunks of pound cake with strawberries on a skewer for dessert. Bring along some chocolate syrup and/or a can of whipped cream for a squirt at the picnic site.

Picnic Foods - Additional Information

For more information on the shelf life of cheeses see our cheese page.

For more information on the shelf life of wine, see our wine page.

To find out how long other foods are good for, please visit the Dairy, Drinks, Fruits, Grains, Proteins, Vegetables and Other sections of Eat By Date or use the search function below.

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