The Ultimate Picnic Guide

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When was the last time you went on a picnic?  I’m mean a real blanket on the grass, picnic basket full of goodies kind of picnic…I have to tell you I am a HUGE fan of taking everything from wine and cheese to a full dinner outdoors and enjoying the open air and beauty around us. In the summer months, when we are at our ranch in Montana, we pack up picnics a couple times a week and head out into nature, so today, I thought I would share the ultimate picnic guide for a fun and successful outdoor meal.

 It doesn’t matter if it is on the beach, in the woods or in your backyard, with a few essentials, you can easily pack up a great picnic on a moments notice!

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1) A Multi Purpose Picnic Blanket

A classic picnic blanket is great to set the stage for your outdoor meal, if you know that you will have a grassy area and everyone will be comfortable sitting on the ground, but that’s not always the case. Depending on where you are going, picnic tables or lightweight camp chairs might be a better option.  In any case, I always bring a blanket that can double as a table cloth so I am prepared for all situations. A lightweight blanket can be thrown over a park picnic table and be just as charming as a blanket laid out in a grassy field.

 This blanket is heavy enough to use on the grass and still works as a table cover!


2) The Right Picnic Basket

Summer Picnic Essentials

Having the right type of picnic basket is important.  If you are heading down the road a short distance, or into your back yard for your picnic, a traditional basket is the perfect choice. On the other hand, if you will be traveling in the car for half a day before stopping for lunch, you will need a way to keep your food and drinks cold, so an insulated bag or basket will be necessary.  I have several different size traditional baskets I use regularly and I also have a couple sizes of soft insulated coolers that work great for longer trips.  I sometimes pack drinks and cold items in the cooler and all of my dinnerware, utensils and non-refrigerated items in a traditional basket.


3) Plates, Cups, Napkins, Silverware…etc

The Ultimate Picnic Guide

Okay, here’s where I sometimes get a little fancy…If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know I love a beautifully set table, and that sometimes extends to my picnics.  Don’t get me wrong, we use paper plates, cups and napkins often, but if we are picnicking close to home, I will often use regular glassware, plates and silverware.   There is something extra special about taking your indoor dinnerware outside and enjoying your food on “real” plates with “real” silverware.  I know this is not always practical, so I also have a variety of melamine plates that are lightweight and work great as an alternative to paper.


4) Serving Items & Food Containers

Ultimate Picnic Packing Guide

I always try to choose food that doesn’t require a lot of extras and can be easily packed and eaten, but I often find that I need a couple of essentials for packing and serving.  My absolute favorite food containers are Weck glass jars and bottles.  They come in many different sizes and shapes and are great for all different kinds of foods and drinks.  I also use mason jars in different shapes and sizes.

I also always bring a wood cutting board and a sharp knife.  Having a board to serve cheeses or cut bread is always a good idea and a small cutting board often fits right in the bottom of the picnic basket.


5) Keep it Comfortable

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Let’s be honest, it’s not always comfortable to sit on the ground for an extended period, so I usually bring a few items to make our picnic more comfy. A couple of small pillows, an extra throw blanket and a basket with bug spray and sunscreen are always appreciated.


6) Simple, Great Food

The Ultimate Picnic Guide

Great picnic food does not have to be complicated.  A couple of great cheeses and meats with a French baguette goes a long way.  I also often make a variety of sandwiches, cut in half and served on a wood board.  For a more hearty meal, I pack up a cut up rotisserie chicken and serve it room temperature, with a couple of deli salads.  If I have time and am feeling inspired I may make something more gourmet.  There are several great cookbooks with incredible ideas and recipes  for all kinds of different picnic meals.


Picnic Checklist

So with all of this in mind, what are the essentials for a great picnic…Below is a list of everything you might need for a picnic for two or a feast for a dozen.

1) A great blanket or two that can be used for a table cloth.  Folding chairs if you won’t be sitting on the ground.

2) An insulated bag or chest for cold items and a basket for dry items.  Reusable ice packs or baggies filled with ice.  (Having ice in baggies works great for serving cold drinks on the go)

3) Plates, Cups, Napkins and Silverware.

4) A cutting board, sharp knife and serving utensils.

5) A wine and bottle opener.

6) Pillows and throw blankets.

7) Bug spray, sunscreen and anti-itch cream…just in case

8) A trash bag and small baggies to store leftovers

9) Water – I often use a large thermos filled with ice and fresh water.

10) Yummy food and drinks!

So that’s it…everything you need to create an amazing picnic experience in any setting.  It doesn’t have to be complicated, but the simple act of packing up a meal and taking it on the road creates a completely new experience that can’t be replicated.  Each setting is different…every season brings something new and the memories that are made will last a lifetime!

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