Picnic Like It's Catered
Something about eating anywhere but the kitchen table makes food seem so exotic to my kids. They frequently beg for picnics during the summer, and I like to say yes just to watch them clap.
But unless you live in a picnic-ready culture, it can feel like a daunting task to prepare one- and leave you feeling more like a Sherpa than the hostess with the mostess. Here’s a few ways to feel ready to head out on a food-venture at a moment’s notice- and to keep your kids from those cranky blood sugar crashes so frequent during the warmer months. Always having food at the ready can prevent literal “Meltdowns”.
Keep a variety of sweet and salty snacks pre-packaged in the pantry in a bin. I spend 20 minutes on a Saturday throwing some pretzels and vanilla wafers in sandwich bags, and am set for the week. If you’re short on time, grab the lunch sized packages at your local big box store. Then, keep a variety of them in a reusable bag by the front door, ready to grab and go for the pool.
Fill up water bottles at the beginning of each day and keep them in the fridge. We’re partial to the kid-awesome designs of Camelbak. Your kids stay hydrated, and you’re keeping it green.
Always chill those ice coldy-things in the freezer- just buy a bunch at the beginning of the summer and let the frigid times flow. They can chill fruit, drinks, whatever, but are essential for a summer picnic.
Keep a basket with a picnic blanket, a set of reusable dishes and flatware, napkins, and some low chairs in your trunk or minivan. Then, even if you’re not in a picnic-friendly area per se, you’re still feeling like the Queen of England. “Pass the crumpets, dahling? Why, YES, with that fork would be lovely!” Something about having dishes outside makes it official. I also tote trash bags for stowing used dishes and picnic debris.
Stock up on seasonal fruit and have it in single containers in the fridge, ready to head out into nature. We keep bags of Rainier Cherries, Bing Cherries, Watermelon balls, and cantaloupe balls ready to throw on ice and into a vinyl cooler.
Speaking of which- have a set of smaller, soft sided coolers that are long handled and easy to tote. I’m partial to the Ice Ice Baby, by BungalowCo. I make them a home in the kitchen for the summer, so I never have to go far to fill them up. (I’m extremely lazy by nature, the less steps in a day to feed myself, the better.:)
Bake once a week and freeze it. Some banana bread, or zucchini bread, just something with a home-made vibe to pull out of the freezer and toss into the front seat. It’ll defrost as you work up an appetite- by the time you’re ready for it, it’ll be moist and feel fresh from the oven. (Psssst…not a baker? Hit your local Farmer’s Market and grab some of their loaves- no one will know but you.)
Like so much of food prep, picnics involve a slight up-front investment in equipment and a little bit of forethought. But once you nail down your system, you’ll be the envy of the pool moms. Enjoy!