There is just something about picnics I can’t get enough of! It likely comes from the fond memories I have of picking wildflowers and picnicking with my mother, grandmother and brother in the mountains. Picnics offer scenery that can’t be found in any restaurant and give you the option of curating the day’s menu to your liking.
So if you’re wondering what to pack for the perfect picnic, look no further! The following recipes tuck away snugly and are durable enough to make it to the picnic blanket at your favorite spot. I also share some of my tips for ensuring a perfect picnic.
Perfect Picnic Sandwiches
Pork Belly BLT with Roasted Garlic and Sage Aioli + Heirloom Tomatoes, Avocado and Butter Lettuce
Avocado + Dill Chicken Salad Sandwich
Or maybe this Avocado + Dill Chicken Salad Sandwich is more to your liking?
Why not make them both and give your picnic a bit of variety!
Or try turning these sandwiches into wraps to make them even easier to eat on a picnic. I really like these Rosemary & Olive Oil Wraps by Mission Foods!
Need more inspiration + ideas? Check out this post by The Spruce Eats on the 15 Best Picnic Sandwiches.
Salads + Sides
Tired of the usual boring macaroni salad and potato chips? Here are some of my recommendations for sides to help take your picnic from hum drum to WOW!
While my spread above may be a bit overboard for packing up and taking on the go, a charcuterie board is a fun choice for picnic fare. Make a list of your favorite finger foods and choose a few that go together – like pickles, cheese crisps and salami.
I suggest choosing one item to focus on and building around that. For example, if you have an abundance of fresh peaches try using those as your starting point. Peaches pair great with light cheeses, tomatoes and fresh herbs, as well as nuts.
Peach + Tomato Salad with Homemade Herbed Ricotta
Try adding peaches to this simple Tomato Salad with Homemade Herbed Ricotta and you may forget to eat anything else! Ricotta is beyond easy to make and it blows the store bought version out of the water. I would suggest adding fresh basil to your ricotta for this salad.
To make, simply de-seed and roughly chop your tomatoes then cut your peaches to a similar size. Sprinkle sparingly with salt and drizzle lightly with a high quality balsamic vinegar and set to the side to meld. Meanwhile, make the quick homemade ricotta and flavor with fresh herb(s) of your choice. Then roughly chop some pistachios and reserve for topping the salad before serving.
Roasted Garlic + Sage Aioli Dip
Or if you have a wealth of crunchy veggies (think carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers) on hand, make my Roasted Garlic + Sage Aioli for a perfect picnic dip! It can double as a sandwich spread too. Then add a cheese to the menu that’s not too overpowering, like Gruyere, and grab some seeded crackers.
Broccoli Salad with Cranberries + Walnuts
Unlike a traditional potato salad, which tends not to fare well in the heat, my Broccoli Salad with Cranberries and Walnuts is the obvious choice for your next picnic. Just be careful as it tends to steal the spotlight!
Since trying to pack something like punch or a cocktail sounds like a bit of a logistical nightmare I would stick to pre-packaged beverages for picnicking ease.
Make sure to first check the local laws of wherever you will be picnicking before planning to bring any alcoholic beverages. If it is allowed and you are so inclined, I would recommend keeping it simple.
Grab a growler from a local brewery (make sure to bring cups) or pick up your favorite bottled beer. To keep your brew chilled, I suggest grabbing a few of the bottle keepers below. (affiliate link)
My mother got me one as a gift and it turned out to be more useful than I thought. They keep your beer cold, help prevent spills and have a handy bottle opener built into the lid! Not to mention they look super stealth.
If wine is your preference that’s a great option too – with the right preparations! I would suggest getting a wine skin (affiliate link) so you don’t have to bring the bottle or an opener. Additionally insulated mugs with a lid, like the ones below, are a great option to keep your wine safe on uneven ground. (affiliate link)
Always make sure to have plenty of water or access to some. You may choose to bring some lemon slices to freshen up your water!
My favorite beverage for picnics are Izze Sparkling Juices because they have no preservatives or added sugar and they can be found at most grocery stores. Plus they come in great flavors for a picnic. Who doesn’t want a cold Sparkling Cherry Lime juice now? (affiliate link below)
This is one of the few times I’ll advocate to keep desserts simple! Don’t try to bring anything that needs whipped cream or sauces as you’ll just become a sticky mess when you try to serve them.
Mixed Fruit Salad
This is a great time to toss together whatever fresh fruit you have on hand and call it dessert! It’s hard to go wrong with any combination and who doesn’t love fruit?
Best Buttery Berry Scones
If you fee like you need a baked good you could rely on cookies to save the day – or you could be a real hero and bring my Best Buttery Berry Scones!
Accessories + Equipment
As an event coordinator, I learned to always be prepared…or maybe that’s what made me a good coordinator to begin with! 🙂 Either way, I don’t tend to leave home without certain things and a picnic is certainly the place to make sure to be prepared. My motto is “better safe than sorry!”
You can put one together with items from around your house like – matches, a few bandaids, antiseptic ointment, insect sting wipes or cream, pain relievers, benedryl, tissues, hand wipes and tweezers – or you can purchase a kit like the one below. (affiliate link)
Blankets or Chairs
Make sure you pack a couple of blankets so you have ample room to spread out and still set out the food. They make great blankets that are water resistant and can be stored in their own pouch! (affiliate link below)
If you need more support I recommend trying out a portable stadium seat like the one below. (affiliate link)
Baskets or Totes
The pile of totes you have lying around will work just fine for packing up your perfect picnic, but if you want the full experience I recommend purchasing a true picnic basket. Find one, like below, that comes with serving sets included – this way packing up is a breeze!
Or if you are looking for a more durable and practical solution, they make amazing picnic backpacks that include food coolers and anything else you may need! (affiliate link below)
Additional Picnic Items
Don’t forget things like your sunglasses or sunblock – you’re sure to regret it and may be forced to borrow someone else’s.
Also, if there is a chance you will encounter unwelcome insects make sure you bring bug spray or a bug repelling band like below. (affiliate link) I sometimes like to bring a small citronella candle – if the location and time of year permits.
Serving + Storing
Cups, cutlery and serving items will all depend on what you are brining on your picnic. Try to think through the needs of each dish and pack accordingly. I always bring extra forks, cups and plates just in case. And roll of paper towels can be used for both cleaning and napkins!
I prefer to use reusable silicone kitchen bags (like below, affiliate link) to pack all my picnic items in, that way it’s not such a waste of single use plastics.
While it can be a real joy to bring pets on a picnic, they can also ruin the perfect picnic without intending to. Our furry friends are hard to leave at home, but when you’re eating on the ground it’s hard for some animals to understand they aren’t invited. This can quickly become a problem if you are spending the whole time fending off fido from stealing your Pork Belly BLT! And even worse is if someone else is left to constantly shoo your dog away from their spread. My furry friend pictured above only stayed for a few minutes of that picnic so we got the best of both worlds. 🙂
So it isn’t a hard no to pets, but be mindful of the temperament of the animal you want to bring along and the circumstances of where you will be picnicking. If it’s going to be hot with little access to shade and water, your pet might be happier at home. Overheating is just one of the reasons that Rick is only invited to attend picnics in his own backyard – much to his dismay.
If you do end up bringing your well-behaved fur buddy along, don’t forget about their food and beverage needs too! Have plenty of fresh water on hand, a bowl – the collapsable ones are great to keep in your car or attach to your backpack (affiliate link below) – and some treats so they don’t have to beg for scraps of your food.