This post was originally published on DIY Network’s blog Made + Remade in June 2012.
School’s out and picnic season is in, and with close proximity to lake and river waterfronts, we’d be remiss if we didn’t know how to throw together a quick and easy picnic on any given summer afternoon. As far as my rule book goes, picnicking itself should be easy. It should be fun. So this summer, I picked up a few new items that make me just want to go and picnic my little heart out every sunny day.
My take on picnicking isn’t solely on the food (I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a foodie, I like to keep it easy with hot dogs and a simple salad) but I do have some favorite tools of the picnicking trade. I think you’ll like them too.
Keep on reading to see picnicking Merrypad-style, and get a few tips to make your weekend picnic your own.
I spent many years carrying a bag of potato chips and a ham sandwich to the park in a recyclable tote bag, but this year I upgraded to a real basket. Found at a local garage sale, it was in great condition and only $2. Whether I care or not that the yellow/orange woven design (that actually does look more brown here) is exactly my taste isn’t important, but it’s huge and functional, and when you’re planning a picnic with the works, it works.
I made another investment in melamine plates and plastic tumblers. Accessibility to these unbreakable, dishwashable, and fun dinnerware sets has increased a lot in the past few years, and it was an easy decision for me to invest in these recyclable sets instead of relying on flimsy paper plates to hold the hamburger and pasta salad at my picnic dinner. Too many lost hot dogs, too many drizzled fruit salad juice. Are you with me? My little set is from Target, and with each item priced at $1.99, the $16 investment that’s sure to last multiple seasons was a smart one. And don’t get me started with the pink and yellow theme, these pieces emanate my favorite ombre design happiness and, I’m quite sure, make me a better human being.
If I’m using better-than-paper dinnerware, I may as well add in my own silverware. What’s easier than pulling a few sets from the kitchen drawer and strapping them cleanly right to the inside of the basket lid? If you’re retrofitting an informal basket to become your picnic carry-all, definitely consider adding a strip of elastic somewhere to keep your accessories under control… this strip is stapled on every inch along the elastic, and it works wonderfully. Rather than knives, I usually just bring some plastic spatulas to spread mustard and relish. There may be a “strap down your flatware, it’s going to be a wild picnic” joke somewhere in there too, if you’re browsing this post for the funnies.
Everyone’s picnic style differs, as does accessibility to grills. For awhile, I carried my own little gas grill with me when setting up for a picnic because it wasn’t too heavy, but I have better access to charcoal grill space at a park near my current house so I usually include a paper bag filled with charcoal briquets and some otherwise-garbage newspaper to get the party started.
If you’re looking to feed more than a dozen people, you might consider making it a BYOC picnic (Bring Your Own Charcoal), because that stuff can get heavy quick.
If you’re feeling like carrying one extra thing for a charcoal-infused picnic, consider getting a charcoal chimney just for the picnicking occasion. Not only does it accelerate the speed in which the charcoal reddens, but it keeps the whole process neat, eliminates the need for carrying bottles of lighter fluid, and prepares the coals very evenly.
If you’re one to grill in your own backyard with charcoal often, you might also want one of these. Priced at just $14, it’s a wonderful addition to the grilling arsenal.
I discovered some new storage containers at the store this spring that I swiped right up; the brand, Snapware, fulfills my dream of being able to stack various containers together so that you don’t need to have 16 different small plastic containers threatening to spill inside your basket. They’re just the right size to bring individually prepared sandwiches, chips, or dessert. Or some X-marks-the-hot-dog.
I bought two sets of containers (four containers that snap together vertically) and all of those layers make it easy to bring a lot along. I even have a tendency to stick frozen meats inbetween the layers to keep other foods chilled if we’re not going to be eating immediately, case in point here, where I have a package of frozen sausages subtly chilling the dogs from below.
Not shown, one of my favorite multi-purposeful tips for keeping the food cold is investing in a set of those plastic-encased ice cubes, the ones that are filled with liquid but never “melt” into your drink. If you layer those in amongst your foods, you’ll keep the food cold and also have indestructible ice cubes when you’re looking to chill your beverage!
For things that need to be more liquid-sealed, I turn to traditional Pyrex-type storage, something with a tight lid, and on occasion, I’ll make my salad on-site too so that it seems fresh. Again, not a particular person when it comes to my food choices, but I do like a nice fresh bean/tomato/avocado salad made to taste.
On-site, what’s easier than using an old table cloth as a blanket in the grass?
Time to get our picnicking on.
Who else celebrates summer with regular picnics with family and friends? Any good tips to share on how you keep your picnics simple and successful?