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Ideas, tips, advice and picnic recipes for perfect picnics and al fresco eating



Jump to:-   Equipment  |  Packing Picnics  |  Picnic-friendly foods  |  Picnic Ideas  |  Food Safety  |  Recipes



Picnics are a fun and pleasurable  way to spend a few hours on a warm summer's day or evening and whether in the back yard, local park, countryside or on the beach, with little effort, they can be as simple or elaborate as you like. Below is all the information you'll ever need for perfect picnics.


Picnic Equipment


If you like having picnics, especially spur of the moment ones,  you may find it easier to put much your picnic things in one big bag or box and keep it somewhere out of the way, such as under the stairs, on top of a wardrobe, in the garage or even in the boot of the car so you're not rushing around to find things.


Packing your Picnic


Place sturdier foods at the bottom of the box or basket and more fragile foods at the top. Extra care should be taken with foods that are easily crushed such as pies, wedges of quiche and sandwiches, in  rigid plastic (Tupperware) containers. You can also put fresh salad into plastic bags then seal them well, making sure you have enough air inside the bags to form a "balloon" which will help protect the delicate salad leaves.


Put all the foods which have to be kept cool in a separate cool box/bag and all the non-perishable items such as plates, cutlery, napkins and condiments in another bag or box.  Fresh fruit, crisps and bread can also be placed at the top of the non-perishable bag.

If you are taking desserts such as jelly or crème caramels, take them in their moulds as these will protect them during transport.

Make sure drinks are well-sealed before you pack them as leaks can happen very easily, especially if the bottles are being rattled about during the journey.

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When using plastic ice blocks, space them out in the cool bag/box, preferably around the edges and keep the bag/box out of direct sunlight both during the journey and, if possible, at the picnic site.

If you don't have any plastic ice blocks, you can easily just use ice cubes well sealed in a sturdy plastic bag or container. Alternatively,  freeze water or non-fizzy drinks in plastic bottles and place in your picnic bags/boxes. Not only will they help keep the food cool but they will also provide cool drinks later on once they have thawed.  NB do not fill plastic bottles right to the top as the liquid will expand during freezing. NEVER freeze fizzy drinks or tins  as these can explode.

Place other non-edibles such as sunscreen or insect repellents  in a sealed clear,  plastic bag away from foodstuffs.


Here's a simple checklist to make sure you remember everything you may need

  •     Cool Bag(s) or boxes

  •     Plastic Ice Blocks (keep them frozen in the    freezer)

  •     Picnic rug, plastic sheet or beach mats

  •     Tablecloth

  •     Cork Screw and bottle opener

  •     Cutlery including serving utensils and a bread knife

  •     Plates - plastic,  paper or china 

  •     Thermos Flask - useful for both hot and cold drinks

  •     Glasses or Plastic cups

  •    Wet wipes

  •    Salt and Pepper

  •     Paper napkins and/or Kitchen Roll

  •     Aluminium Foil

  •     Several spare carrier bags for putting rubbish in

  •     Sunscreen and/or hats

  •     Sting relief cream, antiseptic wipes, plasters, mosquito spray 


Picnic-friendly foods


With the myriad of specialist equipment on the market today, there are actually very few foods which can't be safely transported for a picnic as can be seen in the "picnic ideas" section below.  However,  there are still some foods which lend themselves more readily to picnics.


Finger foods

Foods which can be eaten without the need of cutlery is the first obvious choice. Sandwiches, rolls, baguettes,  savoury quiches, mini pasties, hard-boiled eggs, frittatas, chicken drumsticks, crisps and vegetable batons with a dip make perfect picnic finger food.  On the sweet side, individual tarts, muffins, cupcakes, tray-cakes and fresh fruit all make great picnic desserts.


Fork or Spoon Foods

If you are prepared to supply a fork and/or spoon, you will have a much wider choice of foods.  Salads make a welcome addition to most picnics. These include fresh salads, pasta, bulgur, noodle and rice salads, potato salad, bean and pulses, such as chickpeas and coleslaw. Desserts such as yoghurts, jellies, mousses and cheesecake can also be included.


Add a knife

And the choice is almost limitless. Cold Meats such as ham, salami, chicken, corned beef or pâté can be easily served and eaten as are fish items such as poached salmon, prawns, smoked salmon, sardines or smoked mackerel.  Cheese and bread or biscuits make a wonderful alternative to a sweet dessert.



Picnic Ideas


Spur of the Moment Picnic

sometimes the reality of a perfect summer's day is all the encouragement one needs to have a picnic, whether it's in the back garden, local park or further afield. Picnics needn't be elaborate affairs. Simply  pack up some fresh bread, sliced meats such as salami, ham or prosciutto, some cheese, fresh fruit or yoghurts for dessert plus something to drink and you're ready for the off.


Kid's Picnic

Children love picnics, especially if there's a wide choice of goodies to eat. Choose lots of finger foods such as sausage rolls, small chicken drumsticks, mini Cornish pasties, sandwiches, crisps, mini tarts, cupcakes and biscuits plus some healthier salads or fresh vegetable batons such as celery, cucumber and carrots plus a dip or two and fresh fruit, jellies or yoghurts. Make sure you take plenty of drinks, including water.


A change of clothes is also a good idea especially if you're taking water pistols or picnicking near water, and don't forget some games or a ball or two to ensure they don't get bored. Sunscreen is also a must.


Adult Picnic

Quiches, sliced meats, pâté, frittatas, chicken drumsticks and pasta or potato salads make a good basis for adult picnics.  Other salads made with grains such as bulgur or pulses such as chickpeas add a little more interest, especially if dressed with a well flavoured oil based dressing rather than mayonnaise.  Add some fresh salads with a well seasoned salad dressing in a separate jar or a fresh salsa and your savouries are complete. Desserts such as cheesecakes, fruit tarts and mousses go down well plus some brie or camembert both of which benefit from being at a warmer temperature, with French bread or biscuits.


On the drinks front, wine is the easiest to serve but you can also serve cocktail-type drinks such as Pimm's which make a nice change and can be more refreshing on a hot day. Make sure the mixers e.g. lemonade or ginger ale are really cold or take a large bag of ice which can double up as a coolant in your picnic box or cool bag.


Posh Picnic

These can be as elaborate as you like and work well when served as you would a dinner party.  Choose items such as smoked salmon, slices of vegetable terrine, pate or goat's cheese with rocket as a starter served with champagne.  Cold roast beef, cooked marinated chicken breasts,  poached salmon or raised game pie make excellent main courses. Crisp green salads or grain salads dressed with a herb vinaigrette make good accompaniments along with French bread or dinner rolls, all washed down with good quality red or white wine.  Desserts with a touch of alcohol add to the decadence, as do individual desserts such as Panna Cotta or crème caramel  finishing off with Stilton (or other) cheese served with port.


BBQ Picnic

The advent of portable throw-away barbecues has opened up the opportunity of having a barbecue picnic. However, thought should be given as to the picnic site and only wide open spaces should be chosen to avoid the smoke upsetting other nearby picnickers.  Although many of these small bbqs say they'll burn for 1½ hours, it's best to limit yourself to relatively quickly cooked items such as burgers, kebabs, fish, steaks and vegetables .... and don't forget to take along accompaniments such as salads and breads. Long cooling drinks are perfect for bbq picnics.



Food Safety


As most foods should to be eaten within an hour or two of being removed from the fridge you'll need a cool bag or cool box plus some reusable plastic ice blocks to transport your chilled foods safely. If you don't have ice blocks you can improvise by using large bags of ice which can double up for use in drinks or you can freeze small bottles of water or diluted squash which you can then pack in the cool bag/box of food and which can be drunk later once they've started to thaw. 


Leave foods in the fridge until the very last moment, then transfer to the cool bag or box (see packing your picnic above) and try to keep out of the sun as much as possible.


When eating outdoors, try to keep food covered. Not only will it protect foods from crawling and flying insects and other animals, but it will also afford it some shade if you're sitting in full sun. Tin foil is very useful for covering food as it can be tucked underneath so it won't get blown away.


Drinks - We don't want to be a bore about alcohol however, when faced with a glorious sunny day, lazing around on the grass,  it's all too easy to forget and have a couple of drinks with friends and family.  PLEASE designate the driver before the picnic begins and don't be tempted to drink and drive.


Summer Frittata

Chickpea & Tomato Salad

Picnic Recipes


There are so many recipes suitable for picnics that we have a whole section dedicated to picnic recipes. Click here for Picnic Recipes.


Just to get you started, here are a couple of Recipes4us videos showing how to make two excellent picnic dishes: summer frittata and chickpea and tomato salad.


You can view them here in small format or, for the full size videos visit our Cooking Videos page.


You might also wish to visit  the following sections for extra suitable recipes 


Flans and Tarts   |   BBQs   |   Side Salads  |   Salsas



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