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
Cool Bag(s) or boxes
Blocks (keep them frozen in the freezer)
Picnic rug, plastic sheet or beach mats
Cork Screw and bottle opener
Cutlery including serving utensils and
a bread knife
Plates - plastic, paper
Thermos Flask - useful for both hot and cold
Glasses or Plastic cups
napkins and/or Kitchen Roll
Several spare carrier bags for putting rubbish in
Sunscreen and/or hats
Sting relief cream, antiseptic wipes, plasters,
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
There are so many recipes suitable for picnics that we have a whole section dedicated to picnic
recipes. Click here for
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
Side Salads |