Summer’s here, moms. It’s going to be hot, and the kids are going to be home all day long. I do not want to be slaving over a hot stove (in a house that has no AC) after a long day with bickering kids around my waist and a toddler who is constantly trying to sneak Otter Pops out of the freezer. My friends, these are the days that are perfect for throwing together a picnic and marching everybody to our neighborhood park. It solves all of
my those problems! Let me share a few tips for having a fun picnic with your family.
Where to Picnic
Your picnicking destination can be wherever your heart desires, but a few things to consider: first, what will your family enjoy? Something wide open, for running and games, or a playground for younger ones, or even next to a natural area that has hiking trails? And secondly, how hungry is everybody when you depart? If the destination you had in mind is a bit of a drive, be prepared for the aroma of your dinner to fill your vehicle to make everyone SUPER hungry…and maybe cranky. (Or maybe that’s just us.) It might be better to stay close to home, and luckily here in the Portland metro area neighborhood parks are (usually) a quick trip.
What to Eat
As far as food is concerned, feel free to pack the foods that your family already loves–you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. If you are still looking for inspiration, I’ve got a few tips.
There are some things that are prohibitively difficult to bring to a picnic. Soups don’t fare well to all the sloshing and are heavy anyway. And unless you have the benefit of a grill, it’s hard to serve things that are piping hot.
My go-to, super easy picnic meal is just a meat and cheese tray served with crackers or bread and some fruits and veggies. Keep it on ice and it’s good to go. Everyone loves it and it’s no fuss.
Sandwiches or wraps are also standard picnic fare since they’re simple and tasty. I’ve made these Chicken Enchilada Roll-ups and they turned out pretty good, but chill them before slicing so they hold up better. I’ve also done muffaletta-type sandwiches, which are certainly interesting. And a party sub sandwich is always a safe bet.
Another meal your kids will think is so cool is skewered food. I’ve seen lots of ideas on Pinterest for this kind of thing: cubes or rounds of cheese, meats, tomatoes, olives, tortellini, etc. on a stick. Really, you can put most things on a stick. Except soup, which is another reason you should not bring soup to your family’s picnic. But I digress. You can do fruit kabobs or dessert kabobs or actual shish kabobs. Kabob it up.
In the end, picnicking is not really about the food, but about the time spent with your loved ones. So if the thought of food prep and packing stresses you out, don’t feel guilty for grabbing take-out instead. Just be present with your family.
If you or your significant other choose to bring adult beverages, make sure you know what the rules are at your destination. Many parks do not allow alcoholic beverages, and it’s best to keep glass off of the beach.
What supplies you’ll need depends upon the facilities present and what exactly it is you are eating. Bringing a old blanket is a good backup if it turns out that there are no picnic tables present (or available), even if it ends up staying in the car. Don’t forget the plates and utensils, if necessary. Everyone appreciates cold beverages on a hot day. Baby wipes are your best friend, so bring them along too. They are a godsend for cleaning up greasy fried-chicken fingers or a face dripping with fruit juice. If you’d rather go with the reusable route, pack a wet washcloth in a plastic (or washable PUL) bag. Bring extra water. So basic. So essential. (And I always forget it.) And always remember the sunscreen!
Eat, Play, Enjoy
Eat first or play first? That’s entirely up to you and how your family works. For instance, my kids would never eat if we didn’t make them sit down and have a meal first. Plus, it’s an extension of our dinnertimes at home where we all eat together. So it works for us to do it this way. But whatever you do, make sure you play, too! At our last picnic, my husband and I played tag with our older two kids on the (mostly) empty playground, while our amused toddler watched us from the baby swings. It was a ton of fun and I don’t think I’ve seen my eight year old so happy in a long time.
In the end, the best advice I have for you is also the preparation instructions for the best picnic foods: Chill & Enjoy!