The key to a good picnic menu usually lies in keeping it simple. It doesn’t pay to be too ambitious or to assume that recipes which work well at home will be just as good in the open air.
Delicate flavours can be lost eating al fresco. Fresh gutsy flavours make the meal more exciting. Simple fare, but lots of it, is better than anything too rich.
Remember to plan picnic food ideas according to likes & dislikes, age-group, mode of travel and the weather. Take into account too that people seem to have larger appetites outdoors, especially if the day includes active games, a walk, hike or other activity.
The weight of the meal is particularly important if you are traveling by public transport, hiking or using bicycles for example. You might even need lightweight, high energy food such as fruit and nut bars, dried fruit and cheese.
Drinks are normally the heaviest, yet an essential part, of a picnic.
Water is the best option in many instances. Only take other beverages along as well if you can carry them easily or perhaps buy them near the end of your journey.
If you must have wine, leave your best bottles at home and put cheap and cheerful plonk on the picnic menu. If there’s going to be just one choice, then go for something like a dry rosé – chilled at home in the fridge and then kept in coolers with ice packs.
Cartons are easier to transport, although may not look so aesthetically pleasing! You don't need a corkscrew and they are lighter and safer to carry.
Juicy apples will help to freshen a dry mouth and are a useful addition to picnic menus on a hot or exercise-filled day.
Watermelon recipes, whether savoury or sweet, will also aid dehydration.
A quick, impromptu, snack can be whipped up easily if you have a well-stocked kitchen cupboard. Day-trip food should be easy to make and easy to eat - and, of course, it must travel well, even if it has to be in a cool box or bag.
If time is at a premium and depending of course on where you live, you can also take advantage of the vast range of ready-prepared foodstuffs available in the supermarkets and local delicatessens.
Ready-prepared foodstuff can certainly help you create a quick lunch. You can put together an entire meal just from the available selections of pies, terrines, cooked meats and antipasta. Add a bag of pre-washed salad, some pre-cut crudités, and a nice crusty loaf of bread and there you have it!
However, I like to encourage you to prepare you own food so take a look at my list of recipes for picnics and see what most appeals.
Lots of dishes can be arranged as finger food, so you don't have to worry about separate plates or cutlery. You will need containers and platters though.
Or why not learn how to barbecue, or refresh your bbq skills, and put grilled food on the picnic menu? Easy for a backyard or garden picnic - or a park where a bbq is provided - and not too difficult if you have transport to carry a portable bbq.
I have included lots of barbecue recipes in the site to give you some easy ideas.
For evening events and cool weather picnics, a warming soup will be welcome, served in a mug, or perhaps a hot casserole from a wide-necked Thermos flask. It is difficult to keep pasta, rice or potatoes hot so it is better to pack bread to accompany.
Hot drinks and soups should be heated a maximum of 4 - 5 hours before they are required. Rinse the vacuum flask with boiling water first to improve heat retention. Do not add milk to hot tea in the flask or you will spoil the flavour. Carry cold milk in a separate container to add when serving.
For something sweet to finish, choose a dessert which can be packed and unpacked easily. I would go for some really nice fresh fruit again - such as strawberries or raspberries and cream, or sliced fresh peaches or pineapple with a dash of liqueur.
You can take cakes that will withstand a journey but forget meringues, rich chocolate cakes or other gooey concoctions.
If you want to add cheese to your meal on a warm day, choose a soft selection which will withstand some heat. Most hard cheeses will turn oily in the sun and look very unappetising.
To summarise then, I suggest you pack simple, flavoursome food but not too many choices. You don’t want to be constantly passing things round.
Your day out should be a relaxed affair with an easy to recognise, wholesome, picnic menu.
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