Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tips for an Easy and Fun Picknic

Everybody loves to spend some extra time outdoors while the weather is warm. One way my family loves to do this is to pack a quick picnic and head to the park or the pool. I have worked out a system for doing this through trial and error. The trial part being that for about a year (before my daughter was born) every day my son and I would pack a picnic lunch and take it to my husband at work. We would head to a nearby park and enjoy some extra family time during his lunch break. (I really need to start doing this again, though it's really hard to coordinate the two kids naps right now)

There were several tricks I learned that made this possible.

1. Always have a zip-topped bag of napkins, plastic forks and spoons, and paper plates stashed right by your cooler. If you use condiments like ketchup, save extra packets from fast food places and keep some of those in the bag too. That way you can just toss that bag in the cooler and don't have to remember to pack each thing you'll need.

2. A word about coolers... smaller is better! We have a large lunchbox-sized one that works well and takes up minimal room in the car. I've also had my eye on a large soft-sided freezer bag from Sams Club that folds up nice, and has the added utility of toting freezer items home from the wholesale and big box stores. (I drive 35 min to both of those) Having a smaller cooler to tote makes getting everything in and out of the car much easier, and also allows your kids to participate in more of the work. It's also a good idea to have some of those re-usable ice packs ready to go in the freezer. That way the food in your cooler doesn't get wet as the ice melts.

3. Ah the food! Many things I've discovered make packing the food easier. If you can, buy single servings, and if not, break things down into single servings. Things like yogurt cups, and apple sauce cups travel very well, and the disposable nature helps the packing up process. Try to avoid easily crushed items like chips and bread. Go for nuts, pretzels and boxed crackers, if possible. Consider cheese, beef stick and crackers, instead of the typical sandwich. Kids will have fun putting the mini-sandwich crackers together, and they won't get smooshed or soggy on the way. Cold chicken, tuna salad, and the like are also great choices. (Greek Turkey Salad is great on crackers!) If you're packing a lettus salad assemble it together before you go, but keep the salad dressing on the side until you're ready to eat. (save those fast food packets!) Another great veggie option is carrots or celery dipped in peanut butter! Fruit is always great to take on a picnic. Grapes, apples, bananas, and plums travel well if packed at the top of the cooler. And they make a cool and refreshing finish to the outdoor meal!

Other items you may need:
  1. Sunblock
  2. Insect Spray
  3. A Ball or Frisbee to throw
  4. Sun-hats
  5. First-Aid kit, including something for bee stings
  6. A Picknick Blanket
  7. A Camera!