As much as I love to plan out elaborate picnic menus and day dream a new “pinterest-worthy” recipe, my favorite moments are when we decide to picnic “spare of the moment.” Life is spontaneous right? I always try to keep a few picnic essentials in the trunk of my car for whenever hunger strikes. However, sometimes I am caught completely off-guard. It’s moments like these when I resort to the one-stop picnic provisions run.
You can find most of these items at your typical grocery store or maybe even a local farmer's market. When traveling I like to find a local gourmet food shop because they usually have the BEST recommendations for good local picnic spots.
Here’s the ground rules: no cooking required and the only prep work is slicing and spreading. This is perfect if you are on your way to a good picnicking spot. Also in our house, this is our go-to for a hot summer night when you want to just be lazy.
Start with a Good Bread
Bread is the ideal grab and go food, and all good picnics start with a loaf or two as a good base. I like to recommend a crusty baguette, sliced thin and ready to be the base of an open-faced sandwich. Most grocery stores have fresh-baked loaves right in the bakery section.
Select a Cheese or Two… or Three
Keep building on the picnic spread by selecting a few specialty cheeses. I usually recommend a hard cheese (like Cheddar) and a soft, creamy cheese (like Camembert or Brie) to start. If you’re shopping for a cheese-loving crowd, add in a mix of Gouda, Bleu, Gruyere or Parmesan. To switch things up, I also like adding a cheese that spreads easily on bread (like Alouette or Laughing Cow).
Pack in Some Protein
Smoked, cooked or cured meats are great for picnicking. I usually like to pack salami or sopressata because it pairs well with most cheeses and you can make an open-faced sandwich with the sliced bread. Whatever you select, when buying perishable ingredients, you always want to make sure you store it safely while traveling to your picnic site. This is when portable coolers come in really handy!
Add some crunch
You can also add some texture to your picnic spread with a variety of crackers. When picking out crackers, you’ll want to think about how they will pair with any dips or cheeses that you are serving. I love basic water crackers because they pair well with so many different types of food, but the sky’s the limit when it comes to picking out your favorite.
Don't Forget the Dip!
Dips are essential picnic food in my opinion. You'll need something to spread on that bread and dip those crackers or chips into. With bread, I love to bring along a little bottle of olive oil or roasted red pepper dip. With chips, try a new salsa or pair pita chips with tzatziki. Hummus is also a good option because it's fairly easy to purchase at any grocery store and transport in the container to your picnic site.
Grab Some Crudités
Crunchy crudités are a must-have in my picnic vocabulary. Most markets have celery sticks and carrots pre-cut for you. This option is super handy, but I also love to bring radishes, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, cucumber or baby bell peppers. Just make sure that you purchase veggies that are easy to eat, pre-sliced or you've brought along a knife to cut your veggies for serving.
Sweeten things up
Fruit is the ultimate picnic food! If you're going straight from store to picnic, pick out fruits that are easy to eat or don't need slicing. Sometimes stores will have pre-cut watermelon or pineapples available too - so get creative! Apples, cherries, nectarines, plums, blueberries and bananas are always good options too. Just be sure to keep raspberries/strawberries in a cool place so that they don't get squishy.
Opt for add-ins
You can keep it simple or add in extras like olives, pickles or sun-dried tomatoes. Herbs are also great to add in extra color! If serving a Mediterranean assortment, I love adding in some basil or oregano leaves. Some flowers (like nasturtiums) are also edible too!
Decide on Dessert
Why not treat yourself? Most stores will have pre-baked goodies ready to grab and go. I love bringing along cookies, brownies or meringues. If it's a hot day, just keep in mind that frosting and chocolate will melt pretty easily and make a big mess. Better to save that for inside snacking!
Don't forget that you'll need some beverages to wash those delicious goodies down. Grab some water bottles or iced teas to-go.
Pairing your picnic with wine or beer also makes the occasion feel extra special. We have some recommendations here.
Before leaving the store, be sure to grab any additional essentials that you'll need to make your picnic comfortable. Some stores also have a dine-in area, and you can grab some utensils there so you don't have to buy a whole box of plastic spoons. Here's a quick checklist to avoid those "oops I forgot the..." moments. (And PS if that happens... no worries, I've been there too)
- utensils (spoons, forks, knives)
- cups, if needed
- napkins or a paper towel roll
- trash bag or a spare shopping bag for clean up
- hand sanitizer
- corkscrews/openers, if needed for wine or beer
- bug spray, depending on where you are going
- sunscreen, if going to a sunny spot
- a picnic blanket, if you're going to a spot that doesn't have picnic tables
Need some more packing tips? Stay tuned as we add more picnic resources or reach out to us @picnicperfectco.