Pack Your Own Picnic

For the love of those lazy summer gatherings, whether on the beach or at those vibey Kirstenbosch Summer Concerts, there is something so magical about sharing a picnic. When I think ‘picnic’, a picture perfect scene comes to mind, with one of those checkered blankets, a wicker basket packed full of delectable snacks and sandwiches; and flowing drinks of course. However, when it actually comes down to setting up the picnic, this illusion is more often than not shattered into a million tiny pieces. I dunno about you, but I always forget something – usually cups – so I end up drinking out the bottle (though not like I got no regrets!) So with the scent of summer hanging in the air, here are a few essentials to pack to ensure a pleasant picnic experience.

Let’s start with the basics

  • Picnic blanket (a waterproof picnic blanket – even better!) – check
  • Picnic basket (preferably easy to grab and big enough to fill with everything you need) – check

Now let’s talk food

While choosing a scrumptious spread that everyone will enjoy is a top priority, it’s also super important to consider packaging, storage, whether it will go bad and the amount of mess it may create. Here are a few go-to options:

  • Fresh and fragrant baguette rolls are always delightful to bite into, especially paired with spreads, preserves and for the love of cheesy goodness – a proper cheese platter.
  • If you are tired of the same-old sarmie, wraps can make things more interesting, especially when stuffed with yummy chicken mayo, tasty cold meats, colourful salads and flavourful sauces. Fish and boiled eggs are however a no-no, as they tend to go bad in the heat. When wrapped correctly, wraps are also super easy to grab and eat, with minimal mess involved. For extra convenience, you can even bundle your wraps in tin-foil, making them extra-effortless to enjoy.
  • Get creative with salad jars, which you can layer with all sorts of deliciously healthy ingredients. Couscous and pasta salads are also great options (and more likely to fill your belly).
  • Fruit salads and fruit kebabs are always a lovely addition to the picnic feast and are a great way to mix and match fruity flavours. The only teeny tiny problem is that cut fruit tends to go brown. Although lemon juice more often than not does the trick, sometimes whole fruit, such as bananas, apples, and grapes, is the better option.
  • Treat yourself to dessert. “I scream you scream, we all scream ice-cream!” A beach trip will certainly not be the same without ice-cream.
  • Snacks, snacks and more snacks. Yes, a picnic is not a picnic without an ample supply of snacks. Throw in packets of chips (veggie chips for the health freaks), biltong, nuts, dried fruit and why not even your all-time favourite sweets (for that guilty sweet-tooth).

Kitted out for drinks?

Packing enough water goes without saying, especially when the heat sets in. Homemade lemonade or iced-tea is the perfect fresh summery addition to your picnic basket. You can even shake up your own cocktail, punch or iced sangria (virgin, if no alcohol is permitted in the public area). If you are parked at a music or any enclosed event, pack in a sufficient supply of your booze of choice (without causing too much of a riot of course!)

With this in mind, here are a few extra things to consider when packing for your picnic:

  • So let’s start with keeping cold food cold (and drinks – you gotta have that cold one). While ice-packs are usually your go-to option; frozen bottles of water work just as well. And best of all, you can quench your thirst after they melted (hopefully after all the cold drinks and food have been consumed).
  • The last thing you want on a picnic is that moment when you realise you can’t open that bottle of wine or beer (my stomach is sinking just at the thought!). So, be sure to remember a corkscrew or bottle opener.
    Let’s not forget about drinking cups. While disposable cups are the convenient option, they are wreckers when it comes to creating plastic waste. Why not invest in reusable picnic cups?
  • There is nothing worse than sticky fingers – enough to ruin the enjoyment of that saucy wrap. At times like this, wet wipes or paper towels come in handy, keeping hands clean and fresh. Both are better options than a stack of paper napkins, which tend to blow away and land in the most awkward places (Yes, it’s happened to me too many times!)
  • If you’re sitting on the ground (a very likely scenario), I would suggest you bring along either a light-weight plastic or enamel tray. It helps to have a flat surface to place drinks on, so that they don’t topple over, create a mess and go to waste.
  • As we already established, a cheese platter is a definite must for a picnic feast. Serve on a lightweight cutting board and be sure to bring along a folding life to make slicing and eating that much easier.
    To add a touch of flavour to your food, it’s always nice to have salt and pepper.
    Throw in a trash bag to make your clean-up a breeze.

What do you consider when packing your own picnic? I’d like to know. Feel free to share in the comment section below.

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