Among the many joys of warmer weather is the freedom to take your family’s meal and move it outside to enjoy the longer days, great company, and all the fresh food that summer gatherings have to offer. Follow these simple tips to make the most of the time you’ll be dining al fresco.
Pack the Right Picnic Food
Sure, you can haul a giant cooler to that secret spot at the park, but we’re certain your time and energy would be better spent showing off your impressive frisbee backhand throws. Practice good food safety by tucking ready-to-eat fruits, prepared salads, and pantry-friendly foods into your picnic basket.
Storing prepared foods in mason jars not only adds a charming detail to your picnic, it also seals your food in airtight containers to keep things fresh and prevent hungry bugs from snacking on your edibles. If you bring perishable food, be sure to pack enough ice in the cooler to keep things from spoiling, and never leave perishable food out for more than two hours.
Nothing can spoil a picnic like trekking out to the perfect, idyllic site and realizing you forgot the utensils at home. In addition to the basics like napkins and your favorite picnic blanket, don’t leave the house without stashing little-remembered yet immensely helpful extras like a serving utensils, a waterproof tarp or blanket, trash bags, a first aid kit, and a cutting board to make sure everyone gets an equal slice of your favorite local bakery’s famous french bread.
Your favorite picnic blanket, though Instagram-worthy, may actually attract some extra guests to your festivities. Many bugs are attracted to colors that most resemble their food sources, so insects such as ants, bees, wasps, and flies will be drawn to your picnic setup before they even know you’ve got a full spread waiting to be eaten. Familiarizing yourself with native bugs, and choosing gear that won’t draw them in, will keep you from spending an evening swatting unwanted pests.
Pick the Perfect Picnic Spot
It’s about more than just the aesthetics—picnicking conditions can make or break a good party. Keep your outdoor affair at least 20 feet from any garbage cans and don’t lay your blanket down until you’ve checked the ground for any lingering dampness. Further guarantee that your outing will be one for the books by finding a cool, shaded spot on hotter days, and pick a spot away from bodies of water to keep everyone in your party free from gnat and mosquito bites.
Planning your gathering at the right time of day is as important as discovering a first-rate spot. Your picnic spot could be fantastic in the afternoon and less-than-stellar in the morning or evening due to the sun’s position in the sky, insect activity, and other nearby groups’ activities. After a little careful research and exploration, you’ll be well on your way to becoming your group’s designated picnic professional.
Don’t Forget the Repellent
It’s easier than ever to take bug repellent into your own hands. While you’re doing picnic prep slicing apples and mixing the fruit salad, consider preparing some plant-based, all-natural bug repellents to take along with you as well. Snip some sprigs of fresh lavender, basil, rosemary, mint, thyme, or eucalyptus to keep bugs away.
Whipping up a DIY bug spray may even take less time than slicing a cucumber for your signature salad. Mosquitoes, flies, gnats, and ticks can also be chased away with tea tree, lemongrass, and citronella, the last of which has been shown to be as effective as DEET in repelling biting bugs. Simply fill a small spray bottle with one part witch hazel and distilled water and add 20-40 essential oil drops in any blend of these repellent scents.
Leave No Trace
Not only a responsible way to enjoy the outdoors, tidying up can keep your family safe from wildlife and other intruders. In fact, picking up any stray trash, dropped or spilled food, and used containers not only protects your friends and family during your picnic, but also protects your favorite picnic location for your own future use and for other picnickers that fancy that spot (almost) as much as you do.
Cleaning up any spills or scraps as you go will make light work of packing it all up when it’s time to head home, as well as eliminate any temptations for unwanted creatures looking to grab a snack.
Picnics can be a great way to enjoy the warm weather. With a little preparation, any time spent outside can be carefree and enjoyable. Whether it’s a gathering for two or a neighborhood potluck, you’re sure to enjoy many outdoor meals all season long with a packed basket and these tips.
Sources: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3059459/ https://www.pccmarkets.com/sound-consumer/2005-06/sc0506-repellents/ https://www.verywellfit.com/best-and-worst-picnic-foods-4142606 https://prezi.com/kxyttrcgpe09/the-effects-of-colors-on-ants/