The days are longer, the nights are shorter, and that means it’s time to dust off the picnic basket that’s been tucked in the closet all winter long. Armed with your famous potato salad recipe and these handy tips, you’ll be sure to enjoy all the wonders of dining outdoors this season.
Picnic Location (…Location, Location)
Maybe it’s the hottest park in town or maybe it’s your own backyard, but finding an ideal picnicking spot can instantly boost your gathering’s cool factor—literally. Setting up near shady trees will ensure that members of your group can utilize the cover and take a much-needed break from the hot sun. Once you’ve found a spot, do a quick double-check of your surroundings to make sure you’re on flat, dry ground and that you’ve chosen an area at least twenty feet away from any trash cans, which are hotspots for bugs. Settle your picnic in a spot away from any bodies of water to avoid biting gnats and mosquitoes.
The conditions of your picnic location can vary by the hour due to insect activity, the angle of the sun, and even the occasional community little league game. Plan your picnic with both the seasonal and local schedules in mind, and you’ll be kicking back on the grass in no time.
Pack the Right Picnic Gear
You certainly won’t leave the house without the requisite wicker basket and gingham blanket, but aren’t you forgetting something? You’ve brought the standard picnic staples: fresh food, napkins, utensils, plates, and cups, but many oft-forgotten picnic extras deserve a spot on your packing list, too. Do yourself a solid by stashing additional serving utensils, trash bags, a waterproof blanket, a cutting board, and a first aid kit for any scrapes that might occur during the impromptu kickball game.
Some of your favorite picnic gear may garner praise from your friends and family, but it might actually bring in some undesirable visitors. Some of the peskiest bugs are drawn to anything that looks like their meal of choice, so flies, wasps, bees, and ants will spot that colorful picnic blanket and head your way. To keep bugs at a distance, research your area’s native insects and choose patterns and colors that won’t entice them to join your meal.
A proper picnic should feel simple and carefree, so planning the menu with ease in mind will score some well-deserved points with your crew. Tucking non-perishable foods into your basket and keeping your menu simple with ready-to-eat salads, fresh produce, and foods straight from your pantry will make the planning process a breeze. If you decide to plan a picnic with your cooler in tow, keep it stocked with enough ice to prevent food spoilage, and never let any perishable food sit out for more than two hours.
For a no-fuss way to charm your friends and family, store picnic food in mason jars. Airtight glass containers like these are a practical way to exercise good food safety and a reliable means to keep eager pests from sneaking into your food.
Make a Clean Getaway
Cleaning up any dropped food or spilled messes isn’t just the responsible thing to do. Gathering dropped trash and scraps can also safeguard your family from wildlife and other picnic raiders. Practice the art of leaving no trace to keep your favorite picnic spot clean and preserve the area for future outdoor gatherings for yourself and your neighbors.
A major perk to keeping things tidy? Cleaning as you go makes packing up to head home a cinch. Take a careful look at the area before heading out to guarantee that when you return, ants and other pests haven’t taken over your number-one picnic site.
Protect Your Picnic
Nothing can spoil a perfectly good picnic like unwanted bugs nipping at your watermelon, and it’s made worse when the party’s cut short due to bug bites. Protect yourselves by adding some all-natural, plant-based bug repellents to your packing list. A few extra minutes spent in your kitchen putting together a DIY bug spray can be the difference between a content post-party evening or an itchy, restless night’s sleep.
Mosquitoes, flies, ticks, and gnats can be repelled with common herbs and essential oils including peppermint, lavender, thyme, basil, rosemary, tea tree, eucalyptus, lemongrass, and citronella (which has been found to be as effective as bug spray with DEET). Grab a small spray bottle and fill it with equal parts distilled water and witch hazel, adding 20-40 drops of any combination of these bug-repelling oils. Packing fresh sprigs of any of these herbs can also aid in keeping away from the general area, shifting the focus of your picnic back to the fresh food and good company.
Picnics are the perfect way to unwind and enjoy the great outdoors. These simple tips can make dining outside a breeze. After taking care of this simple picnic prep, relax and enjoy a well-deserved afternoon spent lazing on the grass and enjoying the rewards of a flawlessly planned outdoor feast.