Packing the Perfect Picnic

By Julie Van Rosendaal on May 10, 2016

During our fleeting frost-free months, Canadians like to take their meals outdoors whenever possible, as evidenced by brimming patios on sunny days. But picnics are making a comeback - instead of jockeying for position on the patio, go find yourself a patch of grass.

Of course you'll need something to eat. There's always the option to stop for a roasted chicken and any number of prefab salads at almost any grocery store - or to order Chinese take-out (mu shu pork, chicken in black bean sauce and Singapore noodles are fine even if they do cool down), a pizza or sushi to pick up en route to the park. (Bonus: Napkins and chopsticks are provided.) But if you want to go that extra mile for something special or different, there are plenty of things that are perfectly portable - as long as you pack them up properly. Made from scratch, or from the deli.

The primary concerns when packing a picnic are temperature and portability - that is, does it need to be kept cold, will it taste good at neutral temperature, and will it get soggy/shatter/melt en route? Keep these things in mind when planning your menu.

Legume-based dips (hummus or white bean dip, for example) travels well with baby carrots and pitas for dipping. If you love sandwiches, use sturdier crusty breads or buns - regular sandwich bread tends to have a high sog factor - and try picking up some salamis, cheeses and charcuterie along with a jar of mustard for everyone to assemble their own at the park. Grainy and bean salads and crunchy slaws tend to be more wilt-proof than leafy ones; with fresh greens, bring the dressing along separately in a small tightly sealed container, or pour it into the bottom of a larger container, pile the greens and other veggies on top, and give it a shake when you're ready to eat.

Sandwiches and baking, such as muffins and cookies, can be wrapped individually or stacked in sturdy containers - make sure they have lids that will snap closed and stay closed, and if they're stackable, they'll be even easier to carry, then nest to bring back out once they're empty. (Bonus: there's no risk of breakage, and you can use them again on your next picnic. And inexpensive containers spares Tupperware from getting lost.)

If you’re a regular picnicker, stash a blanket and some tea towels (to use as napkins) in the trunk and pick up some cheap cutlery from the thrift or dollar store - most plastic cutlery can’t be recycled. If anything is freezable (ie drinks, baked goods), freeze it - they will keep the rest of the picnic cool but thaw by the time you’re ready to eat. And don't forget the water bottles!

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