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Packing Your Picnic Basket

Dining al fresco can be a happy, fun experience, especially when the weather is pleasant, the bugs aren’t out and about, and you’re surrounded by family and friends. Picnics, which may seem all-American to some, are a joy that is appreciated worldwide and certainly by those of all ages. It’s not unusual to see a picnic that includes a young dating couple, or one that’s designed for a large family, or another perhaps for a group of retired ladies who just want to share some time out in the sun. These outdoor meals appeal to most everyone!

The best picnics, of course, are the ones for which you are fully prepared. Sometimes, that involves a lot of planning so that you’ll have everything you need for this special meal, not just the food.

The first thing you’ll need to do is choose a container of some sort to hold all your picnic needs. Traditionally, this is a basket of some sort though that’s not a must. If you are an avid picnic-goer, however, you may want to invest some money in a “real” picnic basket. These are the kind that come stocked with the things necessary for a great meal in the park, at the beach, or anywhere you choose. These picnic baskets, often called “hampers”, come in different sizes and materials. Basically, what you’ll find inside these lined baskets is plates, forks, knives, spoons, mugs or tumblers, and sometimes salt and pepper shakers, cloth napkins and table cover, and perhaps even a cork screw or bottle/can opener. Some picnic baskets are stocked with plastic plates and utensils that you can replace when necessary, while others include stainless steel flatware or ceramic or melamine plates and mugs. The more you pay, the more elaborate your basket will be.
These days you can find some fully-insulated aluminum framed baskets that include all the pieces you need as well. The added perk is the insulation, which means cold foods will stay cold and hot foods will remain hot.

If you opt for the traditional basket, you’ll need to be sure to pack individual containers that keep the food inside at the right temperature. That may involve packing some ice or hot packs. Do avoid using bags or other containers that can get crushed or are subject to leaking. One leak can ruin your entire picnic.
If you do not purchase a pre-stocked basket, you’ll need to make sure you include all the items above in your inventory. In addition, make sure you have utensils for serving, sharp knives for cutting (if necessary), a cutting board, a pie server, or anything else that’s necessary for the meal you’ve planned. Make a list before you begin packing to be sure you don’t forget anything.

Also bring along any condiments and spices that your guests enjoy, such as mayo, mustard, garlic salt, cinnamon, or whatever goes with what you’re serving. There’s nothing more boring than a dry sandwich or a bland potato salad!

Remember to be practical as well. For example, you’ll want to make sure to bring along something to dispose of the remains of your meal. It’s not a good idea to place leftover food, bones, or any other perishable items in the park’s trash cans. Animals can get into it and make a real mess. So, bring along some heavy duty garbage bags and take your trash home with you and dispose of it there.

You should also consider packing necessity-type little items like moist wipes, insect repellent, sun screen, or even some sort of shade or rain umbrella. You never quite know what the outdoors will bring, so it’s best to be prepared.