Here is a comlete guide to hepl you plan the perfect picnic for the whole family or friends. The nice weather is back! Long live the aperitif sessions and romantic bike rides! Among the small pleasures that the warm season offers us, we remember of course the picnics at the water’s edge, the picnics in the open country or the “reward picnics” in the middle of the mountains after a long hike. As you can see, any occasion is good to get out our best tablecloth, prepare some appetizers and nibble in the open air. Picnics are moments of conviviality and sharing, of greed and discovery that allow us to disconnect and escape… even in the park down the street. To make the magic complete, we love to fine-tune the details by taking care of the presentation and preparing adapted dishes.
The picnic: how to plan a convivial moment with friends or family
We take advantage of the mild temperatures to have lunch outside and enjoy nature. By a lake, in a forest, in a park or in a garden, the picnic is a moment of sharing and conviviality between friends or family. It’s the perfect opportunity to chat, relax, enjoy all kinds of homemade food and have fun. For a successful picnic, it is however important to be well equipped. Let’s take a look at the essentials for organizing a picnic.
Several choices are available to you: By the sea, in a flowery park, near a river, in the mountains, in the forest, by a river… So, here is a summary of the pros and cons of these different places.
By the sea
– Advantages: With the family, children will love to eat and dip their feet in the water. In the evening, it is very romantic to eat while watching the sunset.
– Disadvantages: On the beach, there is no shade, so remember to bring sunscreen and an umbrella! In case of wind, the sand can get into your meal. You can imagine that it is not very pleasant to crunch a grain of sand while eating your salad. On a pebble beach, you don’t have to worry about sand flying around, but you can imagine that it’s not very pleasant to sit on. Think of cushions, air mattresses for example.
In the mountains
– Advantages: In contact with nature, it is peaceful, quiet and beautiful. It’s a real moment of relaxation to share.
– Disadvantages: You have to like hiking! Beware also of insects attracted by the food. Be sure to pack it well and take a first aid kit with you.
In the forest
– Advantages: For those who are miles away from the mountain or who do not like climbing, the forest is a good compromise!
– Disadvantages: If it is hot and heavy, the forest can be a stuffy place. It is also a place where insects are king.
In the countryside
– Advantages: The countryside is the ideal place to find peace and quiet. Near a river (to cool off), in a field, in a meadow, there is no lack of places.
– Disadvantages : Be careful where you settle down. Check that you have the right to do so and especially be careful with small snakes, especially if you have children!
In your garden
In case you can’t leave, why not have a picnic in your garden or terrace? It’s a different way to entertain your friends or family.
– Advantages: At least the forgetful people won’t have to stress about having forgotten anything! But, still, make sure you don’t have to go back into the house. That would lose all the charm of the picnic.
– Disadvantages: Sure, it’s not something that’s very exotic, but when you don’t have a choice…
The picnicker’s equipment
I advise you to take two different storage units: one for cutlery, napkins, tablecloth… and the other for all the food.
Keeping food cool
There are several types of coolers: the rigid, the flexible and the Isotherm bag. The best is the rigid cooler because it keeps the cold very well. However, it is less practical to use than the soft cooler, which is easier to carry.
Open the cooler very few times and very quickly so that the cooler keeps the cold as long as possible. Also place it out of the sun. For a full day, plan on 3 to 4 ice packs.
The Isotherm bag is suitable for short picnics. Do not leave with it for a whole day, it would not preserve the food well enough.
Choose your cooler according to the picnic you are organizing.
Keeping drinks cold
You can put your drinks in your cooler or invest in a thermos. You can also, to make sure that you have fresh water, fill small bottles 3/4 of the way, put them in the freezer overnight and put them in your basket the next morning. The water will stay very fresh all day.
Carrying the dishes
You can choose between the very chic wicker trunk with its compartments to put forks, knives, plates… Very British! Otherwise, a simple beach bag or a backpack for a hike will do the trick.
What not to forget to plan a picnic
Here is a non-exhaustive checklist of things to bring for a picnic. Of course, adapt it to your needs. It will help you not to forget anything to plan your picnic.
- Your cooler(s) with ice packs to put in at the last minute
- Cutlery: small spoons, forks, knives, plastic plates and glasses
- Salt and pepper to re-season
- Can opener, bottle opener and corkscrew
- Paper towels or paper napkins
- A large blanket for sitting on the floor
- A few cushions for comfort and for napping
- Folding chairs can be useful for the elderly or those with back problems
- A beach umbrella, essential for the beach
- Hat, cap…
- Sunscreen and mosquito repellent
- A first aid kit: you can never be sure of getting hurt
- A garbage bag to throw away your waste. We respect nature!
- Plastic film or aluminum foil in case you need to pack leftovers
- A few outdoor games (balls, skipping rope, shovel/bucket, beach rackets, freesbee…) or board games for the whole family
- A camera to capture the memories
Check out our treasure hunts to play as a group during your picnic and make this day a memorable moment.
In what proportions?
To have a good picnic, the ideal number of guests should not exceed 6-8. Beyond that, it’s complicated, especially if you plan to take care of the whole organization. Otherwise, one word of order: delegate! Assign each person a mission: one will bring the drinks, another will bring the pies and another will bring the desserts… It will make you feel better.
- For the drinks : bring about 1/2 liter of water per person. I advise you not to bring wine or very little (preferably rosé). Sun and alcohol do not mix well. You will avoid a lot of headaches. Think of fruit juices or prepare a lemonade for your children.
- For the aperitif: Don’t forget the aperitif, bring simple things to nibble on, homemade or bought: chips, olives, cherry tomatoes, spreads of all kinds, picks…
- For the dishes: Plan 3 to 4 different dishes so that everyone can find something to their taste.
- For the bread: baguette, country bread, fougasse, pita bread, sandwich bread… that will accompany your salads. The quantity will vary according to its use during the meal.
- Kits: If you don’t want to bother, prepare several ingredients in airtight boxes so that everyone can make their own sandwiches in kit form. In this case, vary the cold cuts (raw ham, pancetta, bacon, grison, bressaola…), the vegetables (slices of beef, pork, lamb, chicken…), the vegetables (slices of pork, chicken…) and the meat. ), vegetables (carrot slices, cherry tomatoes, zucchini slices, bell pepper cubes, candied tomatoes, olives, capers), seeds (pre-crushed hazelnuts, walnuts, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds…) and basic sauces (tapenade, pesto, butter, mayonnaise, mustard…).
- For the cheese: you should only use pressed cheeses (Gruyère, Comté, Cantal, Tome…). Other cheeses could give a nauseating smell to the leftovers in the cooler and even sink with the heat.
- For dessert: Keep it simple with fresh fruit salads, homemade shortbread, chocolate cake slices cut into squares… Plan on 2-3 kinds of treats per person.
When to prepare?
This will obviously depend on the dish! However, in general…
To make the day before :
- Pies, quiches, custards
- Terrines, cold meats (roast beef, roast pork, chicken)
- Muffins, cakes
- Spring rolls, mixed salads (without seasoning – on the side)
- Pesto, tapenades, various sauces
- Cakes, cookies, pies, pancakes
To be made in the morning:
- Wraps, sandwiches (unless they are filled with wet vegetables that can make the bread soggy)
- Fruit salads (to get the freshest fruit possible)
To do on the spot:
- The assembly of the sandwiches
- Sandwiches with tomatoes, cucumbers… which can make the bread soggy
My last 5 tips to plan a picnic
- Put your ice packs (or small bottles of water 3/4 full and frozen) in your cooler at the last minute. One cold accumulator is enough for 15 liters of volume, however, I tend to put 3 or 4 to be sure of the freshness.
- Be careful with fresh products that can be sensitive to heat, such as eggs, butter, cream, mayonnaise, yogurt, meat… especially if you plan to be gone for a whole day.
- Prefer finger foods to avoid using paper plates which are not always practical. Also avoid any preparation that requires the use of a knife. A fork or a spoon should be enough.
- Season salads at the last minute. Prepare the dressing separately in a small airtight jar, especially if there are tomatoes or salad. You will avoid cooking them with the dressing.
- Prefer individual versions: miniature cakes, tarts, muffins. Much more practical to transport.
What if you organized a great detective game to make your picnic even more fun? Easy to set up and great idea to plan the perfect picnic.
A themed picnic… yes, but which one? How to plan it?
As for a buffet or a brunch, it is possible to organize a picnic around a theme. Here are some ideas to plan a picnic.
Choose your theme according to…
…the place where you are…
- By the sea : prepare a picnic around the sea products. Cook canned fish to make it simple: mackerel, sardines, tuna, salmon… In rillettes, in pie, in salad.
- In the mountains, take advantage of the products of the region: pâté, pie, cold cuts, typical cheese, pasta salad… Remember that you will surely have made efforts before and that you will have to do it again afterwards. You should not have a heavy meal that will make you sleepy, opt instead for a meal that will give you enough energy (think starchy food (pasta, lentils…) to continue your hike.
- In the forest, the woody scents will make you want to try a mushroom-based recipe (cake or pie), rabbit terrines, vegetable pies (peas, green beans, carrots…). Finish with cheese and nut bread.
- In the country: Offer cold roasts of pork, beef or chicken. Serve with pickles, country bread and cheese. For dessert, choose a local specialty.
…as long as you want to share…
- The “snack” picnic: How about a snack in the countryside? In the morning, prepare all the delicacies to be enjoyed: madeleines, fruits, shortbread, pancakes, smoothies…
- The “breakfast” picnic: Don’t reserve brunch for Sunday morning in your living room! Think of savory treats (English muffins, small sandwiches…) as well as sweet treats (brioche, pastries, pancakes…) that are easy to carry. For drinks: tea, coffee, hot chocolate in thermos flasks and fresh fruit juice in the cooler.
…of the cuisine you want to discover…
- On the road to Italy: antipasti, breadsticks, pesto, tomato confit, Italian cold cuts. Make bruschetta kits: offer different breads (like ciabatta or focaccia) and different fillings that everyone can make their own. For dessert, choose fresh fruit: melon, watermelon, nectarine. Prepare them in advance and put them in small plastic boxes.
- En route to Greece: Greek salad, feta-spinach brick, tzatziki, pita bread…
- En route to Spain: Tapas are a must in Spanish cuisine. Think also of gazpacho to refresh yourself and finish with mantecados for a typical dessert.
How to plan a picnic with kids?
Kids love to move around and explore! Provide them with a meal that they can pick at as they please. Mini-muffins and mini-pieces are a good size. You can also add some originality to your preparations by cutting small sandwiches of bread in the shape of fish (great for a picnic by the sea).
The idea of Bento for adults can be adapted to children. Prepare his little box on the morning of departure by decorating it as it should be. He will enjoy discovering everything you have cooked for him.
For dessert, play on the colorful and acidulous side: fruit and candy brochettes, smarties cookies, melted caramabar lollipops…
Plan activities with them: sand castles, blind man’s bluff, nature exploration… Also remember to bring some of their toys.
They are usually the most excited about the picnic. Offer to help them prepare it, it will channel them.
For very young children, prepare them small pots, small purées, small compotes. Picnics are a great time to introduce them to new flavors and new ways of eating.
I hope this guide will help you plan the perfect picnic.