Ahh the beautiful image of a family sitting down for a picnic: talking, laughing, eating their food with joy…
I don’t know about you, but our family picnics have not always gone this way. Maybe we’ve forgotten the drinks, or the kids don’t like the new dish I thought would be fun to make. Sometimes by the time we arrive at our destination people are grumpy because they are already hungry, and it feels like I’ve lost before we’ve even started.
To me going on a family picnic should be about bonding and making memories… so I have decided that, like with many things parenting-related, it’s all about being prepared.
After many learning experiences, here are some tips I have learned to make family picnics go smoothly.
Planning for Family Picnics:
Arrive early. Get there at least ten minutes before the regular meal time so you have time to set up before everyone is ready to eat. If you are running late, pack some apple slices or carrot sticks for those who are super hungry to go ahead and snack on in the car.
Eat simply. Bring foods everyone in the family likes. If you want to try something new, maybe pack two other favourite dishes so that at least everyone has some food they do enjoy.
Choose a destination where the kids can play. We like to go to playgrounds that already have a picnic table plus equipment our kids enjoy. (Since it can get very hot where we live and the sun goes down quite late, we also choose spots with shade.) It can be nice to switch things up once in a while, but a good spot is worth visiting numerous times as well. After the kids finish eating, my husband and I can sit and enjoy each other’s company while the kids are happily entertaining themselves.
You don’t need a ton of time. We enjoy picnics on week nights. Basically we’re just taking our dinner to the playground (sometimes for less than an hour!), but it’s a nice change of routine.
Prepare a Picnic Kit. Get everything you need together in one place. On the day you want to go on your picnic simply add food, drinks, and head out – never worry about forgetting the forks again.
Here’s a description of our Picnic Kit:
The purpose of our Picnic Kit is to have all our regularly used picnic items in one place so that all I need to get ready is the food and drinks, plus add in the ice packs. Not only does being prepared make going on picnics easier, but it’s also nice to have everything in one bag (versus balancing a few different bags and the kids… you know how it is).
There are many picnic baskets that come with the plates, cutlery, etc. We have used our own reusable dishes quite a few times, but one plate and one cup per person is making less rubbish than going out for takeaway food (I wash the cutlery so we can use it again) so I feel that is a compromise we can make every once in a while.
These are the supplies that stay in the picnic basket all the time. Our picnic blanket is actually a thin Turkish towel – it’s light and easy to wash, is big enough for our family to sit on, but can also be used as a table cloth. This suits us quite well as we wouldn’t be going out if it’s wet anyway (so no need for a blanket backed with waterproof material) and it also fits in the picnic basket so I can be sure we don’t forget it. When it needs a clean, I simply wash then put it straight back into the basket once dried.
Bag #1: Plastic bags (to take home dirty cutlery), wet wipes, bug spray (in a plastic baggie to prevent spills), two small tea towels (for spills).
Bag #2: Disposable plates and cups, sturdy plastic cutlery, napkins, salt and pepper. I refill this bag whenever necessary, right when we get home from our picnic.
Next is the fun part – the food. I have made the mistake of putting our meal in containers that don’t fit into our bag – whoops! So now I have tested and know which containers will fit. The particular ones shown above are great for our family as I usually pack sandwiches, salad, and fruit (the large container is great for slices of watermelon). We also fill a leak-proof bottle with water, and use icepacks to keep our food cool in case we do not plan to eat straight away.
Here are some other favourite non-sandwich options: quesadillas, toasties, sausages, and quiche. If you want to keep them warm, wrap the container in a tea towel and don’t add in the ice pack.
The main thing for me is to make sure everything fits in the Picnic Kit. This way the meal is easy to transport and I don’t have to worry about leaving something behind, meaning less stress (and brain power) for me.
Having our kit and following my other tips, I have found family picnics can be lots of fun and a nice way for me to enjoy a meal out of the house. Whenever I feel like mealtimes are getting monotonous and I’m in a bit of a rut, a picnic can help reset my attitude towards preparing meals for the family. Mealtimes can be an amazing time to make memories and bond, after all.
What are your tips for making picnics go smoothly? Please share your favourite family picnic meals!