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Summer's got picnic written all over it. So, what are you going to do to make the most of it? Here's how to throw together a grab-and-go picnic kit that's ready to take you anywhere, anytime -- with style.

Picnic Kit
Photo by Meredith

Keep your kit loaded with the essentials so you can quickly head out the door all summer long the moment the picnic mood strikes. No more wasting time tracking things down. No more forgetting important stuff. Like the bug spray. Or the bottle opener.

Get Your Kit Together

Choose a basket/backpack/tote bag to hold all the non-food items you need at the ready. Here are suggestions for basic items you could pack. (Add or subtract to this list to suit your needs.) And yes, you could buy a pre-made picnic kit. But where's the creativity in that?

Basic Picnic Kit Checklist

  • Picnic blanket. Get one (or sew one) with a waterproof barrier to protect you and the food from damp grass and sand.
  • Cutting board. Small wooden or plastic. A rigid board is easier to work with on uneven ground, but a roll-up plastic board could save room. Your call.
  • All-purpose knife. An inexpensive serrated utility knife with sheath cuts bread, fruit, meats, and cheeses; the sheath keeps the sharp edge covered safely.
  • Combo wine and bottle opener. Or you could spring for a classic multi-purpose Swiss Army knife with all sorts of useful attachments.
  • Biodegradable plates, cups, utensils, and napkins. Lightweight compostable picnic ware is easy to carry and dispose of anywhere. If weight isn't an issue, hit up a thrift store for stylish, inexpensive pieces you can keep in your kit.
  • Paper towels. Try this campers' trick: Save room by taking them off the roll and folding at the perforations. This soft stack doubles as padding between fragile items.
  • All-purpose metal or plastic bowl. Can be used for washing up, holding water for pets, etc.
  • Moist towelettes. Because sticky happens.
  • Salt + pepper. Score food-lovers' points with the kind that grind sea salt and peppercorns.
  • Strike-anywhere matches. Keep a few in a waterproof bag.
  • Plastic bags. In various sizes to hold trash, dirty dishes, seashells, wet clothes, whatever.
  • Other: Flashlight and batteries, pack of cards, small first-aid kit or a zip-top bag with bug repellent, sunscreen, bandages and antibacterial ointment.
Picnic Party!
It's a great day for a picnic!

Food Safety

The picnic food you choose can be as spontaneous as a trip to the deli, or as thought-out as you want it to be. Either way, food safety is always an issue when you eat outdoors. Check out these smart picnic tips courtesy of the FDA. Because it's all fun and games until, you know, food poisoning.

Top Tips

Keep everything cold to prevent harmful bacterial growth. You've got several portable options:

  • Ice packs. Lots of different kinds on the market.
  • Frozen water bottles. Keep food at a safe temperature, plus provide drinking water as they thaw. Tip: Don't fill them all the way before freezing otherwise they'll burst.
  • Cooler. So many kinds to choose from, and some even have wheels built right in. Whatever you choose, here's how to pack a cooler so food stays fresh and cold. If you can, have one cooler for food and one for drinks. This reduces the number of times the food cooler is opened so food stays cold.

Keep raw meats completely sealed and separate from all other foods to avoid cross contamination, and never put cooked meats on a plate that's held raw meats unless it's been thoroughly washed with soap and hot water.

Remember the 2-hour rule. That's the amount of time picnic food can sit out before bacteria growth makes it unsafe to eat. On a hot day, the time shrinks down to 1 hour or less.

Find easy to make and pack picnic recipes.

Related Picnic Ideas

See you out there!