Even though summer may be coming to a close, Austinites won’t be heading inside any time soon. With cooler temps on the way, we’re still going to be spending most of our available time outdoors, enjoying the last few moments of summer before fall is in full swing. In Austin, we thrive outside, whether that be enjoying the weather on a hike, bike ride, by the pool or, of course, picnics.
And while you could toss together a few things and have a perfectly fine picnic experience, well, somewhere, Martha Stewart is cursing you under her breath. Much like anything done well, picnicking requires planning and prep. Location? Check. Company to help you eat all this picnic goodness? Check. Now the hard part: creating the perfect picnic basket (or whatever the tote may be). Lucky for you, we’ve got your guide to stepping up your eco-friendly picnic game.
Whether you decide to go old school and use an actual basket or opt for whatever is handiest (i.e., tote, cooler, hamper, backpack or cooler), you need something to transport your food, drinks and accessories. Think about transportability and how easy it will be to carry to your picnic spot. Also keep in mind whether or not your food will need to be kept hot or cold — and whether or not it is spill-proof!
Unless your picnic is going to be somewhere that has picnic tables, make sure to bring a blanket to spread on the ground, which does the double duty of giving you a place to put out your food as well as a place to sit. However, make sure to keep in consideration the size of your party! The bigger the party, the bigger the blanket(s). An old blanket, comforter, tablecloth or even flat bed sheet will do the trick.
Sure, the pandemic might be coming to an end, but no one’s ready to share the bottle around just yet. Make sure to pack a few settings appropriate for the feel of your picnic. That could be as casual as disposable plates and cups or as fancy as china, crystal and actual table linens. In the case of the latter, just remember to pack carefully to avoid breaking anything.
While picking off grapes doesn’t require cutlery, some picnic foods do. Pack knives, forks and spoons (real or recyclable), but also remember serving spoons for dishing up the grub. You’d also be wise to bring a folding knife for cutting meats or cheeses.
If you plan to take wine or beer, make sure to pack a corkscrew or a bottle opener. Your companions will raise a toast to your foresight.
Speaking of foresight, make sure to bring a bluetooth speaker. Some background tunes will bring your average atmosphere to the next level. And your friends can have a chance to show off their DJing skills.
Running water is usually hard to find on a picnic, so be sure to pack wipes to keep hands clean and help clean up any messes you might have. Since messes and messy hands are a natural part of picnicking, instead of packing napkins — which run the risk of blowing away in a breeze, sending you running after them instead of relaxing — bring along some reusable paper towels. Less messy, more eco-friendly.
Eating outdoors comes with one overarching rule: climate control. You have to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Sure, ice packs are all well and good, but since you already need to pack bottles of water, why not freeze them to act as your ice packs? Once they’ve thawed, you’ll have water to quench everyone’s post-picnic thirst and look like a well-prepared genius. Go you.
Guaranteed you’ll have trash to dispose of after you’ve enjoyed your picnic. Add a biodegradable trash bag or two to your bag or basket so that clean-up is a breeze. Plus, having your own garbage bags will keep you from having to make a million trips back and forth to any nearby garbage bins whenever you need to throw anything away.
No matter what you choose to bring along, just remember to have a good time, and make sure that nothing gets left behind. Happy picnicking!
About the Author
Liesel Schmidt lives in Navarre, Florida, and works as a freelance writer for local and regional magazines, as well as a web content writer and book editor. Having harbored a passionate dread of writing assignments when she was in school, Liesel never imagined making a living from putting words on paper, but life sometimes has a funny way of working out … Follow her on Twitter at @laswrites or download her novels, Coming Home to You, The Secret of Us and Life Without You available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.