National Picnic Week: Picnic hacks (you might actually use!)
We’d all love a picnic with mason jar salads, cushions, deckchairs and a gramophone, under a big oak tree by a gently babbling stream, but in reality, picnics with kids are often far from the picnic hacks and inspirations we see on Pinterest. We’ve had picnics in the car sheltering from lashing rain, under a canal bridge because the narrow towpath seemed to never end, and sat up a tree because, well, the kids thought that would be fun. If you’re heading out for a family day out, packed lunches can make the day so much more affordable, but can also seem like one more thing standing between you and getting out the door.
Here are ways we hack the day out packed lunch or picnic. It’s the little things that make or break a day out after all.
Picnic in a hurry?
Not enough time to make sandwiches? Grab a packet of crackers, a small knife and chopping board, apples, a packet of cheese, a cucumber, grapes and a cake. All of these can be chopped when you get there, as you go along. Or just keep a penknife in your rucksack and grab the rest at the shop on the way.
Time to think ahead?
- Leftovers can make great picnic foods. Double up the night before on things you can use on the picnic, like hard boiled eggs, new potatoes and pasta. Pasta salad is a cheap and easy one tub alternative to packing lots of dishes, just buy an ice cream for pudding!
- Share the load - picnics with friends are always much more fun and my kids would always rather eat what other people bring, especially when my friend Jodie bakes flapjacks. Agree who will bring what, so nothing gets wasted and you can prepare in bulk.
- Wax paper and string will keep sandwiches fresh, whereas cling film makes them soggy.
Little things that solve big problems
- Cupcake cases are good for keeping wasps out of drink cups and stopping ice lollies from dripping down arms.
- Freeze drink cartons or water bottles on hot days, rather than take the extra weight of ice packs.
- Keep baby wipes, hand gel and suncream in the cool bag to make them more appealing to use on a hot day.
- Try backpack style picnic hampers or coolers, or rucksacks packed with picnic items in smaller cool bags. They are so much more practical for days out than juggling hampers or cool boxes.
- You could sew a shower curtain to your favourite picnic blanket, but I prefer to invest in an easy to roll, lightweight picnic blanket with a waterproof underside and carry handles.
Setting the table
- Push the bottom of a large crisp bag upwards inside itself to turn it instantly into the perfect snack bowl.
- Napkins, kitchen roll or wax paper work well to lay food out on if you don't have room for picnic plates and double up to wipe sticky hands on too.
- A chopping board or tray can also be handy to keep drinks upright or to serve from.
- A bag for rubbish and one for used picnic ware is always handy, and all too often forgotten on our days out.
- According to scientists at Bristol University, to repel wasps trap the first invader under a glass. This prevents the wasp from reporting the picnic to their friends back at the nest. Let your hostage escape once you have finished. Killing wasps should be discouraged as they dramatically reduce other pests.
- Did you know wasps are attracted to yellow and white, but red is the one colour which wasps can’t see? They love sugary things best of course, so resist the temptation to get all the food out and instead unseal things as you are ready to eat them.
Last but not least, parents, have you checked you definitely have screw tops on any wine bottles?!