Picnic hacks: your food and drink shopping checklist

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  • Summertime and the living is easy. When the days are longer and the sleeves are shorter, there’s no finer pastime than the great British picnic.

    Now we know you lead a busy life, so read on for the perfect picnic hacks: tasty, quick and above all, *easy*. Leaving more time for that game of rounders (or a snooze on the blanket).

    Finger foods! Chasing a cherry tomato around a paper plate with a fork is no one’s idea of a good time. Eating with fingers is not only more convenient, it’s also more fun. Plus doing away with cutlery means less to carry and less to wash up, ie, a win-win. Now there’s two ways of prepping your picnic:

    Best supermarket picnic food ideas – your shopping checklist

    • Sandwiches and hummus, the two fundamentals of the great British picnic. But before you head to the chiller cabinet, be sure to read our roundup of the best and worst in supermarket sandwiches and supermarket hummus.
    • Crisps and dips
    • Sausage rolls
    • Scotch eggs
    • Quiche
    • Cured meats and olives
    • Coleslaw
    • Chicken wings
    • Crackers and cheese
    • Salad bowls
    • Potato salad
    • Fruit
    • If fizzy drinks are on your shopping list, take a quick look at the nutritional lowdown first.
    • Cheap supermarket alcohol  (just don’t forget to pack a bottle opener!)

    Best homemade picnic food ideas

    When it comes to picnic foods, the trick is in the prep. The night before your picnic, whiz up an easy-yet-impressive quiche, tortilla or tart, then slice and pack in Tupperware the next morning. Our recipes for smoked ham and asparagus tart (pictured below) and  feta and red pepper quiche are both quick and tasty.

    Next up, spicy chicken wings, a guaranteed crowd pleaser. While your quiche’s cooking, throw together your marinade and leave the wings overnight to absorb the flavours. Whack them in the oven the following morning and you’re good to go. Just remember the hand wipes!

    Avoid creating a beige picnic, with some colourful salads. You can’t go wrong with a classic Greek salad, and potato salad is also a winner. If leafy salads aren’t your thing, and you’re looking for a more filling salad, opt for our easy  couscous salad or tabbouleh.

    If you prefer a more finger-friendly salad go with chunky crudité. A medley of peppers, sugarsnaps, cucumbers, carrots, celery and cauliflower ticks all the right boxes: colourful, healthy, tasty and refreshing. And when it comes to homemade dips, there are plenty of tasty options. Take a look at our recipes for hummus, salsa, tzatziki and homemade guacamole.

    And of course, a picnic wouldn’t be a picnic without a good, honest sandwich. But cheese and pickle on white isn’t going to cut it. Be inspired with 30 delicious sandwiches fillings that take the humble sandwich to the next level.

    Other crowd pleasers include homemade sausage rolls, as well as Scotch eggs, and coleslaw. For the meat-eaters, you could also include some our chicken drumsticks, lamb kebabs and our rice summer rolls with coconut chicken.

    For a quintessentially British picnic, a flask of tea is a must. So too is something sweet to accompany your cuppa. Flapjack and brownies travel particularly well (if you can keep your little ones’ hands off them en route to your picnic spot).

    Planning to have a drink in the sunshine? We have plenty of cocktail recipes, including these brilliant ideas for three-ingredient cocktail recipes. In the summer months, you can’t go wrong with a Pimms, sangria or an elderflower champagne.

    TOP TIP: Freeze grapes and add them to your drinks. It’ll keep your vino chilled without diluting it. Plus, you get to eat them afterwards.

    A pack of tissues and hand gel will keep little (and big) hands clean and remember to pack a bin bag for the end of day clear up.

    IMPORTANT: Never leave bags of leftovers by an over-flowing bin. At the weekends, it may not be collected and it’s highly likely the foxes will rip it apart instead, leaving a trail of litter across your favourite park or beauty spot.

    Picnic food – ideas for the perfect sandwiches

    Picnic food ideas: Picnic hacks for busy parents

    How do you make a sandwich without it getting soggy?

    Wet ingredients, such as condiments or the classic tuna mayo, will make sandwiches soggy overnight so where possible choose dry ingredients. Pastrami and emmental on rye has to be one of the finest flavour combinations there is. Pack some sliced gherkins separately and add to your sandwich just before eating.

    Sliced tomato is the ruin of many a good sandwich. The smart money says store separately and pop into your sandwich at the last minute. Do likewise with cucumber and pickles to minimise moisture.

    Don’t skip the layer of butter on your bread. It acts as a barrier to prevent the bread getting soggy. Dry ingredients are always your best bet, but if you simply have to have tzatziki in your wrap, you can counteract the moisture by layering dry fillings, such as a slice of cheese and a lettuce leaf, on either side. Just be sure to thoroughly dry your lettuce leaves after washing.

    How do you keep sandwiches fresh for a picnic?

    You can make sandwiches the night before, but remember that the later you make them, the fresher they’ll be. If you’re filling your sandwich with heavy ingredients like meat and cheese, you’ll need a more robust bread like rye, a baguette or a wholemeal roll. Handy picnic hack: tortilla wraps hold up particularly well.

    If your sandwich is left at room temperature, you’ll want to eat it within two hours but if it’s stored in a cool box with ice packs, it’ll last a good few hours longer. Be sure to keep your sandwiches cool and out of direct sunlight. There’s nothing worse than a sandwich that’s starting to curl up at the edges.

    Sandwiches keep best wrapped in parchment or greaseproof paper. Pro picnic hack: secure with string to prevent the fillings slipping (and for prettiness points). A Ziploc bag will stop your sandwich being exposed to the air, but it will also lock in condensation, increasing the risk of sogginess. If you’ve made wraps, tin foil is your best bet to keep things cylindrical. Paper towels have a tendency to absorb moisture, but if you’re confident your sandwich is dry enough, they can double up handily as a napkin.

    Take your wrapped sandwiches and place in a Tupperware box or sealed storage container. If you’re buying new storage containers for your picnic, look out for BPA-free ones. BPA (bisphenol A) is a chemical added to food containers to strengthen them but has been proved to adversely affect fertility, heart health, blood pressure, weight and a host of other health issues.

    How do you keep food cold at a picnic?

    When you’ve chosen the perfect picnic spot, find some shade for your cool box and try to minimise the number of times the lid comes off. Top tip: freeze some water bottles the night before. They double up as ice packs, saving you space, keeping your picnic fresh AND providing a cool drink once they’ve melted.

    Clever picnic hacks

    1) Use cupcake liners as a drip tray or drink cover

    2) Chop fruit in advance and skewer

    3) Protect any sharp edges