How to pack the perfect picnic

Whether you're enjoying an alfresco feast or laid-back lunch, eating outdoors requires planning. From choosing kit to transportable treats, we've got your picnic needs covered.

How to pack the perfect picnic

Venturing into the great outdoors with a heaving picnic hamper is one of the great joys of summer. But before you settle into a shady spot to snaffle your sandwiches and Scotch eggs, there's plenty of prep to be done...

Packing your hamper

Read our pick of the best picnic kit and stow away your spread in style. Choose your equipment carefully - nothing dampens spirits more than a leaky cool box. Before you set off, check your Tupperware is shut tight, and wrap any particularly pungent items in a plastic bag. If it's a scorching summer's day, then a cool box will come in super handy for keeping your picnic goods chilled.

Plastic cups or bottles are best for little ones to avoid breakages. If you're bringing wine glasses for the grown-ups, consider packing a lightweight tray to perch them on during pouring and between sips, and if you're sampling cork-sealed wine, don't forget the bottle opener! 

Picnic basket with wooden cutlery and plates of food

Food safety

There's no need to risk a funny tummy if you plan and pack carefully. Cold boxes and ice packs are essential to make sure that items normally stored in the fridge stay as cool as possible, so keep things like meat pies, fish or dairy dishes stowed away, and don't delay tucking in once you've reached your destination.

While it may look appealing to lay out your fare for all to see, keeping your food on ice for as long as possible will reduce the risk of having to throw out anything that's sat in the baking sun all day. Assistant food editor Miriam suggests cutting dishes such as quiche into wedges, and serving them up directly from the cool box. Finally, carry some hand wipes or anti-bacterial gel, and make sure that everyone's hands are clean before they chow down.

Find out more about how to transport food safely.

Storage tips

Glass jars filled with layered rainbow salad

Miriam's top tip to avoid soggy salads and sandwiches is to keep components such as dressings, fillings and optional extras stored away in separate containers (chilled if necessary) until they're needed. Add ingredients like goat's cheese or pre-chopped fruit to your dessert at the last minute, and serve up with confidence.

Discover more handy picnic tips and tricks.

Picnic centrepiece

Long shortcrust pie sliced and filled with chicken, ham, pistachios and asparagus

Make picnic prep more simple by preparing a main dish ahead which can be easily divided. This showstopping chicken, ham and asparagus picnic pie is well worth the effort and will have everyone requesting second slices. For a veggie option, this vibrant, multi-layered rainbow picnic pie is bursting with colourful veg combined with eggs and feta.

More picnic mains...

Quiche Lorraine
Caramelised onion tart
Picnic tortilla
Chicken, sausage & prune pie
Pork and rabbit pie
Fig and serrano picnic bread

Portable snacks

Scotch eggs and sausage rolls on a tray with dips

Once you've assembled your apparatus, it's time to plan your picnic provisions. Sandwiches, pies, Scotch eggs, sausage rolls and chicken drumsticks are considered classic picnic treats for a reason - they're all finger foods that travel well. Layer up a picnic baguette with salami, spinach, basil, pesto and mozzarella for a mouthwatering bite with or create a colourful veggie rainbow sandwich. Make a batch of perfectly portioned mini pork pies with piccalilli, or take inspiration from South America, with these delicious fried beef & chorizo empanadas. Bacon-wrapped or spicy Coronation drumsticks are also guaranteed to please a crowd. 

Go gourmet with chorizo Scotch quail's eggs and smoked salmon Scotch eggs or whip up a lighter batch of vegetarian falafel Scotch eggs. We suggest taking your chilled dishes out of the fridge and wrapping in foil, then in bubble wrap before putting into your cool box, to keep them at a safe temperature for as long as possible.

More portable classics...

Ham, pea & mint pasties
Egg & cress club sandwich
Cauliflower cheese rolls
Pressed picnic sandwich
Super salad wraps

Salads and sides

Potato and seasonal summer vegetable salad on a plate with spoon

Pasta and potato salads are perfect for picnics, as the hearty ingredients hold up well, even if they suffer a bit of battering in transit. This super summer allotment salad with English mustard dressing makes the most of any seasonal veg you can find. Crunchy cucumbers, radishes and red onions are featured but why not also throw in some fennel, celery and spring onions. Another picnic staple comes in the form of boiled eggs, which are the centerpiece of this herby parsley and watercress salad

Dressed, leafy salads can be become lackluster if left too long, so add the final touches just before serving to avoid the dreaded wilt. Get clever by layering heavy ingredients and sauces on the bottom of your container - try our rainbow salad potsgriddled salad jar or houmous, tabbouleh & feta picnic bowl. To mix it up, switch chunky pasta shapes for an orzo and mozzarella salad or swap plain potatoes for their more colourful cousin in this sweet potato salad.

More salads and sides...

Fennel, pomegranate & broad bean salad
Seven ways to perfect potato salad
Egg 'n' bacon dippers
Courgette, dill & feta breads
Summer salad recipes

We've also got plenty more vegetarian and vegan picnic recipes.

Sweet treats

Blackberry bakewell traybake cut into squares

Picnic puddings can be tricky as most desserts either melt or need careful handling, but there are still loads of picnic-friendly puddings to choose from. Traybakes and loaf cakes are ideal - slice before packing if you're not taking a sharp knife. These seasonal blackberry Bakewell squares can be transported in the tin and will hold up against the heat of a hot, sunny day. Brownies, shortbread and cookies are easy to wrap up and share out. If you're after something more sophisticated, jars make perfectly portioned vessels to transport softer sweets such as these strawberry & cream cheesecakes, Pimm's jelly jars or apricot & creme fraiche Eton mess.

More sweet treats...

Picnic trail mix
Easy vanilla cupcakes
Raspberry coconut scones
Rainbow fruit skewers
Red berry & granola yoghurt pots
Orange & apricot loaf cake

Thirst-quenching tipples

Three jars of coconut and cucumber cooler topped with fruit and herbs, in an ice bucket

Whether you go for refreshingly fruity or bold and boozy, pack something to sip on when you're sprawling in the sunshine. Family-friendly options such as our pre-chilled coconut & pineapple coolerblueberry & mint iced tea and zingy blackberry lemonade are sure to please a crowd. Slightly more sophisticated palates will savour elderflower & cucumber G&Ts, a classic Pimm's or wine based rosy spritzers. On a cooler day, a flask of coffee, tea or hot chocolate is sure to counter chilly fingers.

More delicious drinks...

Summer punch
Rhubarb cordial
Gooseberry & mint lemonade
Refreshing red wine cooler
Watermelon lemonade
Citrus iced tea

See our summer drinks collection

Check out more perfect picnic ideas...

Next level picnic recipes
Best family picnic recipes
Top 10 healthy picnic recipes
Best picnic gadgets
Our best picnic tips and tricks
Picnic recipes you can make in minutes
Picnic recipe collection
Kids picnic recipes

Get more inspiration on our picnic hub page.

What are your top picnic tips? Leave a comment below...

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