How to pack the perfect picnic
Whether you're enjoying an al fresco feast or laid-back lunch, eating outdoors requires planning. From choosing kit to transportable treats, we've got your picnic needs covered
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.
See our picnic hub for the ultimate selection of recipes.
How to pack a picnic
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 containers are shut tight.
- Wrap any particularly pungent items in a plastic bag.
- If it's a scorching summer's day, a cool box will come in 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.
- If you're sampling cork-sealed wine, don't forget the bottle opener.
- There's no need to risk a funny tummy if you plan and pack carefully. Cool boxes and ice packs are essential to keep refrigerated items as cool as possible. So, store things like meat pies, fish, or dairy dishes properly, and don't delay digging 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 discard anything that's been sitting in the sun all day.
- We suggest cutting dishes such as quiche into wedges and serving them directly from the cool box.
- Finally, carry some hand wipes or anti-bacterial gel and ensure everyone's hands are clean before eating.
Find out more about how to transport food safely.
- Avoid soggy salads and sandwiches by keeping components such as dressings, fillings and optional extras stored away in separate containers.
- Chill these components if necessary and only combine them when needed.
- Add ingredients like goat's cheese to salad, or pre-chopped fruit to your dessert just before serving.
Discover more handy picnic tips and tricks.
Picnic food ideas
Make picnic prep more simple by preparing a main dish ahead which can be easily divided. This showstopping chicken, ham & 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...
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...
Salads and sides
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 & watercress salad.
Dressed, leafy salads can be become lacklustre 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 pots, griddled salad jar or hummus, tabbouleh & feta picnic bowl. To mix it up, switch pasta shapes for an orzo & 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,green bean & feta salad
Summer salad recipes
Cumin-roasted carrot & cauliflower with green tahini dressing
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, jelly jars or peanut butter cookies.
More sweet treats...
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 cooler, blueberry & mint iced tea and zingy blackberry lemonade are sure to please a crowd. Slightly more sophisticated palates will savour elderflower & cucumber G&Ts, 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...
See our summer drinks collection
Check out more perfect picnic ideas...
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Our best picnic tips and tricks
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Picnic recipe collection
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Get more inspiration on our picnic hub page.
What are your top picnic tips? Leave a comment below...