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Let’s be honest: Whatever you’re doing right now, you’d rather be at the beach. I know I’d like to get some sand between my toes. If you’re land-locked like me but longing for the ocean, channel that into a beach-inspired picnic at the park (or at the sandy lake shore.)  Here’s what you’ll need.

Picnic Food Ideas and Recipes

The Menu Game Plan
Fresh, easy-to-prepare recipes are ideal picnic fare. Here’s what to serve at your beachy meal:

Eggplant Chips With Cilantro Pesto: This sweet, baked take on potato chips uses in-season eggplant. Pack the pesto in a screw-top jar for easy serving at your picnic.

Pressed Italian Sandwiches: These sandwiches from The Cilantropist were practically designed to be picnic fare: You “press” it overnight under something heavy in the fridge (think a can or two of tomatoes), then slice, wrap in paper and tie with twine. The result: an easy-to-eat, delicious sandwich that won’t be worse for the wear if the pasta salad shifts during transit.

Tuscan Pasta Salad With Grilled Vegetables: It’s the picnic staple…with an Italian twist. Make this pasta salad, studded with bits of sweet grilled fennel and bell peppers, up to 6 hours before you plan to serve it.

Cheesecake In a Jar: A picnic is the perfect time to cash in on the “food in jars” trend. Individual cheesecakes tucked into jars are easy to transport and easy to eat. Top with your favorite in-season fruit. Make at least 5 hours before your picnic, or the night before.

Sand Dollar Cookies: How adorable are these sand dollar cookies?! Give homemade snickerdoodles a beachy touch with a few slivered almonds like Elizabeth from Delicious Inspiration did.

Coastal Citrus Punch: Mix up this summery take on sangria in a glass jug for easy transport.

Picnic Basket Alternatives and Picnic Games

The Essential Gear
Food: check. Now, here’s what you need to make your picnic as comfortable as it is delicious:

Chic and Durable Tableware: This isn’t the time for fine china…find some chic melamine plates like this nautical Timber Cove set. While you’re out, grab some coordinating plastic cups. Durable Mason jars are a great option, too. Basic, white melamine serving trays provide a stable place to hold serving dishes and drinks.

Blankets and Pillows: An uncomfortable picnic is a short picnic. You want to eat, lounge, nap and repeat. Bring a beach blanket like this blue polka-dotted model, or, in a pinch, an old sheet or canvas drop cloth. Bring an outdoor-friendly pillow or two, or a few towels.

Stylish Stow-ware: Picnic baskets are adorable, but they don’t keep your food cold. Coolers are functional, but typically not very attractive. Get the best of both worlds with this navy-and-white-striped bag: it’s actually a fully-lined, incognito cooler. But don’t give up on the picnic basket tradition completely: Stow room temperature foods, extra drinks, utensils, serving spoons and napkins in a woven picnic caddy.

Plus, don’t forget…

  • Bug spray and sunscreen
  • Damp wipes or cloths for washing up
  • A garbage bag
  • Activities, like beach-perfect bocce ball 

Happy picnicking!



9 Responses

  1. Beth J. says:

    I'm inspired to go on a picnic!

  2. Pat Ronson says:

    You've got great suggestions here for a picnic. Thanks for this blog.

  3. andrea j. says:

    the eggplant chips make my mouth water. very appealing.

  4. andrea j. says:

    also love the cheesecake in a jar idea.

  5. Very good post.
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Liz GrayLiz is a senior editor at HGTV.com and an co-editor-in-chief for Design Happens. She lives in a midcentury tri-level that’s stuck in the ‘70s…for now. When she’s not working on...


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