Ready to take your meals outside? Now that spring has sprung, we celebrate by getting outdoors. In Florida, summertime is a little too hot for a meal outside in the middle of the day–which also means breakfast picnics and sunset snacks at the beach, yay!–but spring draws us outside with warm temps and the perfect invitation to enjoy a delicious mid-day spread with a fresh breeze.
Now, I’m all about creating a fancy feast of fresh bread, cheeses, cured meats, nuts and some sliced fruits and veggies (similar to our crostini brunch), and though my kids love those things as well, it’s definitely easier to learn to pack a kid friendly picnic basket that will keep everyone’s tummies happy while still being easy on yourself. Meaning, you can lay it out there and let them have at it. Ready to see how to plan the perfect picnic? Here’s your kid friendly survival guide, or at least a few tips that we’ve learned along the way with many picnic trips to the park; little ones in tow.
Of course, sometimes you can just pick up your favorite pizza or take-out along the way and keep it super simple, but sometimes it’s nice to do just a little planning and packing ahead, so that everyone leaves satisfied, you know what kind of ingredients everyone is getting and you can truly enjoy a little soiree outdoors with your family.
Survival Tip #1
Choose your location. It’s best if you at least have an idea of where you’re going to be before you head out the door so you can plan accordingly. Will you be heading to the beach? A couple of towels might be needed “just in case.” Will you be hiking to your destination? This might mean you need to adjust the type of food carrier you use and pack everything in a backpack. Are you heading somewhere with picnic tables or a grill? This can totally change up a menu or list of items you want to bring. Is a quick trip to the park your idea of a perfect afternoon picnic? A simple lunch and some blankets may just do the trick!
Survival Tip #2
Choose your carrier. For our family-friendly picnic here (and most common picnic), everything fit perfectly into one small cooler bag that we have (besides the blankets), which means it probably would have fit into a standard picnic basket as well. Other options for packing up your meal to go are grocery tote bags, backpacks, crates, etc. We have an insulated picnic style “basket” that we usually use for the beach as well. Just know that whatever you choose to use will probably get a little heavy once it’s all filled, which is why I like to keep it compact and prefer one carrier so that my husband can easily lug it around for us! There are also wheeled versions, cars and wagons if you know you’re not going to be walking on rough terrane and can just pull everything along with you without much effort… and it also means you can bring some extras like chairs, umbrellas or other options depending on your group.
Survival Tip #3
Now it comes down to the food! My idea of packing a picnic with my family is totally different than when meeting up in the park for a potluck or spending a romantic dinner under the stars. For a lunch date with my kiddos, keeping foods simple and serving a spread that doesn’t need plates or utensils is my priority. This means I stick to easy foods like sandwiches that can be wrapped, finger foods, ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables, simple dips, snacks they love and bottled drinks. When we arrive at our destination and are ready to eat, we spread it all out on the blankets and eat up, family style.
I like to encourage my family to live a healthy lifestyle, so getting outside to let them run around, explore their surroundings–like watching the dolphins and the manatees in the bayou while we were there!–and also fuel them with things that fuel their bodies. If you have kids, you know they like to eat a bit, take some time and run around and always circle back for more eats and treats. Having a stash of fruits, organic snacks that they like, such as little-finger-peel-able clementines, Horizon organic crackers, cheese sticks and fruit snacks and other finger foods help keep our meal simple and our clean-up easy.
Survival Tip #4
For drinks, I prefer to use bottled beverages like water, lemonade, and drinks for the kids. This way, no cups are needed and everyone has their own! For a bit of picnic DIY, we repurposed our own milk bottles–okay so they were Starbucks beverage containers–and painted the tops with chalk paint so it’s easy to mark initials, they kids love to write on their own, and it keep drinks separate and organized. Another little tip for drinks? We add frozen fruit to our water to keep the bottles cold and add in a little flavor while steering away from the added sugars found in juices and sodas.
Survival Tip #5
The extras. Every picnic needs a few extras slid into a side pocket… just in case. And in the case of pretty much every picnic we’ve had, we’ve used just about all of these items! A cutting board or tray and a knife usually come in handy at some point, especially depending on what type of foods or fruits you’re brining. To plan ahead for cleanup, I like to bring a few resealable plastic bag in the event there are leftovers I want to pack up and a garbage bag as well… usually I’ll even open up the garbage bag in the emptied cooler for us to use as we go, keeping the area around us picked up, especially when there is a breeze. Doing this as we go makes for a really simple clean up when finished. Some other handy items to have on hand are bug repellant (we make our own with citronella, lemongrass and peppermint essential oils), an ointment for scrapes (we make our own healing salve too), hand sanitizer and wipes for all those hands and faces. Another quick idea if you happen to be making sandwiches and cutting off the crusts for your littles… save the crust! We bag them up and bring them along as well, the perfect afternoon entertainment when you’re in a park or an area where there may be ducks to feed.
Survival Tip #6
Let them play. The beauty of eating outdoors is that there is so much opportunity to explore and embrace the world around us. Usually the location of your picnic will determine what kind of activities there are, but it never hurts to slip some bubbles for the kids to play with or a book into your bag as well. Then? Just enjoy it all. Your wee ones are going to want to run around, they’ll want to dine and dash, and then probably dine again. Let them enjoy it. In turn, you’ll all enjoy your time together outside.
Join the conversation!
I’d love to hear, what do you do to celebrate spring and the turn of the weather? I always get the cleaning bug around this time of the year as well, but this time–while pregnant–goodness, it’s a little crazy. Nesting I assume. Another reason for eating outdoors, no mess to clean up inside! How about you, do you love to picnic? Have some tips to share??
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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Horizon Organic. The opinions and text are all mine.