Great picnics are all about planning. Of course it’s fun to be spontaneous and live in the moment, but picnics rarely come together well without a checklist. Here’s a rundown of considerations to keep in mind when planning a picnic for sunrise, sunset or anytime.
If you’re organizing a beachside or hilltop picnic, make sure the location works at the time of day you want to chill. Don’t go for a sunrise picnic at the beach only to find out you’ll be kicked out because the sand doesn’t “officially” open until 6 a.m. You may want to visit the location at the planned time beforehand.
Who wants to trudge up a mountain only realize the sunset doesn’t really look great from the picnic site? Know as much as you can about the location before the event. You may even be planning a park picnic and not realize that your time coincides with the hour all the local dog owners decide to meet. Scope wisely.
If you’re trying for the romantic sunrise or sunset picnic, you have to not only need to calculate times for sunrise or sunset, but also take into account the time you need to prepare and pack the food before you head out and travel to the location. Set your alarm and be sure to leave with a little time to spare.
Most people think of salads and sandwiches as the go-to picnic fare. In reality, the menu can be anything from takeout pizza to fresh-grilled steak or fish.
You have to care carry all the required cooking equipment or make sure you its available at the location.
Many beaches have public grills within walking distance of the sand. You might be able to have a chocolate fondue, but in addition to the strawberries and chocolate, you’re also going to need to bring a fondue pot, chocolate, containers of Sterno and matches. You’ll also need to check if the location where you’re planning to party is open fire friendly. As sad as it is to say, gender reveal parties have also caused massive forest fires. For safety reasons, some parks don’t allow any cooking gear inside.
As a result, much of the food needs to be portable i.e. able to be served out of a container or quickly assembled. An Egg McMuffin is portable. Eggs Hollandaise? Not so much.
Here are some quick suggestions for easy and impressive picnic food.
Sunrise: YouTubers Ruth and Thomas recorded their preparations for a sunrise picnic (see the above video). They made a breakfast of for crepes and coffee. Crepes, as long as they’re properly wrapped and packed, can be eaten at room temperature. Coffee requires a good thermos.
Nana Anoke has a Pinterest board devoted to sunrise picnics with fun ideas like a muffin tin containers packed with different types of fresh fruit and vegetables, watermelon slices on a stick and croissants. Her suggestion of fruit topped waffles can work, but will take a little planning to keep the waffles warm on the way to the picnic. Try a thermal bag or just accept that you’re waffles will be a little tepid.
Sunset: This is when you really want those romantic bites. For many, that starts with Champagne or chilled wine. In addition to picking the right vino, you’ll also need a cooler to hold it and plastic cups. True, wine glasses are more impressive, but if you need to travel a long distance you’ll need proper packaging to ensure they don’t break.
Decide if you want to make the menu little bites like fresh cheese, french bread, crudité and brownies or more complex dishes such as Spanish omelette and bread salad. Both require prep, but the more complex dishes will take more time and thoughtful packaging.
For example, a Spanish omelette will need to cool to room temperature and may need to be carried in a cake container or could be cut up and placed in a baguette.
Anytime: One of the reasons salad and sandwiches are classic picnic fare are because is because they’re easy to carry and eat at room temperature. Even with those foods, you’ll need to plan out how you want to carry them. Do the potato and macaroni salads go in a cooler with ice? Will the sandwiches be stacked neatly in a wicker basket?
As for drinks, it's always a good idea to bring more than you think you'll need. This way, you can stay hydrated and avoid getting thirsty. Aside from water, you can also bring iced tea, lemonade, or even wine. Just keep in mind that alcohol can make you feel more dehydrated, so make sure that you drink in moderation.
Seating, Flatware and Containers
The location establishes a big part of a picnic’s ambience. An afternoon in the park is different than the beach at sunset. Other touches also suggest the tone as well. Will you sit on bean bag chairs or just a blanket?
Those who are out to impress may want a wicker basket with flatware and silverware.
If you’re not concerned about top shelf style, you can get paper plates and plastic forks from the dollar store and wedge the food containers into a cooler. Ruth and Thomas make the clever choice to carry their picnic cups and napkins in a wood crate. Once empty, they turn the crate over and use it as a makeshift picnic table.
Don't forget to bring supplies for cleaning up. This includes things like garbage bags and paper towels. By bringing these supplies, you can make sure that your picnic site is clean and tidy when you leave. It will also be nice if you can find a spot to recycle any bottles or cans that you have. This way, you can picnic responsibly.