Your Home Outdoors

4 Picnic Spreads You Can Actually Pull Off (& the Gear to Help Get You There)

Welcome to Your Home Outdoors, our summertime series on tips and tricks that'll help you live your best life outside―no matter the size of your space! So pull up a chair, grab a glass of something icy-cold, and join us.

For many years I’ve been convinced that summer picnicking is a fantasy, an entertaining delusion created by glossy magazines to stress me into staying inside. Summer picnicking looks so good in these magazines: Beautiful people in sundresses and wide-brimmed hats laughing as they reach for another bottle of chilled rosé and casually nibble on artfully arranged platters of colorful food that they’ll never spill on themselves. In other words, summer picnicking looks completely impossible, I feel doomed to failure, and, oh, what’s that, am I breaking out in picnic-triggered hives?

But the truth is, a picnic doesn’t have to induce panic—especially if I start by making foods that set me up for picnic success and take advantage of some handy picnic accessories. These are foods that are designed for travel, whether the picnic destination is reached by car or bike or subway or on foot; foods that get better as they sit, that we can eat straight out of the spill-proof bowls they were packed in, and that can (for the most part) be made ahead of time so I can spend the morning of my picnic remembering not to forget napkins.

Wherever you plan on picnicking this summer, here are four (and a half) effortless menus and the handy accessories you'll leon on to make the whole thing a breeze.

Beach Picnic for Two

A beach picnic for two is romantic as all get out, especially if you can avoid getting sand all over your food. So be smart and bring a table in a basket with you, which cleverly rolls up for easy transport—and makes you look like the most thoughtful date ever.

First, set the scene:

Then roll out the food:

Almost No-Cook Picnic for a Small Group

This is a good picnic to enjoy with some close friends, as everything here (even the noodles!) tastes best when eaten with your fingers. Just be sure to bring napkins—and remind someone else to bring the beer.

First, set the scene:

Then roll out the food:

Antipasti for a Crowd

That big group picnic where everyone is laughing and snacking and sipping wine and generally living their best summer lives? (Yeah, the one from the magazine.) You can pull it off neatly with this menu and the addition of some sliced cured meats.

First, set the scene:

Then roll out the food:

Last-Minute Picnic in the Park

When you wake up one lazy Saturday summer morning to see the sun shining in the bright blue sky and the green leaves beckoning you outside, this is the no-frills picnic the day calls for. Best enjoyed with a big batch of Tipsy Arnold Palmers.

First, set the scene:

Then roll out the food:

Wine Picnic

Okay, so ideally there are some snacks involved...but sometimes all you wanna do is grab a cold one (I’m talking about a bottle of chilled Gruner, obv) and head outside to enjoy yourself. To be clear, no one here condones illegal activities. But pour it into an opaque tumbler and no one will be the wiser.

So I’m approaching my picnics this summer with a new goal: not to try and build a picture perfect picnic, but to pack picnics that will work for me. In Judith Olney's 1978 book, Summer Food, she writes, “The nicest summer meals (and the most ice-breaking) are those that call for a shared physical experience, with everyone making his own vinaigrette and dipping and sucking artichoke leaves, or eating warm asparagus with the fingers, or tearing off huge chunks of bread from a communal loaf.”

I will carry her voice in my head as I steam artichokes the night before or when I forget to bring a knife suitable for bread-cutting, remembering that the goal of a picnic is good food and good people, brought together outside. Will we look like models as we devour our meal? Probably not. Will we spill on ourselves? Of course. But there’s no reason to stress about all that.

Let's Start Thinking About Weekend Brunch: Watch

What’s your strategy for practical picnicking? What foods do you make or handy tools do you use? Let us know in the comments!

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