Surprising Summer Picnic Hacks Moms Are Actually Going To Want To Use

Surprising Summer Picnic Hacks Moms Are Actually Going To Want To Use
Image: iStock

Surprising Summer Picnic Hacks You're Going To Want To Use

Honestly, is there anything more fun -- and more classic -- than spending a summer day enjoying a picnic in the park? We love dining al fresco all summer, and we love the gentle, relaxed fun of eating and playing outdoors all day. We're fans of bringing along some fun lawn games -- like badminton and bocce -- and even bringing some water balloons for a little fight if the day is hot enough (and the kids are willing to stay far enough from the food -- please don't soak our sandwiches, kiddos!). There's something just so delightfully traditional about a picnic, although it can still be contemporary -- we are just as into adding a quinoa and vegetable salad to our picnic basket as we are proponents of picnic classics like cold fried chicken, pasta salad, cole slaw, and potato salad.

In fact, a quinoa salad is probably a better idea than a traditionally made cole slaw or potato salad, much as we love a classic potato salad, just because mayo and the sun is a dangerous combo unless we bring along the capacity for keeping it cold (more on this in a minute). Even a modern picnic has room for super classic, ultra-traditional recipes -- there are so many absolutely delicious dishes our grandmothers would heartily approve of. And read up on packing the perfect picnic so everything that's needed (and wanted) goes into the picnic basket. For visual inspo, take a look at the prettiest picnics on Instagram, which is less a guide to actually doing anything and more just fantasy material, but still -- such good fantasy material!

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  • Store Spices in Small Ways

    Store Spices In Small Ways

    Rather than bringing along large containers of salt, pepper, and spices, reuse washed Tic-Tac and mini Altoid containers to store small quantities of spices and make them more manageable in a picnic basket.

  • Stop Sticky Hands in Advance

    Stop Sticky Hands In Advance

    Kids get sticky fast -- and on a picnic, so do adults, to be honest. Plan ahead by bringing plenty of wipes, paper towels, and hand sanitizer. We leave a thing of hand sanitizer and take-out napkins in our picnic basket year-round just to head this problem off at the pass.

  • Cool With Frozen Water Bottles

    Cool With Frozen Water Bottles

    In place of ice, try using frozen plastic water bottles. They create less mess and won't make food as watery because they don't leak as easily, and once they're melted (or even semi-melted), they just turn into nice, cool water. 

  • Mason Jar Salads Are Awesome for Picnics

    Mason Jar Salads Are Less Messy

    While we may not have been completely in love with mason jar salads when they were trending a few years ago as a take-to-work lunch, we do really love them for picnics. Pack dressing on the bottom, then layer heavy foods that don't soak up dressing well -- like cherry tomatoes and green beans -- then stack corn, lettuce, and other ingredients. Once the picnic is happening, shake for distribution! 

  • ...As Are Mason Jar Parfaits

    ...As Are Mason Jar Parfaits

    Honestly, desserts are so messy on a picnic -- but in a mason jar, they're just the easiest. Make ultra-healthy ones with yogurt, granola, and fruit, or get a little indulgent with some Cool Whip and crumbled-up cookies. 

  • ...And Really Just All Things Mason Jar

    (And Really Just All Things Mason Jar)

    Salads and desserts may be the most obvious mason jar foods, but think outside the, um, jar with these: Burrito bowls in a mason jars are a total thing, and even barbecue can be mess-free when it's stored (and served) in jar form. 

  • Shoo Away Flies With This Neat Plastic Bag Trick

    Shoo Away Flies With This Plastic Bag Trick

    Check out this incredibly simple, inexpensive, and weirdly effective trick: Fill a plastic zip bag part-way with water and five or six pennies. Tie it up and string it over a tree branch over the picnic, and it'll refract light that freaks out flies (who knows why).

  • Dryer Sheets Will Help Keep the Bees Away

    Dryer Sheets Will Help Keep The Bees Away, Too

    For some reason, dryer sheets -- which smell really good to us! -- are absolutely anathema to bees. Call it a lucky coincidence! Other natural repellents include mint and eucalyptus oils. Try diffusing them in a portable, battery-powered diffuser!

  • Damp Day? No Worries -- Grab a Shower Curtain Liner

    Damp Day? No Worries -- Grab a Shower Curtain Liner

    Don't let a little rain earlier in the day ruin picnic plans. On days where the ground is likely to be a bit damp, just throw down a shower curtain liner before putting the picnic blanket over the top -- it'll keep the damp from seeping through like a charm.

    InterDesign PEVA Plastic Shower Bath Liner ($6, Amazon)

  • Cupcake Liners Are the Perfect Soda Can Toppers

    Cupcake Liners Are The Perfect Soda Can Toppers

    Hate bugs crawling into the soda cans (or beer/hard seltzer cans, for the grown-ups?). Yup, so does everyone. Keep bugs out of the drinks by popping cupcake liners over top when they're not being drunk -- they're the perfect size.

  • Create a Mini Speaker For a Phone With an Empty Glass

    Create A Mini Speaker For A Phone With An Empty Glass

    Forgot the speakers for a little soundtrack to the picnic fun? No worries! Just pop a phone into a clean, empty glass and the sound will reverberate out way more than one might think -- it's really an effective trick!

  • Bring a Frozen Gel Tray

    Bring A Frozen Gel Tray

    Trays that freeze ahead of time work so well -- the gel inside them will stay cool longer than ice will, even in the hot sun, keeping normally problematic picnic foods (think mayo-based salads and deviled eggs) safe to eat. 

    Fit & Fresh Chilled Serving Platter, 56-ounce Capacity Freezable Food Tray with Lid ($17, Amazon)

  • Serve Small Bowls & Keep the Big Bowl in the Cooler

    Serve Small Bowls While Keeping The Big Bowl in the Cooler

    This one seems obvious, but we rarely think of it when we're picnicking. Keep foods that need to stay cold in the cooler, then dole out just a bit at a time rather than putting the big bowl out on the picnic blanket (which we always seem to do). 

  • Be Extra About It & Bring an Inflatable Buffet

    Be Extra About It And Bring An Inflatable Buffet

    OK, yes, this is definitely being super extra. But food and drinks do stay super cold when they're on ice, and an inflatable tray is a really lightweight option. Just expect some serious looks from fellow picnickers when they see how intense this setup is. 

    2 PCS Inflatable Serving/Salad Bar Tray Food Drink Holder ($14, Amazon)

  • Shower Caps Keep Food Cold (Just Trust Us)

    Shower Caps Keep Food Cold (Just Trust Us)

    On the more "basically free and less totally extra" end of the spectrum, fill up a shower cap with ice cubes, stick a bowl on top of it, and voila: a sort of low-end inflatable buffet that's still pretty waterproof and keeps food super cold. 

  • Use Up the End of a Jar of Peanut Butter

    Use Up The End of a Jar of Peanut Butter

    Down to the remaining last bits of a jar of peanut butter or almond butter? Grab some celery and carrot sticks, and insert them into the jar, poking downwards. The non-peanut-butter-y end will be clean to grab onto!

  • Make Flavorful Ice Cubes So Drinks Don't Get Watered-Down

    Make Flavorful Ice Cubes So Drinks Don't Get Watered-Down

    We love keeping cold drinks cold in the summer sun, but we hate watered-down lemonade, iced tea (and cocktails for the grown-ups). Instead, make flavorful ice cubes of premade Arnold Palmers, lemonade, tea, or whatever else is being drunk (minus alcohol, which won't freeze).

  • Throw Some Salt In a Cooler Full of Ice

    Throw Some Salt In a Cooler Full of Ice

    Want everything to just cool down faster? The best bet is to throw a handful of regular salt into the ice in the bottom of the cooler. It chills quickly and is a great tip for lowering the temperature of room-temperature drinks. 

  • Reuse Egg Cartons for Delicate Desserts 

    Reuse Egg Cartons For Delicate Desserts

    Planning a picnic? Don't throw out any egg cartons for a week or two! They're a safe way to transport fragile desserts like cupcakes or strawberries filled with chocolate pudding, which are both wonderful picnic desserts. 

  • Use Picnic Blankets to Keep Bottles From Breaking

    Use Picnic Blankets to Keep Bottles From Breaking

    Picnic blankets are some of our favorite things in this world, but they're useful for other things than for sitting on. Use them on the way there by wrapping them around bottles to insulate them against each other -- which will keep them from clinking and breaking. 

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