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Picnic Basket Essentials

Coolers, containers, lemonade… these are just a few of the things a good picnic needs. We’ve made preparing your picnic simple with this guide. Now all you’ve got to do is find some sun, get some good company and head to the park!

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Think Finger Foods

You can make a terrific meal with foods that require only two fingers to eat! Start with the healthy nibbles: berries, cherry tomatoes, grapes, celery and carrot sticks, asparagus spears, olives, cheese cubes, crackers, and so on. Next, try out some appetizers such as stuffed mushrooms, chicken fingers, or foccacia that can be eaten by hand. Need more substantial food? Sandwiches, ribs, fried chicken, and burgers all fall in the no-cutlery category. You’ll be grateful come cleanup time!

 

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Be Refreshed

Make your own soft drink, and let it cool your picnic. You can make your own lemonade using about three lemons for a litre. Squeeze the lemons, which should give you about 1/2 cup juice. Mix that with 1/2 cup sugar (or to taste), and add three cups water. Voilà! The night before your picnic, freeze the lemonade in plastic milk cartons. Then use the cartons to help keep the food cool in the cooler. Drink the lemonade as it thaws.

 

(Photo: Thinkstock)

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Use Lots of Squirt Bottles

You can buy squeezable, plastic squirt bottles for next to nothing at any restaurant supply store. Use them for mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce, salad dressings, oils, and any other condiment or cooking liquid. They are easy to pack and super clean to use. They’re one of the best secret tools of professional chefs.

 

(Photo: Thinkstock)

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Pack The Hand Sanitizer

Bathrooms with warm water and good-quality soap are in short supply on picnics. So use the next best thing: waterless hand sanitizers. These cleaning gels kill germs instantly and dry nearly as fast. They’re the perfect hand-cleaning solution, particularly if you are serving finger foods.

 

(Photo: Thinkstock)

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Keep Desserts Simple

On a hot summer day, there’s nothing better than a slice of watermelon, a fresh-picked peach, or a bowl of cold strawberries for the perfect ending to an outdoor meal. Skip the fruit salad and all its preparation, serving, and cleanup hassles. Or serve up your best brownies and cookies. Again, these are all finger foods that require no plates or cutlery-and that everyone will love.

 

(Photo: Thinkstock)

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Skip the Ice Cream

Don’t expect a cooler to keep ice cream frozen. Ads for coolers suggest they can keep just about anything cold, but don’t count on one to keep frozen things from turning to goop within a few hours. If you want to maximize your cooler’s ability to keep your food chilled, remember that a full cooler stays cool longer than a half-full one. Pack it full in layers: ice on the bottom, then drinks, then more ice, and soft stuff such as sandwiches and potato salad on top.

 

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Your Secret Weapon: A Checklist

Many a picnic has been less than perfect because some essential item was left behind. Make a checklist of foods and all the equipment that you need to transport and serve it. If you go on picnics often, put together a special picnic basket that contains all the basics and leave it packed from picnic to picnic. Make sure to include a corkscrew, bottle opener, clips for closing bags of chips, bug repellent, adhesive strips, and antiseptic. Also pack several medium-size garbage bags for disposing of trash and recyclables when you get home.

 

(Photo: Thinkstock)