Is warmer weather begging you to get outside, pop open a picnic basket, and spend the days under a shady tree?
Planning the Perfect Picnic
The Right Tote:
- Ending your hike with a feast? Try Uncommon Goods’ Picnic Backpack, which is sleek enough to hold food, utensils, and even two wine glasses without slowing you down.
- Want to be classic and go old school? Try Picnic World’s 4-Person Eco Picnic Basket. It’s made from sustainable, natural willow and a dye- and chemical-free cotton lining. It also features a cutting board, bamboo plates and cutlery, and wine glasses made from recycled glass.
- Into a more streamlined, modern approach? Try Casa’s Picnic at Ascot Eco Picnic Cooler, which features separate, cooled sections to keep your Pinot Grigio and famous pasta salad at the perfect temp.
- If you’re cycling to your alfresco dining location, Bloon’s Picnic Basket multitasks as panniers for your ride, and transforms into a picnic table for two, complete with cushioned seating. Check out their Kickstarter and help a creative visionary out.
- Apartment Therapy did a great article on eco-friendly utensils and containers to get your culinary delights to your destination there safely.
The Right Food:
The tricks to scoring high marks in picnic foods is knowing how to pack ‘em and when to assemble them. Have a salad that requires dressing? Dress it when you arrive at your destination. Having cupcakes? Store your icing separately to keep it cool and firm, and top your cupcakes when you’re ready to eat. If you’re making a sandwich, provide sliced bread, fillings, and spreads separately, and let people put their own creations together as they please. That way, everyone is saved from a soggy sandwich fate. Here are some of my favorite recipes that travel well and taste great (I’ve asterisked the ones that are best stashed in a cooler pack):
- Picnic Caviar
- Vegan Macadamia Nut Brie en Croute*
- Roasted Garlic and Sriracha Hummus
- Warm Lemony Olive Potato Salad
- Lentil, Mushroom, and Walnut Pate
- Creamy Chilled Farro with Asparagus*
- Umami Almond, Quinoa, and Sundried Tomato Burgers
- Pinto Beans with Watercress
- Cold Spirals with Roasted Red Peppers and Vegan Feta*
- Pasta Salad Nicoise*
- Whole Wheat Baguette
- Chipotle Almond Spread
- Raw Nori Wraps with Cabbage and Cucumber*
- Zucchini Fritters with Creamy Cashew Marinara
- Espresso Cafe Crisps
- Whole Wheat Apricot Pecan Chocolate Bread
- Raspberry Truffle Brownies
- Lazy Lattice Cherry Bars*
- Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles
- Best of Summer Fruit Salad*
- Raw Lemon Bars with Coconut*
- Strawberry Coconut Cream Cakes*
- Sticky Orange Cake with Marmalade Glaze
The Right Stuff: [ Cue the NKOTB ]
You’ve got the food, the tote, and the friends, but you need a few extras to make your picnic the best ever. Here are some great eco-friendly, vegan, cruelty-free options to stash in your basket:
- Bug Spray: If you’re like me, summer brings sunburns and bug bites. Pack a natural bug repellant for you and your little ones, or make your own.
- Sunblock: While we’re all for getting your Vitamin D, excessive sun time is a no-no. Try a natural sunblock, or throw on a chic hat and sunglasses to look like the most elusive French picnic-goer ever.
- Blanket: Sitting on the ground makes you feel like a kid again, so why not choose a bright, cheery picnic throw? We love SewnNatural’s eco-friendly blankets in vibrant Marimekko-inspired prints. More utilitarian? The Zip-n-Go Blanket is lined, so you avoid the ever-dreaded wet picnic tushie.
- Cloth Napkins: Why pitch perfectly good paper, when you can reuse a soft, friendly-looking cloth napkin? Feeling crafty? Make your own!
- Trash / Compost Bags: If your picnic site doesn’t have recycling or trash, bring your own!
- Corkscrew / Bottle Opener: Whether you’re drinking adult beverages, opening a bottle of Pellegrino, or reenacting an outdoor swordfight, you’re going to need one of these.
- Music Player: A self-powered, easy-to-carry speaker can naturally amplify your smart phone’s music for a no-batteries-required impromptu dance party.
Bold Vegan Lunches
Have you heard that many schools and cafeterias are going meatless or embracing vegetarian fare? This is a marvelous development, but if your child’s school or family member’s office isn’t moving in that direction anytime soon, chances are good that you’re a veteran brown-bagger. The following resources are jam-packed with strategies for making nourishing, fun, and easy lunches that will delight the kids of all ages in your life.
- Bentoriffic: A marvelous site run by a busy vegan mom who whips up creative, whole-food meals that kids of any age would appreciate. The results are so charming and tasty that you’ll wish you were 7 years old again and Sarah was yo mama, working her mealtime magic for you.
- FunBites: Sometimes food just needs an image makeover to be appealing. A veggie burger in a round patty might make your little one scowl, but a heart-shaped veggie burger makes them sing with glee. FunBites gives you the ability to make magic with food and achieve instant toddler-appreciation gratification.
- Let Them Eat Vegan: Leave it to vegan supermom, Dreena Burton (of Plant Powered Kitchen), to show you how to get even the pickiest eaters one to devour healthy ingredients…and actually enjoy it. The recipes in this book are simple, whole-food wonders, and many pack and keep beautifully.
- Healthy School Lunches: Nava Atlas’ (of VegKitchen) affordable book is packed with a tried-and-true compilation of recipes, tips, and packing strategies to ensure that your baby, child, tween, and teen get the proper nutrition and actually eat what you pack.
- Your Vegan Mom: A fun blog that features easy recipes for packing plant-based lunches.
- Live.Learn.Love.Eat: Shares simple recipes for waste-free vegan lunches. Always a plus when you can keep it economical!
- Vegan Lunchbox & Vegan Lunchbox Around the World: Jennifer McCann’s books and blog pack gorgeous photos and 250+ innovative recipes that are adult- and kid-tested and approved, all with an international flair for creatively utilizing flavors. Definitely a great way to get your little one interested in cooking and other cultures.
Need ideas for what to pack these beautiful lunches in? OOTS! makes toxin-free, easy-care lunchboxes for all ages. And they are darling. And I want one. The end.
Sip to Summer
- Blueberry Mint Lemonade
- Raw Cookie Dough Milkshake
- Lavender Key Limeade
- Grapefruit Granita
- Pineapple Aloe Cocktail
- Pineapple Pomegranate Juice
- Sweet Honeydew Smoothie
- Raw Food Virgin Bloody Mary
- Spicy Vodka Lemonade
- Sweet Cucumber Wine Spritzer
- Lightened Up Pina Coladas
- Ginger Shandies
- Pomegranate Daiquiri
- White Wine Sangria with Summer Fruits
- Apricot Lime Periodista
- Orange Ginger Margarita