Picnicking for the Slightly Lazy and Kind Of Sloppy

We hold this truth to be self-evident, that food tastes better outside. And we’re only just creeping into August, so there’s at least a month left of picnic weather. Grab ye then a ratty old blanket and some plastic plates, because we have some al frescoing to do.

I have RULES regarding picnicking, though. We’ve got a tiny human eating with us, so we like tidy things that can be held in the hand. I prefer things that can be made earlier in the day so that as soon as my whole family is home, we can…not be home. I also like things with VERRRY little prep work, since earlier in the day I am doing Earlier In The Day Things. And this should probably go without saying but, scanning other lists of ‘picnic ideas,’ it obviously does not: everything needs to be served at one temperature and that temperature is ‘room.’ I will serve nothing that needs to be heated or chilled because dammit, I am outside.

Here are the best, lowest-effort picnic foods, brought to you by about two-thirds of a summer of research:

Quesadillas. Leftover pizza if you have it. Really, any cold bread and cheese combo.

Pressed sandwiches. You’re SUPPOSED to make them well ahead, and the pressing keeps all the goods in, so you aren’t spilling lettuce and sauce everywhere. Just because we’re eating outside doesn’t make us commoners.

pressed sandwichLook at all them good bits staying in. (Photo credit)

Cold meat bits that you might give the side-eye at home actually look kind of good outside – leftover chicken, half a steak, a bit of grilled salmon. Picnics are all about dibs and dabs, really.

Potato salad. Not the gross spuds-and-mayonnaise of yesteryore, but a southwest potato salad, or a sweet potato salad with curry. You know what? Those are both a lot of work. Scrap the potato salad and just bring chips.

Cherry tomatoes and bocconcini balls tossed with pesto. It’s like caprese salad’s ugly sister, but you don’t have to chase down the basil leaves because they’re errrrrrrrwhere. Plus, the prep involves opening three containers and dumping them into one bowl.

Pesto Cherry Tomato Caprese SaladEven on fancy china, it looks narsty. (Photo credit)

Edamame beans, tossed with a bit of olive oil and salt.

The kinds of veggies that you don’t have to prep (sugar peas, those baby carrots that everyone’s so scornful of but that I really don’t care are rinsed in chlorine, cherry tomatoes, radishes, celery) and hummus or baba ghanouj.

Basically any fruit. I prefer the fruits that prep themselves (berries, stone fruits, bananas) to things I have to chop and seed and peel.

carved watermelon fruit bowlBut go ahead and carve your watermelon into a centerpiece, see if I care. (Photo credit)

Literally any baked good that you have in the house, except for maybe trifle. You know what? Throw that trifle in a Tupperware, bring some forks, you’re fine. Cookies are good, obviously, but who ever has spare cookies? I keep these sweet potato muffins in the freezer at all times, and just throw a few in a baggie. They help keep the whatever else cold while they’re defrosting.

What is your best low-labor, no-mess, startlingly delicious outdoor food?


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About Raych Krueger

Raych reads books and raises babies, hobbies for which her BAs in Literature and Early Childhood Education come in handy. Follow her on Twitter: @raychraych.

  • Colleen

    Almost any baked good…cinnamon buns, however, I have learned the hard way, do not without outside-edness very well for very long. The stuff on tops gets so yuck so damned fast. Also, ants. It’s like crack central station for the ants.

    • raych

      OH man, good call. Anything frosted or iced, really. Ants can sense icing at 600 yards.

      • Colleen

        They really can, the little basterts. Damn their wicked sense of smell.

  • http://heidenkind.blogspot.com/ Tasha B. (heidenkind)

    Believe it or not I’ve never been on a picnic. But if I WERE to go on a picnic, I’d probably bring champagne. That’s a food, right? And leftover fried chicken and bread, I guess.