How To: Pack a Picnic Basket Like a Pro

Once upon a time we owned a pricey picnic basket, but after an evening of bocce (and vodka!) on the beach, it ended up either lost or stolen (we’re still not sure what happened). Now, I’m all about simplicity when it comes to picnics—an easy, affordable basket I can quickly fill with boxed sandwiches and some basic outdoor-eating staples. Want to make your own portable spread? Take a peek at my tips on packing the perfect basket for your alfresco meals this summer.

Keep reading for my best picnic-packing tips

1. Pick the right basket.
Your carrying container doesn’t need to be expensive with loads of complicated compartments. As long as it has a sturdy handle and is easy to carry, then it will work just fine— a simple basket or canvas tote are great options (I found my wire basket at my local Goodwill!). If you’re only walking a short distance to your picnic spot, opt for a metal beverage tub: Use the handles to carry it to the site, then flip it over to double as a small table for your spread.

2. Serve easy edibles.
Since you’re dining in the great outdoors, choose foods that are portable and mess-free: pressed sandwiches that won’t fall apart in your hands, finely chopped salads in individual jars, and fruits that don’t require slicing, like peaches and cherries. To keep my prep time to a minimum, I usually buy pre-made Italian sandwiches from Whole Foods and give them a serious pressing before quartering and wrapping them up. Next, I toss together some chopped greens and throw some fruit in the basket in no time flat (check out this recipe for an easy tutorial on portable salads).

3. Wrap it up.
I like to keep things simple by packing a sandwich and snack in a small box; then, I hand out a meal box to each person when we’ve reached our picnic spot. It eliminates a fussy set-up and ensures everyone has what they need. My go-to meal box usually includes a sandwich wrapped in parchment, a chopped salad in an individual jar, and a disposable fork.

Tuck wrapped sandwiches, salad jars, and forks neatly in an individual meal box.

Choose fruits that don’t require slicing, like peaches, cherries, or strawberries.

4. Think pink!
Is it me or is rosé just made for summer picnics? Crisp, fruity, and super-dry, rosé is always a staple in my picnic basket. I tend to look for lighter, peachier-hued bottles from Provence—not because I know a lot about wines, but because I’ve had the best luck with these bottles. Want some good options? Check out Martha Stewart’s run-down on finding the perfect pink vino. And don’t forget the wine glasses and wine key opener (unless you’ve got a screw cap, which is another great way to streamline your picnic basket!).

Here’s what’s inside my picnic basket this summer:  
Watercolor-stripe tea towels by Yao Cheng
• Meal boxes with sandwiches, chopped salads in mini jars, bamboo forks, and paper napkins
• Bottled water with sprigs of mint
• White peaches
• Bottle of rosé (with glasses and a wine key)
• Eucalyptus bug repellant
• Moist towelette napkin wipes

More Summer Entertaining Ideas:
• Recipe: Red, White, and Blueberry Pavlovas
• Printable “Let’s Summer!” bucket list
Recipe: Chilled Lavender Lemonade

Find more of Kelli on her blog.

  1. Amila

    These are very helpful tips.Specially I like the idea of easy edibles.Also the linked recipe for portable salad is helpful…