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Now that the weather is starting to warm up again, we’re all looking forward to spending some time in the water. It’s always fun to head to the beach with your family, or go boating with a group of friends. Whether you like relaxing on the sand or splashing through the waves, an all-day outing is the perfect way to enjoy the seasonal sun. And with all that fresh air whetting your appetites, you’ll want to be ready with a delicious meal so growling stomachs don’t interfere with your summer fun.
The specifics of your picnic checklist are going to depend on how you plan on spending the day, but here are a few tips that will hold true in any situation:
Stay hydrated! Heatstroke will definitely ruin your fun, so bring plenty of water. If you have access to a drinking fountain or other place to refill, a reusable water bottle will help you cut down on extra cargo.
Summer weather means high temperatures, so there are certain foods you’ll want to avoid—things that will melt and make a mess, like chocolate or frosting. And while some soft cheeses will become gooey and delicious, harder cheeses will get oily as they heat up.
In the same vein, pay attention to food safety and the temperature of your perishables. Hot foods should be kept at or above 140 °F, while cold food should be kept at or below 40 °F. Fill your cooler with ice and try to keep the lid closed until it’s time to eat.
Bring a package of wet wipes to make sure everyone (looking at you, kids) has clean hands before and after the meal. You don’t want beach grit in your burgers or barbeque sauce in your pool.
Now, let’s figure out the type of menu that’s best suited to your plans. If you have a packed schedule or need to do some traveling on foot, you’ll want something quick, convenient, and easy to carry.
Bring dishes that don’t require serveware or utensils. Wraps make excellent beach food—they hold together better than sandwiches, and a peel-away foil package will protect them from sandy hands.
Frozen water bottles can pull double duty. Use them as ice packs to keep your lunch cold, then drink them once they’ve melted.
Prepackaged, non-perishable snacks are your friend—they don’t need to be chilled, and anyone in the group can grab something to nibble on before getting back to their activities.
If you’re planning on setting up a more permanent camp, you should be prepared to haul in a little more equipment. These extra conveniences open up a few other beach picnic food ideas.
Now you have the option of hot food, whether you’re using a galley microwave or a simple fire pit. Meat and vegetable skewers are a good choice for grilling; they’re easy to hold so you don’t have to mess around with utensils.
Make sure raw meat is properly chilled, and sealed in watertight bags or containers—it’ll prevent juices from leaking out and melted ice (which can easily pick up bacteria) from leaking in. If you don’t want to deal with the mess, consider precooking your food and warming it up on-site.
Don’t limit yourself to a single cooler, particularly if you’ll be boating or going somewhere without easy access to supplies. Designate a separate cooler for drinks, so your food stays cold even when you’re opening and closing and letting in the hot air. Or, check out vacuum insulated growlers that will keep drinks cold for hours.
Be aware that a beach trip will probably mean sand in your food, though there are a couple solutions you can try. Bring a folding table to keep your dishes up and out of the way, or pack everything in individual serving sizes—moving things from plate to plate allows sand an opportunity to join the migration.
Finally, if you have a kitchen in close proximity—at a backyard pool or a beachfront property—you don’t really need to worry about how to cook up a meal. You should, however, think about how to serve it. Whether it’s kids running around barefoot or rough seas rocking the boat, breakable dishes made of glass or ceramic could get dangerous. Try durable plastic instead—the fun designs of our Neptune collection are perfect for a nautical adventure, and they won’t blow away in the wind like disposable plates and cups. Plus, a variety of serving trays can help you carry everything without a fuss.
Well, there you have it! You may not use them all, but these picnic ideas will help you make the most of the summer, no matter which waterfront destinations are on your map.