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Laid back spring afternoons are made for picnics, but sometimes all the prep required for that al fresco meal leaves you wondering how anyone could coin the phrase, "lazy days of summer." Fortunately, a little effort ahead of time will pay off when the mood strikes for an impromptu dinner outdoors. Our handy guide to picnic basket essentials will get you started on a summer full of fun meals in the sun.

Picnic Basket Organization   

Every family should keep a well-stocked picnic basket on hand. Whether it's sandwiches at the beach or fried chicken at the park before an evening of fireworks, there is something magical about spreading out a blanket and gathering the family together for a meal.

Picnic baskets have come a long way since our parents hauled us to the park with a wicker picnic basket in tow. While traditional woven baskets are just fine for plates, utensils and non-perishable food, they really aren't ideal for protecting most things your family wants to eat. A much better option is an insulated picnic basket. Newer models have technology similar to that found in your cooler. These modern picnic baskets will keep food cooled to safe temperatures for up to three hours—more if you leave some room for ice packs.

Keep Your Picnic Basket Stocked

Once you have the right kind of picnic basket, it's time to stock it properly so you can take advantage of last minute picnic plans. You have two options at this point. You can go for ultimate convenience and use disposable plates, cups and flatware or choose the more economical path and opt for reusable dishes. If you want something in between, try using green picnic supplies that are made from recycled and renewable resources like bamboo.

Whatever you choose to use, make sure that your picnic basket is always stocked and ready to go. In a sense, you can create a picnic basket kit that enables you to pick up and head out the door without worrying whether or not you have everything you need. Once you finish a picnic, clean out your basket and wash and dry any reusable dishes you have dirtied. Repack the picnic basket the day you clean it out so it is ready to go next time.

Picnic Basket Items

What you actually eat on your picnic will vary each time, but there are some things you should always have on hand. The following list will help you keep an organized picnic basket that has everything you need right at hand. A well-used picnic basket should contain the following:

  • Plates
  • Flatware
  • Cups
  • Napkins
  • Sanitizing wipes
  • Salt and pepper
  • A few rocks or paperweights for weighing down the corner of blankets or tablecloths
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Individual packets of ketchup, mustard, and mayo
  • Straws
  • A spare bib if you have a baby or toddler
  • Garbage bags or old grocery bags
  • Paring knife

Once you have your picnic basket stocked and ready to go, it will be simple to throw together some sandwiches, chips, fresh fruit and drinks for a fun family meal on the go. To make things even easier, keep the picnic basket in the trunk of the car with an old blanket and some sand toys for the kids and you'll never think twice about a last minute picnic again.

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