Emily Winters: Summertime Is Picnic Time

School’s out and picnic season is in, and with close proximity to lake and river waterfronts, we’d be remiss if we didn’t know how to throw together a quick and easy picnic on any given summer afternoon. As far as my rule book goes, picnicking itself should be easy. It should be fun. So this summer, I picked up a few new items that make me just want to go and picnic my little heart out every sunny day.

My take on picnicking isn’t solely on the food (I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a foodie, I like to keep it easy with hot dogs and a simple salad) but I do have some favorite tools of the picnicking trade. I think you’ll like them too.

Summer picnicking!

Keep on reading to see picnicking Merrypad-style, and get a few tips to make your weekend picnic your own.

I spent many years carrying a bag of potato chips and a ham sandwich to the park in a recyclable tote bag, but this year I upgraded to a real basket. Found at a local garage sale, it was in great condition and only $2. Whether I care or not that the yellow/orange woven design (that actually does look more brown here) is exactly my taste isn’t important, but it’s huge and functional, and when you’re planning a picnic with the works, it works.

An inexpensive picnic basket.

I made another investment in melamine plates and plastic tumblers. Accessibility to these unbreakable, dishwashable, and fun dinnerware sets has increased a lot in the past few years, and it was an easy decision for me to invest in these recyclable sets instead of relying on flimsy paper plates to hold the hamburger and pasta salad at my picnic dinner. Too many lost hot dogs, too many drizzled fruit salad juice. Are you with me? My little set is from Target, and with each item priced at $1.99, the $16 investment that’s sure to last multiple seasons was a smart one. And don’t get me started with the pink and yellow theme, these pieces emanate my favorite ombre design happiness and, I’m quite sure, make me a better human being.

Yum, pretty plates and cups!

If I’m using better-than-paper dinnerware, I may as well add in my own silverware. What’s easier than pulling a few sets from the kitchen drawer and strapping them cleanly right to the inside of the basket lid? If you’re retrofitting an informal basket to become your picnic carry-all, definitely consider adding a strip of elastic somewhere to keep your accessories under control… this strip is stapled on every inch along the elastic, and it works wonderfully. Rather than knives, I usually just bring some plastic spatulas to spread mustard and relish. There may be a “strap down your flatware, it’s going to be a wild picnic” joke somewhere in there too, if you’re browsing this post for the funnies.

Strap in your flatware, it's going to be a wild picnic!

Everyone’s picnic style differs, as does accessibility to grills. For awhile, I carried my own little gas grill with me when setting up for a picnic because it wasn’t too heavy, but I have better access to charcoal grill space at a park near my current house so I usually include a paper bag filled with charcoal briquets and some otherwise-garbage newspaper to get the party started.

If you’re looking to feed more than a dozen people, you might consider making it a BYOC picnic (Bring Your Own Charcoal), because that stuff can get heavy quick.

BYOC, Bring your own charcoal.

If you’re feeling like carrying one extra thing for a charcoal-infused picnic, consider getting a charcoal chimney just for the picnicking occasion. Not only does it accelerate the speed in which the charcoal reddens, but it keeps the whole process neat, eliminates the need for carrying bottles of lighter fluid, and prepares the coals very evenly.

If you’re one to grill in your own backyard with charcoal often, you might also want one of these. Priced at just $14, it’s a wonderful addition to the grilling arsenal.

And BYOCC, Bring Your Own Charcoal Chimney.

I discovered some new storage containers at the store this spring that I swiped right up; the brand, Snapware, fulfills my dream of being able to stack various containers together so that you don’t need to have 16 different small plastic containers threatening to spill inside your basket. They’re just the right size to bring individually prepared sandwiches, chips, or dessert. Or some X-marks-the-hot-dog.

Getting our dog on.

I bought two sets of containers (four containers that snap together vertically) and all of those layers make it easy to bring a lot along. I even have a tendency to stick frozen meats inbetween the layers to keep other foods chilled if we’re not going to be eating immediately, case in point here, where I have a package of frozen sausages subtly chilling the dogs from below.

Not shown, one of my favorite multi-purposeful tips for keeping the food cold is investing in a set of those plastic-encased ice cubes, the ones that are filled with liquid but never “melt” into your drink. If you layer those in amongst your foods, you’ll keep the food cold and also have indestructible ice cubes when you’re looking to chill your beverage!

Layer frozen foods with the fresh.

For things that need to be more liquid-sealed, I turn to traditional Pyrex-type storage, something with a tight lid, and on occasion, I’ll make my salad on-site too so that it seems fresh. Again, not a particular person when it comes to my food choices, but I do like a nice fresh bean/tomato/avocado salad made to taste.

Fresh salads.

On-site, what’s easier than using an old table cloth as a blanket in the grass?

Table cloth = Blanket.

Time to get our picnicking on.

Getting our picnicking on!

Who else celebrates summer with regular picnics with family and friends? Any good tips to share on how you keep your picnics simple and successful?

Catching the home improvement bug at an early age, Emily Winters is a now a devoted DIYer living in Rochester, NY. The projects she covers on her blog Merrypad range from painting a wall to building a deck, so it’s only natural she landed at DIYNetwork.com. You can follow Emily on twitter at @merrypad and like her on facebook at facebook.com/merrypad.

9 Responses

  1. [...] this week’s post on DIY Network, I showcase a few of my recent picnicking finds. Tools of the picnicking operation, if you will. [...]

  2. christianryland says:

    When I'm still young, we used to go out on picnics. Now that I'm older, and Mom is way too weak to make picnic treats, we spend our afternoons in our patios in perth. Sometimes it's my sister's house, most of the time, Mom's place. Great way for family quality time.

  3. Maggie says:

    I never thought you to bring home improvement skills outside the home. A picnic is such an awesome idea for family and friends to be together. Looks like I'll have to get that charcoal grill along with some roller shutters perth next time I go shopping.

  4. Jeffrey says:

    Indeed, summer time is great for picnics. Backyard picnics are getting more popular nowadays. Summer time for me is also about home decorations and home improvement. I check out windows and doors perth for some great ideas.

  5. Paige says:

    I used to be a huge picnicer! I have a list taped to the inside of my picnic basket lid with all the essentials. Corkscrew, bottle opener, napkins, garbage bags, knife, cutting board, lighter, candles, etc.

  6. AlF says:

    The charcoal chimney to start your coals is an excellent addition to your arsenal. What you did not include was a functional explanation of why it is so cool (or hot in this case). The chimney holds your charcoal together so that they all become hot and ready at the same time. You flip them out onto the grill when the top coals begin to turn ashy white. You only need one or two full sheets of newspaper print to get them started, no lighter fluid is necessary.

  7. Electrician says:

    I also like picnic and i am going to picnic many time with my friends and i like your bag.

  8. dale says:

    i like it

  9. dale says:

    good way to keep you food


About Emily Fazio 


I caught the home improvement bug at an early age, and now I'm a full-time DIYer living in Rochester, NY. The projects I cover on my blog Merrypad range ...

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