Whether surrounded by family and friends, planning a romantic getaway, or creating a solo escape, the perfect picnic is possible. With planning and preparation, you can master the perfect picnic for a flawless, stress-free afternoon.

The Perfect Spot
When Mother Nature throws a curveball, darkening sunny skies, don't let this put a damper on your plans. Re-invent picnic spots by looking close to home. The perfect picnic may turn out to be on the back porch. If weather is more favorable, choose a spot that keeps comfort in mind. An entire day spent in the sun may seem inviting, but all those hours in the heat will exhaust energy and spoil food. Seek out leafy locations where you can find relief in the shade when you need it.

Your Picnic Basket
Your perfect picnic may be a formal event for a large number of guests, or an intimate party for two on a cozy quilt. Whether large-scale or small, creating a picnic basket checklist helps keep you organized.

In Your Basket:

  • Plates, spoons etc
  • C serving utensils
  • napkins
  • cups and glasses
  • bottle openers

Other Essentials:

  • cutting board and cutting knife
  • sunscreen
  • insect repellant
  • moist towels
  • trash bags

Food Fun
1. Be Colourful
Keep your picnic healthy by stocking up on colourful vegetables. Crunchy carrots, celery, and cucumbers are ideal--they're a no fuss appetizer, packed with nutrition. Dress veggies with low-fat yogurt dips, or salsa.

2. Switch Dips
Plan a healthy retreat by swapping traditional sides for nutritious, home-made alternatives. Trade mayo for this zesty garnish: mix plain low-fat yogurt with a tablespoon of Dijon or whole grain mustard. Perfect as a sandwich spread, a veggie dip, or a tasty salad dressing.

3. Banish Boredom
Build on classic staples for a fresh menu.

  • Transform chunks of day-old bread into a colourful appetizer when combined with chopped tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and a sprinkling of fresh basil. Drizzle with olive oil for a light and fresh summer dish.
  • Peel and grate beets for a refreshing beet salad topped with crunchy pistachios or hazelnuts.

4. Drink Up
Freshen up your picnic with a pitcher of home-made lemonade.

Perfect Picnic Lemonade

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 cups fresh lemon juice
  • 1 gallon cold water
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • mint sprigs (garnish)

Preparation

  • Stir sugar and hot water in a large container until sugar dissolves.
  • Add lemon juice and cold water and stir.
  • Pour into glasses, squeeze lemon slice over each. Add garnish.

5. Reinvent a Classic: Potato Salad
Keep the salad, hold the mayo. Reinvent an old favorite by swapping this mayo-based salad, which is high in fat, for a low-fat variation.

Ingredients

  • 4 potatoes
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3/4 cup hummus
  • 1/2 cup plain, fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 3 celery sticks, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • a dash of paprika
  • ground cayenne to taste

Preparation
Boil and drain potatoes. Combine in a large bowl with the other ingredients, mixing well.(Serves 4).

Food Safety
After all that planning and hard work, you don't want to see your efforts go to waste, literally. To keep your picnic safe, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Wait till the last minute. Procrastination may be a shortcoming in other circumstances, but when it comes to preparing picnic food, hold off until at least the day before. Food cooked too far in advance gives bacteria a better chance to grow.
  2. Separate hot and cold food. To keep your food safe from bacteria, store hot and cold foods separately and never let them sit at unsafe temperatures for more than two hours.
    • Pack cold foods in a cooler--within a thick support of ice blocks or frozen gel packs--at 4?C or below. During the drive, keep coolers in the backseat instead of the trunk, where temperatures can get too steamy.
    • Wrap hot foods inside a blanket or insulated cover, stored at 60?C or above.
    • Non-refrigerated options. sandwiches, nuts, and unpeeled fresh fruit, like bananas and oranges, bypass the hot-cold issue altogether.
    • Hand health. If you won't be near a sink to wash your hands, pack moist towels to ward off bacteria.
    • Keep insects away. Cover foods to prevent uninvited guests from getting into the food before you can and infecting it with harmful bacteria.
    • Leave leftovers. If food has been sitting out for too long at an unsafe temperature, it's best to toss it. Too many hands have touched it and too much time has passed to risk keeping it.