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Bring one pair of comfortable walking shoes as well as a pair of sandals or Tevas. Before you leave home, break in your new shoes so you're not uncomfortable on the road.

Tips for Your Picnic Basket

Recipes for Picnics

Tips for Your Picnic Basket

So you're headed out for a day at a theme or water park and decided to take food to save on money and not have to wait in lines with hungry kids - or you're traveling and don't want to have to find groceries and prepare lunch on the way - or you just need to get out of town for a full day - or ? Here are some things to keep in mind while putting together your picnic basket:

The Rule: Take what you need and no less. Take what you want and no more.

The Basket - don't use bags. They will be trampled on, fall over, be crushed, etc. Use any basket, strong tote, cooler or the like. Rectangular will always fit better. Consider a container that can also be used as a small table.

Cooler or ice chest - A must for all perishables. Try to match the cooler and contents. Don't lug around an enormous cooler for a couple of sandwiches and one 6-pack of drinks. Do leave room for ice. The day before, fill the cooler with ice and then drain and re-fill when you pack before leaving.

Ground Cover(s)-

A. Table Cloth: The best bet is an old plastic-coated table cloth that can take the spills and be thrown in the wash. It should be big enough to comfortably hold all the food, containers and work space and at least some sitting space.

B. Blanket: It's worth it to take along at least one blanket for crawling children, a little nap and some people or nature watching.

Tableware: Plates, cups, knives and forks, etc. Consider disposable plates and washable plastic. Try to use unbreakable but solid pieces. Take extras of each of these.

Utensils: Be sure you can get into and use everything you take - so you may need a can opener, bottle opener, corkscrew, sharp knives for specific uses, cutting board, serving spoons, nut cracker? Would a pie server make the entire day go easier? Leave the kitchen drawers at home and take the specific items you will need. Got the toothpicks?

Food Containers & Protectors: A cake in plastic wrap may become a real mess - use adequate containers. Sauce leaking from an inadequate bottle can totally ruin the day. Stay away from breakable glass and china. Do a pre-packing of just the containers when you are planning the menu to see how much space you are taking up. Have a plan for covering the food during the picnic - chocolate shavings are much more appetizing than flies. The Victorian solution was light-weight napkins with weights - try sewing old keys to the corners of napkins to use as food covers.

Condiments: Take along what your family loves on food - peppers, cinnamon, honey, lemon, steak sauce, mustard. Get or make up your own small-portion containers and put them all in a large baggie. Extra baggies always come in handy.

BBQ: If you're going to do the cooking on-site, first BE SURE IT'S SAFE. Camp stoves or hibachi are handy, but must be packed cool. Be very careful with disposing of coals hot or cold. Include fuel and matches, at least one hot glove or mitt, and preferably a small fire extinguisher. Take appropriate utensils. A small plant sprayer with water can be very helpful. Serving platter or board - more important than you think.

That Special Touch: Do you want to take folding chairs, a folding table, break-down umbrella, vase of flowers? It's your picnic. We once saw a family by the side of the road in the mountains of Colorado having tea at a card table set with linen and full silver service.

Mother Nature: Shelter and comfort items like insect repellent, sunscreen, allergy medication, portable cover if it rains, flashlight if it will get dark. Tailor the kit to the day.

Kids: You won't forget the kids, but did you remember the camera, a toy or two, the baseball and gloves, maybe a book or sketch pad?

Clean Up: Take garbage bags. Use one for garbage, one for dirty dishes, one for ??? Just be sure you throw away the right one. Moist towelettes, wash cloth and soap, whatever you want to use to tidy up before hitting the road again - maybe the plant sprayer and paper towels are enough. It's always a good idea to throw in a roll of toilet paper.

Enjoy your picnic! And take notes on what to do next time - just tuck the note in your picnic basket. It will be a pleasant discovery when you start putting together your next picnic.

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