LifeStyle & Health

Forget the mayonnaise but remember the honey: readers’ tried and tested tips for a perfect picnic | Picnics

Pack Turkish börek

Last year, we took börek on several picnics: giant spirals of filo pastry stuffed with Turkish white cheese and spinach (alternatively lamb and potato). They’re ideal for picnics because they taste great cold, you can cut them into smaller sections to take in a plastic tub and the filling and pastry holds together well. My other tip would be to keep some lightweight folding chairs in the boot of the car for impromptu picnics (the cheap Eurohike ones are great) along with reusable plastic cutlery. I also take a collapsible/telescopic metal straw for drinks.
Lucy Matthews, Nottingham

Get creative

Making your own picnic basket is a wonderful and creative way to recycle old shoe boxes. Cover the outside of the box with fabric and the inside with waterproof material. It’s the perfect solution for carrying napkins, placemats and cutlery. Of course, here in Italy, we love to eat pasta on a picnic. Prepare short pasta, such as fusilli, as you normally would and add extra-virgin olive oil. Wait until it is cold, then mix in cooked vegetables, eggs and ham in little pieces. You can do this with rice, too. Buon appetito.
Barbara Pietrobon, graphic designer, Italy

Bring jars of honey

Honey for the bees.
Honey for the bees. Photograph: Yupaluk Phangpan/Getty Images/EyeEm

People often pay a lot of attention to the food at picnics, but not the environment. Pesky insects interrupting your picnic can totally kill the vibe. A great picnicking tip is to pick a location that isn’t near stagnant water, because that is where insects like to hang out, and to bring a couple of jars filled with a little bit of honey mixed with water. Place the jars a couple of metres away from where you are sitting and the insects will pick the honey over you.
Amy Swain, content marketing partner, Hertfordshire

Pair champagne with fried chicken

I have a whole host of “from scratch” picnic recipes that include homegrown herbs being muddled in a pestle and mortar with garlic, oil and chilli flakes – but when the sun comes out without warning and you have a window of opportunity, pop that chilled cremant/cava/champagne into a cool bag and visit your local fried chicken joint. They’ll have napkins and condiments, and the food will all stay warm for the 15 minutes it takes you to get lakeside or hillside, or merely outside. Fish and chips can work, too.
Anna-Louise Dearden, writer, Wellingborough

Take hot-water bottles

Hot or cold, the perfect addition to your picnic.
Hot or cold, the perfect addition to your picnic. Photograph: Jamie Grill/Getty/Tetra

Take hot-water bottles filled with hot (but not boiling) water on cool days, or iced water on hot days – these can be placed into your picnic/cool bag with either hot food or cold drinks. The warm variety are really cosy to cuddle if the temperature drops, and the water inside can also be used to wash any greasy, sticky or sandy fingers before heading home – you could even take a bar of soap.
Annie, retired, Devon

Don’t forget bin bags

Leave no trace.
Leave no trace. Photograph: Alamy

Wherever I plan to have a picnic, I always make sure to have a couple of bin bags with me. Bins in parks are often overflowing and don’t want to leave rubbish on the grass or even stuff things in my regular bag. What if that smelly bit of plastic covered in hummus stains your summer cotton tote? Bin bags are the solution. You can dispose of them back home or on the way, and they are also extremely useful as a cover in case of a sudden shower of rain.
Sara Fedeli, librarian, Cambridge

Bake cake that doesn’t crumble

One of my favourite parts of a picnic spread is having a good dip or two with crudités: hummus, muhammara or wild-garlic cream cheese all work. I also like to have some sort of pastry, preferably with a filling of nuts, mushrooms, vegan sausage meat and chilli and a beautiful green salad – the fresher the better – as well as homemade bread, maybe a hard cheese and good marinated olives. If you are going to take cake, make sure it isn’t going to crumble: tiffin or figgy flapjack are good. Don’t neglect taking a good drink – quality cordial or a chilled wine – and water, too. My favourite picnic accessories at the moment are a rounders bat, a ball and my terrier.
Mandy Farrer, vegan chef, Wales

Build your own picnic box

Volker Ramge’s homemade picnic box.
Volker Ramge’s homemade picnic box. Photograph: Volker Ramge

Bring a camping cooker, a small pot, fresh fish and a Thermos flask filled with fish soup to your picnic. You can heat up the fish soup on the cooker and throw in the fish before serving. I also made a picnic hamper using an old wooden box, which is perfect for transporting a three-course picnic for up to four people.
Volker Ramge, lawyer, Germany

Avoid mayonnaise

Choose pet- and weather-friendly foods – even if you don’t bring your dog to your picnic, others might bring theirs. Avoid ruining the party with mayo-based salads and chocolate-based dishes – they spoil incredibly fast in the heat, and chocolate could be harmful to your furry guests. I always go for dry foods, such as croissants and quiches, and often make a cake to bring with me. It is perfect to share with others and you can save money, too.
Marcio Delgado, digital consultant, London

Make masala chai

Hassi Shah-Leverett’s masala chai picnic.
Hassi Shah-Leverett’s masala chai picnic. Photograph: Hassi Shah-Leverett

Plan a variety of mini bites, with a selection of dips and chutneys, then serve it all up as a platter and nibble away. Sunday picnics were part of my childhood and I have fond memories of enjoying a selection of Indian delights followed by aromatic masala chai (Indian spiced tea). My love for picnics is still strong and these days I prepare a picnic to suit a variety of tastes – from samosas and pakoras to a selection of sandwiches and a cheese board.
Hassi Shah-Leverett, retired, Fareham

Invest in decent kit

Bring small, compact chairs – it makes the world of difference to comfort. Picnics don’t have to be lunch or dinner; we go as a family after work, for an hour of pre-dinner drinks and nibbles. Seeing the sky and some people, having a chat or playing an outdoor game makes all the difference. Invest in decent kit, such as a good picnic bag with plenty of melamine plates, cups and metal cutlery which can be reused time and time again to reduce waste.
Rachel Delhaise, head of sustainability, London

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