Eating alfresco surrounded by nature makes us realize how much we need to take care of our precious planet. We can start by packing an organic picnic—its positive impact can go much further than just the foods we choose.
Taking public transit where possible; riding our bikes; using washable napkins, reusable or biodegradable plates, and recyclable containers; packing up our garbage, compostables, and recyclables and taking them home—all help reduce our carbon footprint, making an organic picnic a tribute to Mother Earth.
Choose as many organic ingredients as possible when making these recipes.
Mairlyn’s essential dozen picnic tips
1: The number one rule for food safety is to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. My trick for packing a picnic is to pack two sets of drinks packaged in Tetra Pak packaging. I freeze half of the drinks to act as the cold source to keep the picnic cold. The drinks thaw out by mid picnic and are icy cold in the late afternoon. Serve the unfrozen drinks at the start of the picnic.
2: Pack enough drinks so that each person can drink 1 cup (250 mL) per hour. That may sound like a lot, but in the summer heat drinking 1 cup (250 mL) per hour is recommended. Most picnics are all-day affairs, so pack at least four drinks per person.
3. Put all the food into the cooler, then place your cold source on top. Cold air falls, keeping the food on the bottom as cool as the stuff on the top.
4. Any food that does go into the cooler should be cold. Warm food will raise the temperature in the cooler, preventing optimal coldness. This is the biggest reason to never buy hot takeout before the picnic and place it in a cooler or worse, in the sun.
5. Never leave the cooler in the car. It gets mighty hot in there, and it won’t matter if the whole picnic is frozen beforehand, that much heat will melt anything. My rule of thumb—never leave kids, pets, or the cooler in the car.
6. I try to pack all of the food in non-breakable containers. There’s nothing worse than arriving at your picnic to discover the pickle jar broken and vinegar over everything.
7. Pack a picnic blanket. My official picnic blanket is an old quilt that I bought at a garage sale. I keep it in the trunk of my car most of the summer in case the picnic mood overtakes me on the way home from work.
8. Those cute wicker picnic baskets are for nonperishables, not food. I keep my wicker basket packed with nonbreakable dishes; cutlery; a face cloth in a plastic bag; a first aid kit; a roll of toilet paper; cloth napkins; bug spray; sun screen; and bags for garbage, compostables, and recycling.
9. Keep bugs at bay with leftover tuna. Simply save a bit of the fish in the bottom of the can, pack it in an airtight bag, and take it with you on your picnic. Leave the tin about 15 feet (5 metres) away from your picnic. The bugs are usually attracted to the strong tuna smell and will leave you alone.
10. If your picnic includes kids, pack a soccer ball, horseshoes, badminton rackets, water guns, or a baseball and gloves. Playing outside is fun and a great way to be active with the entire family.
11. When you arrive home, if the food in the cooler isn’t cold, throw it out. That old saying “when in doubt throw it out,” is true. You can’t see or smell bacteria, so be smart—don’t taste it, just pitch it.
12. Replenish your wicker basket so it’s ready for the next picnic.
Diabetics and anyone on sugar, fat, and sodium restricted diets can modify recipes in simple ways. To cut down on sugar:
- Use less sugar, honey, or syrup than the recipe calls for.
- Make smaller portions (15 muffins instead of 12).
- Don’t ice or glaze baked goods.
To cut down on fats
- Don’t use hard margarine, shortening, or lard.
- Substitute plain yogourt or nonfat sour cream for regular sour cream.
- Reduce the amount of nuts called for in a recipe.
- To cut down on sodium
- Rinse canned beans or lentils before using them.
- Eliminate salt-based seasonings such as garlic salt or onion salt.
- Use less of condiments such as mustard and ketchup.