30 Easy Picnic Staples to Pack for a Day in the Sun


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A picnic elevates a beautiful day into a fun event. Preparing food at home allows for low-cost, customized flavors, so everyone ends the day satiated and happy. These 30 takes on picnic staples offer a wide variety of foods to help celebrate National Picnic Day on April 23.

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Potato salad can be made many ways. Rather than worry about keeping a mayo-based salad cold enough to be safe and tasty to enjoy the entire day, opt for a vinegar-based dressing that holds up better in the heat. Recipe: Epicurious

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This crunchy, fiber-packed dish is based on dirt-cheap cabbage, which adds bulk and flavor on a small budget. It's another dish that can be heavy on mayo and call for ice packs to keep it cool. Instead, opt for a mayo-less version that is tangy or even spicy. Recipe: Allrecipes

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Cold noodle salads hold up for a long time and taste great at any temperature. The key to avoiding a clumpy mess of stuck-together noodles is to rinse them thoroughly after boiling. After that, flavor and season them however you like. Recipe: Bon Appétit

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Delicate cucumber sandwiches are good for snacking while lazing around in the afternoon sun. A spreadable filling -- which could also be packed in a jar and served as a dip with bread or crackers -- helps keep the sandwiches together even if they get tossed around a bit. Recipe: Food.com

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Chicken salad is a classic picnic dish, although chunkier versions can be messy to transport. One option is to use a roll with some of the center scooped out so the filling stays put. Another way to go is to turn the classic sandwich into an easy-to-hold wrap. Recipe: Add a Pinch

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A refreshing drink is essential; homemade lemonade is quintessential. It always tastes better than store bought, and usually has less sugar and additives. Keep it in a jar next to an ice pack with some cups on the side. Recipe: Simply Recipes

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Snacking on savory foods all day brings an inevitable craving for something sweet. Brownies are ideal: They are hand-held and pack a lot of flavor into a little bite, which means less bulk to pack. Skip the boxed mix and go homemade for the best flavor and cost. Recipe: The New York Times

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These tangy and crisp green beans are easy to prepare and add a low-fat, high-flavor snacking option to a picnic spread. Packed in a jar, they stay fresh all day and provide a touch of acidity to accompany sandwiches and salads. Recipe: Woman's Day

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Take quiche or pie to a picnic without worrying about about mess or bringing utensils for serving and eating. Handpies can take any filling -- savory, like this cheese, mushroom, and onion version -- or sweet. Recipe: Country Living

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This simple sandwich combines tangy cheddar and sweet apples on whole wheat bread for an easy, nutritious snack. Layer slices of cheese and apple evenly so the sandwiches stay together neatly. Recipe: Real Simple

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Orzo -- which looks like rice but is a pasta -- doesn't take up a lot of space the way other pasta salads might, and can be flavored flexibly. A Mediterranean spin uses small amounts of big-flavor ingredients such as feta cheese and olives to bring the dish together. Recipe: Iowa Girl Eats

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Fruit salad gets better as it sits and the juices macerate the chunks together. A simple fruit salad dressed with a lemon, honey, and mint sauce keeps flavors fresh and bright throughout the day. Pack it family-style and serve in cups. Recipe: Allrecipes

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Salads can be tough to enjoy on picnics, requiring extras such as plates and forks and containers for dressing. Turning favorite salads into skewers makes them picnic friendly. A caprese skewer is particularly easy to prepare and serve without utensils. Recipe: Stuck on Sweet

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This traditional Mexican street food bursts with flavor and is fun to eat by hand, even if it's a little messy. Packing the seasoned ears of corn together in a zip-top bag keeps every piece well dressed and ready to enjoy. Recipe: The Lean Green Bean

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Bite-size treats are ideal for picnics. These mini tarts are best when tomatoes are in season. The key to packing the tarts is to let them cool completely before stashing them in plastic containers, with sheets of wax or parchment paper between layers. Recipe: Country Living

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Chips and salsa is always a hit, and an easy snack to bring on a picnic. This grilled corn salsa allows picnickers to bring the flavor of a grill without having to fuss with a grill while trying to relax and enjoy the day. Recipe: Minimalist Baker

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Bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches are a warm-weather staple that strike the balance between rich and satisfying and light and refreshing. These BLT wraps last longer in the picnic basket by avoiding fresh tomatoes that could making them soggy. Recipe: Southern Living

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This recipe takes regular watermelon to the next level. The addition of a few seasonings such as mint, lime zest, and black pepper highlights the sweetness of crisp watermelon, creating extra flavor in each bite. Recipe: Country Living

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Skewering ripe, juicy melon with prosciutto turns this super classy and delicious snack into a picnic-friendly dish. Keep it near an ice pack in a cooler to keep the flavors fresh throughout the day. Recipe: Simply Delicious Food

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The pearl-shaped pasta in this salad soaks up flavor while remaining tender-chewy. Couscous is delicious at any temperature and holds up to dressing without getting soggy. This salad uses herbs, tomatoes, and mozzarella but can be flavored a number of ways. Recipe: A Hint of Honey

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Cold fried chicken is as great in its own way as the stuff fresh out of the fryer. This oven-baked version reduces the oil so the skin stays crisp, even when packed up for a picnic. Recipe: Delish

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Turning chocolate chip cookies into bars makes them easier to pack into a small space and keeps them from getting stuck together when stacked. Bars provide all the ooey-gooey goodness of the traditional recipe. Recipe: Food.com

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This pretty and flavorful summer drink is a not-too-sweet option to complement the bright flavors of picnic food. Buying dried hibiscus flowers rather than individual tea bags is a cheaper approach that also lets you adjust the strength of each brew. Recipe: Martha Stewart

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Pack these in individual-size jars and enjoy Key lime pie with no mess. The same idea can be applied to other favorite desserts, including berries and cream or Oreo pie. Recipe: Kitchen Treaty

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Biscuits are cheap, quick, and easy to make, then easy to grab and eat. Take them to the next level with flavors such as bacon jalapeño, or sweet and savory maple cheddar. Recipe: Epicurious

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Tart, sweet, and buttery, there's something about lemon bars that pair well with a sunny day. The key to packing them without a sticky mess: Let them cool completely, and be generous with the powdered sugar topping. Stack only two or three deep. Recipe: Food.com

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The turkey club is a favorite, hearty sandwich that's handier at picnics as a wrap. Layer a pickle spear or chips right into the sandwich to add a crunchy element. Recipe: Tastes Lovely

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These light rolls burst with flavor and nutrition and use a small amount of inexpensive ingredients to make. They take a bit of prep work, but the effort is worth it. Pack the sauce on the side in a jar for communal dipping. Recipe: House of Yumm

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Make-ahead ribs are a picnic staple, and this slow cooker recipe is super easy and hands-off, so there's plenty of time to make other dishes while they cook. Wait for the ribs to cool before packing in zip-top bags (and bring plenty of napkins or wet wipes). Recipe: Allrecipes

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Halfway between a cookie and a breakfast bar, these treats are sweet enough to feel like dessert and healthy enough to be enjoyed guilt free. They're also packed with protein to fill you up, thwarting pricey, less healthy cravings. Recipe: Minimalist Baker

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