How To Pack the Perfect Picnic Basket

The essentials you need for a meal in the grass

In the warmer months of the year, nothing quite beats a picnic when getting together with friends over a mouth-watering meal. Whether you’re planning a romantic picnic at sunset for two, or gathering for a picnic dinner with friends (and their kids), it pays off to put together a checklist of items to ensure your gathering goes off without a hitch. So, before you pack up that coleslaw or chicken salad in your reusable containers, read through our primer to be sure you don’t miss a thing. 


The Essentials

You can’t picnic without a basket of some sort — and there is a wide variety available, from those luxurious baskets fully stocked with quality plates, silverware, blankets and more to those for picnickers on a budget. Maybe you have an heirloom woven hamper that was once used by your grandparents years ago. I find this durable (and collapsible) market basket works best when carrying a picnic for two. Picnicking near vehicle access? My family finds loading up a roller cooler with tons of ice, cold drinks, and food and then using a big rattan basket for all the utensils, serving ware, blankets, and tools the perfect solution for a 14-person, post-kayak picnic. 

Picnicking on the grass? A durable, nylon-backed wool blanket is a must (especially in dew-dampened grass). If you’re picnicking at a table, why not dress up your meal by putting a simple cotton tablecloth on top. Whichever you choose, don’t forget to include a set of cloth napkins which you can wash and use again — these 79 cent towels from IKEA are the perfect solution.


Packing the Basket

If you don’t have a basket already stocked with dishes and utensils, be sure to pick up some light and durable plates that are inexpensive (in case one doesn’t make it home) but can also be used for years to come. If you’re serious about picnicking, invest in an inexpensive set of flatware. Target sells a five-place setting set for merely $20. For something more classic, try this $40 stainless-steel, four-setting set from Gingko. 

When it comes to glassware, go for reusable acrylic tumblers. For a basic picnic, count on one glass per person. If you’re hosting a more formal picnic, include an additional specialty wine or cocktail glassmargaritas anyone?