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How to Pack the Perfect Picnic

How to Pack the Perfect Picnic

The following information was provided courtesy of local cookbook author and chef, Carla Snyder. Learn more about Carla at 

The flowers are blooming, the sun is shining and we can’t wait to grab an old quilt, load a cooler with snacks and venture out to our favorite country spot for a picnic. Whether you’re heading to the beach, a park or even your own backyard, eating a hastily assembled PB&J outside feels like a party after being cooped up all winter, so suffice it to say, we are ready to get outside and celebrate.

Not to slam a well-constructed PB&J, but if you haven’t picnicked lately, you’ll be happy to know that outdoor meals now require very little planning and can be as simple or elegant as you desire. A quick trip to Heinen’s makes it easy with everything you need for a delicious grab-and-go outdoor feast.

Sure, you could whip up some greens and a tuna salad, but why bother when Heinen’s has so many salads, wraps, desserts and snacks, not to mention pre-sliced fruits and vegetables, all prepackaged for the no-fuss picnic of your dreams. A walk through the store will reveal choices from the cold cases, gourmet food cases, deli cases and seafood cases to suit any theme or dietary choices.

To get you started, I’ve offered some picnic party ideas (along with where to find them) to get your mouth watering. Lots of little bites are perfect for leisurely snacking with packable prepared salads, sandwiches and desserts to round out the menu. Start with these picnic-ready, easy to pack-in-a-basket dishes, all prepared at Heinen’s.

An Italian Picnic by the River

  • Tuscan Salad Bowl (Salad Bar)
  • Godfather Wrap (Prepared Sandwich Case)
  • Chicken Pesto Wrap (Prepared Sandwich Case)
  • Calabrese Antipasta Salad (Olive Bar)
  • 1 lb. Seasonal Cookie Tray (Bakery)
  • Ojai Pixie Tangerines (Produce)
  • Amicone Rosso red and or Daisy Pinot Grigio (Wine)
Picnic by the River

Outdoor Summer Concert

  • Curried White Meat Chicken Salad (Salad Bar)
  • Heinen’s Authentic Lobster Salad (Cold Seafood Case)
  • Millers Multigrain Bread (Bakery)
  • Heinen’s Custom Cheese Tray (Gourmet Cheese Case)
  • Divina Greek Green Pitted Olives with Herb Marinade (Olive Bar)
  • Grapes and Sliced Apples (Produce)
  • Individual Fresh Fruit Flans (Bakery)
  • Whispering Angel Rosé and or Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc (Wine)

Picnic in Provence

  • Fresh Baguette (Bakery)
  • Heinen’s Honey Oak Roasted Salmon (Cold Seafood Case)
  • Grilled Asparagus from (Prepared Foods Gourmet Case)
  • Chicken Salad Croissant (Prepared Sandwich Case)
  • Piquante Peppers Stuffed with Goat Cheese (Specialty Cheese Case)
  • Jarlsberg Cheese Spread (Specialty Cheese Case)
  • Fresh Berries (Produce)
  • Macarons (Bakery)
  • Pannier Champagne Brut Rosé (Wine)
Picnic in Provence

Tailgate Picnic

  • Spicy Chipotle Aioli Grain Bowl (Prepared Foods)
  • Broccoli Delight Salad (Salad Bar)
  • Shrimp Mango and Jalapeno Salad (Cold Seafood Case)
  • Southwest Chicken Wrap (Prepared Sandwich Case)
  • Heinen’s Cheese and Pepperoni Snack Plate (Specialty Cheese Case)
  • Heinen’s Assorted Entertainment Crackers
  • Assorted Fruit Cup (Produce)
  • Mama Jo’s Key Lime Pie (Bakery)
  • Onda Sparkling Tequila and Lime or Platform Sunsurfer IPA (Beer)

Beachy Picnic

  • Garlic Grilled Shrimp (Prepared Foods Gourmet Case)
  • Classic Chicken Salad (Salad Bar)
  • Avocado Vinaigrette Grain Bowl (Prepared Foods)
  • Adams Reserve Cheddar Spread (Specialty Cheese Case)
  • Heinen’s Rosemary & Thyme Organic Crisp Crackers (Specialty Cheese Case)
  • Sliced Melon (Produce)
  • Picnic Brownies (Bakery)
  • Hampton Water Rosé and or Market Garden Shandy (Wine and Beer)
Beach Picnic

Sunday Picnic in the Park

  • Shrimp Cocktail (Cold Seafood Case)
  • Chicken Caesar Salad (Salad Bar)
  • Turkey Avocado Wrap (Prepared Sandwich Case)
  • Heinen’s Smoked Gouda Cheese Spread (Specialty Cheese Case)
  • New York Bagel Chips
  • Grapes (Produce)
  • Carrot Cake (Bakery)
  • Summer Water Rosé and or Blue Moon Belgian White Ale (Wine and Beer)

Backyard Picnic

  • Greek Salad (Salad Bar)
  • Dill Potato Salad (Salad Bar)
  • Divina Mixed Olives Chili Marinade (Olive Bar)
  • Fresh Baguette (Bakery)
  • Verlasso Smoked Salmon (Cold Seafood Case)
  • Heinen’s Hot Chili Cheese Spread (Specialty Cheese Case)
  • Mixed Nuts
  • Sliced Watermelon (Produce)
  • Mama Jo’s Banana Cream Pie (Bakery)
  • Cave de Lugny unoaked Chardonnay and or Troegs Dream Weaver Wheat Beer (Wine and Beer)
Backyard Picnic

Spring Fling Picnic

  • Spinach Feta Orzo Salad (Salad Bar)
  • Turkey Breast Croissant (Prepared Sandwich Case)
  • Heinen’s Parmesan Cheese Crisps (Specialty Cheese Case)
  • Goat Cheese and Marcona Almonds (Specialty Cheese Case)
  • Heinen’s Fig and Raisin Organic Crisp Crackers (Specialty Cheese Case)
  • Sliced Honeycrisp Apples (Produce)
  • Black and White Cookie (Bakery)
  • Urban Riesling and or Ketel One Botanical Grapefruit and Rose Vodka Spritz (Wine and Beer)

Scavenger Hunt Picnic

  • Garden Salad (Salad Bar)
  • Calico Bean Salad (Salad Bar)
  • Grilled Portobello on Multigrain Croissant (Prepared Sandwich Case)
  • Egg Salad Croissant (Prepared Sandwich Case)
  • Hummus and Pita Chips
  • Plums and Nectarines (Produce)
  • Two Brothers Original and Salted Caramel Brownie (Bakery)
  • White Claw Hard Seltzer Variety Pack
Scavenger Hunt Picnic

If it’s possible, kids like picnics even more than adults. After all, the ability to run wild, eat food while exploring and generally behave any way they want makes a picnic fun for kids and adults alike. To make the eating part of the picnic fun for kids, add finger foods such as:

  • String cheese
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Edamame
  • Trail mix
  • PB&J finger sandwiches
  • Individual snack bags of pretzels or chips
  • Juice boxes
  • Fixings for S’mores if there is a spot for a fire
  • Crunchy veggies like cherry tomatoes, bell peppers or cucumbers
  • Seasonal fruits like peaches, watermelon or blackberries

Finally, use these top ten tips to make your picnic not only safe, but a real success.

  1. Take food you can pack easily. Start out with premade packaged dishes that won’t spill while in transit. Heinen’s makes it easy with a wide assortment of picnic-ready options.
  2. Purchase finger friendly foods, such as salads, sandwiches, wraps, cut fruit, etc.
  3. Bring lots of napkins, paper towels, wet wipes, paper plates, plastic utensils, garbage bags and don’t forget a cutting board, knife, bottle opener and wine key.
  4. Pack your cooler with an eye to layering the things you will use early and most often on top. It’s ideal to have two coolers if possible: one for drinks and another for cold foods.
  5. Pick the right spot. Look for someplace scenic, lush and grassy with plenty of natural shade. Or bring a beach umbrella. Remember, picnicking is a state of mind.
  6. Have a bug plan. Pack bug spray for the humans and mesh covers, plastic wrap or even shower caps for covering bowls and plates.
  7. Don’t forget the sunscreen!
  8. Have a plan for an activity. Board games, books and toys for the kids are easy to pack in and out. Plan a few games between eating and relaxing. It could be as simple as bringing an inflatable beach ball or a frisbee.
  9. Travel light. Keeping it fun means no one feels like a pack mule dragging all your picnic swag in and out of the car. All you really need, aside from the food, is a picnic blanket and maybe a few folding chairs for those who have trouble getting up and down. If you’re worried about damp ground, bring a plastic liner to place under your blanket to keep it dry.
  10. Have fun!

A picnic is one of the best warm weather activities and nothing is more liberating than lifting the lid of a cooler, popping the lids off all the storage containers and laying them out for a feast in a lovely location.

If you need a date to jump start your feast (hint, hint), June 18, 2021 is International Picnic Day. Let’s all head outdoors for an easy, breezy picnic. All we need now is for the sun to shine!

Carla Snyder

By Carla Snyder

Carla has spent the past 30 years in the food world as a caterer, artisan baker, cooking school teacher, food writer and author of 6 cook books including the James Beard nominated Big Book of Appetizers. Her passion is sharing fresh, cooked-from-scratch weeknight meals that cut prep time and practically eliminate that nightly sink full of dishes.

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