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How to have the perfect picnic

It's time to pack the cool bag with tasty vegan food and head out into the great outdoors

Think that picnicking is a modern-day activity? Not at all! Around the world, we have been enjoying picnics, in one form or another, for centuries, although they have changed a lot over the years.

The word 'picnic' fist cropped up in the 1600s, originating from the French word 'pique-nique', a term for wealthy gourmands bringing along bottles of wine to restaurants when dining out.

The 'pique-nique' evolved to highbrow al fresco meals, eventually becoming big in Victorian England for people from all walks of life (littlepotatoes.com).

Today, picnics allow us to enjoy great-tasting food amongst nature and our favourite people.

They allow a slightly freer dining experience than meals taken up a table and help us to reconnect with the Earth from which our food was grown.

But, when picnicking, what do we need to remember and how can we go that extra mile?

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Pick the right spot

Probably the most important aspect of a picnic, is where you have it. At the beach, in a meadow, on a hill at sunset or in a forest, the options are virtually endless, but there are some things to consider.

Ideally, you want somewhere that is scenic - or else you might as well stay at home. Though there is nothing wrong with a humble picnic in your own back garden!

Aim for somewhere that is lush and grassy or with soft sand, so that the ground is not uncomfortable to sit on, and make sure there is some shade in case it gets too hot - under a tree is great.

Base your spot on what kind of experience you want. For a quiet, romantic picnic, it's probably best to avoid a busy beach filled with excited children - a forest or meadow is perfect, complete with birdsong and the gentle sounds of wildlife.

If you are taking along your kids, you will probably want to make sure there is enough space for them to run around safely, but not so much that you lose them - a local park is ideal.

Most importantly - make sure you have a rainy-day location or shelter lined up, just in case the rain prevails. Pop-up gazebos are perfect if you need some quick-to-setup shelter. For our favourite places to picnic in the UK, check out p68.

Pick the right spot

Obviously, the other crucial part of a picnic is the food, so make sure it is delicious, won't go off and is easy to transport and eat outside. Finger food is great as it can be picked at throughout the day - think mini sandwiches, snack pots of fruit, crisps, vegan sausage rolls and mini cakes.

Salads and crudites are also wonderful, enjoyed sitting in the sun. Head to our picnic recipe and product pages for inspiration! It's wise to estimate how much food your group will actually eat before you make or buy it to avoid leftovers and waste.

Note down who will be attending and what you are planning to take, and coordinate with other attendees to make sure you don't bring the same thing.

Be mindful of what you pack your food and eating utensils into - wicker baskets are charming and usually eco-friendly but are not always the most practical option. If you want to opt for the wicker basket aesthetic though, use one that has a sturdy handle and insulated compartments for food - some even come with reusable plates and cutlery.

There are also lots of insulated picnic bags made from recycled materials, so choose the one that's right for you. Pack your basket in reverse order so that it is easy to get to the items, drinks or food you want when you arrive at your picnic destination.

Place nonperishable foods at the bottom, then perishables like salads above those, with serving items and tableware on top - and remember to intersperse ice packs for fresh chilled items.

Avoid using plastic bags to store food in. Companies like Elephant Box (elephantbox.co.uk), Huski
Home (huskihome.com) and Chilly's Bottles (chillysbottles.com) make tonnes of reusable food storage containers.

Remember something to sit on

There's always that person who attends the picnic without a blanket or chair and forces you to make space for them on your own - don't be them. Take along a comfy throw or blanket that's got enough cushioning, but that's also machine-washable in case of grass or food stains.

Bring along a pillow or two for extra comfort and for after food naps. If you have a bad back or the floor is just not for you, an upright camping chair is another easy-to-bring seating option.

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Pack an impressive spread

Obviously, the other crucial part of a picnic is the food, so make sure it is delicious, won't go off and is easy to transport and eat outside.

Finger food is great as it can be picked at throughout the day - think mini sandwiches, snack pots of fruit, crisps, vegan sausage rolls and mini cakes.

Salads and crudites are also wonderful, enjoyed sitting in the sun. Head to our picnic recipe and product pages for inspiration! It's wise to estimate how much food your group will actually eat before you make or buy it to avoid leftovers and waste.

Note down who will be attending and what you are planning to take, and coordinate with other attendees to make sure you don't bring the same thing.

Be mindful of what you pack your food and eating utensils into - wicker baskets are charming and usually eco-friendly but are not always the most practical option.

If you want to opt for the wicker basket aesthetic though, use one that has a sturdy handle and insulated compartments for food - some even come with reusable.

Provide entertainment

Picnics are not just for eating! They are a chance to have fun with friends and explore the beautiful outdoors. After you've eaten, why not indulge in some outdoor games?

Sports like badminton, football, frisbee or rounders can be played almost anywhere, so consider how much space you have and what your group might enjoy.

Things like giant Jenga, Twister or French boules are also lots of fun in the sunshine and require little setting up.

Nature enthusiasts will love hiking, bird watching, wildlife spotting or even foraging, so make sure that your location is suitable and plan ahead.

If you want to go bird or wildlife spotting, remember to take along a pair of binoculars and a guidebook!

Remember eating and drinking utensils

It's easy to forget things like knives, forks, spoons, bowls, plates and cups - so if you're in charge of the picnic, make sure to take along enough for everyone to use.

Don't opt for paper or plastic cutlery - take along those from your own home, or on-the-go reusable bamboo sets. If you're taking wine or glass bottles, remember a corkscrew and bottle opener, as well as wine glass and cup holders to avoid spillages.

Napkins and kitchen roll are important, too - there are loads of reusable cotton, linen and hemp napkins and towels that are great at mopping up food and spillages. A few bottles of sanitiser are also recommended when exploring the great outdoors!

Create ambiance

Make sure there are good vibes at your picnic - with a music playlist that creates the type of atmosphere you want, be that laid-back and chilled or playful and merry.

Make your own playlist for the day and take along some speakers - but be mindful of noise; if your group is sharing a space with other people, be considerate that they may not want to listen to your music.

If you're in a secluded field away from others, then - within reason - music should be fine to play, just not so loud that it disturbs nearby wildlife.

If your picnic is scheduled for or continues past sundown, create ambiance by taking along battery-powered fairy lights or solar lights (also remember to take torches!).

Softly glowing string lights are perfect for adding romance to the evening. If you do take solar lights though, remember to allow them to charge in the sunlight before use.

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Group of young people practicing yoga In the prayer position at gym, Concept of relaxation and meditation

Leave your picnic area as you found it

At the end of your picnic, make sure you pick up litter and clean up after yourselves. Take along a bag or two for collecting rubbish, and don't leave anything behind.

Pick up any dropped food so that animals do not eat it - as it may not be good for them.

Respect the environment that hosted you, so that others can enjoy it too, and so that any wildlife that lives in the area can remain undisturbed and unharmed.

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VeganLife

The lifestyle magazine written by vegans for vegans.