How to Pack a Real Food Picnic

By blog team member, Kiran. To learn more about Kiran, check out our team page or her blog!

Inspired by Lisa’s recent family bike picnic in partnership with Liv Cycling (more on that below), my kids and I decided to put together one of our own. I was excited about an activity that’s both fun and economical and that we could all enjoy. Spending quality time outside with the kiddos so they can expend some of their energy? Getting their help in deciding the menu and making the food? Sign me up!
To help you plan your own real food picnic for your family, here are some do’s and don’ts Lisa and I both learned from our experiences.
The Dos and Donts of a Real Food Picnic on 100 Days of Real Food

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When to go

Do decide how much work you’re willing to put into it – a perfectly planned picnic with a day or two of prep or a quick grab of the pb & j and some fresh fruit before heading out? Both are great!
Don’t plan to go during the hottest hours of the day – for food spoilage reasons and also for the whiny kid factor. I know you parents will thank me for this one.
Don’t forget to check the weather. Biking and picnicking in the rain is not as much fun as it is without rain. My opinion, of course.

Where to go

Do pick a route that’s suitable for your crew. Do you wish to take a long ride or is the bike part just an appetizer for the main meal? Do you have younger riders or more experienced kids who can go the distance? Take all of these factors into consideration when making your decision.
Do pick a place that has public restrooms. This is another one that I’m pretty sure you guys will thank me for. Plus you may want to rinse out some of the food storage containers and such.
How to Pack a Real Food Picnic on 100 Days of Real Food

What to pack

Do pack food in leak-proof containers. We like Lock & Lock, which ensure no unwanted liquids end up in your cooler.
Do bring finger foods that are easy to pick up and eat. But in the case that not everything is finger-friendly, don’t forget to bring some reusable (or disposable) utensils.
Don’t bring food that needs to stay frozen or super cold. Pretty sure this one goes without saying, but ice cream and popsicles are probably not the best choices.
Do freeze your water bottles before packing them. They can serve as ice packs to keep the food cold and also be refreshing upon arrival.
Don’t overpack. One of the best things about a picnic is that you enjoy the food while there but don’t have to bring home a lot of leftovers.
Don’t forget the napkins. Bring extras in case of spills or to wipe off utensils or containers if need be.
Do pack baby wipes. They are incredibly handy for messy hands, plates, etc.
Do pack insect repellent if you are prone to being bitten by the pesky critters.
Do pack sunscreen or apply before heading out the door. A post-picnic sunburn can definitely put a negative spin on the outing for another time.
Don’t forget to pack a tablecloth if there will be picnic tables or a blanket if you’ll be seated in the grass. We’re fans of covering up what other people leave behind on public picnic tables.

What to pack it in

Do think of your options with regards to riding. While a picnic basket is very picturesque, it’s not necessarily the most bike-friendly unless you have a basket to put it in.
Do consider backpacks. They are great to leave your hands free and available for the bike.
Don’t hesitate to use multiple backpacks. I packed some of the heavier items in my backpack but loaded up my two eldest kids’ packs with utensils, a serving spoon, etc.

Picnic food ideas

Need a little more inspiration? Here are some great recipes to consider making and taking:

Share your tips and/or recipes for a bike picnic in the comments below!

Sponsor Shoutout: Liv Cycling

Lisa recently put together her own family bike picnic in partnership with Liv Cycling for their #ActuallyICan campaign, which is an initiative that features inspiring people who’ve said “Actually, I can,” in the face of something challenging or fearful. And speaking of challenges, to capture their story they sent a camera crew to ride alongside their family on bikes – what an experience! Check out the final video as well as an overview of Lisa’s story and how they decided to make real food their mission in the first place on the Liv website.

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  1. We picnicked on Sunday. Not biking, but hiking. It was lovely. It also meant being careful about what we carried. However, we took extra water, and ended up using some for handwashing.
    When you freeze bottles: fill them 1/2 or 2/3 full, and leave the cap off. The water will expand as it freezes and could deform your bottle or burst if it’s too full and capped. We use BPA-free plastic bottles that we fill ourselves. Just top off with water before leaving. You don’t want all ice, anyway.