How to pack a picnic

By Elizabeth Atia

As I type, we’ve just had the news of the Scottish government’s four-phase ‘route-map’ about easing us all out of lockdown over the coming weeks/months.

We’re a bit behind the English government with regards to being able to go out and enjoy the summery weather a bit more, but the good news is – we will be able to have a picnic in the sun very soon!

UK summers, particularly Scottish ones, can be a bit temperamental. The weather app might say a day is predicted to be sunny, only for it to be bucketing it down with rain instead.

As such, I’ve adapted a spontaneous ‘throw-it-all-together-in-a-matter-of-minutes' approach to picnicking.If the sun’s shining and the wind has let up for a moment, let’s get out and play right now (once we’re allowed to!). 

Top tips for packing a picnic

  • Grab your rucksack or picnic hamper and dig out the ice packs from the bottom of the freezer.
  • Empty ice cream tubs make for an easy way to store separate components for assembly on site, and they’re handy for taking your dirty dishes/rubbish home with you afterwards.
  • Don't forget the tea or coffee! A flask of afternoon tea or coffee in the outdoors can’t be beat.
  • Decant milk into a small bottle or container, if needed for tea/coffee.
  • Invest in some sturdy, reusable stainless-steel camping plates/bowls. They’re longer lasting than the plastic picnic sets you’ll find on offer at your local supermarket these days.
  • Make sure you pack heavier items at the bottom, with fruit or crisps at the top so they don’t get crushed.
  • Keep things simple by opting for finger foods instead of meals you’ll need cutlery for.
  • Walk somewhere for your picnic; nothing builds up a good appetite for outdoor eating than some exercise.
  • 10 quick and easy picnic food ideas:

    1. Oatcakes & cheese, olives, charcuterie, grapes and hummus (this is my favourite)

    2. Greek pasta salad – see my recipe below

    3. Sandwiches or baguetteswith a selection of fillings (I like ham, apple and Edam cheese with a little smear of wholegrain mustard).

    4. A flask of hot soup with scones/bread roll to dip (pour the soup straight into a camping mug instead of bringing bowls/spoons). I like courgette & basil

    5. Cold chicken drumsticks (make in advance the day before so they’re chilled overnight first).

    6. Fresh fruit – apples, strawberries, cherries or blueberries.

    7. Strawberry shortcakes – sweet scones, strawberries and plenty of squirty cream. Heaven.(Here’s my recipe:

    8. Cookies – try oatmeal raisin, chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies

    9. Iced tea or lemonade – make your own lemonade by whizzing up 3 unwaxed lemons (whole), 150 grams of caster sugar and 1/2litre of water in a blender. Strain, reserving the liquid, and top up with another ½ litre of water.

    10. Vegetable crudités (carrots, celery, peppers, etc.) and dips such as hummus, ranch dressing or a sour cream dip

    Greek pasta salad


    300 grams fusilli pasta (dry weight)

    200 grams cherry tomatoes

    ½ cucumber

    1 small red onion

    100 grams kalamata olives

    200 grams feta cheese

    2 tbsp lemon juice

    60 ml olive oil

    1-2 garlic cloves

    Salt & pepper, to taste


    Cook the pasta in salted water according to the packet instructions. Drain in a colander and rinse immediately to cool down and stop the cooking process. Leave to drain while you prep the veg.

    Halve or quarter your cherry tomatoes, depending on their size. Chop the cucumber into small pieces and finely dice the onion.

    Add the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, kalamata olives and feta cheese to the cold pasta. Mix well.

    To make the dressing, finely chop the garlic and to a small jar with the olive oil and lemon juice. Season well with salt and pepper. Pop the lid on and shake until well combined. 

    Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine, seasoning with more freshly ground black pepper.

    Elizabeth Atia

    Mum, daydream adventurer, ex-pat Canadian & quite possibly Britain's most northerly award-winning food blogger. Calls Shetland home.

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