SUMMER. It just hits different, you know? It’s forever been my all-time favorite season— with the sunnier, warmer, longer days, the excuse to get outside *all the time*, gardens bursting with veggies, and colorful and simple meals.
With little ones, summer is extra-busy, but also extra-beautiful to me. It’s throwing a bunch of snacks, toys and SPF in a big bag and running out the door to another adventure. It’s loading them up in the double-stroller for a sunshiny “breakfast walk” (Noah’s favorite these days… breakfast on the go for him and a walk for me first thing in the day?! WIN). It’s making memories in the saltwater and picking wildflowers for the kitchen and spending hours outside without a schedule or agenda.
File summer with young kids under: a moment in time I never want to forget. Busy and chaotic? Yes and yes. But if anything, I wish time could slow down a bit so I can soak it all in a little while longer..
In the summertime, we love packing up a meal and eating it at the beach or a park, picnic style. Ditto for even just eating outside on our back patio.
There’s something more FUN and magical and whimsical about sharing a meal outside in nature with family. The kids can roam around and be a little more free. And, so can we. It sort of brings me back to my own childhood— the carelessness of messy, outside picnic meals. The freedom and joy of it. The peace and fresh air it breathes into us all.
I know not everyone lives somewhere with tolerable summers heat-wise, but if there’s a milder day coming up on the forecast, just try it! Try packing up a big cooler bag of your favorite on-the-go dishes. Maybe even bring a bottle of wine or canister of your favorite summer cocktail for mom and dad. 😉
And if you need a little inspo on what to bring, allow me to share some of our family’s favorite picnic and outside summer meals! Plus all the essentials and supplies you need to make picnicking easier and so much more fun.
My Favorite Summer Picnic Recipes + Ideas
1. The Summer Picnic Poblano Salad: a bright, colorful, flavorful salad that doesn’t get mushy! Nothing better for a summer picnic (hence the name)!
2. The Ultimate Farmer’s Market Salad: this one takes you from market to picnic with yummy, fresh, seasonal AND locally grown ingredients. Filling, delish and easy to make and pack to-go!
3. Peach Avocado Pesto Salad: mmmm, an oldie but forever favorite. Just a handful of fresh, yummy ingredients that pack a big punch! This one would be great on a fresh GF baguette sliced into small rounds for a fresh picnic bruschetta.
4. Watermelon Cucumber Gazpacho: I know, it sounds like an interesting combo, but this chilled soup is SO refreshing on a hot day! Pack it up in a jar with a lid and you’re all set to go!
5. Pesto Chicken Veggie Bake: ok, this one takes a little more prep that involves the oven— but it is SO worth it! You can make it for dinner one night and then pack up leftovers for your picnic! Or make it in the morning one day. You can even slice the chicken thin and add it to fresh GF sourdough with a little tomato and spinach for a satisfying summer sandwich.
6. The Real Greek Salad: another hit on a warm day, and a non-soggy salad win! I loooove this crunchy, fresh salad so much. You can’t go wrong with olives, cucumber, tomatoes and fresh feta (and a simple but flavorful homemade vinaigrette).
7. The Baja Chopped Caesar Salad: anyone else crave a great caesar salad once summer arrives? Because, same. This one’s better than any caesar you’ll ever get in a bag, pinky promise.
8. Build-Your-Own Summer Sammy: prep, slice and pack up a bunch of goodies to make your own easy summer sandwiches at your picnic! I aim to have a few options for everyone: bread (GF sourdough is our fav), protein (organic cheese, turkey or almond butter), extra toppings (organic tomato, spinach, jalapeno, cucumber or sliced banana to go with the almond butter) and condiments (olive tapenade, oil/vinegar, spicy mustard). So fun for everyone to pick what they want to make!
9. To-Go Charcuterie Board: another easy picnic is packing a “snacky” charcuterie lunch. Pack up a bunch of your favorite small bites and prep as much as you can beforehand (slice the veggies/cheese, wash fruit, etc.). Some ideas to pack: organic cheeses, organic deli meats, GF crackers, olives, pickles, grapes, cherry tomatoes, roasted red peppers, mustard, jam, dried fruit, figs, hummus, carrots, mini cucumbers, honey, sliced apple… pick your family’s favorite 5-6 items and have fun with it!
And a few to-go cocktails/mocktails to make ahead of time…
Make these before your picnic and pack them in your favorite reusable water bottle or XL mason jar for easy transport!
1. The Blackberry Shrub: you can make this alcohol-free if you want! So refreshing and simple for a picnic drink.
2. Cucumber Basil Gin & Tonic: just leave out the gin for another refreshing picnic mocktail… or leave it in for a little kick! The combo of cucumber + basil is what summer dreams are made of.
3. Easy Grapefruit Paloma: mmmm, nothing better than a grapefruit bevvie in the sunshine. For a mocktail version, try ½ coconut sparkling water with ½ fresh grapefruit juice!
(Check out this post for a round-up of ALL of my favorite easy & healthy summer cocktails and mocktails!)
Picnic Supplies for Easy To-Go Meal Packing:
1. This freezer/cooler bag: great for packing up all of the necessities and helping your cool items stay cool! Love this size because it fits lunch for me and the kids and keeps it cool. Freezer packs are built in and I love the strap that’s easy to carry when you’ve got a lot else to carry. (I also love this one if it was just me, and less about function. It’s so freaking cute!)
2. Larger family cooler bags: this one, this one and this one are great because I can stack my pyrex/tupperware in there, vs a bag style that’s harder to do.
3. These ice blocks: no more random ice cubes, and they store pretty flat in your freezer, and work sooooo good.
4. This lunchbox for littles: this is what I use to pack Noah’s lunch for school, and our picnic adventures in the summertime! But I also love having this one on hand for days when lighter is important.
5. These snack containers: I use this set and these every single day of my life for kid life.
6. These cups for littles: no-spill cups are essential for the picnic life. June’s drinking out of these currently, which are great for muscle development and don’t get in the way of teeth development, and Noah always has his water bottle no matter where we go.
7. These containers for your salads/main meals: love that they’re ceramic, or if weight is an issue, they also have a BPA free plastic & lighter version too.
8. These reusable zipper bags: reduce your plastic use by using reusable zipper bags for smaller items!
9. These no-break plates: we use these at home for Noah, too!
10. These reusable eating utensils: love that these are reusable and lightweight for packing.
11. These jars for soups/liquids/on-the-go cocktails: I love this one so much, it’s so versatile for smoothies, cocktails, sparkling water mocktails. The lid shuts tight and it keeps things hot or cold for hours! Also doubles as a great drink shaker on the go (or the bigger version here, which fits in standard cup holders if you want that).
12. These no-break wine glasses: essential. I love these cups instead of other plastic wine glasses because when you’re done you just seal the slider and can throw it in a bag. Easy clean up, AND it keeps your white/rosé/mocktails actually cold. No one wants lukewarm drinks of any kind.
13. These reusable napkins: also essential (esp with kiddos). Also, how cute are these? I just ordered some and I can’t wait to test them out.
14. This travel wine opener: no one wants to get to a picnic with a bottle of chilled rosé but no opener!. Also… this sparkling wine sealer/stopper for when you just want a glass of that sparkling rose, and no pressure to finish it.
15. Extra cups (for friends): I love these cups, they’re easy to clean, light and BPA free.
16. This cute picnic blanket: gotta have a comfy place to land with all your picnic goodies! Extra points that it’s cute. Wipe-able and washable are key in my life stage.
17. This fold-up, portable picnic table: makes life so much easier and elevates the whole thing. No one wants grass/bugs/sand/dirt in their food and this is a great place to set everything. Plus kids love that it’s “their size.” I got this one because I wanted a slightly larger size but was also looking at this one, which packs down smaller and is lighter, or this one from Target.
18. This travel high-chair: this is so specific for June’s age, but let me tell you… so worth it so they can hang and relax and eat, plus it folds up, has a washable tray and is portable for so many summer activities and car-travel too.
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