In Pursuit of the Picnic
Tips for Taking Your Meals Outside
Sponsored by Aunt Fannie’s
By Gale Straub
When I was a kid, we had a bell hung by the side door of our 200-year-old farmhouse. My parents own just a couple of acres, maybe three, but my siblings and I pushed those boundaries, scrambling over stone walls and barbed wire fences —remnants from earlier farmers—to play in the woods. Now, I remember the ring of the dinner bell on humid summer evenings like being pulled out from a deep sleep. It was distant at first, then more urgent: after a day spent outdoors, it was time to come inside for dinner.
Today, my life looks a bit more like the inverse of that childhood memory. If I’m honest with myself, I spend more of my day than I’m comfortable with inside. Even now, the morning sun is high in the blue and white sky, the birds are overflowing with song, and I am tethered by my mental to-do list. Or am I?
If you can spare twenty minutes or more, eating outside is an accessible way to tap into the positive effects of nature. If your work necessitates a lot of screen time, it can feel easier to just stay in front of it, to be your most productive self possible. I could link a bunch of studies about the benefits of the outdoors and the ways stepping away from technology actually make you more productive – but I don’t think I need to do that. I think you already know. For me, the biggest hurdle in getting out the door isn’t that I don’t think it’s good for me, it’s mental. It’s all the little blocks that add up to staying put.
Here are a few tips to embrace your inner picnicker:
1 – It doesn’t have to be fancy
Odds are, you can open your fridge and find the makings of a picnic inside. If you go to an office every day, seek out those snacks and lunch meals you wrap up and take with you on the subway. They don’t need to be refrigerated, which means you won’t have to haul a cooler with you when you go. For a recent outing, I brought along veggies, cheese, a whole avocado (cut it in half and spoon it out with a spork!), hummus, chips, and a little fruit. Once I laid it all out at the park, it felt a whole lot fancier than it did in my kitchen.
2 – You don’t need special camp gear
As excellent as ultralight cutting boards and collapsible bowls are for backpacking, you don’t need them for a picnic. Again, you don’t have to think too far outside of an office lunch or another meal you’d eat at home. Grab utensils from your kitchen drawer. Use a cutting board as your plate. Tie a bandana around our neck and use it as a napkin. Lay out a blanket and relax on the grass or find a picnic table and take it all in.
3 – Take it easy
Prep a bit before you bring the food outside. Cut up slices of cheddar cheese and veggies so you’re not doing a lot of work when you want to be relaxing and eating. If you don’t have too far to go, you don’t have to worry about bringing a cooler.
4 – Bugs are annoying, but they’re preventable
Living in New England, this can be one of my bigger mental blocks when it comes to enjoying a meal outside. But you don’t have to grin it and bear it, you just have to find a solution that works for you. Aunt Fannie’s outfitted me with their all-natural, nontoxic remedies to keep away mosquitos, ants, and even fruit flies. I particularly enjoy the smell of the DEET-free mosquito spray as it’s full of essential oils like cedarwood, peppermint, and lemongrass.
I recommend leaving a bottle in your glove compartment and a few of their mosquito wipes in your day pack – it makes for one less thing you have to remember!
5 – Travel as far as you’d like
This weekend I ate breakfast on my front step, inching my legs into the sunshine as the sun moved across the sky. For a longer lunch, I drove 15 minutes to a local park. You can incorporate a hike, or not. The beauty is that it’s on your terms. Reclaim a bit of outdoor time, fuel up, and soak in your surroundings.
Do you have other tips for picnicking?
Photos courtesy of Gale Straub and Jon Gaffney.
Editor’s note: This article was produced with the support of Aunt Fannie’s, who make worry free, microbiomic products that are safe for us and the environment.