However, poor planning can turn a picnic into a small disaster, so first, check the weather forecast because a rainstorm can put a damper on your day.
Keep your food safe. Take only the amounts of food you will use. With a proper cooler and ice, most foods are safe for short periods of time. If you don’t have a cooler, some suggestions for non-perishable foods include fresh, canned, or dried fruits, raw vegetables, hard cheeses, canned or dried meats, crackers, and peanut butter.
Packing pointers: Safe packing of food is essential for picnicking safely. Starting with cold food, pack straight from the refrigerator or freezer into an insulated cooler. Package all foods in clear plastic wrap or zip-top bags. If you don’t have or want to use commercial ice packs, you can make your own by placing ice cubes in a plastic bag, then wrapping the bag in foil.
Sandwiches can be made ahead and frozen, but without veggies and condiments. Place frozen sandwiches in the cooler. They will thaw by lunchtime. Pack lettuce, tomato, and condiments in separate containers and add to sandwiches just before serving. Frozen small cans or boxes of juice, yogurt, or applesauce also will thaw by lunchtime.
Keep hot foods hot with insulated dishes or thermal containers. The rule to remember for safe foods is “Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.”
Once you arrive at the picnic site, don’t leave the cooler in the car or in direct sunlight – keep the cooler in the shade, keep the lid on, and avoid frequent openings. Consider using a second cooler just for drinks to reduce the exposure of food to warm air with each lid opening. Add more ice if it begins to melt. In extremely hot weather, food should not sit off refrigeration for more than one hour. Serve small portions so the food doesn’t stay out of the cooler too long.
If you plan to prepare food at the picnic site, keep food cold until you’re ready to cook it. Cook food completely at the site—no partial cooking ahead. Use a clean plate to serve cooked food. Always take care that raw meat juices don’t touch other foods.
Picnics are a great excuse to get together with family and friends. To picnic safely, plan ahead, pack foods carefully, and keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Then, relax and have fun!
For further information, contact:
Dorothy C. Lee, C.F.C.S.
UF IFAS Extension Escambia County
3740 Stefani Road
Cantonment, FL 32533-7792