Summer is the season to relax, so find a comfortable space under a shady tree, and pop open a picnic basket. There’s no need to plan ahead—a spur-of-the-moment outdoor meal can be super fun, and surprisingly easy. Whether you’re on a cross-country trip or working indoors, our five favorite ways to enjoy a spontaneous picnic will have you basking in the summer sun.
You’re on a road trip. Why not stop for a picnic?
Enjoy a break during long drives by stopping at a roadside rest area for a light lunch or snack. While big-batch picnic meals work for set destinations, road trips rely on easy, on-the-go eating. Mason jars make the perfect travel vessel for little servings of somewhat balanced meals such as layered salad fixings or a bean dip, small sandwich squares, and pesto pasta. If you didn’t bring your own food, make do with the best vegan options from a nearby convenience store or food truck. Make it enjoyable by sitting at a picnic table or laying out a blanket on the hood of your car.
Backyard picnics are easy and fun, especially for breakfast.
On those quiet weekend mornings, roll out a picnic blanket in your own backyard. The idea of picnicking seems to make meal time magical, especially for children. Pour your coffee or tea into a thermos, and make a simple breakfast to share with your family. Think overnight oats layered in plastic parfait cups with berries and chopped nuts, scrambled tofu wrapped in soft tortillas, or muffins and fresh fruit. Serve breakfast on a tray (it’s easier to handle than a basket) and savor the summer mornings before they’re gone.
Wow that someone special with a secluded sunset picnic in the park.
It may seem cliché, but everyone can appreciate a good ol’ picnic in the park. Make a midweek evening memorable by surprising your sweetie with a spontaneous night out to watch the sunset. Find a comfortable place with a view of the western sky and plan to set up shop around dusk. Stop by the market for light snacks on your way. You don’t need much—crackers and vegan cheese, sweet treats and wine, plus a large blanket and bug spray. Remember to bring candles or a flashlight so you can continue to enjoy your picnic (and each other) once the sun goes down.
Take an urban lunch break outside during the workweek.
Picnics aren’t just for weekends and holidays. One of our favorite easy lunch ideas during the workweek is to get outside with a simple brown-bag lunch. Map out the closest picnic table, public park, or random patch of grass near your office. Bring along portable meal options that don’t need reheating such as kale and quinoa salad, chickpea salad sandwiches, raw veggies and dip, and fresh fruit. Incorporate a small blanket and reading material if you’re eating solo, or ask a colleague to join in on the fun and make it a potluck picnic.
Throw an indoor picnic party.
On those nights when the weather just isn’t right to eat outside, cozy up with blankets and candles on the living room floor. Invite a crowd or just your significant other, and have fun with food since your kitchen isn’t far away. Watch movies while you snack on popcorn and pita pizzas, or entertain with traditional picnic staples such as sandwiches, slaws, and sweets—and play board games if you have a larger crowd.
Nicole Axworthy and Lisa Pitman are picnic lovers and authors of the forthcoming cookbook, DIY Vegan.