How to pack the perfect beach picnic
Beach days are the best days, but when you reach into your bag and pull out a sand-covered, molten PB&J, it's hard to not just want to pack up and go home. Luckily, thanks to these tips, eating in style at the beach is possible, no food poisoning, crunchy sand and hot bottled water to be found.
Packing your food
Choose something easy to eat. No one wants to use a knife and fork at the beach. Opt for something that can be enjoyed utensil free, like sandwiches, cold pizza, cold fried chicken and wraps. If you are OK with juggling your fork, make sure things are easy to spear — opt for chopped salads, cubed watermelon, short pasta (no long noodles!) and precut meats.
Keep food sand free. It's a good idea to have two lines of defense against sand. For handheld food, place your food in a zip-top bag, or wrap it in foil or plastic wrap, and then put it in a Tupperware container before slipping it into your cooler. Then, as you eat it, unwrap only the part you're about to bite into.
Avoid perishables. Extremely perishable foods, especially fish, rare meats, soft cheeses and other dairy, are better enjoyed in your home. Leaving those foods in the sun for hours, even in your cooler, can lead to bacteria growth that'll make you and your family sick.
Keep it simple. Everything tastes better at the beach, so there's no reason to get too fancy. Making your favorite simple foods is the best way to enjoy your time at the beach, with no pre-beach cooking stress to worry about.
Packing your cooler
Get a hard cooler. Soft coolers can be less expensive, but they're also not as good at keeping your food cold. A hard cooler will keep your food safe.
Pre-chill your food. Even food like sandwiches, which you may be used to eating at room temperature at home, should be refrigerated for a few hours before you put them in the cooler. This will help keep them at a safe temperature for longer.
Pre-cool your cooler. Coolers left in the garage or attic can get warm in the summer. Try dumping a bag of ice into your cooler for an hour or two before you start packing, then dump out that ice when you're ready.
Use a thermometer. Use a thermometer to make sure your food stays at a safe temperature.
Get icy. Put a layer of ice on the bottom of your cooler before you start packing, and then, as you add food, add layers of ice between items. Frozen water bottles are great to include too — they keep your food cold, and as they melt, they become perfectly chilled, refreshing beverages.
Keep sand away
Stop sandy feet. Don't let sandy feet get on your blanket, tracking more sand into the area where you'll be eating. Sprinkle baby powder on your hands and feet, and then brush away sand before you eat.
Bring a table. Consider investing in a small, elevated beach table. They're very lightweight, easily portable and will keep your food off the ground.
Bring water. Bring a gallon of water to rinse your hands with before you start handling and eating your food. You can use tap water; you'll be using it just to rinse with.
Stop the wind. Using a beach umbrella, pop-up tent or windbreak to block your food can stop the wind from blowing sand into it.
Dining at the beach will always be a little more hectic than at home, but with these tips, you'll never go hungry at the seashore.