The Ultimate Guide to Better Summer Picnics

Many of us are feeling bummed about the lack of activities and events this summer, but socially-distanced picnics are the perfect solution. You can even individually wrap your favorite picnic foods and bring your own beverages. From eco-friendly essentials to mouth-watering recipes, we’ve rounded up all of our best summer picnic content below. Enjoy!

If you head out for a summer picnic, don’t forget to tag us on social media @betterchicago! We’d love to see your picnic ideas and summer fun. 


10 Perfect Summer Picnic Recipes

There’s something special about eating a meal outdoors, sipping rosé, and laughing with good friends and family. But it’s easy to fall into a picnic rut, because once you find a dish you like, the desire to branch out is lessened. Don’t let this happen to you! Make one or more of these terrific recipes for your next picnic or barbecue.

Spicy Cauliflower Couscous with Chiles and Lemon 

The secret to this fabulous (and gluten-free) recipe is cauliflower, which stands in as a replacement for the traditional wheat couscous. In fact, the flavor is so delicious and subtle, it’s likely the most ardent cauliflower hater will be asking for seconds. Yum!

The Best Packable Summer Salad Recipes

Here are some of our favorite packable summer salads — we’ve tested them all and promise they won’t go soggy and definitely won’t disappoint.

Saigon Salmon Sandwich

It’s time to swap out the tuna sandwiches for something new this summer. Wild-caught salmon marinated in a homemade Saigon sauce, between two crispy loaves of French baguette? Say no more! Try this recipe from Chef Douglas Bernstein of Fish Restaurant in Sausalito.

Creamed Spinach with Roasted Cipollini Onions and Toasted Bread Crumbs 

Tyler Florence “Family Meal” book project. Photo by John Lee.

Chef Tyler Florence says, “this dish was a happy accident. I wanted to serve creamed spinach for our family Christmas dinner but make it a bit more special. Roasted onions and the crunch of bread crumbs really take this old warhorse to the next level. Pair it with a simple grilled steak or beef tenderloin.” Or, throw it in a plastic-free container and bring it on your next picnic as a delicious side dish!

Southern Skillet Cornbread

Southerners have been inventive and prolific in their use of corn in dishes like grits (made from coarsely ground kernels), hominy, corn relish and succotash, but none is so beloved as cornbread. Cornbread falls on the Southern food pyramid somewhere between chicken-fried anything and sweet tea. Bring a little bit of Southern flavor to your next picnic.

Eco-Friendly Alternatives

5 Food Storage Alternatives to Single-Use Plastic

Natural, plastic free recycled textile produce bag for carrying fruit or vegetables on a wooden surface. Reusable cotton textile bags and glass small containers for zero waste shopping or storage.

Ditch your ziplock for one of these environmentally friendly smart food storage options. From beeswax wraps to silicone sandwich bags – there are plenty of choices.

Plastic Straws Are Wreaking Havoc on Oceans and Marine Wildlife: Skip the Straw or Try These Sustainable Alternatives

Thanks to the efforts of organizations like the Surfrider Foundation in California and Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, a wave of change has swept the nation, encouraging more and more people to swap their plastic straws for paper. How can you help? When planning your picnic this summer, skip the straws, or bring a reusable straw instead.

How to Party Like You Love the Planet With Environmentally-Friendly Picnicware

Unfortunately, almost all of those kids’ birthdays, picnics, potlucks, and barbecues produce a huge bag of plastic trash. While the memories might last a lifetime, the plastics will last even longer. The cute matching forks and plates you used for 10 minutes will still be in the landfill centuries from now. No matter what your party theme, make sure you start with these zero-waste fundamentals and (of course) protect them from droplets and handling until you’re ready to use them.

The Essentials

8 Things You Need to Get Picnic Perfect This Spring 

From functional to fun, all of our favorite essentials to add to your picnic basket.

Food Safety: Packing Picnics for Healthy Summer Fun

When you pack a picnic lunch, you want to bring sandwiches, salads and munchies not E. coli, Salmonella or Listeria. Here are some food safety tips that are especially important in summer when warmer temperatures allow bacteria to reproduce rapidly.

Here are a few more products we love, that will make your picnic that much better:

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