Picnics are one of my favourite things about the hot, dry weather in February. Picnic’s in Nairobi park, picnics in the garden, picnics on Safari – wether spur of the moment or planned, somewhere spectacular or off the beaten track on our way to somewhere else (the Mara, the coast, upcountry) laid out on a hot car bonnet. What’s not to love about sitting out in nature, with good company, enjoying good food?
So today, I thought I’d share my secrets for how to pack and plan the perfect picnic!
Think of planning a picnic as planning a small transportable party. You’re going to want options, but not too many or you’ll become overwhelmed. My rule of thumb is to pick two items from each of these major categories listed below!
Chips (crisps) and dip, fresh fruit (like apples, bananas, blueberries and orange slices) hummus and sliced veggies, nuts, olives, dried fruit, biltong, kale crisps, pizza (you could order a takeaway or delivery right before you head out to picnic!)
Ready cooked honey and mustard coated chipolata sausages, salami, prosciutto, thinly sliced precooked beef, honey glazed ham, bacon or chicken strips
Chocolate, cake, muffins, croissants or cookies – pop into your nearest bakery and get a selection of their best treats or maybe make a chocolate mousse at home in a jar and bring it with you. Extra brownie points there! Ice cream doesn’t do too well for picnics, as it can melt too quickly.
Champagne (especially if you’re celebrating!) white, rose or red wine, beer or cider, sodas, iced tea, a pitcher of premixed cockatils or hot tea in a thermos if you’re feeling very Downton Abbey! Up your game and bring a thermos of hot creamy cocoa with little marsh mallows and whipped cream…
Brie, camembert, gouda, cheddar, marinated feta, pre-cooked hallumi, emmental… all of these travel well and make for a great cheese board! Don’t forget crackers or bread and some pickles, like onion jam, pickled onions, olives and gherkins.
In the heat, this is the most important thing to remember. Pack 2 litres per person – Chillys water bottles do a great job of keeping water very cold, especially if you pop a few ice cubes in there too. You can spice it up by adding slices of orange, apple, lime, lemon, cucumber or mint (or a mix of all of these!) to flavour the water – plus it looks very pretty, especially if you put it in a glass mason jar.
You may notice that I haven’t included sandwiches in this list – and for good reason. Sandwiches can go soggy or stale very quickly. For road trips, I’ll pack a bacon sandwich, but for a planned picnic I pack a loaf of nice fresh bread or baguette. Having all of these ingredients ready means you can each make a sandwich of your choice or just nibble on whatever takes your fancy!
There’s few things worse than spending ages planning a picnic, getting all nicely packed up, getting to your destination, unpacking only to find you forgot to pack a bottle opener or knives and forks. Bummer. Not all of us are Crocodile Dundee and opening a bottle without an opener can be nearly impossible. So here’s a list of what I consider essentials:
A basket to carry items that do not need to be kept cold
Cooler bag for drinks with ice in and room for wine or drinking glasses. You can find our round Kanga Cooler here
Cooler bag for food – meats, cheeses and sweets will need to be kept cold. Fruit can be too but that’s dependant on your personal preference. Nuts, crisps and dips can go in the basket. We have these great Mini Kanga Coolers which pack just enough for a picinic for 2
Picnic blanket – our Kenya Kanga picnic blankets fold up with a nifty little handle and have a waterproof lining to keep you clean and dry while you’re out and about. They come in single kanga size (1m x 1.5m) or double (2m x 1.5m)
Pillows to lounge or sit on – we’ve got a great selection here or you can just grab the ones off your couch.
Spare blanket or kanga incase it gets cold
Chopping boards, cheese boards or trays to lay out food and rest drinks on – funnily enough, the ground itsn’t so flat and drinks can easily get knocked over!
6 cup muffin or cupcake tin – this makes a great nibbles tray for nuts, fruit slices and chocolates and doubles as a cup holder!
Glasses – you’ll need wine glasses if you’ve chosen to bring wine, and regular glasses for water or other beverages. Wrap them in tea towels or napkins to keep them from clinking about and breaking – they fit nicely inside our round coolers and are kept snug inside by the padded dividers.
Mugs or teacups if you’re bringing tea or hot chocolate
Plates, knives and forks – one each per person. We prefer to pack metal knives and forks and ceramic plates because it’s kinder to the environment – though there are some sustainable and eco friendly disposable options – and it just feels fancy! Channeling our inner Downton Abbey all the way!
Condiments – don’t forget the salt, pepper, mustard, butter, mayo or ketchup, whatever your preference
Bread knife, small pairing knife, tea spoons for stirring drinks and eating desserts and bottle opener
The key to a picnic is to pack light and of course, with as little plastic as possible. Without the convienice of hard wearing or disposable plastics, it takes a little more thought to get a picnic packed up safely and sensibly. Here’s how I do it:
The Picnic Basket:
Put chopping boards at the bottom of your basket as they are heavy and give good support for everything else.
Place napkins between plates to stop them clinking about and breaking and pack them next. An added bonus: it’s so much fancier (and romantic!) to eat off real plates rather than plastic ones, even if it does mean washing up later. When in nature, spare a thought for it’s welfare while you’re there.
Pack foods like fruit slices, salads and desserts in mason jars. Pack these in the middle and divide them with napkins or kangas to stop them clinking and breaking.
Slot your knives, forks, condiments and other utensils into your basket now.
Wrap foods like cookies, cakes sandwiches and breads in parchment paper. Pack these last and at the top of your basket so they don’t get crushed.
Remember to pack your picnic blanket last, so it sits at the very top of the basket (or carry it separately) so you don’t have to dig around for it when you arrive at your picnic location!
The Drinks Cooler:
Pack bottles standing up – they are weakest when laid on their sides so they’ll be less likely to break if you pack them upright. Our round Kanga Coolers have dividers insde them to protect bootles – if yours doesn’t, grab a tea towel and wrap you bottles in it first.
Pack glasses with your bottles, also upright. It’s the same principle since they are weakest on their sides. Keeping all breakables together may sound like having all your eggs in one basket, but it means you know exactly what to handle with the greatest care. When driving, either strap your cooler in with a seat belt or place it in the foot well in the back of the car.
The Food Cooler:
For food safety, protein foods need to be kept cold. Pack them last, or put them in the cooler and put the whole cooler in the fridge, ready to go. Leave the lid open though or air won’t be able to circulate. It’s also a great idea to pack an ice-pack at the bottom of the cooler and place food on top.
To really up the romance, remember to bring candles, hurricane lamps, a box of luxury chocolates and a big bunch of flowers – even some rose petals to scatter – I promise, you won’t regret it!