Katy Beskow shares tips for making the most of alfresco fun this summer, with the tastiest vegan picnic ideas for the whole family.
Packing up your hamper and going for a picnic is one of life’s little pleasures, whether you’re heading to the coast, woodlands, or a city park.
While we certainly wouldn’t grumble at a falafel wrap meal-deal in a grassy field, there are a few simple steps we can take to make our summer picnics picture-perfect.
With the right equipment, fun activities, and a spread of delicious vegan picnic food you can enjoy a fabulous summer outing come rain or shine.
So, dive into our top tips to throw a perfect vegan picnic.
1. Setting up your vegan picnic
Choose a good spot for your picnic, and set it up with everything you need. Photo © deagreez via Adobe Stock
Parks, pastureland, and hilltops with a view are all ideal picnic locations on a sunny day. Choose a spot with some shade from a tree to soften the brightest sunlight.
If you’re off to the beach, a windbreak or screen reduces some of the sea breeze – after all, who wants sand in their sandwiches?
It’s easy to forget about applying sunscreen when you’re busy eating and chatting, so set an alarm to remind you to reapply UVA and UVB protection sun cream – vegan, cruelty-free versions are available on the high street.
A lightweight umbrella is a good idea too, just in case it rains!
2. Make your picnic comfy
Cushions and blankets bring extra comfort to a picnic. Photo © Syda Productions via Adobe Stock
As you’re effectively going to be sat on the ground for an hour or two, consider your comfort.
Pack a wool-free blanket (top marks for a traditional pattern), or a waterproof lined picnic blanket that will prevent dampness from the grass soaking through.
Taking a few scatter cushions to sit or lounge on is a good idea, or if you’re driving to your destination, folding chairs are the ultimate in outdoor comfort.
3. Choose sustainable picnic-ware
Reusable picnic-ware is a great option for a sustainable picnic - as long as you actually do reuse them! Photo © Space_Cat via Adobe Stock
Bamboo, enamel and melamine plates and cups are lightweight, durable and reusable, to avoid the need for single-use plastics that end up in landfill.
Pack your foods in reusable containers, or unbleached cardboard (food-safe) boxes.
Remember, it’s better to reuse what you have than buying all-new eco-friendly picnic-ware, so bonus points for repurposing old lunchboxes and food containers.
Vegan waxed wraps are available to keep sandwiches fresh without needing throwaway clingfilm, but greaseproof paper is also effective at keeping sandwiches and pastries fresh in the picnic bag.
Don’t forget to pack microfibre cloths to mop up spills and to wipe crockery before taking it home to wash.
4. Plan your picnic activities
Notepads, a frisbee, or a board game are simple additions to make your picnic fun. Photo © Вадим Каштанов via Adobe Stock
Pack fun activities to do after you’ve eaten the picnic, whether it’s something traditional like a Frisbee, your favourite vegan book, or even a board game to play together.
Enjoying simple food with a good view in the great outdoors may bring you some inspiration, so take a notebook or journal (not forgetting a pen), or enjoy some moments of mindfulness as you watch the world go by.
You may like to consider a playlist of summer music to accompany things, but do be considerate of other people who may want a more peaceful picnic.
5. Take plenty of drinks
Don't forget the drinks! Frozen grapes will help to keep wines and fruity drinks cool. Photo © eduard via Adobe Stock
Whether you’re bottling up some homemade cloudy lemonade, or you’re popping to the shop for a bottle of something stronger, a special drink will help to make the picnic memorable.
Take a small tub of frozen grapes to add to drinks. This will keep them cool without the risk of ice cubes melting all through your bag.
Pack a few paper or silicone cupcake cases and place them over drinks to avoid any insects or flies from getting in.
A clean muffin tin makes for a handy impromptu drinks holder to avoid spills, and is also light to carry in the bag.
6. Pick your perfect vegan picnic food
Even simple foods can make a fantastic picnic if you pack a feast. Photo © Photographee.eu via Adobe Stock
You can make your picnic food as elaborate as you wish (antipasti platter, anyone?) but in my experience, simple is best.
A selection of vegan sandwiches, a couple of plant-based sausage rolls, dips and crudités, and some crisps are an ideal choice as they are easily transportable, as well as being easy to share out and eat without needing to use too much cutlery.
A big vegan salad is always a welcome side dish, but avoid delicate leaves that may wilt, such as rocket and spinach, and opt for chunky raw veg in the style of a homemade slaw – the more rustic the better!
A bring-and-share or vegan potluck picnic is a great way to spread the cost and try new foods, just be sure that everyone is aware of what they are bringing to avoid duplication.
7. Flasks aren’t just for tea
Keep soups, pasta, or even vegan hot dogs warm in a flask. Photo © Monika Wisniewska via Adobe Stock
That flask at the back of your cupboard isn’t just for hot drinks, it also works to keep soups warm (or gazpachos cool) if you fancy a cup of homemade vegan soup with your sandwiches.
Hot pasta in sauce can also be transported in the flask, with smaller varieties working better for this, including orzo and macaroni.
For a hot food option without firing up a portable barbecue, cook vegan hot dogs in a pan at home, then pour the cooking water into a flask, and pop in the hot dogs.
Open the flask at your picnic, and serve the hot dogs in finger buns with ketchup and American-style mustard. A fuss-free, hot option that everyone will love!
8. Pack some sweet treats
Everybody enjoys a sweet treat on a picnic. Be sure to take plenty of fruits and baked goods. Photo © pressmaster via Adobe Stock
You can’t have a picnic without a few sweet treats!
Fresh summer fruits like strawberries, raspberries and blueberries are deliciously sweet in season – perfect for dipping into whipped coconut cream or chocolate hummus.
Homemade sweet pastries, vegan brownies, fridge cake, and baked goods are perfect for picnics, but avoid cakes with lots of buttercream or sauce that may be messy and sticky to eat.
If in doubt, a bag of accidentally vegan donuts from the supermarket will do the trick!
9. Learn how to have a picnic in the rain
Bring your picnic indoors or under shelter if it rains. Photo © olga pink via Adobe Stock
You’ve got a picnic basket packed with homemade goodies, you’re dressed in a cool summer outfit, then the rain starts – that’s the British summer for you.
Don’t despair, make the most of what you’ve got and picnic indoors, with a few stylish extras.
Lay out a picnic blanket, cushions, and the food. Put up some bunting.
Light a soy-based candle, and move your houseplants onto the floor for the alfresco experience – indoors!
Get vegan picnic food inspiration with our collection of vegan quiche recipes.
Featured photo © charmedlightph via Adobe Stock