We’ve had three consecutive days of sunshine in the North of England, and thus, I feel confident in proclaiming it to be officially SUMMER.
You might think me hasty, but summer in the North might only last a week, so it’s entirely possible that we’re already halfway to autumn.
Being Northern, and a veteran of many fleeting summers, Flea and I are speed picnic ninjas. We can pull together a picnic in under 10 minutes, should there be a spell of sunshine at the beach, woods or local park.
Truth be told, a good picnic doesn’t need to be fancy. The greatest picnic I ever had was in the desert in Israel. We trekked down a ravine and sat in the shade of the overhanging rocks at the bottom.
One of our hosts sliced up a cold watermelon, while another played the guitar. We ate fruit and drank water. Then we sang and danced, while the sun slowly set, and it was pretty much perfection. Not a wicker basket in sight.
Here are our top tips to help you up your picnic game this summer. Spoiler: none of these tips involve making your own home-made sausage rolls.
The Games Kit
During the summer months, we might only get a few hours of good weather so it’s essential we’re not having to rush home for supplies.
Being realistic, I have an 11-year-old. If I don’t plan entertainment, she’s going to spend the entire picnic with her face two inches from her phone. So I always plan for something to do on a picnic.
There are always books in the car, for quiet moments. And I have a box in the boot, with a blanket, football, a bunch of plastic cups (for games, not drinking) and two mini Nerf water guns. The essentials, then.
The key to a good picnic is something that needs minimal prep.
You can chop and freeze bags of fruit like pineapple, grapes and blueberries, and throw them into a picnic bag as needed. They’ll act as a chiller for other foods in the bag, and you can eat them frozen if you just can’t wait for them to defrost (which Flea never can).
This summer, I’m also mildly obsessed with SunGold kiwi fruit. Unlike green kiwi, this golden variety are sweet and super-healthy, with twice the Vitamin C of an orange. As Mum to a vegetarian, I’m always looking for Vitamin C rich foods, which help Flea to absorb iron from her food.
Last month, I went to This Morning Live to meet the Zespri SunGold team and I even learned how to make a fab kiwi, pineapple and banana smoothie by pedalling a bike. But I think it’s probably easier to take smoothies made with an actual kitchen blender… I know, I’ve literally NEVER looked cooler. But it was fun, and This Morning Live! is a blast.
Freeze Water in Bottles
Here’s a tip I picked up in California, where Americans take their beach picnics uber-seriously.
Freeze a couple of those small bottles of mineral water that have been 50% filled with water. Before you go out on your picnic, top up the bottle with regular water. The ice will act as a cooler, but you’ll have chilled water to drink while the ice is still melting.
I’m not a big fan of spending a load of time preparing picnic food. I am perfectly happy to do a quick circuit of the supermarket’s prepared food section if it means spending more time on the beach. Of course, when you’re on a budget, that isn’t always an option. But even if I’m budgeting, I confess, I still cheat a little.
Rather than spending ages making sandwiches, I’ll pick up a baguette or some soft rolls, a chunk of cheese, some sliced ham – easy sandwiches on the go. Add in some fruit and a big bag of tortilla chips, and you’ve got yourself a picnic with zero prep.
Just don’t forget to take a knife along with you to cut stuff because you don’t want to know what happens when you slice cheese with a credit card. Although it CAN be done, it makes for some sticky transactions later in the day.
Sunscreen, Sunscreen, Sunscreen
We Northerners are fair folk. Basically, I only need to be exposed to direct sunlight for ten minutes before I start to burn. So I keep a small sunscreen in my handbag, and another one in the car.
It will always be Factor 50+, and make sure you check the stars on the back of the bottle to ensure your sunscreen has 5* rating to prevent harm from UVA rays.
Flea seems to have inherited some gene from her Dad that means she turns a lovely golden brown in the sun. Honestly, I couldn’t be more thrilled for her. No, really. THRILLED.
Do you have a fail-safe picnic tip?