A way to get the breath of fresh air you desperately needed. 

By Maki Yazawa
July 17, 2020
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Summer is here and it’s time to head outdoors for a much-needed breath of fresh air. Though your typical summer plans may not look the same this year, heading to the park or your backyard for a picnic is a perfect way to safely bring a sense of normalcy and excitement to your weekend plans. Here are tips on what foods to pack, ways to stay safe and practice social distancing, plus how to stay entertained during your next picnic retreat during these uncertain times. 

After months of being cooped up in your home, spending some quality time outdoors is the perfect solution to your quarantine woes. However, a few precautions should be taken in order to ensure your outing is as safe as possible. If you’re planning on having a picnic, you may want to do some research or even scope out the area prior to packing your bags. As a lot of people start to emerge from isolation, you may begin to see local parks become more and more crowded. In order to avoid heavy traffic, you may want to drive by your ideal picnic location and see which areas are most secluded and will allow you to practice safe social distancing while you enjoy your outdoor feast.

Additionally, make sure to check hours, regulations, and closures, as many parks have made special accommodations to their typical rules to ensure the safety of their visitors. While at the park, you will also want to avoid high-traffic spots, busy peak hours, and public use areas like barbecues, restrooms or picnic tables to reduce contact with any possibly contaminated surfaces. Lastly, if you do not feel fully comfortable with heading to a public outdoor space, you can always transform your backyard into the picnic outing of your dreams

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Before you get ahead of yourself, be very mindful of who you invite to your picnic. Ideally, you should stick to those that you have been staying in close contact with during quarantine. However, if you’re aching to see your close friends that have also been in quarantine, you can do so by safely staying six feet apart while picnicking. Additionally, make sure each party brings their own necessary equipment, like blankets, seating, utensils, condiments, food, and face masks (!) to avoid having to share or cross-contaminate any goods. And remember, there’s no shame in heading out to the park for some alone time. Enjoy a solo meal with nature for some time to reflect and find some inner peace to brighten your day.

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When packing your picnic, bring along your hand sanitizer and wipes to clean and sterilize your hands and items if needed. Make sure to sanitize or wash your hands, especially before you start eating, and avoid touching your face at all times. To err on the side of caution, pack disposable gloves in case you need to handle food or feel as though your hands are not fully clean when it’s time to eat.

Lessen contact between any dirty hands and your food by packing snacks you can avoid touching with your bare fingers. Here are some genius ideas: 

  • Easily retrieve pre-cut fruits and veggies with minimal contact using a fork or disposable toothpicks for a cheese platter.
  • Pierce watermelon wedges with popsicle sticks for easy snacking.
  • Make fork-friendly, one-bite frittatas.
  • Containers with lids or mason jars are another great way to pack travel- and picnic-appropriate foods. Get creative and make a picnic caprese salad using mini mozzarella balls, cherry tomatoes, and basil.
  • Pack a seven-layer dip you can store in individual containers for each picnicker.
  • Fill the bottom of a mason jar with about an inch of ranch dressing and load with standing julienned carrots for a veggie dip appetizer.
  • Make infused water or iced tea beverages by adding berries or citrus in small mason jars for a cool summertime drink on the go.  

In addition to ensuring that your hands are clean before you eat, you will also want to make sure you keep your perishable foods at the appropriate temperature to avoid any potential food poisoning risk. Don’t get carried away by the excitement of your picnic outing and forget to store your dairy products or meats in the cooler or away from the sun. As a rule of thumb, the maximum temperature danger zone exposure—meaning between 40°F to 140°F—should be within four hours. You are safer tossing out any foods that have been sitting out for longer than that. 

As much as we may miss dining in at restaurants, enjoying a meal in the fresh, open air (like during a picnic), may be the safest option for the time being. However, you can still continue to support local businesses and restaurants by ordering your favorite foods to-go. This is the perfect solution for a hassle-free picnic prep or a last minute adventure to the park. 

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Save your game of cornhole or Spikeball for a later date and opt for contactless games like bingo, Heads Up!, or charades instead. Don’t forget your portable speaker to blast some of your favorite jams, or play some meditative music and partake in a (distanced) yoga flow session with some friends. If you’re enjoying your picnic at home, take it to the next level and set up a backyard Netflix movie night with a projector, portable screen, and homemade s’mores.