Plastic Free Picnic

Plastic Free Picnic

It's easy to fall into old habits. For picnics I used to buy lots of fairly unhealthy, plastic-clad convenience food. Ready-made sandwiches, bottles of pop, packets of crisps and pots of dips, all bought quickly and cheaply from the nearest supermarket. Time to do better!

The Food

I think a great picnic should be made up of some chunkier things to satisfy your initial hunger, alongside smaller bits to pick away at over the course of the afternoon.

Think big sandwiches with homemade bread, butchers ham or local cheese and farm shop chutney. Homemade sausage rolls aren't too difficult (unless you take on the challenge of homemade puff pastry) but are always popular. If you still want convenience then head to your local Farm Shop or deli counter for scotch eggs, pork pies and mixed olives. If they allow you to take your own containers, even better!

Try to include as many non-meat options as possible too. Crudités (carrot and cucumber sticks to you and me) are an easy option but make sure you don't go overboard and be sure to pair them with amazing dips so they don't get neglected.

If you plan to take plates and cutlery (more on that later) then you can pack hearty veg and bean salads or opt for heritage or ancient grains like barley and spelt. Salads like this are a great way to pack in lots spices, herbs, nuts and seeds which is important if you're trying to hit your 30 a week for good gut health.

Savoury muffins and chickpea fritters always come up when I'm searching healthy ideas for feeding my toddlers, but adults love them too. You can pack them with whatever veggies need using up and they too can be dipped and dunked to everyone's desires.

Crisps are a bit of a headache as the packets require special effort to recycle, so you could have a go at making your own in either your oven or an airfrier. Then you can go to town with homemade dips. This is my go-to hummus recipe which you can freeze - by the time you've rolled out your picnic blanket it should have thawed!

And talking of the freezer why not rescue softening fruit throughout the spring / summer by blending with yoghurt and freezing as cubes. When it comes to picnic time just chuck them into a container before leaving the house and enjoy later as a smoothie or as a sweet dish to finish on. You can also freeze mint, cucumber, strawberries and citrus fruits to create picnic Pimms or equally, a booze free punch.

Having a cake or tray of flapjacks or brownies in the freezer is perfect for impromptu picnics. They can act as a cold block for other food and drink items and they will hold their shape better in transit.

If you're meeting up with others for your picnic it's a good idea to co-ordinate who will bring what otherwise you invariably end up with not enough of something and excess of another which could lead to food being wasted.

Plates, Containers & Napkins

What will you eat off? Obviously you want to avoid single-use plastic cups, plates and cutlery. However, don't be tripped up by paper alternatives; most paper cups are lined with wax or plastic, and plates need to be wiped clean in order to be recycled.

Reusable plastic plates and utensils are probably your best bet if budget and weight are the priority, but metal cutlery and enamel cups and plates are a brilliant plastic free reusable option. I'm a big fan of Falcon's iconic white with blue stripe and you'll find these in charity shops from time to time if you keep an eye out.

All this talk of plates and yet, do picnics really require plates? Why not wrap things in baking parchment or foil or fabric and simply lay things out in the middle for people to pick at. "Picnic" is said to come from the French "pique-nique"; piquer means "to peck," as a bird does when eating, so ditch the plates and get pecking!

Somethings will require leak proof contains and for this I highly recommend the Ikea 365+ range. I have glass containers with plastic clip lids, but if you can carry things flat then the bamboo lids would be a great alternative.

I am as guilty of reaching for a packet of paper napkins as the next person but they are usually wrapped in plastic packaging and I often find they don't get used very efficiently. I'm also not sure that you should put coloured napkins in with food waste...

How about taking a roll of kitchen roll along with you? You won't feel the need to handout to each person regardless of their requirement as you might with prettier napkins, and instead guests can just grab it when they need. Alternatively go all out with fabric napkins that can be taken home and washed.

One final point is to do "future you" a favour and think ahead about how you'll pack up. Often park bins overflow on hot days resulting in plastic being blown around and glass getting smashed. It's much better if you can "leave no trace" and take everything back home with you. You don't need a placky bin bag - why not stuff paper towel and any food scraps into your now empty tupperwear? Take a dish cloth and tea towel with you to roughly wash plates and glasses to avoid dregs spillages. The fewer disposable items you include in your hamper, the less you'll be tempted to fling in a public bin on the way home.

Simple Elevation

If you're going to go to all that effort why not add a few finishing touches. I see picnic baskets in charity shops all the time and can't think of any thing more elegant than turning up for a picnic with a traditional hamper and beautiful picnic blanket.

The latter you can DIY from an old blanket, either your own or a secondhand find. You could even repurpose a pair of old belts into a blanket carrier. Think carefully about whether you need a plastic backed blanket... I have one but the plastic is disintegrating (wafting micro-plastics all over the place no doubt) and it's not supposed to be washed which means its either dirty or those mirco-plastics have a field day in my washing machine too!

If you really want to go all out how about adding napkin rings to the aforementioned fabric napkins.

However you chose to picnic this season a little preparation can really elevate your hamper and go a long way to reducing food waste and plastic consumption. We would love to hear your ideas so let us know how you get on by commenting on our picnic post on Instagram.