Top Safety Tips for Your Summer Picnic

| July 24, 2014 | 28 Comments

Summer is upon us, and with the warm weather and sunshine comes many opportunities for a picnic with family and friends. Whether you’re eating in the backyard, at a park, or at the beach, it is so important to pay attention to food safety. More foodborne illnesses occur during picnic season than any other time. Keep illness-causing bacteria at bay with these picnic do’s & don’ts.

Vegetables In Resealable Containers Picnic-ForRent.com

Preparing and Packing Picnic Foods

Preparing and packing picnic food properly is one of most important steps to keep food safe and have an easier picnic experience. Wash all fresh produce thoroughly at home. Peel and slice any fruits and veggies ahead of time so that these items are ready to serve when it is time. Package produce in resealable containers that fit easily into your cooler, even though fresh fruits and veggies that are normally stored at room temperature do not need to be kept as cold as other foods.

If you are planning to grill meats when you reach your destination, package raw meats in a tightly sealed container. If meats require any prep work, such as slicing or making burger patties, do so before you leave home. Meats can be transported partially frozen, but all meats should be placed on ice in the cooler until ready to use. For added food safety, place meat containers in a disposable plastic grocery bag to ensure limited contact with other foods. This bag will be useful for holding trash during picnic clean up. Package ready-to-eat meats separately from meats that require cooking, as to not cross contaminate.

Place salads and other side dishes in resealable containers as well. These items will need to be kept on ice before and after serving, especially if you choose items that include mayo.

Store ALL cold foods at 40 degrees or below to prevent growth of illness-causing bacteria.

When transporting foods, such as chips, pretzels, bread, crackers and other dry items, they do not need to take up valuable cooler space. If possible, portion some of these items into individual snack bags. This makes for easy serving and less hands (that may not be clean) to potentially contaminate a large container.

Grilling Safety Tips

Be sure to follow the same safe grilling habits you would at home while enjoying a picnic at the park or beach. In addition to transporting meats properly, be sure to keep these important guidelines in mind.

  • Make sure meats are cooked immediately after removing from cooler. Preheat the grill and make sure everything is ready before removing the meat from the cooler.
  • Make sure meats are cooked thoroughly. Bring a meat thermometer to check that meats reach appropriate internal temperatures before serving.
  • Using a dual temperature zone on the grill, keep ready to serve foods hot until they will be consumed.
  • Never allow cooked, ready-to-serve meats to come into contact with utensils, platters or plates that were used for raw meats. Keep a clean platter and utensils near the grill for serving.

Pasta Salad On Ice-ForRent.com

Serving and Storing Picnic Foods

Make sure cold foods are kept cold and warm foods stay warm. Cold salads and side dishes can be kept cold for serving by placing bowls into a larger bowl filled with ice. When mealtime is over, replace lids and return these items to the cooler at once. If your meal requires condiments like ketchup or mayonnaise, consider serving these items on ice as well. If cold foods remain out of the cooler for more than 2 hours (1 hour if it is 90 degrees or warmer), they should be discarded rather than returned to the cooler.

For hot foods, wrap them foil and store in an insulated container once they’ve been removed from the grill or place in cooler if mealtime is over. Like cold foods, also discard any warm items that have sat out more than 2 hours.

Utensils And Plates For Picnic-ForRent.com

Other Tips & Tricks

Make sure hands are clean anytime they come into contact with food. Use soap and hot water whenever possible, or sanitizing wipes if your picnic site does not have running hot water.

Avoid mayo-based dressings in salads and side dishes. Opt for pasta salads with oil and vinegar-based dressings instead. Consider substituting mashed and seasoned avocado mixed with lemon juice where mayo is called for, or try it on sandwiches.

Fabric Tote For Picnics-ForRent.com

Use a fabric tote with several pouches for transporting plates, cutlery, cups, and napkins. When packing these items, include a package of sanitizing wipes, several disposable plastic shopping bags, and a hand towel or washcloth. The plastic shopping bags are great for placing dirty dishes in for transporting home as well as for collecting trash at the picnic site.

What steps do you take to keep your picnics safe during the summer? Let ForRent.com know!

Category: Apartment Life

About Courtney Pies: I'm a 20-something wife, mom and blogger. I love crafting, cooking, reading, writing, music, and watching movies and television.

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Comments (28)

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  1. Robin (Masshole Mommy) says:

    Those are all great tips. Especially the one about clean hands!

  2. Great tips! We usually use plastic ware and pre-cut foods before we travel, and while traveling near the mountains, we make sure to toss our trash immediately in bear safe bins so that the bears don’t find us! ;)

  3. Those are great tips! Especially making sure to not leave meats out before grilling.

  4. Nolie says:

    I have no tips as I am ashamed to admit I have never done the picnic thing.

  5. Jenn says:

    These are such great tips! It would be awful to enjoy a great meal only to get sick later because you didn’t take the proper steps to protect yourself. Thank you!

  6. Paula says:

    Great tips! It takes a little extra work to keep everything hot/cold, but it’s worth it! I wouldn’t want anyone to get sick!

  7. Pam says:

    I always try to pack foods that don’t have to be refrigerated, and I never let my food stay out for more than two hours. Food safety is important to me after getting food poisoning several times.

  8. Emily says:

    I love your tote! I am always so wary of eating at picnics bc people don’t usually care about proper food storage.

  9. Jennifer says:

    These are great tips. Packing the dinnerware is the hardest part for me. It usually ends up in the bottom of my picnic basket.

  10. Dawn says:

    These are great tips, especially the one on cross-contamination. When grilling, it’s so easy to loose track of the plates and accidentally put the cooked meat on a raw meat tray. That’s bad! Don’t do it!

  11. Jenn says:

    Great tips!! We love to take the kids out for a picnic as much as possible before the weather turns again!

  12. Amy D says:

    I think these are great tips! We bring plenty of ice packs to keep our food cold and safe!

  13. These are great tips! Nothing worse than having your summer fun ruining from getting sick because of spoiled food.

  14. Shauna says:

    What great tips… I never think about bringing soap and cleaners to keep our hands clean… Thanks so much for sharing.

  15. These are great tips! I love that you included to not use may-based dressings. I love to make salads with them, but know better for food safety, if we are packing them and traveling! Bad mayo is a terrible mistake!

  16. These tips are awesome! I love being able to substitute avocado mixed with lemon for mayo…totally going to try this!

  17. We have not been picnicking much this year so no tips

  18. Great tips! Esp about food storage! I had a pasta salad in the sun and the combo of meat and cheese made it turn very quickly. Thankfully I noticed it before anyone ate it. GAG!!

  19. Great tips. I use a cooler on wheels to keep everything cool until it’s time to eat. Definitely helps.

  20. This is a great article. It’s so important to be safe when taking food on a picnic. Thanks for sharing.

  21. Liz Mays says:

    This is so worth mentioning. It’s very easy to be cautious at home when you have a sink right there, but when away you have to take extra steps.

  22. Ann Bacciaglia says:

    Food safety tips in the summer are so important. Many people do not realize how the summer heat can make food turn bad very quickly. Thanks for sharing your tips.

  23. Mindy Grant says:

    Thanks for the great tips! I have to make a pasta salad for a wedding reception on Friday and travel and hour with it! I don’t want anyone getting sick!

  24. April says:

    This is an awesome tip post. Thanks for sharing.

  25. Great tips about food storage. I get so worried about old and contaminated food!

  26. Thanks for the great tips. I never bring my food out to grill until I am ready to cook it.

  27. Brett says:

    Totally agree with all of this. Although it makes me bonkers that you are supposed to get steak to room temp before you grill it- but that goes against what we’re taught!!

    I try to avoid meat on picnics period.

  28. Wow, love these tips. I am adamant about keeping things cool or packing food that doesn’t spoil quickly.

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