Old Fashioned Picnic Food Ideas

Thanks to Grandma's old fashioned picnic food ideas, you can treat your family and friends to old fashioned picnics where they will enjoy loads of fun and create happy memories to last a lifetime. All you need is a relaxing outdoor location and a soft blanket to sit on.

Picnics are one of the easiest and most affordable leisure activities for family togetherness and quality time, as the sharing of good food adds to the enjoyment. Imagine tasty sandwiches, homemade cake, slices of pie, and cookies... what's not to like?

Favorite Old Fashioned Picnic Food Ideas

Family of Four Enjoying Picnic Sandwiches on the BeachFamily Enjoying Picnic Sandwiches on the Beach
(Source: ©lightwavemedia/Depositphotos.com)

Ideas for Packing the Picnic Lunch

Proper packing of the food was very important, as this was before the days of insulated food carriers and portable battery-powered fridges.

Most families had a strong picnic basket, and cookie tins, honey pails, and cardboard shoe boxes were kept on hand to safely carry the prepared food items.

Tupperware® containers became popular in the 1950s, and they became ideal for carrying picnic foods and eating utensils.

Vintage Picnic Basket Sitting on the DoorstepThe Bell Family's Vintage Picnic Basket
(Source: ©Don Bell)

Sometimes, the sandwiches were made ahead and carefully wrapped in waxed paper before placing them in the picnic basket. However, most often the bread and fixings were packed and taken to be assembled at the picnic site.

Tomatoes, cucumbers, and radishes were taken in season, along with fresh garden lettuce and homemade mayonnaise to  spread on bread for sandwiches.

Creamy homemade salad dressings were carried in screw-topped Mason jars and garden salads were assembled at the picnic site ensuring fresher taste and appearance.

Sometimes, the homemade salads were prepared and placed in Tupperware® containers that were then wrapped in layers of old newspaper to insulate them and keep them cool.

Cakes and pies were simply sliced and served from their baking pans at the site. Delicate pastries and dessert squares were packed surrounded by a tea towel to prevent them sliding about in the cookie tins.

Bowl of Fresh BerriesFreshly Picked Berries Make a Perfect Picnic Snack
(Source: ©Sewcream/Depositphotos.com)

Berries and other fresh fruits in season were always a favorite on picnic outings, as they needed no preparation and were perfect for healthy snacking after the meal.

Mom made sure the water for making tea and instant coffee was kept piping hot in insulated Thermos® bottles, while homemade lemonade and fruit juices were carried in glass jars that were set in the cool stream or lake water at the picnic site to chill.

Vintage Picnic Tableware with Paper Napkins, Plates, and CupsPaper Picnic Plates, Cups, and Napkins, circa 1930s
(Source: ©Don Bell)

Aside from the picnic food, families took their own paper plates, serviettes (napkins), cups, and cutlery.

Other essential items included salt and pepper shakers, can and bottle openers, sharp paring knives, tablecloths, blankets and cushions for seating, and possibly some mosquito repellent.

Animated Ant

Swatting the pesky mosquitoes was accepted as part of the fun and there were always some pesky little ants to deal with. LOOK… I can see one now!

Why not use Grandma's old fashioned picnic food ideas to treat your family and friends to a vintage picnic this weekend? Create some fond memories to last a lifetime.

Our Family's Old Fashioned Picnic Ideas

Living in a farming community meant that vacations were mostly reserved for city people. There was always plenty of farm work to be done, and the farm animals needed to be looked after daily, including Saturday and Sunday.

So, taking a week off was impossible. However, there were times when work could be set aside for an afternoon so everybody could enjoy a family picnic.

McIlmoyle Family Roadside Picnic in the 1930sGrandma McIlmoyle Enjoying Roadside Picnic in 1930s
(Source: ©Don Bell)

On an especially warm day, we would go to a favorite area on our farm for a picnic supper. On the hilltop in the upper field, there were shady trees, cool breezes, and a wonderful panoramic view of the countryside. The perfect place to spread a picnic blanket.

Sometimes, for a change, Mom would quickly gather leftovers and throw together whatever food we had available in the pantry. Dad would load up our car, and we would head off for a roadside supper, seeing where the road would take us.

Picnic lunch recipe ideas were aplenty, and there was always a tin of salmon or sardines in the pantry — sardines were my favorite — and a freshly baked loaf of bread on hand for making the sandwiches. The layer cake set aside for company made the perfect dessert.

Bell and McIlmoyle Family Picnic at Rice Lake, Ontario, 1958Family Picnic at Rice Lake, Ontario, in 1958
(Source: ©Don Bell)

Sometimes, on a Sunday afternoon, we would arrange with relatives to meet at an agreed upon spot for a family picnic.

Favorite spots included a sandy beach, the bank of a quiet stream, a shady roadside with a view, or a public park with swings and teeter totters to amuse the youngsters.

Everyone would suggest their favorite old fashioned picnic food ideas, and It would be decided beforehand who would bring the homemade sandwiches, salads, and desserts.

The lunch was mostly potluck, so you never knew what you'd be eating until you arrived. Looking forward to the food was part of the fun.

Winter Picnics? Really!

Summer picnics are truly awesome. However, believe it or not, one of our family's favorite outings was an annual winter picnic after a fresh snowfall.

Enjoying Hot Dogs on a Winter PicnicToasting Hot Dog Buns on a Winter Picnic in 1955
(Source: ©Don Bell)

That's me at age nine in the photos with my Aunt Jessie and Uncle Art enjoying a picnic lunch at our farm woodlot in January 1955.

Boiling Water In a Kettle Over an Open FireBoiling Water for Hot Chocolate on a Winter Picnic in 1955
(Source: ©Don Bell)

Old fashioned picnic food ideas for winter lunches included Irish stew, hot dogs, and pork and beans cooked over an open fire with homemade butter tarts and cupcakes for dessert. Piping hot chocolate and tea helped to keep us warm. It was always so much fun!

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