Picnic Recipe Ideas

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

Use Grandma's old fashioned picnic recipe ideas to treat your family and friends to an old time picnic where they will have loads of fun and create happy memories that will last a lifetime.

Picnics are one of the easiest and most affordable leisure activities for family togetherness and quality time, and the sharing of good food adds to the enjoyment.

Old Fashioned Picnic Recipe Ideas


Old Fashioned Picnic Recipe 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.

To go away for a week was impossible. However, there were times when the 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. In the upper field, there were shady trees, cool breezes, and a wonderful view of the countryside. The perfect place to spread a blanket, relax, and eat.

Sometimes for a change, Mom would quickly throw together whatever food we had available, and Dad would load up the car. Then, we'd head off seeing where the road would take us.

There was always a tin or two of salmon or sardines in the pantry — sardines were my favorite, and a freshly baked loaf of bread on hand to make the sandwiches. The cake set aside for company made the perfect dessert to take.

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

Now and then on a Sunday afternoon, we would arrange with relatives to meet at an agreed upon place for a family picnic. Favorite spots included a lake shore, the bank of a quiet stream, along a scenic roadside, or at a public park with swings and teeter totters to amuse younger kids.

It would be decided beforehand who would bring the sandwiches, salads, and desserts. Grandma's old fashioned picnic recipe ideas would be shared, but the meal was mostly potluck, so the fun was you never knew what you'd be eating until you arrived.

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.

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)

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

Preparing the Old Fashioned Picnic Lunch

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

Most families had a strong picnic basket, and cookie tins, honey pails, and small cardboard boxes were kept on hand to carry prepared food items. Tupperware® containers became popular in the 1950s, and they were ideal for carrying picnic foods.

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 the site to be assembled.


The old fashioned salads were prepared and placed in Tupperware® containers, then wrapped in layers of newspaper to insulate them and keep them cool.

Tomatoes, cucumbers, and radishes were taken in season, along with fresh garden lettuce and homemade mayonnaise for salad dressing.

The creamy homemade salad dressings were carried in screw-topped Mason jars and the salads were assembled at the picnic site for fresher taste and appearance.

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 and carried in 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 and perfect for snacks after the meal.

Mom made sure that 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 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 food, families took their own paper plates, paper serviettes (napkins), cups, and cutlery.

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

Animated Ant

Swatting the pesky mosquitoes was considered part of the fun. And, of course, there were always the pesky ants to deal with.

Why not use the old fashioned picnic recipe ideas to treat your family and friends to a vintage picnic this weekend?

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