Picnic Recipe Ideas

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

Use the collection of picnic recipe ideas below to treat your family and friends to an old fashioned 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 the sharing of good food adds to the enjoyment.

Grandma's Picnic Recipe Ideas

The Old Fashioned Picnic

Living in a farming community meant that vacations were reserved for city people. There was always plenty of farm work to be done, and the farm animals needed to be looked after daily. So, to go away for a week to two was impossible. However, there were times when the work could be set aside for an afternoon, and everybody could enjoy a family picnic.

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

Sometimes, if the day had been especially warm, we would spontaneously go to a favorite cool place for a picnic supper. Mom would quickly throw together whatever we had available to eat. There was always a tin or two of salmon or sardines in the pantry, and she had a loaf of bread on hand to make the sandwiches. The cake set aside for company made a perfect dessert.

On other occasions, often 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, on the bank of a quiet stream, along a scenic roadside, or at a public park with swings and teeter totters to amuse the kids.

It would be decided beforehand who would bring the sandwiches, salads, and desserts. Favorite picnic recipe ideas would be shared, but the meal was mostly potluck, so you never knew what you would be eating until you arrived.

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

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 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 Doorstep Ready to PackThe Bell Family's Vintage Picnic Basket
(Source: ©Don Bell)

Sandwiches were carefully wrapped in waxed paper, while salads were prepared and placed in Tupperware®, then wrapped in layers of newspaper to keep them cool. Creamy dressings were often taken in screw-topped jars and the salads tossed at the picnic site for a fresher taste and appearance.

Sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, and radishes were common in season, along with garden lettuce and homemade mayonnaise for dressing. Sometimes, the sandwiches were made ahead, but often the bread and fixings were packed and taken to the site to be prepared.

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

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 water at the 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, a can and bottle opener, a sharp paring knife, tablecloths, a blanket or cushions for seating, and possibly some mosquito repellent. Swatting the pesky mosquitoes was considered part of the fun.

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Abbott and Costello on Stage

Listen to Bud Abbott and Lou Costello's "Who's On First?" skit from the World War 2 Special Services Division V-Disk.

(5: 54 min.)

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Grandma's button hooks for  fastening tight buttons on leather boots and gloves.