There’s nothing better than a picnic in the summertime, right? Eating in the great outdoors is so relaxing and makes summer that much more enjoyable. However, it does pose the risk of food borne illnesses since you don’t have a way to keep food refrigerated. That doesn’t mean you can’t safely enjoy your picnic though. Here’s what you should be doing for the freshest food possible at all your picnics.
1. Take Two Coolers – One for Drinks and One for Food
The more often you open your cooler, the warmer it gets. That makes the perfect environment for bacteria and germs to multiply. By keeping your drinks in a separate cooler, you won’t have to open the food cooler until it’s time to eat. That preserves the quality of your picnic food without having to go thirsty. Genius!
2. Fill the Coolers Halfway with Ice, Add the Food, then Top off with More Ice
The more ice you have in your cooler, the fresher your chilled foods will stay. It also allows for longer periods of time outside the fridge because the ice will surround the food and keep it cold for several hours. Fill the cooler about a quarter full with ice. Pile your food inside, then cover it with more ice cubes. This way, each food item is completely surrounded by ice.
3. Wrap Meat Items Very Well before Putting Them in the Cooler
Will you be grilling burgers or hot dogs when you get to your picnic site? Transporting them raw increase the risk of contamination, so you want to be sure they are wrapped very well to prevent leakage. Wrap the meat tightly in plastic wrap, then place it in large zip-top plastic bags. This way it can go in the cooler with the rest of your cold foods without making anyone sick. Use this method for raw chicken, fish and shrimp as well.
4. Wash Fruits and Veggies before Placing Them in the Cooler
Raw produce can harbor germs and pathogens that might make you sick. Washing it prior to packing it in the cooler eliminates the risk of contaminating your picnic with these icky things. Wash fruits and veggies with warm water and mild soap, then rinse well before packing. Easy enough, right?
5. Don’t Eat Food That Has Been out of the Cooler for More than 2 Hours
After about two hours spent out of the cooler, your food is not safe to eat anymore. This time frame allows a detrimental amount of bacteria to grow on foods, upping your risk of illness. Keep the foods in the cooler until you’re ready to eat them. Pack leftovers back into the cooler as soon as possible in case you get hungry later and need something more to eat. If it’s hotter than 90 degrees, the food is unsafe to eat after one hour out of the cooler.
6. Pack Salads and Prepared Foods in Small, Shallow Containers
Not only will they fit better in the cooler, but smaller amounts of food are easier to keep chilled while you’re on a picnic. If you’re feeding a crowd, pack items in several small containers and only take out one at a time during mealtime. This preserves the quality of the foods so you don’t have to toss any of it in the trash.
7. Wash Your Hands before Opening the Cooler
Place a package of antibacterial wipes or hand sanitizer on the food cooler to remind everyone to wash up before digging in for a meal. This prevents dangerous germs and bacteria from infecting your food. A quick and simple hand wash goes a long way toward keeping everyone happy and healthy while you enjoy your picnic lunch.
How do you keep your foods safe on a picnic? What’s your favorite meal to take with you?