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Picnic Backpack Food Ideas

Simple Foods to Pack for a Picnic

The best picnic backpack food ideas for me are the simple ones: Foods that stand alone, don't need condiments, or cutlery so you can enjoy them. I think that when you are carrying your lunch in a backpack, the less you have to carry, the more enjoyable your day trip will be. Here are some ideas of what to pack for a picnic lunch for day trips, road trips, or even a long walk in the park.

Good Foods for Picnics -- Think 'Finger Food' Hard boiled eggs for a picnic basket lunch.

Here are my long time staples for a picnic lunch:

  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Cheese
  • Cured sausage (kolbassa, salami, etc)
  • Grapes, oranges, bananas, apples
  • Granola or other cereal bar
  • Buns, crackers, biscuits

As well, these foods don't spoil easily and  they are fairly tidy to eat. Well, the oranges can be juicy. Basically I like to choose foods that won't drip all over.

I don't pack all the foods for each picnic. The amount varies by how many I am feeding. For 3-4 people, about 6 eggs works well.

I prepare the foods the night before a day trip, and keep in the fridge so they are well chilled by the time I want to head out.

Preparing foods for a fast picnic lunchHard yellow cheese slices on a cutting board, ready to pack in a picnic lunch.

As well as boiling the eggs the night before, I also slice the cheese and sausage then wrap in plastic wrap or put into a plastic food container. To save space in the backpack and keep foods from sloshing around, I use the smallest size container I can get away with.

I've had better luck with plastic containers than plastic zip bags as they keep foods from being crushed in a backpack.

A sandwich size plastic container will hold 6 boiled eggs neatly, or cheese and / or meat slices. A larger container will hold fruit like grapes.

This size is also good for holding crackers or cookies.

I wash all fruit the night before as well. If you like butter or margarine on bread/buns, you can spread it on the bread or buns before wrapping and chilling. It seems too much trouble to carry butter and a knife :-)

Good Fruit to Pack for a Picnic Fresh purple red grape cluster in a container for lunch.

Fruit is great for a sweet treat as well as being a bit of a thirst quencher. What I pack depends on what I have on hand, but usually a firm fruit works best.

Grapes are nice and easy to eat and share, though I do snip large bunches into smaller portions after washing and before packing into a container.

Watermelon and melons can also be peeled and cubed then packed into a container.

Soft fruits such as plums, pears, peaches tend to get pretty beaten up on a brisk hike so I leave them at home.

Oranges can be pealed before eating or cut into sections and put into a baggie or container, though once cut, the juice goes everywhere!

Vegetarian Ideas for a Picnic

My picnic backpack food ideas are fine if you can eat eggs, dairy and meat. For vegetarians, and for a change myself, I make up a fast chickpea dip similar to hummous, and take along a container or bag of cut up pita breads plus a container of baby carrots and celery sticks for dipping.

Fast and Easy Chickpea Dip

  • Drain and rinse one can chickpeas (garbanzos), then simmer about 20 minutes in saucepan with enough water to cover.
  • Drain chickpeas and mash with fork until fairly smooth.
  • Add lemon juice to taste and thin a bit and a bit of EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil) and keep mixing until it is fairly smooth.
  • Season with chopped garlic to taste, if you like, and a bit of salt.

Put in a plastic container and chill.

Pack it up and don't forget the water!

When you are ready to leave for your day trip, the containers are all easy to stack in your backpack. Put some napkins or paper towel in a baggie. if you'd like salt on your boiled eggs, toss in a few packets of salt and pepper that you've saved from your fast food deliveries (we all have those around somewhere!). Or put some salt on clear wrap and twist up.

While not  fine dining in the traditional sense, if you've been out in the fresh air clambering over hill and dale and up and down stairs, this simple picnic will be ambrosia!

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