“Never plan a picnic’ Father said. ‘Plan a dinner, yes, or a house, or a budget, or an appointment with the dentist, but never, never plan a picnic.”
― Elizabeth Enright, The Four-Story Mistake

There is nothing quite as lovely, old-fashioned, economical, or as delicious as a picnic. Something about eating outdoors, under a tree, beside a lake, on a beach or on the tailgate at the ball field just makes food taste better. When I was a kid my mother was forever taking us on impromptu picnics – sometimes only as far away as our backyard. I loved these spur-of-the-moment meals, which made ordinary afternoons and evenings feel extraordinary.

For our family picnicking has become an expected part of any road trip experience – especially in the summer months. Our most recent picnic took place at the Grand Canyon National Park on a hot June afternoon. Despite the heat, and the altitude, nothing has ever tasted as good or as refreshing as that lunch. Sitting on a log, under a shrub brush tree, I feasted like a queen on leftover cold smoked chicken breast, farmers market bread pudding and Rainer cherries.

In addition to being delicious, picnics can also be an affordable way to infuse a little magic into daily life. By throwing together a few common ingredients and moving the feast outdoors, you can create a festive atmosphere with nothing more than an old quilt and some colorful straws. Our most common picnic meal is that of cold leftovers like the one at The Grand Canyon, but with the exception of last night’s dinner, the easiest picnic fare for me to throw together are sandwiches. One of my favorites is the Chicken BLT, an elevated hearty twist on the classic picnic sandwich. I cook the bacon up restaurant-style (in the oven) which gives me plenty of time to prep the rest of the sandwich fixins’ without having to work hard over the stove, and it gives the children time to get their shoes on and the car packed for our next adventure!


Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4

Preheat oven to 400°


  • 8 slices of sandwich bread
  • 8 strips of bacon
  • 8 ounces of rotisserie or baked chicken, deli sliced
  • 2 tomatoes
  • hearts of romaine, chopped
  • mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • salt and pepper


  1. Line cookie sheet with foil, then lay strips of bacon on foil, and bake in 400° oven until dark and crispy.
  2. While the bacon is cooking, slice tomatoes thin, spread on plate and lightly salt.
  3. Slice chicken thin, using a meat slicer if you can (you can also have this done in most deli sections of your local grocer.)
  4. Once bacon is crispy, remove from pan and cool on a paper towel-lined plate. Remove and dispose of foil.
  5. Switch oven temperature to broil setting.
  6. Butter one side of each piece of sandwich bread and place on cookie sheet butter-side up.
  7. Toast bread under broiler until golden brown. Remove and allow to cool.
  8. Once all of your ingredients are prepared you can build your sandwich, beginning by spreading mayonnaise on the nonbuttered side of your toasted bread.
  9. Next add 3-4 slices of chicken, sufficient lettuce, tomato slices (I prefer 3 per sandwich,) salt and pepper to taste, and 2 pieces of bacon broken in half to create 4 small strips on each sandwich.
  10. Wrap in wax paper and secure with cute Washi tape.
  11. Serve with a side of your favorite chip and dip combination and some fresh lemonade.

Want to have your picnic supplies ready when the mood strikes? Consider putting together a Picnic Basket Kit.

  • 1 large basket, vintage suitcase or favorite backpack
  • Selection of mismatched cloth napkins (perhaps use the ones that have seen better days, but are too lovely to toss?)
  • Jelly jar glasses
  • A tin can filled with Inexpensive flatware (my favorites come from flea markets and dollar stores)
  • Melamine dishes for everyone, a few extra for serving
  • Salt and pepper Shakers
  • A roll of paper towels
  • Decent kitchen knife
  • A comfy quilt or a large rectangle flannel backed tablecloth
  • 1 can favorite bug deterrent
  • bottle favorite sun block
  • Kite, sidewalk chalk, bottle of bubbles
  • Matches
  • Citronella jar candles
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Small cutting board
  • Straws