How to lift your picnic game

Upgrade your ho-hum picnic with foods that go beyond ham and cheese sandwiches and a fruit platter.

Picnics are the ideal way to make the most of Australia’s warmer weather and beautiful landscapes.

But sometimes picnics can get a bit same-same, so how do you raise the bar and keep food safe when you’re on the move?

Try these tips to take your picnic to the next level:

Pack something other than sandwiches

It’s easy to slap together a couple of pieces of bread with some basic filling – but a tiny bit of extra effort can pay off.

Finger food

Savoury bite-sized foods are simple and can add a welcome burst of flavour and interest to your picnic basket.

“Whisk eggs, add chopped ham or bacon and vegetables, bake in muffin trays and you have frittata muffins,” says dietitian Lisa Renn of Dietitians Australia.

Homemade sausage rolls are also tasty at room temperature, says Edwina Machado, of the Peter Rowland catering company.

“Baby quiches or tarts with fresh flavours like mint, pea, feta or roasted heirloom tomato and almond are delicious,” she says.


Make a potato salad using a natural yoghurt-based dressing, suggests Lisa.

“Cooled potato forms resistant starch that’s good for your gut health,” she says.

Or you could make a layered salad in a sealed container. Add dressing, cold meat, legumes, hard boiled eggs and salad. When you’re ready to eat, shake the container to dress the ingredients.

Dips platter

Make your own flatbreads with plain Greek yoghurt and wholemeal flour. Fry them lightly in extra virgin olive oil and enjoy with dips and roasted vegetables.

“A crudite is always great – use baby cucumbers, Dutch carrots, radishes and artichoke with good-quality dips,” says Edwina.

Go kid-friendly

Make small savoury skewers for little hands, using a toothpick and adding bocconcini, a cherry tomato and a basil leaf.

Or put a little pizzazz into their favourite sandwiches by cutting them into shapes using a cookie cutter. Fresh fruit skewers and popcorn make popular finger food for kids, too.


“Use individual containers and add natural yoghurt, muesli and fresh berries,” says Lisa.

Slices like chocolate fudge brownie, rocky road or lamingtons are easily packed and transported. To kick things up a notch, take chocolate soil, sugar pop rocks or crushed dehydrated berries and sprinkle over dessert as you serve.

Just keep in mind that sweet items are often eaten later – so pack accordingly in warmer weather, says Edwina.

“You don’t want melted icing,” she says. “Lemon tarts are fresh and light and easy to transport.”

Homemade chocolate covered strawberries are perennial favourites too, she says.

How to transport and keep foods safe

Transporting your picnic

“Never overcrowd the food and avoid plates with cling film,” says Edwina.

“Use recyclable boxes that can become a platter when you remove the lid.”

But choose a few hero items in your picnic and transfer them to pretty platters when you are on site to add colour.

Food safety for picnics

Keep picnic food in the fridge until you are ready to leave and then pack it in an esky with cool packs. You then have four hours until food runs the risk of growing bacteria.

“Bacteria can start to form at temperatures of 5C to 60C,” says Lisa.

Keep food packed and cool until you’re ready to eat. Once outside, enjoy within two hours and then throw leftovers away.

Written by Sarah Marinos.