I’m such a lover of being outdoors that I’ve complied my top quick healthy picnic recipes, best picnic locations and all the other tips you need to bring your plate outdoors this summer!
The best part about summer is being able to shrug off those winter blues and get out and about to enjoy the sunshine, but so many of us still manage to spend an unnecessary amount of time indoors, even when the weather outside is beckoning!
Even if you’re so busy that you think you can’t fit outdoor time into your day, you have to eat, and doing something as simple as making the effort to head outdoors for a meal once or twice a week can really help you get that extra dose of vitamin D your body craves (and needs!). Plus, there’s nothing better than sitting in the sunshine and enjoying the beauty that nature has to offer – it enhances your mood and sets you up for the rest of the day.
So, what should you pack for a picnic outing? Compiling a little picnic basket that you keep on hand during spring and summer is a great idea, because it means you can take your plate to the beach or the great outdoors at a moment’s notice, whenever you feel like it!
Below are some essentials I like to keep in my picnic pack to make the whole experience just that little bit more enjoyable.
- An assortment of knives, forks and spoons – no need for them to be plastic as it adds unnecessary waste to the environment and its easy enough to just wash your cutlery when you get home. Buy a small selection cheap cutlery from Kmart that you keep in your picnic basket, or, for a little more luxury, splash out on a special set that you keep just for the occasion
- A waste bag – most beaches and national parks have bins, however sometimes your wandering may take you somewhere that doesn’t, so make sure you keep a waste bag in your pack so it’s easy to take your rubbish home for the right kind of disposal
- Collapsible camping bowls – I love these because they’re reusable, plus they fold down pretty flat, meaning they take up so much less room in your pack
- Picnic blanket – this can be just an old blanket you have lying around, nothing fancy, just something you don’t mind getting a little sandy, from time to time
- Reusable plastic cups, and here you can again pick up one or two which is a little nicer, to add to your outdoor ambience!
- Wet wipes – there’s nothing worse than sticky hands with nowhere to wash them, and so I like to carry wet wipes with me to clean off. Plus water is a premium in many areas, so this tactic also wastes less!
- A large, stainless - steel drink bottle filled with water – ditch the plastic as not only does it take years to break down in our environment, often ending up in our waterways, but it can be dangerous to leave water in a plastic bottle which heats up, if that bottle is not made of the correct plastic!
- An ice pack – which I keep in the freezer and pop into the pack when I am ready to take it with me – this keeps all your food fresh and your drinks cold!
- Anything else that adds that special little bit of luxury to your meal – an inflatable cushion, a pashmina wrap in case the weather turns chilly, be as creative as you like!
Now to the important part - what kind of food can you bring that is ‘picnic appropriate’? You don’t want anything too fiddly that you need to cut into as this can prove to be hard on uneven surfaces.
Below are my top 3 favourite picnic recipes that are easy to transport and easy (and delicious) to eat!
BBQ chicken sliders with kale slaw
What you need:
- 2x roasted chicken breasts from a Lilydale Free Range Roast Chicken
- 1 cup of low sodium BBQ sauce
- 1 packet of Coles® Kale-slaw mix
- 4x wholemeal slider buns.
What you need to do
- Shred the Lilydale Free Range Roast Chicken breasts into a mixing bowl then add BBQ sauce and mix together until chicken is fully coated
- Mix together the Kale-slaw mix with Kale-slaw dressing
- Pack into containers and, when you have chosen your picnic spot, assemble sliders onto the buns with a generous amount of chicken topped with Kale-slaw
Vietnamese chicken salad
What you need:
- 2 Lilydale Free Range Chicken breasts, poached, or 2 Lilydale Free Range Roasted Chicken breasts
- ½ large Wombok (Chinese) cabbage finely shredded
- ½ cup fresh mint leaves, shredded
- ¼ cup fresh coriander leaves
- ½ cup Thai basil leaves
- 2 carrots, grated
- Vietnamese dressing, to taste
- ½ cup roasted peanuts
- ½ cup Changs® crunchy noodles
What you need to do:
- Shred the chicken and combine with shredded cabbage, mint, coriander, basil and carrots in a large bowl, drizzle with dressing and mix together until well combined.
- top with roast peanuts and store in a large airtight container
- When ready to eat, sprinkle with crunchy noodles.
Chicken rice paper rolls
What you need:
- 2 roast chicken breasts from a Lilydale Free Range Roast Chicken
- 1 packet of round rice paper sheets
- 1 ripe but firm avocado, cut into slices
- 1 red capsicum cut into thin slices
- 6-10 large mint leaves
- ½ packet of thin rice noodles, soaked, softened and drained
- ¼ red cabbage shredded
- 1 carrot cut into thick match sticks
- ¼ head of oak lettuce
- hoy sin sauce for dipping
What you need to do:
- Set out all ingredients neatly on your kitchen bench
- Prepare a large bowl of warm water and set aside
- Take a singular rice paper sheet and gently soften it in the warm water, once it is mouldable but not too soft, drain well and set it down on a chopping board and fill with a small amount of each ingredient, then wrap as per instructions on the packet
- Repeat the process until all sheets are filled
- Wrap each rice paper roll individually in baking paper and pack together in a large container.
Now you’ve prepared your food and arranged your pack, it’s time to head somewhere to devour your feast!
I love eating outdoors and living near the beach makes it easy to go for a quick picnic whenever I feel like it. You can even picnic while you’re at work – just find a park close by, and if there isn’t one, you can simply open the door and sit outside. I guarantee that anytime spent in the sun, anywhere, will lift your mood tenfold!
Melbourne is booming with tons of amazing locations to sit outdoors and enjoy the sun while you’re having a bite to eat – here’s a few areas I’ve scoped out which get my tick of approval:
The farthest of Port Melbourne beach
Port Melbourne beach can get a little hectic from time to time if you stick around the main area, but if you head way up past Princes’ Pier, you’ll find less people, cleaner beaches and more secluded areas to enjoy your little feast.
St Kilda Botanical Gardens
A beautiful spot filled with activities, gorgeous floral views, shelter if need be AND you can bring your pooch too (if you have one).
Yarra Bend Park
Escape the hectic CBD to this gorgeous 260- hectare park located in the Melbourne suburb of Kew. Perfect if you’re looking for a quiet spot to relax and unwind – it’s the largest area of natural bushland left in inner Melbourne.
One Tree Hill
Don’t mind a bit of a drive? One Tree Hill in the Dandenong Ranges not only boasts one of the prettiest picnic spots in VIC, but also allows you to work off your big lunch on a gorgeous walk up, 15 minutes further than the end of the 1000 steps forest walk.
It’s about a one hour drive from Melbourne CBD, but totally worth the effort.
Who can resist the mystery of visiting a historical site which is best known for the novel written about a party of schoolgirls who inexplicably disappeared in 1900? This heritage site is now a major attraction for walkers, history buffs, and anyone who is even slightly intrigued about whether this novel was purely fiction, or based on a true disappearance!
Sit beneath magnificent natural rock structures and learn about this mysterious history – the rock itself was formed by an eruption of lava from a nearby (now dormant) volcano.
So, there’s simply no excuse for you to remain indoors and inactive this summer – get creative, organise your pack so you’re ready at a moment’s notice and join the Free Range movement, You’ll be physically and emotionally inspired, and your good health will thank you for the effort!
Beck Lomas is a Melbourne-based health and fitness blogger. Growing up on the beautiful coast of NSW has led to her affinity for the beach and general love for the outdoors. Her dream is to see people achieve their health and fitness goals – and being a member of the Lilydale Free Range Tribe is helping her do this.