8 Must-Know Picnic Hacks for Your Fourth of July Party
Have an outdoor picnic without packing up your entire kitchen.
Enjoying an outdoor picnic on the Fourth of July sounds lovely, doesn't it? Packing up everything you need for said picnic doesn't. The checklist can get long: utensils, plates, napkins, drinks, cups, ice, food — I could go on and on. The good news is, it doesn't have to be stressful. Follow our clever tips and tricks to throw a successful picnic without the hassle of hauling all that stuff.
Add Some Wheels
Unpack everything from your car into a wagon for an easy way to transport essentials to your perfect picnic spot. Plus, a red wagon adds a touch of Americana style to your Fourth of July party.
Transport handheld treats in a muffin tin covered with plastic wrap, or fill with a variety of dips and condiments for easy dipping and sandwich smothering.
Instead of a Chip Bowl, Use a Colander
Upgrade a bag of chips without upgrading your party arsenal by filling your colander with snacks, instead. Bonus: The handles make it easy to transport to your party space. Just add a plate or piece of newspaper underneath to catch crumbs.
Instead of Plates, Use a DIY Paper Snack Server
Instead of serving your guests out of standard plastic bowls, use our free printable to turn inexpensive card stock into decorative paper cones. To create them, enlarge this template by 50 percent, then print onto legal-size copier paper. Transfer the template to 12x12 card stock and cut out. Use a craft knife to cut a slit opposite the tab. Once assembled, further secure them with tape.
Instead of an Ice Bucket, Try a Planter
Dump out the plant you tried to keep alive last summer and turn it into something you'll really tend to: A bucket to keep drinks cold at your next outdoor party. If the planter has drainage holes, be sure to place it on the ground to avoid a mess.
Instead of a Vase, Use a Tin Can
Tin cans have seemingly endless party uses: They can be transformed into lanterns, used to hold utensils, transformed into games, and more. One of the easiest uses is also one of the prettiest: Save a can with a pretty label (try tomatoes from the international section of your grocery) and fill it with flowers. It's an almost-instant centerpiece!
Instead of a Dessert Dish, Use a Mug
Instead of Bowls, Use Shot Glasses
Serve soup as an appetizer (yes, those boxes of pre-made soup totally count) by breaking out your shot glass collection and adding in a shooter-size serving. Bonus points if you add some chopped herbs or sour cream to garnish.
Instead of a Dessert Dish, Use an Edible Bowl
Adorable, right? These are also smart: Serving ice cream or fruit salad in hollowed-out citrus fruits adds citrusy flavor and doesn't dirty any dishes.
Make This: Frozen Clementine Sorbet
Instead of Ramekins, Use a Muffin Tin
You don't need fancy baking ramekins to make individual-sized foods — just turn to your trusty muffin tin to do the pre-portioning.
Instead of...Pretty Much Anything, Use a Mason Jar
Ah, the trusty mason jar. It can stand in for almost anything at a party, from drinking glass to utensil holder to salad dressing server. Here, pumpkin s'mores are stacked in pint-sized jars to create individual desserts. Yeah, you're going to want to keep a bunch of these around.
Make This: Pumpkin S'mores in a Jar
Instead of a Dessert Stand, Use Upcycled Stacked Plates
No cake stand? No problem! Create a makeshift cake server by updating a six- to eight-inch-wide can with non-toxic paint. Place the can on top of an upside-down plate, then stack another plate on top. This can be made permanent by adding industrial-strength adhesive along the top and bottom rims of the can. Or, make the arrangement temporary by connecting the pieces with poster putty.
Instead of Chairs, Use Pillows + a Low Table
Instead of a Bar Cart, Clear Off a Bookshelf
Bar carts are fun and trendy, but if you don't have one, you can still create a dedicated bar just for the party. Clear off a bookcase, side table or coffee table and add the essentials and some fun extras.
DIY This: Create a Bar, the Lazy Way
Bar in a Jar
Open Bar Bachelor Party Gift
This gift is ideal for the traditional bachelor party. Give guests a jar filled with an assortment of alcohol at the beginning of the night — that way they can drink whatever they’d like at their own pace. The best part? Party goers should have plenty of alcohol left to take home the next day.
Store all liquor bottles in a large container so guests know exactly where to look for the good stuff. When the party's over, you won't have to individually collect all the bottles — just place the large container back in the wagon.
Paper Cups FTW
Minimize serveware by using small paper cups for beverages and bite-sized snacks. For a festive touch, cut out star shapes from patterned scrapbook paper and attach to cups with double-sided tape.
Instead of paper napkins or plastic plates, serve your guests finger foods inside of strawberry baskets. These are easy to hold, help avoid any spills and effectively store seasonings and toppings.
Flynnside Out Productions
Use berry baskets from the grocery store to serve larger quantities of food — they're more compact than paper plates.
Easy Food Storage
Simple Picnic Food
Ask friends to bring a favorite picnic food, or divide up the ingredients for a build-your-own sandwich buffet. Prepare Fun Sandwich Cutouts for the kids. Fruit Skewers are a convenient and pretty way to serve up what's in season. Make sure you have enough paper goods, drinks and ice on hand. Photo by Leslie Judson.
Place bread, meats, fruit, sides and sandwich toppings in separate containers the night before your picnic. You can store leftovers and/or dirty dishes in these containers after your party. (Don't reuse containers that had raw meat in them.)
Picnic Basket Hack
If your picnic basket doesn't have flatware storage underneath the lid, add some! Attach elastic cord to the bottom of the lid with dots of glue or staples spaced about 1/2-inch apart. Store flatware, bottle openers and other utensils for guests to easily grab.
Sweeten Drinks + Keep Food Cold
Make fruity ice cubes for a summer treat that's tasty and refreshing. Simply fill an ice cube tray with water, then drop in raspberries and slices of lemon, lime and orange. Once frozen, the infused cubes are perfect for adding flavor and cooling down a glass of water or fresh-squeezed lemonade.
Sweeten water with frozen fruit. The night before the picnic, place small berries and other fruit in an ice tray with a little water. The day of, place the ice cube tray in a cooler on top of perishables to keep them cold during transport. Remove from the tray when you're ready to add to beverages.
Picnic Tip: Pack a Cooler Like a Pro
Tomato Burrata Crostini
The flavor and juice from the heirloom tomatoes combined with the cheese and toast create a flavorful bite-sized treat that's easy to eat. Plus, they will add color to your party other than the traditional red, white and blue. Get the recipe>>
Patriotic Panna Cotta Shooters
Panna cotta shooters will surely cool you and your Fourth of July guests off. Give the shooters an American-inspired spin by layering them in red, white and blue. Get the recipe>>
Your guests will appreciate a refreshing frozen treat during the heat of the day. Give this clementine sorbet the presentation it deserves by using the clementine shells as bowls. Get the recipe>>
Blue Velvet Cupcakes
Put a spin on red velvet cake while showing your patriotism. Blue gel food coloring gives this recipe its patriotic blue color. Top it off with a star-shaped cake piece to really make it a special Fourth of July treat. Get the recipe>>
To make, add 1 ounce cream liqueur, 1/2 ounce banana-flavored liqueur, 1/2 ounce ginger liqueur and 1 ounce pineapple juice to a mixing glass. Fill glass 2/3 full with ice, cap with tin and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Strain into martini glass. Recipe courtesy of The Melting Pot
Grilled Fruit Skewers
Grilling fruit may not sound appetizing, but it gives the fruit a caramelized flavor that your guests will love. Pair them with unexpected dips like ricotta cheese and yogurt. Get the recipe>>
This bright and refreshing cupcake recipe is made with Limoncello, a lemon-flavored Italian liqueur, adding an extra touch of citrus flavor. Top it with lemon candy and mint leaves to give it a summertime look. Get the recipe>>
The inside of this "cake" is actually a generous portion from a watermelon. This refreshing treat is topped with fluffy frosting, sliced almonds and fresh fruit. Get the recipe on HGTVGardens.com>>
Bourbon Cherry Vanilla Coke Slush
Go back to your childhood with a cocktail that tastes just like a cherry slushy. To make, combine 1-1/2 ounces cherry bourbon, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 4 pitted cherries, 3 ounces Coke and one cup of ice in a blender. Blend until it forms a slushy consistency. Pour in a glass, and garnish with cherries.
Grilled Cumin Shrimp Avocado Gazpacho
Give your guests an easy appetizer that looks like it took you hours to make. The avocado gazpacho tones down the spicy flavor of the grilled shrimp. Get the recipe>>
Cardamom Berry Smash
The exotic spices in this blackberry juice, mixed with cardamom syrup and citrus botanicals, provide instant relief from the summer heat. Add some gin to really kick it up a notch. Get the recipe>>
Bacon Beef Burgers
Try adding bacon to your burger a different way. This burger recipe calls for half ground bacon and half ground beef for a flavor you can't pull off by just topping a burger with bacon strips. Get the recipe>>
To make, add 1/2 ounce orgeat syrup and two fresh strawberries to a mixing glass. Muddle until strawberries are broken down and incorporated into syrup. Add 1 1/2 ounces gin, 1/2 ounce lemon juice and dash of bitters to the same mixing glass. Fill glass 2/3 full with ice, cap with tin and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Strain into a footed pilsner glass filled with ice. Add more ice if necessary, and top with wheat beer. Squeeze an orange wedge and discard, and garnish with a skewer of candied ginger cube and an orange slice. Recipe courtesy of The Melting Pot
Hop, Skip and Go Naked Punch
This punch recipe takes the classic lemonade recipe to the next level. The addition of beer and Canadian whiskey will have your guests coming back for more. Get the recipe>>
To save you time the day of your party, make these mini tacos the night before and assemble them right before serving. This recipe will satisfy guests that don't like barbecue food. Get the recipe>>
Austin City Lemonade
To make, add 1 1/2 ounces lemon vodka, 1/2 ounce ginger liqueur, 1/2 ounce lemon juice, 1/2 ounce simple syrup and three fresh raspberries to a mixing glass. Fill the glass 2/3 full with ice, cap with a tin, and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice, top with club soda and garnish with a skewer of raspberries. Recipe courtesy of The Melting Pot
Make your dessert the center of attention by serving miniature pies on sticks. Place the sticks in floral foam, and put them in a basket for an easy treat you can take with you anywhere. Get the recipe>>