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

Family Picnic

Family Picnic

There's room for everything in the wagon. Load up a picnic basket with food and serving ware. Load the basket and even more in the wagon and head off to the park or woods.

Photo by: Photo by Sam Henderson

Photo by Sam Henderson

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.

Muffin-Tin Storage

Photo by: Savour Imagery LLC

Savour Imagery LLC

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.

More Smart Party Swaps

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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. 

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

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. 

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Instead of Bowls, Use Fruit Baskets

Here's a reason to feel good about hoarding those berry baskets from farmers' market purchases: They can stand in as cute serving dishes for your party when bowls aren't an option. 

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

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. 

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

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

It's the perfect server for your late-night cake fix, so why not use it mugs to create easy-to-serve desserts, too? Guests can grab their own, meaning you don't need a large baking dish, serving utensils or dessert plates — just a great recipe.

Make This: Individual Berry Cobbers

  1. cobbler

©Cheyenne Mojica Photography

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. 

(They're Great For Salads, Too.)

Glassware can stand in for plates when serving bite-sized salads and desserts, too. 

  1. bacon
  2. salad

Photo By: ALX Creatives

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. 

Make This: 8 Muffin Tin Brunch Recipes (Muffins Not Included!) 

Photo By: Savour Imagery LLC

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

Photo By: Hortus Ltd.

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. 

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Instead of Chairs, Use Pillows + a Low Table

Don't shy away from inviting guests over just because you have a studio apartment, small back yard or dining room that isn't as large as you’d like. Here, pillows and a low coffee table stand in for the usual tables and chairs. 

Photo By: Cheyenne Mojica Photography

Instead of a Party-Sized Table, Add Plywood to Your Everyday Table

How to you turn a small dining table into a table that will fit all of your friends? Add a piece of plywood or an unhinged hollow-core door on top of a smaller table. Cover it with a tablecloth or a piece of fabric. 

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

Photo By: Brklyn View Photography LLC

Bar in a Jar

Open Bar Bachelor Party Gift

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

Paper Cup Party Decorations

Paper Cup Party Decorations

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.

Disposable Dinnerware

Strawberry Baskets

Strawberry Baskets

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.

Photo by: Flynnside Out Productions

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

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

Picnic Items

Picnic Items

Board with picnic items, silverware and utensils stored on back of board.

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

Summer Chill

Summer Chill

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.

Fourth of July Recipes + Cocktails

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Patriotic Ice Pops

Layers of raspberry, yogurt and blueberry make these icy pops the perfect festive treat for your Fourth of July celebration. Get the Recipe>>

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Peanut Butter Cookie Ice Cream

This rich, creamy ice cream is made with real peanut butter cookies and will be a huge hit with all your peanut butter-loving friends. Get the recipe>> 

From: Chrissy Barua

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>>

Best Potato Salad

This potato salad recipe is a great companion to burgers or hot dogs, or can be served on its own. Get the recipe >>

Grilled Mexican Corn

Spices, lime juice and cotija cheese bring extra flavor to classic grilled corn on the cob, adding Mexican-inspired flair to your outdoor barbecue. 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>>

Clementine Sorbet

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>>

Spiked S'mores Pie

Add a little twist to your favorite camp-time treat. This s'mores pie is topped with a bourbon ganache to give it an extra-smoky flavor. Get the recipe>>

Frozen Hot Chocolate Cocktail

Make the frozen version of the all-time favorite hot chocolate recipe, and top it with chocolate shavings and whipped cream for a rich flavor. Get the recipe>>

Nacho-Stuffed Potato Skins

Nothing says summer barbecue like stuffed potato skins. Top these skins with bacon, beans and guacamole to keep your guests full and happy. Get the recipe>>

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

This  fluffy chocolate-peanut butter chip cookie is pild with marshmallows, caramel and peanut butter cups. Slice it like cake, and serve it warm with ice cream. Get the recipe>>

From: Heather Baird

Freedom Martini

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

Photo By: 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>>

Lemon Cupcakes

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>>

Chile and Lime Cashews

Ancho chile pepper, chipotle pepper and lime juice give these nuts a zesty punch. Serve them with your favorite brew for a true pub-style gathering. Get the recipe>>

Watermelon Cake

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.

©BLACK+DECKER, Chef Spike Mendelsohn

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>>

Confetti Ice Cream Sandwiches

Help your guests cool off during your outdoor party with homemade blondie ice cream sandwiches. The colorful jimmies inside the ice cream and sandwich cookie add a festive touch. Get the recipe>>

From: Heather Baird

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>>

Cascade Cocktail

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

Photo By: 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>>


Mini Tacos

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

Photo By: The Melting Pot

Pie Pops

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>>

Pom-Berry Bellini

The rich red color of this pomegranate bellini is the perfect way to show your patriotism. Serve it with champagne and no alcohol so both adults and kids can enjoy. Get the recipe>>

Tropical Margarita

Skip the bottled mix, and whip up a classic lime margarita with a summery, tropical twist instead. Get the recipe>>

  1. margarita

Photo By: H. Camille Smith

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