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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Red, White and Blue Berry Pops

These colorful ice pops layered with raspberry, blueberry and yogurt will serve as the perfect party favors for any patriotic gathering.

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Tropical Banana Pudding in-a-Jar

Put a tropical twist on everyone's favorite summer dessert. With a few simple layers and some clever presentation, this cute little banana pudding jar will have kids (and adults) wanting more!

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Peanut Butter Cookie Ice Cream

There is no better way to cool off during the middle of summer than with some homemade ice cream, so whip up some of this rich and creamy peanut butter dessert to wow your party guests.

From: Chrissy Barua

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.

Tomato Burrata Crostini

Add a little extra color to your party palette with some of these adorable and cheesy heirloom tomato crostinis.

Best Potato Salad

No outdoor party is complete without a bowl of potato salad, so add a spoonful of this delightful dish on the side of your burgers or hot dogs to complete your perfect Fourth of July menu.

Homemade Sparkling Sangria

This sparkling sangria will make the perfect signature cocktail for any outdoor party! Packed with bright summery flavors, this sangria will have your guests' taste buds singing.

  1. sangria

Photo By: ALX Creatives

Grilled Mexican Corn

Spices, lime juice and cotija cheese bring extra Mexican-inspired flavor to this quick and easy classic that will fit right in at any outdoor barbecue.

Clementine Sorbet

Help your guests cool off with this refreshing frozen treat during the heat of the day. Go the extra mile and use the clementine shells as bowls for a truly spectacular presentation.

Fourth of July Parfaits

These parfaits are sure to be a hit with the grown-ups and kids alike. Layers of red and blue berries with vanilla pudding add the perfect Fourth of July flare to this quick and simple dish.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Mick Telkamp

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.

Boozy Root Beer Float

Throw a little twist in this All-American favorite by adding in some coffee liqueur for the perfect creamy cool-down.

Blue Velvet Cupcakes

Add a dash of blue gel food coloring to classic red velvet cake to show your true American spirit. Top it off with a star-shaped cake piece to really make it a special Fourth of July treat.

Goat Cheese Guacamole

Combine creamy goat cheese with zesty guacamole to create an added refreshing spin on this classic crowd favorite.

Photo By: Margaret Houston

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

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

Put an additional spin on the fan-favorite cookie cake by adding a layer of peanut butter, caramel and marshmallows to create a rich and fluffy dessert your guests will rave about.

From: Heather Baird

Grilled Fruit Skewers

Throw some fruit on the barbecue for the perfect summer dish that is packed with flavor. Pair yogurt with riotta cheese for an unexpected heat.

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.


Watermelon Cake

Give your guests a refreshing surprise with this "cake" that is actually just fresh watermelon, covered in fluffy whipped cream and topped with sliced almonds and bright fresh fruit.

Peach Salsa

Use this summery salsa as a refreshing topping for chicken or seafood, or just serve it with some classic tortilla chips.

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Confetti Ice Cream Sandwiches

Nothing says outdoor party like homemade blondie ice cream sandwiches, packed with colorful sprinkles for a festive touch.

From: Heather Baird

Red White & Blue Sangria

This deliciously festive red, white and blue sangria is the perfect colorful cocktail for any Fourth of July get together. With adorable star-staped fruit, the presentation is almost as satisfying as the taste.

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Bacon Beef Burgers

What's better than a burger with bacon on top? A burger with bacon inside. This twist on the classic cookout favorite calls for half ground beef and half ground bacon to create a flavor that's sure to pack a punch.

Mini Tacos

For those guests that desire something beyond the usual barbecue food, assemble these tasty mini tacos that everyone is sure to enjoy. Completing the quick and easy preparation process the night before will relieve some extra stress come the day of the party.

Pom-Berry Bellini

This bright red bellini will add the perfect amount of patriotic flare to any table setting. It can be served both with and without alcohol so kids and parents alike can join the fun.

Pea-co de Gallo

This healthy twist on classic salsa features field peas and fresh tomatos and is the perfect side dish for any summer party.

Photo By: Margaret Houston

Pie Pops

There is nothing more American than a bit of homemade pie, so whip up some of these miniature pie pops to give your guests a real Fourth of July treat that everyone is guaranteed to love.

Tropical Margarita

Ditch the store-bought mix and prepare a classic margarita from scratch with some summery, tropical flare.

  1. margarita

Photo By: H. Camille Smith

Tropical Margarita

Ditch the store-bought mix and prepare a classic margarita from scratch with some summery, tropical flare.

  1. margarita

Photo By: H. Camille Smith

Lemon Curd Tart With Berries

Topped with a layer of bright red and blue berries, this lemon tart is the perfect dessert for your holiday party. Light and refreshing, the lemon curd paired with the fluffy layer of whipped cream serves as a perfect summer treat.

Cardamom Berry Smash

This blackberry and cardamom concoction is the perfect way to add a refreshing kick to any hot summer day. Its purply red hue will serve as the perfect complement to your festive decor.

Lemon Cupcakes

These bright confections are made with Limoncello, a lemon-flavored Italian liqueur, adding an extra tough of citrus flavor. Top it with lemon candy and pair with classic lemonade to give it that perfect summertime feel.

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