Regardless of the food or location, picnics are a fabulous way to inspire a sense of mindfulness and delight your inner child.

Not only do you notice and enjoy the food, but you observe the smallest details of your environment, your friends and the conversation.

Picnics have thrived throughout the ages for a reason — to enjoy fun, food, families and friends.

Time spent outside benefits our physical health. Breathing in fresh air is beneficial for children with respiratory problems like asthma.

A picnic on a sunny day also aids in vitamin D and calcium absorption, which helps to build strong bones and teeth. The sunshine and the socialization can improve our mental and physical health. 

Many folks have outdoor eating spaces like decks and patios to help make the picnic time easier.

Fire pits have become an outdoor enjoyment and they help us make great hot dogs and s’mores.

So the best time for a picnic is simply whatever day you choose. It might be for breakfast or a birthday, but brings a fun atmosphere to any occasion.

Whatever your picnic menu, make it foods that are easy to serve and easy to eat.

Finger foods often are the easiest for everyone at a picnic.   

Top picnic foods include: potato salad, fried chicken or barbecued chicken, watermelon, pasta salad, pinwheel sandwiches, bread, cheese and cold cuts, chips and cookies, fresh fruit of any kind, lemonade and special tea.

Picnics are the perfect opportunity to hook up with family and friends and really take some time to escape electronic distraction.

Whether it’s relating with family, or chilling out with your friends, you can really spend some quality time with loved ones.

Special Tea Punch


7 Regular Tea Bags

2 Cups Sugar

One 12-ounce can of frozen orange juice concentrate

One 12-ounce can of frozen lemonade concentrate

One 6-ounce can of frozen limeade concentrate


Brew tea.  Pour into 1-gallon jug. Add sugar and stir to dissolve.

Add fruit juice concentrates and stir to dissolve

Add enough water to make a gallon of tea.

Chill and pack for the picnic. 


Years ago I attended a 4-H agents association day at the Milan camp. It was a fun event but the best part was the delicious barbecued chicken.

The agents put this together for years and today my family still uses this barbecue sauce when we grill.

W.O. Sewell, long time poultry specialist in Knoxville, came up with the recipe and shared it across the South as he came to judge chickens for 4-H chicken sales.

This is my modified recipe — his recipe was for 30 chicken halves or more.

Much of the time folks have all these ingredients in their home kitchens. 

4-H Chicken Barbecue Sauce


4 teaspoons tabasco sauce

1 cup cider vinegar

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon salt


Mix all ingredients together. Keep warm and well stirred as you baste the chicken, do not boil. This will be enough for five-six chicken halves.

We grill over coals and the chickens are cut in half. I sometimes only grill chicken breasts so the sauce goes a bit farther. 

We sit the sauce on the top of the grill in a pan to keep it warm as we grill.


Another favorite of us in the South is the flavor of chess pie. It is one of my favorites to serve, but a bit difficult to take to a picnic.

Instead, I take chess cake squares, which serves easily and tastes a lot like chess pie. 

Chess Cake Squares


1 box yellow cake mix

1 stick margarine or butter, melted

One 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened

4 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 box powdered sugar (save a little to dust the top)


Beat cake mix, melted butter and 1 egg together. Press it into a 9-by-13-inch greased pan.

Mix cream cheese, 3 eggs, powdered sugar and vanilla together, beat 5 minutes. Pour over crust mixture.Bake at 350°F for 35-40 minutes; cool.

Dust reserved powdered sugar on top when cool. Cut into squares. 


MARY KATE RIDGEWAY is a retired Extension leader, as well as  a freelance home economist and educator.

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