What to Pack for your Fourth of July Picnic

Beachfront house or barbecue event: check. Fireworks display: check. Blanket to sit on: check. What's left but to pack up your picnic basket? With all your Fourth of July planning you may not have time to think of what is best for your basket. So to help you out, here's a list of foods, ingredients and tips to pack with you for your perfect picnic.

Depending on how far away you're going for this picnic, you may want to pack your ingredients separately so that your salad and sandwiches don't wilt or get soggy. Chop the lettuce, carrots, radishes, bell peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes and keep them in separate containers until you get to your picnic site. Do the same with your sandwich ingredients: pack and store your sliced ham or turkey and cheese separately until you're ready to concoct the perfect sandwich. Don't forget the spicy mustard or homemade mayo to add zest!

Side salads are also perfect for picnics. Try for a 3-bean salad, potato salad or this wonderful bulgar wheat and watermelon salad which is light and refreshing and easy to eat. You have options of eating right out of your containers or serve on crackers or lettuce.

Instead of chips and salsa or sour cream-based dips, try for fresh cut vegetables and olive tapenade for healthier alternatives. Sliced cheese and crackers are also great finger foods to take with you.

Sliced or cubed watermelon (even spiked!) is a perfect snack or dessert to pack with your picnic. It's a healthy and juicy way to stay cool when sitting out in the sun. Sliced bananas, apples and grapes are also easy to package and store in your cooler or basket.

- Be sure to stay hydrated and bring along water or a gallon jug of iced mint tea with you for your picnic. Even if it's heavy, you'll be glad you made the extra effort. No one likes to be dehydrated from the summer sun.

Don't forget to pack a plastic bag to store all your trash as well as hand wipes or cloth napkins to keep your fingers clean from all the noshing you'll be doing. Lay your blanket out and you'll be all set for a perfect Fourth of July picnic!

Photo: Nico Paix on Flickr