DIY Picnic Basket Food for a Movie Night

One of the greatest summer activities is watching an alfresco screening of a fun summer movie. Whether you’re heading to Jaws, Weekend at Bernie’s, or Wet Hot American Summer, plan ahead by preparing an epic spread of delicious movie-watching snacks. 

Look for somewhere scenic and idyllic, lush and grassy, and with plenty of natural shade. Aim to set up under a tree to make sure you can utilize the shade in case it gets too hot, and make sure that there’s plenty of surrounding space for children to run around. 

When you’re dining alfresco with friends, simple sandwiches, salads, and dips are where it’s at—especially since they keep kitchen duty to a minimum. Most of these perfect picnic recipes can be prepared the day before or the morning of with minimal work.

As for packing up? We recommend a cooler, ice packs, and plenty of Tupperware.

Trays are essential

If you’re having a picnic in your own backyard, you can use a serving tray as an easy way to transport items from your kitchen to your lawn. Or if you’re venturing away from home, a tray can help carry essentials from your car to the picnic spot.

What to pack?

Pre-cut food: Wherever you can, portion and cut food before packing it away. Having everything ready to go is more convenient to eat and dish out, plus it means less handling of the food.

Utensils and napkins: Pack knives, cutlery, plates, cups, napkins, or kitchen towels. 

Keep the creepy-crawlies away: Bring a gauze throw-over, old table cloth, or sheet to lay over the food once set out, to keep unwanted guests away. Bug spray is also a good idea for the family.

Sun protection: Sunscreen, hats, sunnies, and other sun protection are essential, and choose a shady spot when you can.

Don’t forget water: Ensure you have plenty of drinking water and extra for washing hands and cleaning up any messes. 

Ham & Cheese Sandwich

Not to brag but this is the only ham and cheese sandwich recipe you’ll ever need.

Sheet-Pan Italian Subs

The super-easy way to feed a crowd.


4 tbsp. melted butter, divided

2 loaves sliced bread, white or sourdough

1 lb. deli-style sliced ham

1/2 lb. salami

1/2 lb. sliced mozzarella

1/2 lb. sliced provolone

2 c. baby spinach

1 (8-oz.) jar pepperoncini, drained and sliced


Preheat oven to 400°. Brush half the butter inside a half sheet pan, then lay out bread in a single layer, overlapping slices to look like shingles. (Make sure the entire sheet pan is covered!) Press down on bread to flatten slightly. 

Top bread with mozzarella, then layer ham, spinach, salami, pepperoncini, and provolone on top. Shingle another layer of bread on top, then brush with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Put a second sheet pan on top of the bread and weigh it down with a heavy skillet. 

Transfer to oven and bake until the sandwich is pressed and starting to turn golden for about 10 minutes. Remove sheet pan and bake until top bread is golden, about 20 minutes more.

Garnish with parsley and sprinkle with Parmesan. Cut into squares.

Choose the right blanket

Choose a blanket that will provide enough cushioning, but that’s also machine-washable in case of grass stains (or food spills!).

Pimento Cheese

Pimento cheese—the simple combination of grated cheddar cheese with mayonnaise and pimientos—is a Southern staple best served on crackers or vegetables.

Food in mason jars

Pack your salads, sides, and condiments in lidded Mason jars for a country-style serving option that won’t spill and is easily transportable.

Cutting board

A small, portable cutting board is perfect for slicing, dicing, and dividing up your picnic treats once you reach your destination. Make sure you bring some wipes or a roll of paper towels along to give it a quick brush-off before packing up.

Key takeaway

Don’t forget to bring along a few garbage bags so that you can leave your picnic area as clean and litter-free as you found it. Eco-friendly picnic supplies, like compostable plates, cups, and napkins, will make your picnicking an even greener affair.

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