August 27, 2010
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One of the simplest changes you can make to improve a meal is to take it outdoors. Diners pay a premium to eat an al-fresco meal, but it is both cheap and easy to pack your own picnic and take it to the park. You’ll enjoy the air, the scenery and freedom. Best of all, it’s an affordable setting for private dining.

For most people, a picnic isn’t a year-round activity, but a warm-weather treat and that’s ok. It wouldn’t be as special to dine outdoors everyday. When you have the chance for a picnic, make it count. Find a grassy, clear park that’s not too crowded. It’s better to bring a blanket for the grass, rather than try to find a table or bench. Those settings tend not to be very exclusive. The best parks will have some elevation and a view.

You don’t need to concoct an elaborate meal with steaks or swordfish. It will suffice to bring simple sandwiches, pitas or wraps. Every picnic deserves easy-to-eat fruit, such as apples, grapes and pears. Potato chips are another perennial picnic favorite.

Keep your drinks refreshing. Lemonade and iced tea are both good choices. It’s nice to bring a little something for dessert, too, like chocolate chip cookies. Pack light, so you can set up quickly. Bring along your dog, if you have one. Finally, it’s a good idea to carry a cell phone, in case you need to reach someone.

A few things to be aware of: most parks prohibit alcoholic beverages, so check before you go. Ants and other critters can ruin a picnic faster than those looming rain clouds. Be sure not to make a mess, and try to cover items likely to attract bugs, such as sodas and fruit. Finally, a good picnic’er is prepared for inclement conditions. Pack an umbrella just in case.

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