Well, what a year it has been since last summer rolled around! As the sun finally starts to emerge after what has seemed like a winter that spanned two long years, lockdowns are easing for many, and summer is finally here! A normal summer would usually entail plenty of days out in the sunshine, picnics in the park, and soaking up as much vitamin D as possible! But this summer, after such a shackled experience the previous year, many of us will be wanting to practically live our lives outside having BBQs and picnics with our family and friends!
The only thing possibly holding some of us back a little could be the fact that the previous year or two has not been the most prolific when it comes to our working lives. However, those looking to enjoy the warmer months, but on a budget, don’t need to confine themselves to an indoor summer again. Meal prepping can be cheap, tasty, and obviously, far healthier than buying pre-packed meals which tend to be processed and laden with salt and sugar. So what exactly should you be doing to keeping the cost down, but the flavours high, on your days out?
As little fuss as possible
It goes without saying that your heating options are rather limited on days out. Unless you are lucky enough to be visiting a park or recreation ground that allows open fires and BBQs, the chances are that your meal prep needs to be edible straight from your cooler bag. Because of this, wraps, salads, and snack boxes are wonderful options, as they taste great at room temperature, and are easy to eat on the go. While a salad may mean need you to bring along some cutlery, wraps and snack boxes are perfect finger food that involves very little in the way of extra utensils. If you really want to go minimal with the cutlery, convert those salads into wraps! For dishes that do require come cutlery, it is worth noting our newly released glass containers with built-in cutlery storage will cater to your needs perfectly!
Prep entire meals, or prep for ease on the day
Whilst many of you will be used to using your meal prep containers for all-in-one singular meals, picnics and days out allow you to use your vessels in a slightly different manner. Our glass containers are great for creating bakes of all kinds, and if the addition of cutlery is no problem for you, there is nothing stopping you from taking different meal components in their separate containers, and dishing them out when the time comes.
Don’t want to take plates with you but also want to move away from single-use paper options? No problem, take a few of your single compartment Igluu plastic containers and use them instead! They also stack neatly, meaning you won't be using up too much space in your bag either.
Perhaps you are more of a sandwich person when it comes to picnics? Who doesn’t love a freshly made sandwich, filled to the brim with your favourite ingredients! While the humble sandwich is indeed a staple of picnics across the land, we have all been privy to the occasional sandwich based disappointment. Any ingredient with a high water content can often spoil a great sandwich, by making the bread too soggy if prepared in advance. The simple solution to this is to prep your ingredients before you leave the house (slice up your veggies, meats etc), store them in the separated compartments (our 3 compartment containers are great for this), and build the sandwiches when you arrive, pick’n’mix style. The same tactic works well for wraps too, and tacos. Your meal prep containers still fulfil their mission statement, just in a slightly different fashion!
Prep in the morning, or the day before?
There are some meal preps however, that actually improve when made the night before your big day out. For example, a broccoli salad (like this one by Love & Lemons) comprising of diced onion, cranberries, garlic, almonds, and of course, broccoli, can improve radically if left overnight, allowing an olive oil, mayo, mustard and vinegar dressing to absorb into the raw veg.
Frittatinis, such as these squash, pea and feta versions, are great for picnics as they are easy to dish out, and suit being prepped in advance and refrigerated.
Looking for a reason to get your slow cooker out and dusted off? Mexican pork carnitas is a great dish for those looking to maximise the flavour of their summer picnics, while also minimizing the need for cutlery. All you need on the day is a couple of forks to get the meat and veg from your containers into a tortilla or lettuce wrap, and you are done!
There are of course some small pitfalls you should always avoid when it comes to packing your food for your picnic, most of which typically apply to all food prep anyway. If your food is going to be travelling for a long period of time, you would do well to keep it chilled in a cooler box/bag if it contains ingredients such as mayonnaise. If the day happens to be exceptionally warm, you might want to keep an eye on how long your mayo containing dishes are left out of the box. All of this applies to normal food prep at home too, but when out and about, it pays to be a little more cautious with your food if it is sitting out in the sun. If you find yourself worrying about whether mayo or other similar ingredients may become a problem, feel free to substitute them for others that are not so temperamental in the heat. Guacamole is a wonderful alternative dip that tastes great at room temperature, and if your salad dressing is mayo-heavy, consider taking a simple bean salad instead that resists wilting when already dressed and tossed.
After the year we have all had, we hope that you, and our entire Igluu community, get to enjoy the great outdoors as much as possible this year. Not only can the skills you have honed over the year-long lockdown put you in a great position to create some amazing meal preps for these days out, but it is also a good excuse to top up your vitamin D levels, which will keep your immune system in good condition after a year of deprivation! Get those bags backed, the sunscreen applied, and head out into the world! This summer has got your name written all over it..