How to Safely Picnic During a Pandemic


It is hard to believe that it is already May and that we are approaching several months of sunny weather without a sweater. Like flower petals, some states also open slowly, including many parks that were once closed, meaning it will be difficult to resist the need for a picnic.

The good news: If you are careful and conscientious, you can dine outside without putting yourself or others in danger. (But bring a face mask!) Here’s what to consider and the best way to prepare.

If you have your own private green space, such as a backyard, consider having your picnic near your home. Otherwise, plan your visit to the park in advance. Confirm opening hours and try to go out of hours to avoid crowds.

In Indianapolis, for example, the parks are full. “We are seeing demand for outdoor spaces, perhaps like we have never seen before,” said Linda Broadfoot, director of Indy Parks and Recreation in Indianapolis. “We are seeing not only overuse, but also misuse.”

Choose wisely too. Popular outdoor spots can get crowded with people coming from all over your city to sunbathe. A neighborhood park could be a safer bet. After all, a picnic only requires a piece of grass the size of a blanket.

In Philadelphia, favorite coastal areas have become overcrowded. Fortunately, 90 percent of city residents live within a 10-minute walk of a recreation space, said Kathryn Ott Lovell, commissioner of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation. “If you take a car, the park is too far,” he said.

Any good outdoor tool kit contains a mask, hand sanitizer, and gloves. If you visit a park, be aware that park services may be closed. Do not have open toilets or working water sources. Instead, bring plenty of water with you.

Public picnic tables can also be cordoned off (and you may not want to carry a bottle of disinfectant in your basket). Pack a blanket or, if you’re having trouble sitting on the ground for a while, lawn chairs.

The safest people for a picnic are your quar-pod (i.e. the people you’re not distancing yourself from), but if you invite others, each quar-pod should have its own settings. Set up your blankets to be six feet away, like a small picnic archipelago.

Or, Paul Cocksedge Studio, a London-based design firm, released a free template to make a futuristic-looking social distancing blanket. It is a circular cloth with the center cut out, like a hub and spoke wheel, with “seats” along the perimeter.

If you are mixing pods, one option is to coordinate menus beforehand, since before the pandemic, everyone would have eaten the same thing. Everyone can try their luck on the same set of recipes and compare results. If you are running low on a certain ingredient, check out NYT Cooking’s helpful guide on substitutions you can use instead.

When planning your menu, think of dishes that work well outside, such as appetizers. Get some fries and some fries, and make some sauces. (Making food is also a good way to relax and kill time, if you’re bored.) The Green Goddess dips herbs with herbs, and guacamole is always a solid choice. Furthermore, hummus is very easy to prepare: you can prepare Krysten Chambrot in just five minutes.

You can’t go wrong with a cheese and meat platter either. For cheeses, select one that can be spread (such as Brie), a blue cheese, and at least one hard option (did someone say manchego?). Pick up some salami, ham, and crusty bread or crackers. Add grapes, nuts, or olives. Pack each item in separate containers and assemble in the park so nothing gets soaked. Pack your ingredients in separate containers and gather them in the park so nothing gets soaked.

Or, if you’re in the mood for something sweet, bake … anything. Katharine Hepburn Brownies take less than an hour to prepare. If that’s too much, Banana Everything Cookies is child’s play too – you can put them together in 15 minutes. And Rice Krispie Treats are always great. Try them with pretzels and chocolate.

Your picnic could also be a great opportunity to support a local restaurant. For example, Chef’s Palette, a restaurant and bar in Cary, North Carolina, is selling a family special from “Grandma’s House,” which comes with plates full of comfort food.

“We came up with these reasonably priced family meals, knowing that a lot of our people in the community aren’t working either,” said Kathie Clark, the owner. If you live in the Raleigh area, she also makes homemade cakes for $ 10.

You should refrain from using any public grill and passing any food back and forth between the capsules.

Coordinate with the other group beforehand to make sure they both have drinks, condiments, and utensils. There is a zero percent chance that you will not be asked to pass ketchup or to lend you a fork.

Leave frisbees and soccer balls at home, especially since you can’t control where they might land (potentially in the middle of another socially estranged picnic). And remove children from any public team. “There is no easy way to disinfect play structures between uses,” said Andy Field, director of Parks and Recreation for the City of San Diego. It has closed playgrounds there until further notice.

Bring several different games instead. The Heads Up! App It is a fun option. Hold your phone against your forehead and the screen will display a “name”. (You are the only one who cannot see it, so you are the only one who does not know who “you” is.) Try to guess, from the clues of your friends.

Or try Midpoint, a word association game. Sit in a circle and start with two different names, such as “time” and “dessert”. (You don’t need to prepare the words beforehand, just start with the first two that come to mind.) On the count of three, two people try to get to the “middle ground,” or what both words have in common. (A plausible answer: sand, like in an hourglass). If you guess the same word, the game is over. If you guess different words, the midpoint moves down the circle. One of the fortune tellers is paired with the person next to him, and so on.

Charades is also great. Have each group make their own suggestions and take out their own hats. Mix the teams, to guess.

In general, just don’t litter. Not only is it rude, it pollutes the environment and places an undue burden on emergency workers.

“It was always an ecological conservation practice,” said Homer Garcia III, director of the San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department. “In this case, it has taken on a new meaning.”