Packing food for a picnic in the park and packing food for a trip to the beach require a different set of rules. For starters, there's the sand...
There's also the wind. Beaches tend to be breezy, which means that sand and salt swirl around, attaching themselves to anything that's remotely sticky, wet, or, let's face it, edible. We find that no matter how hard we try, we end up with grains of sand on our forks and spoons and the edges of water bottles.
That doesn't mean we don't enjoy having the occasional peanut butter sandwich. But there are certainly foods that fare better than others.
Here are our suggestions... Let us know yours in the comments.
• Wraps. We love things coiled up in a tortilla, which better protects whatever filling we have inside and can be eaten with one hand (you never have more than one clean hand at a time at the beach).
• Whole fruit. Again, natural protection from the peel, and you don't risk sand intrusion like you would if you were opening and closing a container of cut-up fruit. Plus, if you get sticky, you just go swimming.
• Couscous or pasta salad. We've had a lot of experience with these two, and though they seem iffy (lots of forks going in and out, possibly bringing in sand), they tend to hold up well in the heat. Also, a few grains of sand can easily get lost in a jumble of couscous; you might not even notice. We've enjoyed couscous salads in a wrap, too (see above).
• Charcuterie. We loved this spread that Sara Kate had on her birthday last year. Now, cheese and salami might not be great choices if you're going to be out for hours in the heat of the mid-afternoon. But if you're eating right away or going at sunset, these bites are easy to pack, require no assembly, and can be eaten without utensils.
• Lettuce wraps. These may seem overly complicated, but this is our suggestion in lieu of a salad (that's likely to end up scattered across the beach). Wrap up some chopped vegetables or other components in big, oversized leaves of iceberg lettuce. Then wrap in foil, so you can just peel it back and eat.
• Skewers. Did you grill the night before? Got some leftover meat or vegetable skewers? They're low-maintenance, don't require cutting or slicing, and leave very little cleanup.
Of course, there are the basic crackers, chips, and cookies that are always a good idea (although we'd avoid chocolate chips in the heat). What else would you add? What are your foolproof beach meals?
Related: What Kind of Food Do You Look for While On Vacation?
(Image: Flickr member bensonkua, licensed for use under Creative Commons)