The Best Foods to Pack for the Beach

Tips from The Kitchn

Packing food for a picnic in the park is pretty easy. But when your picnic happens to be on the beach, there's a new set of rules and a few more factors to consider before filling your basket or cooler.

For starters, there's the sand. It's totally obvious, but no matter how hard you plan and how many precautions you take, it inevitably ends up everywhere. Including your sandwich. There's also the wind — the beach can 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.

Keep that in mind the next time you're packing up for a day at the beach, and remember that even when you have a cooler, some foods hold up better than others. Of course you can always pack the basics, like crackers, chips, nuts, and dried fruit, but it's good to have something a little more substantial.

8 Foods to Pack for a Day at the Beach

1. Wraps

I always opt for wraps over regular sandwiches when packing lunch for a day at the beach. For one, it's just fun to coil things up in a tortilla or collard leaf. But more importantly, when the fillings are tucked away on the inside, they're better protected — plus wraps are easy to eat with one hand.

2. Fried chicken

The only thing better than hot and crispy fried chicken, is leftover cold fried chicken the next day. Especially when that "next day" happens to be at the beach. Fried chicken is a summer staple; it holds up well in a cooler, and it's pretty easy to eat without getting mouthfuls of sand.

3. Skewers

Because food on skewers is always more fun! Whether you go for fruit, veggies, or meat, kabobs make great beach fare. This is a hands-off (read, sand-free!) meal that's utensil-free and easy to eat, with even easier cleanup.

4. Whole fruit

As much as I love fresh cut-up fruit, sandy fingers diving in and out of the bowl puts a big damper on the party. Whole fruit is much more suited to a day at the beach. Peaches, nectarines, apples, and grapes all make a sweet choice.

5. Couscous or pasta salad

I've had a lot of experience with these two, and they tend to hold up well in the heat. Also, even if a few grains of sand make their way in, they'll easily get lost in a jumble of couscous; you might not even notice.

6. Charcuterie

True, 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.

7. Lettuce wraps

These may seem overly complicated, but this is our suggestion in lieu of a salad. 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.

8. Cookies

Don't forget dessert! Cookies are a simple finger food to curb your post-lunch sweet tooth. You won't hear me say this often, but it's probably best to skip anything chocolate to avoid a melty mess.

What are your go-to foods for a day at the beach?

(Image credits: Noam Armonn/Shutterstock; Anne Wolfe Postic)