How to Pack Trader Joe’s Fully Stable Picnic

A good picnic may seem spontaneous, but sometimes you have to plan a little to make things look unplanned. Keeping a picnic bag full of shelf-stable treats means you’re ready for a picnic no matter when prompted (even in the middle of winter, if you’re into that sort of thing).

Trader Joe’s, as you probably know, is a great place to get pre-packaged, ready-to-store and picnic-friendly. Its aisles are filled with fruits, nuts, crackers, olives and surprisingly attractive canned food, as well as several shelf-stable meats and cheese.

The contents of your ideal picnic basket are obviously very personal, but let’s walk you through the process of creating one together, just to make sure you don’t miss a thing.

Start with a burglar

Trader Joe’s has a lot to choose from, but I usually go with one that goes up one sleeve to save space. Savory thin slices and scalloped red chili crackers are good options, as are brioche toast.

Take the sausage

At any given time, TJ’s has at least two, if not three, prepackaged salami that can be kept at room temperature without spoilage. My personal favorite is the Chianti red wine salami. There is also a lot of jerky, but I think the jerky has more of a camping vibe.

Take some cheese

The only truly stable cheese products available at Trader Joe’s are oven baked cheese bites (which are mostly small chunks of freeco) and Laughing Cow cheese wedges, and I recommend getting both. Spread a creamy slice of melted cheese over a slice of crispy baked cheese and top with olive oil. This is a luxury.

Don’t forget the wine

A wine-free picnic is just an outdoor gathering, but the bottles are large, eye-catching and made of glass. Take one of the many canned foods, but pay attention to the serving sizes – it may seem like “one wine”, but it actually costs half a bottle.

Can use cans

Did you know Trader Joe’s has canned dolmas? How about sumptuously flavored chickpea preserves (with cumin and parsley)? Well, they are, and they are good. They also have a wide selection of canned seafood, including sardines, smoked oysters, herring, and trout, all of which are great for crackers or the aforementioned brioche toast.

Don’t skimp on equipment

Dried fruits, nuts, olives, honey, or jam really round out the meat and cheese situation, and Trader Joe’s excels at that. I’ve been a fan of Tempting Trail Mix for literally decades, which is now available in convenient portions – perfect to toss into an already fairly full picnic basket.

You can also find convenient-sized bags of apricots, manzanilla olives, and dried apricots, although there is nothing wrong with taking a large bag of your favorite fruits, nuts, or mixture and dividing them into smaller portions yourself. (Actually, that’s a good thing, because all that pre-packed stuff is pretty wasteful.)

If you’re looking for a sweet pasta or drizzle, try hot honey sauce or one of the many jams or marmalades. (I haven’t been able to find their pepper jelly – which was actually perfect – the last few times I’ve been, and I’m very upset. Have any of you seen this?)

The end on a sweet note

Trader Joe’s has a lot of candies and you should take advantage of it. I usually take a large bar of their darkest chocolate, but I was very tempted by the dark chocolate and caramel slices (which come in a fun little jar), a cookie butter bar, and small packs of dark chocolate peanut butter cups. (They also have something similar to Starburst that I wanted to try, but it’s hard to beat real Starburst.)

Keep it a secret. Keep him safe.

Once you’ve assembled your flock of shelves of sustainable treats, put it all in a basket or bag, and don’t hoard it away until the next time you have to go out and have a picnic stat. Don’t confuse this with your “regular” snack stock. This is your picnic bag and you don’t want your supplies to be diminished by children or spouses.

Hide it from them, that’s what I’m telling you. This might sound a little deceiving, but think how excited they will be when you can run out the door for your next impromptu picnic without stopping to shop, pack, or pick up a single item. (Just remember to bring your knife with you. You will need a salami knife.)


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