Sun, Sea, Sandwiches

16 Picnic Lunch Recipes Perfect For Beach Days, Practice, & More

You need food that tastes great and travels well.

If you’re the parent of one or more growing kids and you’re leaving the house, chances are you’re bringing snacks. If you’ll be gone a while — at the beach, to the waterpark, ball practice, on a roadtrip — you may need to pack a whole meal. That’s where picnic lunch ideas come in. You need foods that can hold up to a little travel time in a bag or cooler, and that can be eaten enjoyably cold or at room temp (or maybe it’s more like outdoor, ambient temp). And after a long day of sun, sand, or just sweating it out, it better be tasty, too.

Honestly, even if you have nowhere you have to be, having a picnic lunch outdoors somewhere is a wonderful way to enjoy the sun and the summer breeze. Something about munching on lunch outside is also really fun for kids — you might notice they’re more likely to try something new when they’re all caught up in the experience (sometimes that works with my toddler). For families heading to the beach, onto the boat, or somewhere else fun in the sun, you’ll love these recipes for the perfect on-the-go lunches. They taste great, travel well, and will keep you full.


A Classic Grinder Sandwich

Sub sandwiches just taste better outside — it’s science, I think. A really good grinder loaded with salami, prosciutto, spicy pepperoni, and three kinds of cheese will be the best lunch ever after a morning of playing in the water, the sand, wherever.


A Flavorful Fruit Salad

Fruit salad can be as simple as slicing your favorite fruits and combining them in a bowl. Or, you can add a little something with an easy dressing, like this recipe from Foodie Crush calls for. That little bit of lime juice, honey, and mint helps everything marry together and taste even more refreshing.


Chicken Caesar Wraps

Chicken Caesar salad is great, but not the most portable lunch in the world. So, pop it into a wrap, like this recipe from Budget Bytes. Serve it out of the cooler with some yummy dips, fruit salad, or chips.


Fresh Corn & Black Bean Salsa

Filling, fresh, and flavorful — this corn and black bean salsa has it all. Chop and dump all your ingredients together in a big Tupperware, toss it in your bag with some tortilla chips the next day, and you’re out the door.


Pesto Pasta Salad

We all know leaving mayo out in the heat for long is a big no-no, so opt for a pasta salad with an oil-based dressing instead. Cookie + Kate’s pesto pasta salad is just as flavorful and satisfying thanks to its easy homemade pesto dressing. And don’t skimp on the mozzarella pearls!


Antipasto Skewers

Don’t want to worry about salad spillage or food falling apart in transit? Spearing your lunch on skewers will help. Try Half-Baked Harvest’s antipasto skewers or customize them with whatever ingredients your family will enjoy most. Either way, you’ll definitely want to douse them in her lemon basil vinaigrette.


Pinwheels, Of Course

Pinwheels have a way of disappearing at parties and picnics alike — they’re just plain good. Plus, they’re easy to transport and eat during your summer outings. You can stick to your favorite combos, like turkey and cheese, or try something a little different, like Jessica In The Kitchen’s vegan pesto and sundried tomato pinwheels.


Homemade Uncrustables

Speaking of portable sammies, these homemade Uncrustables are perfect for packing in a cooler or backpack. You’ll need an Uncrustable maker gadget (like this one from Amazon) to complete the task, but it’s the sort of thing you’ll use again and again to prep school lunches anyway.


DIY Lunchables

Packing for kids? Make like blogger Damn Delicious and construct your own pizza Lunchables. You could also model your own lunch after your favorite Starbucks bistro box and focus on cheese, apples, and nuts (like so). Whatever you put inside them, your containers will stack nicely together in the cooler or lunch bag, and if these ingredients get a little warm outside, no harm done.


A Snackle Box

If you anticipate a lot of bumps or tip-overs (like if you’re going boating), a snackle box might be the best way to pack your lunch. You’ll need an inexpensive tackle box, preferably one with little dividers you can add and remove to your liking. Then, just pop in your favorite small bites.


Dole Whip Popsicles

Pineapple is one of those tropical flavors that you can’t get enough of in the summertime. Princess Pinky Girl’s Dole Whip popsicles combine canned pineapple with a little sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream, inspired by the iconic soft serve dessert at Disney. Grab these out of the top of your cooler and hand them out at practice — you’ll be the team’s favorite mom in no time.


No-Bake Chocolate Energy Bites

If you’ve got 20 minutes, you can whip up these no-bake chocolate energy balls. Pack them in the cooler so they don’t melt apart, and you’ll have sweet, satisfying snacks to nibble on throughout the whole day. And if they roll around a little in their container, who cares? You really can’t hurt them.


Classic Tuna Salad & Crackers

Simply LaKita’s classic tuna salad would be great on a sandwich, or scooped out of a Tupperware with your favorite crackers. If you’re vegetarian, you could try her chickpea “tuna” salad recipe instead. Keep it on ice until lunch time and enjoy.


Spicy Cucumber Mango Salad

If you want to pack a fun little salad you’ll look forward to eating all day, throw together this simple cucumber and mango salad with the simplest rice vinegar dressing. All you need are six ingredients, 15 minutes, and a fork to pack in your beach bag for later.


Melty Ham & Cheese Sliders

Assemble these ham and cheese sliders the night before, bake them them the morning of, and pack them in a flat food storage container before you head out. Whether you’re going to practice, the beach, or a park picnic, they’ll be a satisfying lunch for the whole family.


Key Lime Parfaits

You could easily make any kind of parfait in a small jar or food storage container, and it becomes the perfect portable breakfast or dessert. A Classic Twist’s key lime parfait would be so delicious when pulled out of an icy cooler and eaten on a beach.

Whatever you pack for your picnic lunch, your kids are sure to enjoy eating by the water, the ball field, or wherever your summer plans take you.