Warmer weather invites outdoor music festivals, gatherings of friends and families in the park and potluck-style family reunions. Not a single one of these gatherings would be complete without the addition of the perfect picnic set-up and its supporting cast of accessories. Don’t have one? Are you kidding me? *clutches pearls*

Now that I’ve gathered myself, you’re just in time to do better. Outfitting your picnic set-up is an extension of entertaining at your very own dining room table. To that end, picnicking is way more than a wicker basket. I’ve seen fine china, an heirloom blanket and monogrammed cups appear from humble baskets. Conversely, set-ups replete with stylish paper plates, a delightful floral arrangement and lovely champagne flutes get the job done, too. Ultimately, your imagination and your budget should certainly be your guides.

I could hardly contain myself as I generated this Picnicking 101 resources list for you all. My mind started racing with ideas and opportunities to gather with my friends and loved ones to share our spreads. A bonus? Some of these tips can also be translated to fall tailgating.  Depending on the nature of your outing, all of these items may not be necessary for each and every event. Build based on your needs. Enjoy (and plan a picnic…you’ll be glad you did; trust me…)!

The Broke Socialite’s Fabulous Picnic Tool-Kit:

Picnic Basket – Williams-Sonoma has great options. Have your pick at Macy’s or Target

Blanket – For the ground (especially if you’re bringing the little ones) or vehicle bed

Ice Packs- One for food, the other for beverages

Trusty Bottle Openers and Corkscrews (two of each; God forbid that one gets lost)

Foldable Chairs – Who can really stand up ALL day?

Cutlery – A no-brainer unless you’re only serving finger foods

Condiments – See how quickly you’ll lose friends if you serve a dry burger!

Cups, Plates, Serving Dishes/Ware and Napkins

First Aid Kit – Hey….You never know! Anything could happen!

Hand wipes and/or Hand Sanitizer and Hand Creme

Fire Extinguisher – Essential if grilling is involved

Ponchos – The Broke Socialite is not a stand-in-the-rain kinda girl

Camera – Of course, for memories, precious memories

Chic and Budget-Friendly Picnic/Outdoor Potluck Menu Ideas

Brunch Option:

*Lox, Cream Cheese, Hard-boiled Eggs, Onions and Bagels served with Bloody Marys

*Low Country Skewered Shrimp (should there be a grill) and Grits served with Mimosas

Lunch Option:

*Homemade Pimento Cheese on Sourdough Bread, Chips, and Olives served with Lemonade Beer (simply 1/2 beer to equal part pre-made lemonade)

*Grilled Salmon on Wheat Buns, Baked Sweet Potato Wedges (made at home) and Coleslaw (made at home) served with Peach Iced Tea

Dinner Option:

*Grilled Bleu Cheese Stuffed Burgers on Wheat Buns, Pickle Spears, Kettle Chips served with Martinis

*Italian Turkey Brats and Potato Salad (from the deli is fine; just season to your liking) served with Rum Punch

Dessert Option:

A Sweet Tooth Tray – cookies, cookie bars, brownies, cupcakes

Consider the items which can be prepared in advance. Who wants to spend the entire picnic experience focused on food? Better yet, spread the responsibilities within your crew. This ensures that no one person is overly taxed (financially or otherwise).

Any great picnic ideas to share?

Shameeka Ayers is an Atlanta-based lifestyle blogger and author who dispenses entertaining, shelter and food & wine anecdotes and advice via her alter ego, The Broke Socialite. She also produces a national tour of curated dessert-tasting experiences, Sugar Coma Events™.  Her first novella, Instantly: How Quickly I Realized I Hate My Job will be released in Summer 2012.