Beach Blanket Buffet

Fill buckets, bags, or baskets with carefree foods for a totable lunch by the shore.

Howard L. Puckett

Take advantage of summertime with a beachside picnic. With no table to set, a picnic is the easiest way to enjoy a meal. As the sun's rays heat up the sand, stay cool under a large umbrella with your favorite chilled foods and beverages. These tips make entertaining a breeze.

Prepare a few no-cook salads and sandwiches for simple meals.

Use big pails to carry all of the necessities to the site. Choose comfortable handles and don't overload the pails.

Pack food in disposable boxes such as those used for Chinese takeout. Be sure they're lightly coated on the inside to prevent leakage. After the meal, rinse the boxes in seawater and they become perfect shell totes.

Let sand pails do double duty as clever coastal lunch boxes. Indoors, use pails as bowls and shovels as serving tools for a beach-themed party.

After toting towels and other supplies, turn a large tub upside down and use it as a child's chair or a table for sand-free meals.

Take a heavy blanket that won't blow away in the wind. Quilts and bedspreads work well, but make sure they can be easily laundered.

Fill pails with sand (beach laws permitting) and insert mini-citronella torches for a pretty accent that keeps bugs at bay.

Put salad dressings into small disposable containers and toss with greens at the beach, right before eating. Salads are ideal make-ahead meals; the greens stay crisp for hours if stored (undressed) in the refrigerator.

Bring a sturdy beach umbrella big enough to shade the family.

Don't forget moist towelettes for removing sand and dirt from hands before mealtime.

Pack a large plastic zip-top bag or two for trash.

Freeze water or fruit beverages in plastic bottles for cool drinks later in the day. Pack in with the food to keep it chilled.

Or keep food cold with reusable ice packs. Begin eating shortly after setting up at the beach-perishable food will soon rise to unsafe temperatures.

Pick desserts that won't melt or turn gooey. Cookies or unfrosted brownies are good choices.

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http://www.coastalliving.com/food/entertaining/beach-blanket-buffet-00400000002105/