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Summertime means heading out to the lake or to the park for a picnic with friends or family.
Unfortunately, if we're not careful when we plan, transport and serve that picnic, our outing might not end up happily.
Here are some tips to remember when planning an outdoor meal:
1. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Bacteria multiply quickly at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees. Foods that have been kept at unsafe temperatures are a prime source of food borne illnesses.
2. Plan ahead and try to take foods that don't spoil so quickly. At any rate, don't eat anything that's been sitting out for more than an hour, especially if the temperature is over 80.
3. Try to take only the amount of food that will be eaten, so there will be no leftovers.
4. Pack your food with ice or cold packs in an insulated cooler. Place foods that will be eaten last in the bottom. You can make your own blocks of ice by freezing water in milk cartons or other plastic containers. Place ice blocks or cold packs between containers of food, never just place containers of food on top of ice.
5. You might want to bring 2 coolers -- 1 for drinks, because it will be opened more often, and 1 for the food that can be set in the shade and kept closed until needed.
6. If you're planning to cook hamburgers at the picnic site, shape your meat into patties and freeze before putting into the cooler. Take along a meat thermometer to be sure you cook the meat to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees.
7. An extra zip-top bag full of ice can be placed in the top of the cooler. The extra ice will come in handy for the trip home. If your day is a long one, and the ice melts the cold water can come in handy, also.
8. Carry your cooler inside your car, instead of in your hot trunk and be sure to place it in a shady spot and maybe even cover it with a blanket when you reach your destination. Open it only when necessary.
9. Instead of bringing whole jars of condiments, pack what you will need into smaller plastic containers.
10. Bring lots of clean utensils for serving as well as eating. Pack pre-moistened towelettes and paper towels for easy cleanup.
11. And remember this rule from the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding leftovers: When in doubt, throw it out!
Cyndi Roberts has been happily married to her best friend for 34 years and is a proud mother of 3. In her newsletter, "1 Frugal Friend 2 Another" she uses her years of experience as a wife, mother and chief budget officer to help others learn how to "live the good life...on a budget!" To subscribe, visit her online at http://www.cynroberts.com