Orchestrating meals at the beach is hard to do. No one wants a sandy sandwich, but no one wants to leave the sand for lunch, either. Many people try to cart their food to the beach in wagons, coolers, and bins, but what they often find is that that effort is more trouble than it’s worth — a lot of the time, they only end up with sticky fingers, hungry seagulls, and melted desserts.
Luckily, you can still have your meals in the sand, and eat them, too: it just requires some planning. Take a look at this list of five do’s and don’ts we think every beach eater should know. The seagulls will always be hungry and the sand will never be sanitary, but at least you’re doing your best to have the most satisfying seaside dining experience.
1. Do portion and pack snacks or meal items in resealable bags
One of the best ways to avoid a sandy communal chip bag and a seagull convention is by portioning out your snacks and sandwiches before you go to the beach, instead of simply packing whole bags of chips or crackers that cannot be closed or resealed. The problem with the sand is that these big, communal bags cannot be set down — unless you want sandy chips. Large food bags are also rarely finished in one sitting, so beach-goers end up having open, half-eaten bags of snacks they don’t know what to do with. Enter hungry seagulls. Avoid that invitation and only bring the food that you know will get eaten by you and your family members, rather than the birds.
If you portion your baggies, you avoid sandy containers that result from a number of visits from covered hands. Your kids might not care if their salt and vinegar chips are just a tad more crunchy, but you probably do, so give everybody their own bag and let them decide how salty they like their chips.
2. Don’t pack dairy or anything that can spoil
We get that almost everyone loves some good-quality cheese and crackers on the beach, but on the other side of the coin, almost no one likes rotten or spoiled cheese. Dairy in the sand? Just don’t do it. Even the best coolers can’t always keep everything cold, and that’s why carting dairy or any other food that easily spoils to the beach is a big no-no.
Put down the cheese sandwich and pick up the PB&J. It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re splashing in the waves, and it’s not worth eating a spoiled or melted (not in a good way) cheese cracker or sandwich if it’s going to keep you away from the beach, writhing in pain, the next day. Case in point: Don’t underestimate the sun, and don’t bring dairy to the beach.
3. Do pack sandwiches and finger-friendly treats
Speaking of sandwiches, although we don’t encourage you to try to eat a melted grilled cheese while buried in the sand, we are supporters of sandwiches beside the sea. Packing sandwiches is arguably the best way to do lunch at the beach. When your family members and friends are ready for their sand and sea break, simply hand them their sandwiches and enjoy your own. There’s no need to worry about forks and knives, or even napkins, and if they get sand in their sandwich, only they will be the ones that suffer, not you. What’s more, once lunchtime is over, there’s nothing to clean up.
4. Don’t pack ice cream treats
This next one may make you cringe, but we promise you’ll thank us later. Instead of packing your family’s desserts for the day, let the ice cream man provide them. Yes, that means agreeing to a $5 cone. The second don’t on our list zeroes in on convenience, and that’s what you pay for with ice cream vendors.
Instead of carting an extra cooler down to the beach, let the ice cream man do his job and save you the hassle of providing desserts, providing napkins, and dealing with the after-effects of uneaten, melted ice cream bars. You can never gauge just how many frozen treats you will need and how quickly they’ll get eaten, so resist the desire to bring your own to the beach. Instead, splurge when ice cream vendors come around.
5. Do pack lots of water, along with fresh fruits and veggies
Our last tip involves hydration, along with a little healthy food talk. A day out in the sun leaves everyone extremely thirsty, and when you couple that with the salt water that all swimmers take in unknowingly, you’re bound to have some dehydrated family members on your hands. The best thing about water is that it doesn’t go bad, and too much is always better than not enough.
Fruits and raw veggies are other snack items that you can’t really go wrong with at the beach, as they are always eventually eaten. The best fruits for the beach are those that don’t require any kind of preparation — apples, bananas, grapes, and peaches — and raw, crunchy vegetables are easy finger foods, too. Instead of filling your kids up with chips, feed them vegetables from which they can get real fiber and nutrients. The seagulls like veggies less, and your kids just might start to like them even more.