You can still celebrate Mom while social distancing.
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While we're certainly seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, the pandemic isn't over yet. And that means our Mother’s Day celebrations will look a little different for the second year in a row. I typically make the drive to my hometown on Mother’s Day weekend and take my mom out to lunch, but we're skipping in-person dining until we're both fully vaccinated.

Luckily, there is a way you can still share a meal with mom while practicing social distancing. Head to a local park or meet up in the backyard to treat Mom to a good old-fashioned picnic. All you need is a sunny spot to spread out a couple of blankets six feet apart and our menu of summery sandwiches and sides. Here are seven tips for a safe and fun Mother's Day picnic.

picnic side view
Credit: Carson Downing

1. Keep it Small

The most important thing to consider is safety: Keep your picnic to just a few people and stay six feet apart or wear masks if you're not all vaccinated. Be sure to bring along hand sanitizer too. Even if you live in a state that lifted safety restrictions, we like to err on the side of caution when it comes to gatherings.

2. Send an Invitation

Since Mom might be missing the typical holiday celebrations (especially after a full year of social distancing), make this picnic extra special by sending her an invitation to join you for lunch. Craft your own paper invitation and include a heartfelt Mother's Day quote, or repurpose one of our last-minute printable Mother's Day cards into a pretty invitation.

3. Bring a Basket

The key to a good picnic is a cute-yet-functional picnic basket to hold your sandwiches, chips, and cookies. If you'll be traveling to a park or to Mom's backyard, be sure to choose a sturdy basket with a lid that securely closes. We like the Canasta Picnic Basket ($66, Target) because it's pretty and functional. For a truly Instagram-worthy setup, add a pretty patterned dishtowel ($6 for two, Target) and mini bottles of champagne.

4. Personalize with Pillows

If you can't rely on a restaurant for ambiance this year, it's easy to create it yourself! In addition to the typical picnic blanket (we love this Turkish Towel Throw, $7 (Olive & Linen) because it's gorgeous and easy to wash), add a few bright throw pillows as well. Go with a classic summer print such as the cabana stripe throw pillow ($15, Target), or opt for something more subtle, like these solid tasseled outdoor pillows ($40, West Elm).

5. Make It Eco-Friendly

If you’re individually wrapping your sandwiches, consider using beeswax wraps to hold them together so the fillings don’t fall out. The coating is naturally tacky so it seals tightly, and is much less wasteful than using individual zip-top plastic bags. They’re easy to make yourself, and mom can take the leftover wraps to reuse in her kitchen. We also suggest packing eco-friendly flatware that you can toss after the picnic (the fewer things you take back into your house, the better). Slide folded napkins and compostable flatware like wooden disposable utensils ($5, Target) into paper snack bags, then fold the bags and secure with decorative washi tape for a special touch.

6. Keep the Menu Simple

Don't go overboard on the menu: Mom will appreciate your time the most, so stick to a few simple (and delicious) recipes. Easy sandwiches, a quick bean salad, and a sweet dessert are all you need for the perfect summer spread.

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Spicy Three-Meat Picnic Hero
Credit: Andy Lyons

Pack a Pair of Sandwiches

Sandwiches are easy to make and easy to eat, so they’re a perfect choice for a picnic. Plus, they’re an easy no-contact main dish, since you can prepare individually-wrapped servings, rather than bringing a large dish everyone serves themselves out of. To max out on fillings, slice Italian-style baguettes lengthwise, leaving one edge attached, then hollow out the centers. Our Spicy Three-Meat Sandwiches are always a hit. 

Three-Bean Salad with Tahini-Lime Dressing
Credit: Blaine Moats

Three-Bean Salad

Our Three-Bean Salad with Tahini-Lime Dressing is a summer-focused refresh of bean salad. It travels well and tastes best made ahead. Even after dressing, the salad will hold up to 24 hours so you can start prepping this Mother’s Day lunch a day ahead of time. In-season green beans, corn, and cilantro mix with edamame and garbanzo beans (or any other canned beans you like). We recommend packing the bean salad in single-serve sealable travel containers ($25, West Elm) over ice.

Cream Pie Whoopie Pies
Credit: Blaine Moats

Single-File Sweets

For a delicious dessert that’s easy to transport, pack wrapped whoopie pies in a loaf pan to keep them from getting squashed during transit. Fancier than plain cookies and easier to tote than cupcakes, these cakey cookies sandwiched with fluffy marshmallow filling elevate any picnic. We pushed this handheld dessert a step further with mix-and-match flavors inspired by our favorite diner cream pies: Our Cream Whoopie Pie recipe has four scrumptious flavor variations (lemon cream, double chocolate, banana cream, and strawberry cream), so take your pick or try them all. To cut down on mess, you can also trim a food-safe paper treat bag to a 5-inch square and place one pie inside.

Hibiscus Punch
Credit: Melanie Acevedo

Pack a Punch

To round out this early summer menu, mix up a batch of our delicious Hibiscus Punch to serve at your picnic. If you’re hosting in the backyard, mix up a pitcher and set it outside for easy refills. If you’re headed to another location, make the punch ahead of time and pour it into individual drink containers you can pack in your picnic basket.

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