The sun is shining, flowers are blooming, and consistent 75 degree weather is making its comeback. Lately, I've been pulled in two different directions. I try to retreat to my typical spot at libs, but too often I find myself sitting on the quad instead, pretending my Canvas calendar is empty. With picnics, you can find a balance between both! Picnics are completely DIY. Instead of frantically searching Yelp or OpenTable for a Sunday brunch reservation, you can hit the quad with your friends (and your laptops). Even better, picnics are an easy way to accommodate friends with dietary restrictions. Whether you picnic often or find yourself missing out on the natural beauty of your campus, here are some of my favorite spring picnic essentials to include in your wicker basket.

1. Fruit

Even though I can get a plate of fruit at the dining hall, the usual cantaloupe cubes and green bananas leave me craving more. I like to check what fruits are in-season before I purchase. In-season produce tastes fresher and sweeter when perfectly ripe. If you have the chance, support local farms and businesses by buying your fruit from a local farmer's market. The best fruits to eat between March and May are apricots, cherries, and kiwi. If fresh fruit isn't within reach, buy a jam or fruit preserve. The sweetness will help counteract the saltiness of meats and cheeses. Leftover fruit can be composted or thrown in your backpack for an easy-access snack on your walk to class.

2. Charcuterie Board

Charcuterie boards are the quintessential picnic item. When I made my first board for Thanksgiving two years ago, I was surprised by how easy it was to make a simple assortment of cheese, meat, and grapes look like it came straight off of my Pinterest feed. You can make your board with whatever you like! I usually buy 2 to 3 different cheeses – my favorites are pepperjack and gouda. If you like a soft cheese, brie cheese tastes delicious paired with a drizzle of sweet honey. For crackers, I prefer the classic Town House Butter Crackers or Garden Vegetable Pretzel Crisps (if you've only tried the Original flavor, you NEED to try Garden Veggie). Meats can be any pre-sliced deli meat from the supermarket – prosciutto is my personal pick. Top off the charcuterie board with some nuts and you're good to go!

3. Bread

Nothing beats that first bite into a warm, crispy baguette. Eat your baguette with some apricot jam or butter. If you run out of crackers, layer meat in between two baguettes for a simple sandwich. Picnics are great for preventing excess waste because most food items can be paired with each other.

If you don't have time to run to the supermarket, you can grab sliced bread from the dining hall and make finger sandwiches! Mini PB&J sandwiches can be whipped up in less than 10 minutes. 

4. Fruity Drinks

A picnic's best friend is wine. But for the rest of us that are still under 21, there's still plenty of options. If you want to mimic the vibe of a wine and cheese tasting, you can get pretty close with a grape juice cocktail.

Trader Joe's also has a wide variety of fruity drinks to choose from. If you're a big lemonade fan like me, try TJ's Sparkling Lemonade and Sparkling French Berry Lemonade. The berry and lemon flavor complement each other and taste great over a glass of ice. On the more adventurous side, if you're looking for a new flavor to experiment with, TJ's Rhubarb and Strawberry Soda is perfect for warmer weather. These sodas have a hint of sweetness but are packed with bubbles.

5. Dessert

No spring picnic is complete without a dessert! Although I love to make baked goods, it can be hard to manage with my class schedule. Luckily, I've gotten to try a LOT of pre-made desserts. I never leave the grocery store without something sweet.

If you like cake but want to bring a more portable dessert, try the madeleines from Target. The hint of lemon in these little cakes makes them a perfect pair with some milk, tea, or coffee. They taste just like the infamous madeleine cookies from Starbucks.

Trader Joe's is also notorious for their delicious freezer desserts. They sell pies, cheesecakes, macarons – you name it! The Chantilly Cream Vanilla Bean Mini Sheet Cake is a must-buy if you have a chance to stop by for a TJ's run. It's the perfect size for a small picnic, and you can't go wrong with a classic vanilla cake.

If you love the outdoors, round your friends up for a picnic this season. Besides the food, the best part is picking where to set up. Haven't been to the nearest town or new neighborhood yet? Pack your bags and find a local park. Or, if you feel stuck on campus, find somewhere new to sit and catch up with the people you love. I hope that you get a chance to show yourself grace and enjoy the beautiful days ahead.