Did you know you can save your family over $1,000 a year by picnicking? Here are a few picnic ideas that can save you big money!
Guest post by Rosemarie Groner of The Busy Budgeter
Do you ever feel like taking your family on an outing can cost you a fortune? Even with free or cheap event tickets, it seems like every time you take your family out, it breaks the budget. I know exactly how you feel.
When my family started going through our spending carefully, we realized that we were leaking money from our budget by buying food out. We would take a trip to the free zoo, but then spend $60 feeding our family of 4. With the high cost of eating out, going anywhere on the weekend was too expensive for us!
We found an easy solution by packing picnics to go with us. By bringing our food from home, we spend less and eat better. Once you learn how to efficiently picnic, it’s really easy to grab your food and go.
Some of our favorite picnic spots are:
- Sports stadiums
- Sports practice and games
- The pool
- The zoo
- The lake
- The beach
- The circus
- The playground
Our Favorite Picnic Foods
When you’re heading to a park, beach or any location with picnic tables and public grills, consider packing ingredients and making your own food there. Picnics don’t always have to be precooked. Some of my favorite memories are of my dad grilling us hamburgers at Lake Taghkanic State Park while we fished from the shore.
Some of my family’s favorite picnic foods include:
- Southwest salad, conveniently packed in mason jars
- Poppy seed, grape and chicken pasta salad
- Sugar snap pea pasta salad with shrimp
- Hot soups like creamy chicken and rice soup
- Paleo chili
- BLT (Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato) sandwiches
- Ham salad spread on homemade biscuits
- Baked potatoes topped with broccoli and cheddar cheese
- Mayo-free tuna salad
- Pita bread and hummus
- Corn salsa and chips
- Homemade popcorn
- Homemade trail mix
Get dozens more picnic recipe ideas in this post!
Tips and tricks for the perfect picnic
When you know you’re going to have a picnic, make sure you:
1. Plan ahead.
Make sure you plan your picnics ahead of time. Include the picnic ingredients in your regular grocery shopping trips and schedule a time for you to prep the foods ahead of time. Don’t rely on the morning of your picnic to do this, as that morning will likely be hectic as it is.
2. Remember food safety.
Keep hot foods hot, cold foods cold, and don’t store the two in the same container. Make sure that cold foods are stored with at least two ice packs in a sealed cooler. The USDA has a food safety fact sheet for packed lunches that’s a great resource.
3. Don’t be derailed by policies that don’t let you bring food inside.
Pack a picnic anyway and plan to eat outside the gates.
Invest in quality picnic gear
Once you’ve had a few successful picnics and you know you’ll be doing this for a while, invest in a few things that make it easier. Here are a few of my family’s favorites:
- A picnic blanket with a waterproof backing is fun if you have kids.
- A cooler backpack makes carrying the food a breeze, even on short hikes.
- A regular backpack can free up valuable cooler space by carting your plates, utensils, seasonings, and snacks that don’t need refrigeration.
- We have the best luck with hard freezer packs, but frozen water bottles work great in a pinch.
- Baby wipes are a must for us (and antibacterial wipes are needed if you’re grilling raw meat).
- A good quality thermos that can keep soups and chili hot for up to five hours.
Make sure to bring a few grocery store bags with you to make clean up easy.
Picnic ideas that can save big money
To show you the savings potential of packing your own picnics, let’s break everything down. If you were to head out to an event once a week and eat at the event with your family for $30 (a modest amount, in my opinion), you would spend $1,560 in a year.
You would save $1,560 in a year with picnics, since the food would be covered within your normal grocery budget.
If you love seeing how simple substitutions can lead to major savings for your family, you should take a look at how my family reduced our spending by over $23,000 in a year.
I hope the picnic ideas in this post have got your wheels turning! Not only are picnics frugal, but they’ll help you create some great family memories as well!
What’s your favorite food to pack in a picnic? What are your picnic ideas that help you save money?
Rosemarie Groner is a formerly stressed, overworked and exhausted mom who loves blogging almost as much as she loves brownies. She writes at The Busy Budgeter about how she used the free Ultimate Money Saving Workbook to reduce their spending enough to be able to quit her job, stay home with her kids and then find a way to make up her salary at home. She’s still working on the cure for exhaustion.
Lisa @ This Pilgrim Life
YES!!! We do this all the time. We live a little further out in the country and so whenever we go out to run errands, I usually throw together a picnic lunch so that we can stop at a park somewhere for lunch.
We also went on a two week road trip this spring and most of our food was packed beforehand so that we could eat picnic style. We brought picnics to the beach, to the nature center, and to Sea World. It saved us money, but it also made us feel so much better because we were not eating junk.
One of my favorite summertime picnics is simply salsa and guacamole with tortilla chips, cheese slices, and fresh fruit. It’s super easy to put together and really refreshing in the heat.
I love the salsa/guacamole idea! We have the opposite problem here. We live just outside of Washington DC, so even though everything is only a few miles from home… It takes an hour to get everywhere in traffic!
I love the idea of putting the salad in a mason jar. That’s a great, compact way to pack it for a picnic! I’ll be sharing this with my readers!
Those mason jar salads are also awesome for work lunches! Just make sure that the wet ingredients are on the bottom and lettuce is on the top.
When I take my children to town, I always prepack peanut butter and jam sammies, cut up apple and peppers or carrots. I love being creative with picnics. It is so fun, and a memory has been created in the mind of all. It is a beautiful way to draw loved ones together.