With Memorial Day behind us, it is officially picnic and barbeque season. Heading to the park or the beach is a surefire way to have a good time with family and friends while also enjoying some of the best weather of the year.
One of the nice things about picnics is they can be frugal entertainment. Here are some tips to help you plan the perfect picnic and save a little money while you do it.
Plan food and supplies wisely
Proper planning can help you save money for two reasons. First, it helps avoid the need to run to the gas station or beach store to pick up items you forgot. Remember that convenience stores charge a premium for their convenience. You can expect to spend double the cost of what you would pay at the supermarket.
Secondly, smart planning helps you avoid throwing away money in the form of uneaten food. Pack too much and you may end up tossing food that won’t survive a round-trip in good shape – think soggy grapes floating in the cooler.
Use smart storage for food safety and transit
That brings us to the second point: food storage. Your picnic will be much more enjoyable if your food is packed in a way that will keep it safe, appealing and tasty.
Take care to pack dry goods so they won’t get crushed on the ride. Items for the cooler should be placed in water tight containers. Pack plenty of ice or freezer packs to keep cold items at a safe temperature.
Fruit is a popular and healthy snack for picnics, but it doesn’t always travel well. Consider cutting up items such as watermelon at the picnic, rather than in advance, to keep them from suffering during transit.
Look for food deals in advance
If your family does a lot of day trips, start watching for deals now. The weeks surrounding Memorial Day and the Fourth of July are when you can snag BBQ and picnic fare at the deepest discounts. Hot dogs, brats, burgers and even buns can be tucked away in the freezer for future use. Same goes for drink boxes.
However, for the best deals, look beyond the individually portioned snacks and buy in bulk. Rather than cheese sticks, buy a block of cheese and make your own sticks. Buy larger family-size packages of chips and crackers instead of individual snack-packs.
Two-liters of soda pop tend to be cheaper per serving than cans or smaller bottles. For a really cheap drink, make a pitcher of ice tea or infuse some water with fruit and transport it in a securely closed pitcher.
Regroup once you get home
Future picnics will be a breeze if you take a few minutes to properly put away leftovers and inventory supplies when you get home. If you have kids, enlist their help to unload the vehicle. Put perishable leftovers in the fridge and dry goods in the pantry before wiping out the cooler.
Having a bag stocked and ready for picnics and day trips is a great way to cut down on prep time. If you have a picnic tote or basket, replenish the supplies when you get home. Restock paper plates, cups and cutlery. To keep your costs down in the future, consider buying some inexpensive reusable plastic dinnerware that can be run through the dishwasher and then stored in your picnic bag or basket.
Picnics are a great way to get outside and make summer memories on a budget. Plan ahead and you could be picnicking for next to nothing.
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