Looking for the perfect date idea but don’t have a lot to spend? Searching for a way to spend more time with your family without dining at costly restaurants? A picnic is one of the best ways to enjoy a meal with loved ones without spending a fortune. Even better, you can enjoy that meal in a scenic park, beach, or other area that inspires outdoor play and adventure.
Planning a picnic doesn’t have to be stressful or expensive. Pack these nine budget picnic essentials to create the perfect (romantic or fun) picnic environment without breaking your budget.
1. A Large Picnic Blanket
Your picnic blanket doesn’t have to be something that impresses fellow park-goers. It can easily be something you already have at home, such as an old blanket, a tapestry, or a sheet you no longer use. If you can’t find a blanket or sheet at home that will work, purchase one at a local thrift store and wash it before use.
2. A Cooler (or a Do-It-Yourself Cooler)
A picnic basket isn’t the most practical way of getting your picnic food and drinks to your destination. Instead of spending big bucks on a cute picnic basket, use a cooler that you already have at home. If you don’t have a cooler, you can make a temporary one by lining a large tote or plastic bin with a trash bag and placing ice packs inside.
3. Affordable (Not Wasteful) Tableware
Disposable plastic tableware is an expense you don’t need to incur when planning a picnic. Disposable cutlery (and cups, plates, etc.) also create unnecessary waste. Instead, bring along reusable plastic plates, cups, and traditional cutlery from your home. Investing in a durable, reusable set of plastic tableware, which will cost about $20, can also save you from multiple purchases of disposable items if you plan to picnic often. Don’t forget to bring one sharp knife for cutting.
4. A Natural Bug Repellant
Pesky mosquitoes, ants, and other bugs can easily destroy a pleasant picnic. Most commercial bug sprays are expensive, unpleasant to smell (and touch), and can be harmful when used around foods. Items you already have around the house, like fresh-squeezed lemon and garlic cloves, can keep bugs at bay naturally. Try sprinkling cornstarch or baby powder around the perimeter of your picnic blanket to keep ants away too.
The one-time purchase of a reusable citronella candle will also provide a pleasant picnic atmosphere while shielding you from tiny, flying pests.
5. Affordable, Easy-to-Transport Foods
Aside from the company, the food is the most important part of your picnic, and it can be the most stressful part of planning. Keep in mind that meats are difficult to transport, and they are often the most costly part of the meal. Opt for cheaper alternatives, like eggs, tuna, and fresh bread, to create a delicious and affordable main course. Don’t forget to shop for in-season items, and you’ll probably be able to find fresh, budget-friendly fruits and vegetables to serve with homemade dips.
6. Cheap (But Good) Wine
For many, especially romantics, wine is an essential picnic item. You don’t need to spend a fortune on a bottle that tastes good. Grocery stores are loaded with tasty wines that hover between $8 and $10. Trader Joe’s offers its famous “Two Buck Chuck,” Charles Shaw variety of wines, which can be purchased for $1.99 to $3.39. The grocery store has sold more than 600 million bottles of the stuff, so it must taste good.
7. Reusable Water Bottles
By now, we all know that purchasing bottled water can be expensive and harmful to the environment. Pack one reusable water bottle, filled with a favorite drink, for each member of your picnic party. Using different colored bottles for each person can help distinguish drinks and avoid arguments among little ones.
8. Homemade First-Aid Kit
A first-aid kit is an essential part of every picnic, especially if you’ll be taking kids. That doesn’t mean you have to go purchase a costly first-aid kit from a camping supply store. The American Red Cross website offers a list of items that should be included in every first-aid kit, so you can use the items you have at home to create your own.
9. A Lantern or Candles
The shorter days of the winter season mean you may want some light if you want to extend an evening picnic past dark. Bring candles from home to illuminate your picnic area or purchase a single camping lantern that you can use for all nighttime outdoor adventures. If you have the proper picnic supplies on hand, you’re more likely to picnic more often.
Featured photo credit: Michell Zappa via flickr.com