How to Plan the Best Summer Picnic without Breaking the Bank

Picnic basket and blanket on grass

When you think of summer, you might think of BBQs in the backyard, swimming in a lake, and most importantly, packing up the family or grabbing your friends to head out for a picnic. Nothing quite beats reclining in the sun or under the shade of an umbrella, eating ice cream, sipping iced tea, and enjoyed a good ol’ fashioned ham sandwich with good conversation.

If your budget is looking a little tight, you can still plan the best summer picnic without having to go overboard. Whether you’re searching for the perfect place to host your summer outing or stocking up on all your summer wear, this guide lists a few ways to create the best picnic on a budget.

1. Reserve a table at a public park.

Living in an urban area can make it difficult to find that perfect picnic location. An open green field or a cozy campsite in the woods can mean long car rides and high gas prices, and though national parks are a perfect retreat, the admission prices aren’t that great for your bank account. But who says you can’t enjoy fresh air and nature closer to home? By popping over to your local public park and reserving yourself a table, you can have that open-air experience without the expenses, and also without those pesky ants. To top it off, a public park means easier access for attendees if you’re holding an event for your company or community, or hosting a family reunion, saving you both time and effort.

Friends having fun at a picnic2. Have a potluck and share with friends.

Dinner for one isn’t that bad, but when you’re trying to pack all the food for your friends or an event into a series of coolers, and trying to manage the numbers tallying up on your bank statement, suddenly you have a problem. Plus, if you’re not a great cook or don’t have the time to make all the food, then buying all the supplies premade can put a real dent in your budget.

Picnics are a great way to get some sun and hang out with friends, so why not make your social event even more social? Turn your picnic into a potluck and have everyone bring their favorite dish. Not only does this cut back on the costs and effort of preparing and carrying the food, but it’s great for sharing recipes and starting up fun conversations about where people learned to make certain dishes.

Picnic setting3. Do some DIY.

We all have a checklist for the perfect picnic. Sandwiches? Check. Umbrella? Check. Cooler? Uh-oh, the last one took a long walk off a short pier, and your budget just isn’t cut out for another. If you’re coordinating a huge event and need major supplies, it’s even more costly to buy not one but five coolers.

It’s time to get creative and use your own hands, leaving your credit card firmly in your wallet. There are plenty of great DIY methods for making all you need for your perfect summer picnic. For example, building your very own cooler is as easy as taking a cardboard box, lining it with a plastic garbage bag, filling it with ice packs, and then piling in your cold food. Don’t have any ice packs? Freeze some plastic water bottles that are only partly full, and enjoy both your own impromptu ice pack and a cold drink on the way back home. It’s easy, effective, and has the potential to be a great conversation starter.  

Scooping a bowl of ice cream4. Enjoy desserts to keep away the heat.

You’ve planned it all week and finally it’s here – your lovely family picnic out in the sunshine. Yet the weather threw you a curveball by being a lot hotter than you anticipated. Even your sunhat is ready to pack up and go home. There’s no need to rush back to the air conditioning and the boring indoors you’ve been trapped in all year; it’s time to break out the ice cream and bring down the temperature. Run down to your local Walmart and save even more, keeping you cool and your bank account calm.

5. Take advantage of Cash Back.

Helping the budget doesn’t mean turning down your favorite kind of soft drink or cutting your picnic short when your faulty umbrella decides to go haywire. Places like Overstock offer up to double Cash Back on all the supplies you could need so you can be well-equipped while keeping your budget firmly intact.

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