How to Plan a Budget-Friendly Picnic

Knowing how to plan a budget-friendly picnic creates the ideal alternative to eating out at expensive restaurants. Friends and family can gather for a great meal while enjoying the beautiful outdoors. Although you are on a budget, you can still create a well-rounded picnic meal with an ambiance that would make even Martha Stewart proud.


The all-American picnic provides a picturesque scene with a checkered cloth and a wicker basket and with people shaded under a big oak tree, atop a hill and sipping an afternoon glass of wine. This same atmosphere can be created with accessories that you already have at home.

Choose a tablecloth from your available linens. You might already own a red one that is stashed away for the holiday season. If using a picnic table, you can place tablecloths of two different colors in a diagonal fashion to create a layered appearance. A blanket is often used for picnicking in the grass, but it can also double as a tablecloth.

Dining utensils can also come from items you already own rather than purchasing a special dining set or disposable items. Although disposable items such as paper cups are fairly inexpensive, you can save those extra few dollars to put toward your picnic food. Using your own items, like cloth napkins, not only saves money but also takes advantage of products that are sturdier than disposable items.

You can replace that wicker basket with items you have on hand such as tote bags or a small suitcase on wheels. A wheeled suitcase is sturdy, portable and holds a lot. It is also easy to transport and move from one place to another.

Food and drinks

If wine is your drink of choice, choose an inexpensive favorite but only one bottle. Opt for a less-expensive drink such as juice, iced tea or even water for the rest of the day. A large container of iced tea can be prepared in advance for the entire family and costs less than drinks sold in individual containers.

The typical picnic fare is fried chicken. Fortunately, chicken is still an inexpensive food at the supermarket. To save money, choose a whole fryer, cut it into the appropriate pieces and prepare the chicken using your favorite recipe. Other budget-friendly picnic foods include sandwiches, pitas and wraps.

There are many inexpensive side dishes, among them coleslaw, pasta salad and fresh fruit. Watermelon and grapes not only make great side dishes but are refreshing snacks as well. For dessert, a batch of homemade brownies, a pound cake or simple cookies always makes a welcome treat.

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