Budget-Friendly Picnic Ideas

Enjoying a picnic with friends and family is a fantastic way to enjoy the great outdoors. Read on for our delicious budget-friendly tips.

A picnic blanket is on the grass with fruit vegetables and crackers on it.
(Image credit: Getty)

As the weather warms up we’re looking at ways to spend as much time outdoors as possible. And what would a family day out be without a picnic?  As Brits, we’ve loved picnics since the beginning of the middle ages when huntsmen on horseback took their lunches with them for the day.  Picnics were regarded as something for the wealthy to indulge in until the early 19th century. 

However, flash forward to now and a picnic is a way to enjoy eating outdoors with family and friends and regardless of budget. A picnic isn’t just enjoyable it’s far cheaper than having to pay for expensive seaside restaurants or attraction cafes. 

But even a picnic can become pricey if you don’t plan, read on for our top tips on ways to pack your picnic basket with affordable goodies. 

Skip the Expensive Cool Box

If you are the proud owner of a picnic basket then that’s great! However, you don’t need an expensive picnic basket to have the best picnic in the park. If the weather is hot, you are going to need to keep your food fresh. 

A cool box is ideal, but if you don’t have one, don’t despair. Save money with a freezer bag from your local supermarket and place a couple of frozen water bottles in there. The bottles will keep the food fresh and once defrosted you have a couple of icy cold drinks to enjoy in the sunshine. 

Re-Use Containers

If you aren’t travelling far or it’s a chilly day consider taking your picnic in a paper bag. Not only is this cheap, but it’s also lightweight and you can throw away the packaging after, no need to carry it around on the after-lunch walk!

Don’t forget to save takeaway boxes, they also make handy picnic food boxes. They can be washed and used time and time again. 

Use cutlery from home, wooden cutlery and paper plates

A green background with a recycled paper plate and wooden knives and forks

(Image credit: Getty)

Using cutlery from home is a great option if you don’t have far to carry your picnic and it’s free! If you need to carry light, consider wooden cutlery and paper plates, they are inexpensive and can be thrown away after use so you don’t need to carry them around. It’s a much kinder option compared to plastic alternatives.  

Use up leftovers

Leftovers make excellent picnic ingredients! Whether you are loading sandwiches with leftover meat from a roast dinner or filling pots with the remaining pasta bake. Whatever can be eaten cold the next day can be used in your picnic 

Batch cooking is for picnics too

If you know your summer will be filled with picnics plenty consider planning and batch cooking and prepping some of your favourite nibbles and freezing them. Not only is this cheaper, but it will also save you time too. And you are ready for any last-minute adventures! 

Great foods to prepare in advance are various pasta dishes, sausage rolls, mini pies quiches, homemade dips and soups! 

Keep it hot

Lots of batch cooking ideas include foods that can be eaten hot or cold. Don’t forget picnics can be great on chilly days too, so hot food goes down a treat. Fill flasks with hot soup or stew. 

You can purchase food flasks that come complete with forks and spoons, they are ideal for curry, pasta or any foods that you love to eat hot. Take them with you to the beach or countryside walks, pack some blankets and wrap up warm! 

A hot food flask is pictured containing soup.

(Image credit: Getty)

Last minute, no prep, value picnics

Planning a picnic tomorrow? Why not keep an eye out for reduced yellow sticker foods in the supermarket? There are often prepacked sandwiches, salads and sweet treats available at bargain prices. Perfect to pop in a backpack, no prep required! 

Likewise, consider food waste apps. You can fill up on magic bags from the app Too Good To Go and get tasty meals from cafes and restaurants like Starbucks, Costa Coffee, local bakeries and more. Not only will you be saving food from landfill, but you also won’t need to spend time prepping and you get a delicious picnic at bargain prices.  

Stay Local

You don’t need to go far from home to enjoy a picnic with family and friends. Still to local parks and attractions and save money on fuel and transport. Why not take a look at your nearest National Trust picnic spot for inspiration?  

Sarah-Jane Outten

Hi, I’m SJ. I’m an editor and content executive here at MyVoucherCodes. I started my journey here as a deals expert which gave me the skills to become a money-saving expert. You can find my tips and recommendations in various publications including The Sun, The Mirror, and The Telegraph.

I gained a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing in 2018, and I’ve put my writing skills into many projects since then. My portfolio at sarahjaneoutten.com includes my work with Cardiff Times, Buzz Magazine and more. 

I write poetry and short stories for pleasure and enjoy getting creative with watercolours and lino printing. I hope that I can merge my love of writing and art into a children's book in the future - watch this space!