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How to Have the Best Picnic… On a Budget

Vicky Parry 12th Jun 2024 No Comments

Reading Time: 10 minutes

The world is an expensive place during the summer. Days out can add up to hundreds of pounds and even the most well-intentioned money-saving days out can end up spending more than we anticipated.

But what about the good old-fashioned picnic? After a few basic expenses to make your picnic the most bougie affair, the actual food can actually be very reasonable, so stick with us while we offer our tips for the best picnic ever! The best bit about it is, once you’ve got the kit, you can keep picnicing all summer long.

Picnic Accessories

Picking the Best Spot

Easy Recipes

Snacks Fit for Bridgerton

Some Extra Frills


The Picnic Accessories

VonShef 4 Person Blue Tartan Picnic Basket

There are just a few things you need to make regular picnic trips part of your summer plans. While you could go completely upscale with a fancy hamper from somewhere like Fortnum and Mason, you can pick up some wonderful things from homeware stores for a LOT less. Picnic items should be durable and unbreakable, and ideally made of sustainable materials like bamboo. Did you know you can now get bamboo plates that actually feel like plastic? It’s true!

Assuming you plan to picnic with four people, make sure you build a great kit with the following items:

  • A cool bag large enough to carry food and drinks
  • Plates, ideally bamboo or lightweight melamine
  • Cups/glasses – you can get wine glass style or tumblers
  • Enamel mugs – if you’re more of a hot drink kind of person
  • Thermal flask – for hot drinks or transporting ice for cold drinks
  • Food flask – if you plan on transporting hot food
  • Tupperware – for leftovers (ziplock bags are a good space-saving alternative)
  • Cutlery
  • A waterproof-backed picnic blanket

There are plenty of extras you might want to bring along to make things feel fancy. Cloth napkins, an insulated drinks cooler, even foldable stools or a table if you’re not travelling far from where you can park – all ways to transform a quick snack in a field to a luxurious event.

This set of 2 Alice in Wonderland cake tins from George at Asda (RRP £8.50) is perfect for storing your picnic bakes.  Large tin: 25 x 10.5 cm, Small tin: 20 x 9.5 cm. The range includes measuring spoons, kitchen scales and measuring jugs and a set of 3 utensils. But you’ll have to be quick, the range is currently on offer while stocks last. Available from asda.com



Iceland and The Food Warehouse has launched its exciting NEW line of summer tableware products. Made from strong and sturdy plastic, these can be reused year after year. With prices from £1.00 the bright and bold colours provide a modern and stylish feel whilst the the ribbed design gives a retro feel. Available from Iceland and The Food Warehouse.



It’s also a good idea to keep a bottle of suncream and bug spray in your picnic hamper all the time, so you never forget it! A small first aid kit can also come in very handy, as can a bottle opener, spare bin bags (great last-minute seats or ponchos if you’re caught in an unexpected rain shower), and a Swiss army knife or small scissors.

VonHaus 4 Person Green Adventure Backpack

If you want most of the above in one package, you can’t go wrong with this deluxe backpack made from quality canvas, with brown faux leather accents and brass coloured buckles – and backed with a waterproof coating.

A zipped compartment holds all the picnic essentials  – including a netted bag to keep the melamine plates and cutting board secure in transit, a fabric cutlery wrap, and elasticated placeholders for the glasses, shakers & bottle opener.

The backpack can be transformed thanks to all its removable sections. Detach the cooler bag, side bottle holders, picnic blanket, cutlery wrap and all additional accessories to double the useable capacity – great as an overnight bag for clothes and toiletries.


Picking the Best Spot

Spring children


The great thing about picnics is you can take them almost anywhere. If you’re having a day sightseeing around museums (let’s be honest, our summer weather might call for it), most allow people to picnic in their cafes or specific areas. Taking your own food saves a LOT of money. However, if you’re looking for an outdoor spot, there are a few things to check before you lay out the picnic rug.

  1. Locate your nearest bin (and don’t sit near it unless you like wasps) so you know where to dispose of rubbish after – always leave your picnic spot as you found it
  2. Don’t sit too close to water (unless you like mosquitos)
  3. Find level ground if possible, as it’ll be a lot more comfortable to sit on. If hills are the order of the day, sit yourself at the top of the blanket with your feet facing downhill, rather than sideways on the slope – it’ll save your back from getting uncomfortable.
  4. Try to find some shade such as a leafy tree.
  5. Consider who you’re going with: kids might want some extra space to run around and play games, while couples will be looking for something more serene and romantic. If you’re going with family members, make sure everyone is fit and able to get to your picnic spot – or that you know where the picnic benches are for people to sit on (some people find it difficult to sit on and get up from the ground).
  6. Think about how far you need to carry your picnic gear and food. A picnic is perfect for a long day’s hike, but you’ll be carrying a lot so might need to scale back on the fancy extras. But if you can drive to your picnic spot and walk to it within a few minutes, you can look to the lavish kind of picnic adventure.


Easy Recipes

The supermarket deli aisle is always a great first stop to fill your picnic hamper, but if you want something home made, there are some easy recipes we think you’d love.

When cooking ahead for a picnic, keep a few things in mind:

  • How easy is it to carry?
  • Will it go off if it’s not kept in the fridge?
  • How will you transport leftovers home?
  • How easy is it to share or make individual portions?
  • What are the dietary requirements of your picnic companions?

If we were making our dream picnic feast, these are the recipes we’d use…

Picnic Quiches

These are wonderfully adaptable to any filling you’d like. Plus, they’re individual which make them perfect for picnics. The recipe includes making the pastry, but shop-bought ready rolled shortcrust pastry will also work. If you want to be adventurous, it can also work with ready made filo pastry.

Choose your filling – salmon, brocoli, asparagus, cherry tomatoes (even better if they’re roasted first), peppers, feta cheese, chopped ham or chicken all work really well.

Then put your pastry circles into a 12-hole bun tray, pushing the pastry down to shape. If you’re using shortcrust, consider a quick blind bake – just a couple of minutes in the oven – before adding the filling.

Mix three eggs with 200ml creme fraiche and 100ml milk. Add the filling to your pastry cases and then carefully pour the egg mix into each one. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the pastry is just golden and the egg filling has set.

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Watermelon is the epitome of summer and it pairs perfectly with feta. It’s delightfully refreshing after a sunny walk, too.

This one is so easy! Cube watermelon and feta cheese. Add a few fresh mint leaves to make it zing, and if you like onion (not everyone is a fan!) thinly slice some red onion to add to the bowl. Mix it up and voila! It’s ready.

Cornish Pasty

A classic and for good reason! Cornish pasties are great for travelling with – a whole meal encased in tasty pastry. You could make large ones, or mini ones for individual portions. And remember – while the recipe calls for shortcrust pastry made from scratch, if you’re short on time, shop-bought ready made will work just fine. For the filling, a traditional filling is beef chunks or skirt steak around 300g (you can use beef mince which is cheaper), 150g swede (diced and peeled), 150g potato (diced and peeled) and a finely chopped onion.

The great thing about Cornish pasties is that you don’t cook the filling first. Nope! You make the pastry (whizz up 75g butter, 75g lard, 300g plain flour and knead into a dough), cut it into rounds, and pop the filling on one half. Then, fold the circle of pastry over on itself, secure the edges with crimping, and bake for around 20 minutes until golden (180 fan or gas mark 6).

Three Ingredient Cookies

You need to have something sweet for afters! These three-ingredient cookies are ridiculously easy to bake – and you can alter how you like, such as adding sprinkles or chocolate chips.

Take 125g salted butter, 100g brown sugar, and 150g self raising flour. Knead the ingredients together into a dough and then roll into small balls. Flatten the balls on a tin lined with greaseproof paper and cook for 20 minutes at 150 celsius.

Turn out onto a wire rack to cool and then make sure you pack them before you snack on the entire batch!

Easy Prep Hot Food

We are huge fans of thermal food flasks like the ones at Sho or Chillys. You can keep hot food hot for hours – so you can have a warm meal at the top of a mountain hike!

It’s easy to prep for these hot meals, too. We like cooking sausages before a picnic, they’re a crowd-pleaser and easy to carry. You could also make some egg muffins (three beaten eggs with seasoning, into a bun tin, throw in any filling you like such as ham and cheese). A fan favourite is to pre-cook some fajita (or burrito) filling with chicken or beef, store it in the food flask and take wraps with you. Then you can make hot fajita wraps at your destination!

Of course, a favourite either hot or cold is pasta. Make a tuna pasta bake and dish up into your hot flasks before you leave, or prep your favourite pasta dish ahead of time and keep it cold in the thermal flask instead.

Snacks Fit For Bridgerton

If baking isn’t your thing, or you’re trekking on a last-minute picnic, there are plenty of great foods to pick up at your local grocery store.

For easy transport and guaranteed satisfaction from your picnic group, try some of these in your picnic basket:

  • Fresh bread such as french bread, a large focaccia to share, or bread rolls
  • Charcuterie meat platters (the deli section of a supermarket will have pre-made ones)
  • A selection of cheeses
  • Potato salad
  • Coleslaw
  • Olives and sundried tomatoes
  • Cupcakes or mini brownies from the bakery section
  • Sandwiches (easy to make with whatever filling you like – and it’s cheaper to make from scratch than buy pre-made)
  • Salad with any crispy salad veggies you like
  • A berry salad with strawberries and blueberries (raspberries crush easily so aren’t ideal) – add cream if you’re feeling like it!

Whatever your choice of picnic food, there’s nothing quite like a good condiment. Trackelments range includes chutneys and relishes, mustards, jellies, sauces and ketchups.  Made by hand, in small batches to traditional recipes, find your perfect pairing to make your picnic extra special. Available from fine food delis and farm shops nationwide and from tracklements.co.uk 



Remedy Kombucha

The UK’s favourite Kombucha brand offers a range of sparkling, live-cultured drinks that are naturally free from sugar and artificial sweeteners, and use a traditional long-aged brewing process that results in an unrivalled depth of taste.

The drinks contain organic acids and antioxidants which can support gut health, the complex blend of sweet and sour notes resulting from the long-age brew create a delicious and healthier daytime soft drink, or exciting evening alcohol alternative.

  • Available in a handy can format with flavours ranging from Orange Squeeze, Mango Passion, Peach and Raspberry Lemonade, to Ginger Lemon, Cherry Plum and Wild Berry.

Some Extra Frills

If you want to set up for a long day in the summer sunshine at your local park, it’s worth taking a few extra luxuries with you.

A blanket is essential, but pop-up stools and chairs can help prevent back or knee pain from sitting on the ground too much. For those heading to a local park with some extra hands to help, take along a parasol or two in case you struggle to find shade at your picnic spot.

You can also consider glamming up your surroundings with this gorgeous Kali Birds Exotic Cushion from Terrys. With a leaf print pattern on the reverse and printed on UV- and water-resistant fabric, you can add a touch of the tropics to your outdoor space. RRP: £19.00 available from terrysfabrics.co.uk

You might also want an extra blanket for the one person who always seems to get chilly!


Father playing ball games with kids in the park

For those gathering with friends and family at a local park or picnic spot for an afternoon of fun, picnic games are great. To save on costs, delegate who brings what: perhaps ask each group to bring a game and you can set up a mini-Olympics!

Free games include classic playground games like tag and Bulldog. A football is always a good hit – with jumpers for goalposts, of course!

For the sedate of us, classic card games in the sunshine are a brilliant way to pass the time as you graze on your picnic. Travel versions of boardgames like Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit can be loads of fun, too – plus easy to carry!

Invest in a bat and some tennis balls and you can create your own version of rounders or cricket, which is a particularly great way to burn energetic kids out!



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Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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