Apr 21

Picnics on a Pittance

Now that the weather is looking up, we can think about picnics, as I did last weekend. But don’t spend a fortune buying shop-bought pasties, smoked salmon and dips – make your own for a fraction of the price. I recently did a picnic for my family without buying anything, just using up the contents of the fridge, and digging out the ancient wicker hamper we received as a wedding present 9 years ago and have never used. (NB wash the plates and cutlery before you use them for the first time – wickerwork really can trap a lot of dust).

So, our lunch consisted of, roast chicken (we WERE planning to eat at home but switched our plans at the last minute when the sun made an appearance), ratatouille (not traditional picnic fare because it is sloppy, but take spoons and be sure to balance carefully), Waldorf Salad (made with pecan nuts instead of walnuts, celery, apple, raisins and homemade mayo) and radishes dipped in salt. Lovely, and not too heavy on a hot afternoon (I find sandwiches/pastry/baguettes/bread can really sit on you stomach and make you sleepy).

With the roast chicken, you’ll probably eat with your hands so take lots of wet wipes and plastic bags for the rubbish. Plus water so as not to dehydrate (I filter tap water in a filter jug and then transport it in an old, washed plastic bottle).

Take some chocolate as a mood booster if the weather is foul. I grabbed half a packet of leftover gingernuts too, which went down well with goat’s cheese on top. And there was an opened bottle of wine languishing in the fridge so that was quaffed gratefully by my other half (one of us had to drive).


Recipe: Ratatouille (serves 6)


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 aubergine, washed and cubed (1cm)
  • 2-3 courgettes, washed and chopped
  • 1 red pepper, washed and chopped
  • 400g chopped tinned tomatoes
  • 1 tsp mixed dried herbs (or 1 tbsp fresh herbs – parsley, thyme etc)
  • salt and pepper
  • dash chilli oil or pinch chilli flakes (optional)
  • 2 tbsp pitted sliced black olives (I buy mine in brine)



  1. Sweat the onion in the oil in a heavy saucepan for 5 minutes then add all the other ingredients except the olives.
  2. Cover.
  3. Cook gently for half an hour.
  4. Add olives at the end.
  5. Transport in a Tupperware or similar.
  6. Add crumbled Feta for a really delicious and more substantial (veggie) meal in itself.


Sarah Lockett’s new book “The Dish” (described by MSN as ‘well thought out, witty and intelligent – excellent stuff’) is out now (£9.95, Troubador). She will be doing a Q&A and book-signing with her co-author Penny Isaacs on Sat 25th April, 1-2pm, at Borders, Oxford St, London W1.


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