I’m a big fan of packing food for day trips. It saves money and the food I bring is almost always better than what can be bought at our destination.
Here are my best tips for BYOP (bring your own picnic).
1. Go with a standard plan
One trick I use for these types of outings is to pack nearly the same thing every time. The big reason to do this is it makes spur of the moment picnics a breeze. There have been times when we’ve woken up on a summer Saturday and decided to hit the road that morning. I’ve been able to make a quick trip to the grocery for supplies, come home and pack it all up and be ready to go in less than an hour. Buying our standard picnic fair makes this a no-brainer.
You can make it special by packing crackers, chips or cookies you don’t usually buy. Grapes are a standard in our picnic, but they’ve gotten so expensive that they’re now a treat too.
2. Try tortilla wraps instead of sandwiches
Tortilla wraps hold up better in the cooler than sandwiches made on bread. They don’t seem as prone to squishing or getting soggy like sandwiches will.
3. Pack sides that can double as snacks part way through the day
Mostly this involves making sure you’ve packed enough extras to go with your main course. It’s fun to stop for a special treat, but it’s also nice to not have to purchase every snack and drink your family will need through a whole day.
We like a mix of healthy and not-so-healthy. Grapes and baby carrots are our go-to healthy choices. I like these because they’re easy to eat and not messy or sticky. They hold up great in the cooler too.
We also like cheese crackers and some kind of packaged cookie. Homemade cookies taste better, but store-bought handle being packed without crushing or smooshing.
4. Avoid things that melt or get sticky
Cut fruit, frosting and chocolate are things that come to mind here.
5. Keep beverages simple and pack plenty
When people get hot, they get thirsty. You can save a ton of money just by having enough drinks packed. We usually go with water, but juice boxes are nice to have too.
6. Don’t forget plenty of ice for the cooler, napkins and wet wipes
Picnic Menu Options
Try turkey, beef, ham or hummus.
Add Swiss, provolone, cheddar or American cheese.
Lettuce and sprouts can be added when you make the wraps at home. Tomatoes are best skipped or added later at the picnic site, because they tend to make thing soggy.
- Cheese crackers
- Carrot sticks
- Celery sticks
- Bell pepper strips
- Pea pods
- String cheese
- Apple slices (treated so they don’t turn brown)
- Whole peaches or pears (these can get sticky though)
Funny we just went to the zoo on Saturday, we do frequently. I usually pack sandwiches PB&J or whatever meat I have in the house. Goldfish crackers, some kind of single serve fruit (Saturday was Nectarines), baby carrots or cukes, And finally cookies or some (I know it’s bad) leftover Halloween candy. If we happen to have single bags of chips those go in as well. We carry refillable water bottles and possibly some Mio or equivalent for flavor. I can be ready to go in 20 min tops and in the zoo in 45 min. I’ve also made some sandwich wraps so we have a placemat that way my kids aren’t putting their sandwich directly on a table that who knows what was on it.
Great idea about the placemats!
We like carrots, celery, red peppers, cheese, and grapes or apples. If we are on a long trip we sometimes stop at a large grocery and look thru their deli section. We’ve bought sandwiches, chicken, salads etc. They usually have a nice selection and all the dressings ,toppings, napkins and plasticware.. It’s a bit more expensive than what you can make at home, but cheaper than a sit down restaurant. One of the best and cheapest meal we bought was at a hospital in WY. We stopped to use the bathrooms (they are much cleaner than most places) and bought some food to go. The cookies were delicious.
I’ve hit the grocery store deli before. That’s a great idea if you didn’t have a chance to pack or you’re already on the road. But I never would have thought of a hospital. That’s creative and great tip on the clean bathrooms too!
Pamela Bechard says
We have done that too, would take kids for lunch in the hospital cafeteria….clean, smoke free, and cheap…was always good food.
Are there grills for hot dogs or burgers & what are some affordable hotels that are for family ?
Wendy Pitman says
Can you still do lunch in park and get back in zoo on the same day?