Picnics are an enjoyable way to spend time with your family during the summer, especially if you use them as a “date night” or have young kids who like to spend time outside. 

But planning a nice picnic for yourself or your family can get pricey fast! In addition, food tends to get warm while outside, kids can be picky, and there might not be a decent place to set up a picnic spot near where you live. However, there are many ways to keep your picnic simple and inexpensive. 

If you want some cheap picnic ideas for yourself or your family, keep for some helpful insight. 

See also: Fun & Cheap Family Activities to Do on a Budget


If you’re lucky, you can step into your front or backyard and set up an amazing picnic. If you have green space of your own, nothing can stop you! However, many people want to travel a little bit to find the right spot for a picnic. After all, finding the right destination is part of the fun!

Additionally, finding the right place to host your picnic can be one of the keys to helping you save money overall. There are many places where you can have a picnic that won’t require you to get permission or rent out a spot. 

Additionally, many of these destinations have exquisite views and offer you some excellent quality time outdoors with your family. Finding the right location for your picnic is the first step to having a great one, and luckily, we have a few ideas. 


Parks are undoubtedly one of the best and most iconic places to host a picnic. You also have many different options within this category, including local playgrounds and children’s parks, dog parks, and even National Parks. Parks allow you to see local wildlife, get some fresh, clean air, and enjoy the peace and quiet of the outdoors. If you are used to busy city life, this could be the perfect option. Additionally, many parks are free to enjoy.


Going onto the roof of an apartment or office building can give you a unique, scenic spot for your picnic. However, this idea is definitely better for couples, as bringing children onto a rooftop is obviously risky. If you are in the city and can’t easily get away, finding a quiet rooftop can allow you to get some fresh air and escape from some of the noise. Additionally, you might be able to get a brand new perspective on the city you call home! A rooftop picnic makes for some incredible photo ops as well. 

Scenic Areas

Perhaps you are fortunate enough to live near a major landmark, such as the Grand Canyon, the Great Lakes, or a wildlife preserve. These can be great areas to set up a picnic for yourself or your family. And visiting these places can be a wonderful way to show your children some local attractions without letting them get too far out of sight. Additionally, who doesn’t want an incredible view while they eat? Just make sure you double-check that you don’t need a permit to set up a picnic at any of these places. 


To have a great picnic, you might think that you need fancy equipment like coolers, picnic baskets, outdoor blankets, and more. However, this is certainly not the case! Instead, many DIY options are available for making the best picnic possible for your family or partner. These options won’t cost much and will allow you to keep your food cold, keep yourself comfortable, and keep critters away from your treats. 

Large Bags/Boxes 

If you believe the Instagram photos, you might think you need a trendy and expensive picnic basket to have fun. But you can easily recreate one with a large tote bag or even a cardboard box. These containers will be much easier to carry your food in. In addition, they won’t leave you worrying about spills or mishaps. Cardboard boxes can be recycled, and fabric totes can go in the washer. 

In your bag or box, you can pack disposable items like napkins, paper plates, plastic utensils, etc. But if you don’t have these items, don’t worry! You can easily borrow from your own kitchen. Try to pack nonbreakable plates and bowls. If you don’t have those, wrap your dishes in cloth napkins or dish towels to cushion them. That way, you’ll also have something to use for cleanup. As an added bonus, these alternatives will make your picnic eco-friendly too!

Portable Cooler

Being on a tight budget requires creative solutions. No cooler? No problem! You can make a DIY portable cooler by lining a cardboard box with a plastic garbage bag. Load all of your cold food inside, and then pack it with ice to keep everything fresh. This prevents you from spending money on an expensive cooler that you might not even use again. 

Rain/Sun Protection

Don’t forget to pack some items to protect yourself, your partner, and your children from the elements. Sun damage can sneak up on you, even when you are only exposed for a short time. For this reason, you should bring along some sun hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen for each member of your family. This is an essential part of a picnic aside from the food and should not be ignored. 

If rain is in the forecast, don’t let it ruin your fun day. Instead, be sure to pack some umbrellas and put a few towels in the car in case you get wet. 

Garbage Bag

For a picnic, trash bags can serve a multitude of purposes. As previously mentioned, trash bags can be used to line bags or boxes to make a DIY cooler. However, bringing a garbage bag will also make picnic cleanup effortless. You won’t need to mix half-eaten trash with the food you didn’t touch, and you can quickly get rid of any disposable or dirty dishes and napkins. In addition, if you have children with you, this is a great time to teach them about caring for the environment by cleaning up their litter. After all, you should always be leaving outdoor spaces better than you found them!


Recipes for picnics should be straightforward and simple. Nobody wants to assemble something messy and complicated when they are eating outside. Instead, you should prepare as much as possible ahead of time so you can relax and enjoy your picnic. The recipes listed below are mainly composed of “finger foods” you can munch on with little hassle.

You may also enjoy: Budget-friendly Ways to Meal Prep

Charcuterie Board

While you don’t need to assemble an actual “board” for a picnic, bring along crackers and pre-chopped cheese, veggies, and fruits. This will give your family the “charcuterie” experience without needing a fully fleshed-out (and expensive)board. If you want to get fancy, lay these items out on a wooden cutting board from your own kitchen.


Making sandwiches for your picnic ahead of time eliminates the need for chopping or spreading various ingredients. If you already know what your family members like, you can make them each a sandwich without risking more mess. Some ideas include PB&J, egg salad, or cold-cut sandwiches.

Deviled Eggs 

Deviled eggs are a delicious finger food that most people will like. Deviled eggs are easy and quick to prepare, requiring only a few ingredients to be delicious and addictive. There are also many variations on deviled eggs, including adding olives, mustard, and other veggies. 


Bringing chips or pitas to dip into different salsas, slaws, or hummus can keep everyone fed without requiring many utensils. You can make your own salsa or buy some with coupons at the store. This is one easy snack that will keep everyone satisfied during your picnic. 

Planning a Fun Picnic for Everyone

Picnics can be a super fun outing and a great way to bond with your loved ones. However, there’s no reason to turn them into an expensive affair. Instead, you can enjoy a fun picnic without all the extra bells and whistles. Trust us, you won’t miss them while having an affordable and memorable outing with your children or partner.