5 Ways to Save Money at Picnics

Picnic season is in full swing, and if you’ve hosted or organized one lately, you probably noticed that it wasn’t cheap.

Here are five easy ways to save money on picnics:

1. Don’t go it alone. Picnics are meant to be a communal activity. If you are organizing one, be sure to delegate responsibility. Someone can bring the hotdogs, someone else the chips, someone else the fruit salad, and so on. Guests also can divvy up the entertainment – bubbles, playing cards, horseshoes, a croquet set, volleyball and net, etc.

2. Look for sales. Buy things when they’re on sale and freeze or store them until picnic season. Stock up on hamburger meat and chicken when you see good sales in the spring and summer so you’re not stuck paying full price for meat on the day of the picnic. Look for great sales on ketchup, mustard and other condiments in May, the start of picnic season, when grocery stores often mark them way down to attract shoppers, according to Buy Ketchup In May And Fly At Noon: A Guide to the Best Time To Buy This, Do That And Go There, a New York Times best-seller. Condiments typically have shelf lives of 18 months or so, the book says, so smart shoppers often by a year’s worth of it in May.

3. Skip paper. Bring silverware, plastic plates and older cloth table cloths so you won’t have to buy disposable utensils, plates and table coverings. Sure, the disposable stuff couldn’t be more convenient, but when you’re looking to save money, it’s a luxury you can do without.

4. Go green. Most folks wouldn’t consider having a picnic without hotdogs, hamburgers or some other meat, and there also is an expectation that there will be salads, which picnickers love on hot, summer days. Buy fruits and vegetables that are in-season in the summer because they will be plentiful and less expensive because grocers put them on sale so they don’t rot in their stores.

5. Think two liters. No picnic is complete without soda. Buy it in 2-liter bottles, which often is the most economical way to go. These bottles can be had for as little as 79 cents when stores put them on sale, and picnickers who may not want a 12-ounce serving of soda when they’re thirsty can pour less, and they’ll waste less.

Bonus tip: Not everyone will want soda. Look for sales on bottled water from May through August. Grocery stores and home improvement stores sell cases of it for as little as $3 because they know their customers are often on their way to picnics and barbecues. Of course, you can always fill containers with water and store them in your refrigerator before a picnic.