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The sun is shining, watermelon is officially in season and the park nearby is simply begging for a picnic to be had. Picnics are a simple and affordable way to bring people together and have fun in the sun, but like most things in life, the cost can add up if you don’t plan carefully. Avoid letting your outing turn pricey with these tips for a frugal picnic.

1. Avoid Disposable Plates & Cutlery 

Single-use paper plates and plastic cutlery are tempting, but reusable items are better for your budget — and the environment. For easy transport, place used items in a plastic bag to be washed once you’re back home.

If using reusable cutlery and plates is not a viable option, try making alternate swaps. Using reusable water bottles and food containers also makes a difference.

2. Avoid Splurging on Precut Items

If you can make the time, you can cut some costs. Most fruits and vegetables fare just fine if precut and kept in a cooler or consumed shortly after your arrival.

Extra perk? This is a healthy grocery store hack because cutting your own fruits and veggies yourself means avoiding preservatives found in a lot of prepackaged foods.

3. Stockpile Ice 

Got coolers to fill? Start collecting ice as soon as you’ve got your picnic planned. Fill your ice cube tray as often as possible on the days leading up to the picnic, keeping the ice in a bag in your freezer. This is also a great hack for parties everyone enjoys a cold drink.

Loading up on ice before the big day can help cut down or eliminate the need to buy it. To cut down on the amount of ice needed, use food-safe ice packs to keep smaller items and containers cold.

4. Keep Leftovers

If there are leftover chips, snacks and fruit, take them home for tomorrow. Be careful to check food regulations before putting certain leftovers back in your fridge. According to the Food and Drug Administration, perishable food that’s been at room temperature, between 40 and 140 degrees, for more than two hours can be unsafe to eat.

5. Make It a Potluck 

Have each picnic attendee bring something. This is an easy way to add variety to the picnic while ensuring the burden of having a picnic doesn’t fall on one person. To stay organized and avoid having three side dishes but no dessert, create a group chat or a Google Sheet to track who’s bringing what.

6. Skip Fancy Picnic Blankets

Waterproof picnic blankets can be costly and, unless you picnic frequently, might not be an investment that pays off. Use old sheets with towels or inexpensive dollar store plastic tablecloths underneath to create a washable and waterproof do-it-yourself setting for your picnic. Also, research beforehand to see if the area where you’re planning to picnic has tables available.

7. Plan the Menu in Advance

Do you have extra pasta in your pantry? Is there a great deal on sliced turkey breast this week? Whip up a large batch of pasta salad and some turkey sandwiches. Plan your picnic menu based on what you have and what is currently on sale. For extra savings, use these five ways to drastically save on groceries while you shop.

8. Save on Location

Gas costs money, too. Search for local parks or picnic areas to avoid driving too far out of your way. You can also try to carpool with friends and family to cut costs on transportation while being more environmentally friendly.

If you must drive, you can save on gas with certain credit cards. To get these rewards, you typically need a good credit score. See where you stand by checking two of your credit scores for free with credit.com.

9. Buy the Store Brand

Oftentimes, it’s similar to the name brand and it’s generally much more affordable. If you’re a little unsure about which swaps to make, here are 12 Items You Should Buy Generic.

10. Keep It Simple

Remember, picnics are about enjoying nice weather and great company. There’s no need to go crazy with the menu or splurge on anything too fancy.

Image: oneinchpunch 

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