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How to Host A Cheap Summer Picnic

Updated on May 19, 2019
CherieScheurich profile image

Cherie's writing strives to help readers make choices that improve relationships, increase work balance, and survive life's bumpiest paths.

Summer Gathering
Summer Gathering

Looking for new summer picnic ideas? You don’t need to spend a lot of money to host a nice summer BBQ. If your goal is to enjoy the company of family and friends, you can host a nice party with plenty of good food and keep the cost down.

People don’t spend as much family time enjoying the outdoors as they used to years ago. Go ahead and build those family memories. Make your primary goal to enjoy your quests. The food is secondary. If the food tastes fine, the time together and shared experience will be what people remember. So, here are some ideas for your party to keep the cost down and make the experience memorable.

If you choose a theme for your party first, it will guide the rest of your details. Your theme can be a big deal or not. It’s up to you. Judge how involved you will make your theme based on your budget. Also, don’t be afraid to ask guests to bring a dish to share. Most family members are more than happy to bring a dish, hors devours or a dessert. Variations: I’m a vegetarian and on occasion I’ve hosted parties where I provided all the salads, sides and desserts. I asked guests bring a meat of their choice.

Theme decorations and paper products are very inexpensive at your local Dollar Store. I prefer the dollar stores with greater variety like Family Dollar or Dollar General. They have items that are more than $1, but still very cheap. Walmart can also be your one-stop-shop for everything, if you prefer. If you have time and a little larger budget, you may also want to purchase some of your theme decorations from Oriental Trading. They have a huge selection of theme decorations and they are reasonable. So, if your goal is to keep your budget low, plan to purchase most of your party items at these stores. A local produce stand is another great option to cheaply purchase BBQ items such as lettuce, tomatoes, onions, eggs, potatoes, celery, cheese, rolls, etc. Otherwise, you can get these items at Walmart. If you purchase everything at your local grocery store, you will likely spend a lot more.

Purchase your paper products based on your theme colors and patterns. Avoid Styrofoam or the thick plastic plates. They cost more and are bad for the environment. If you expect 25 people, a package of 40 dinner plates should suffice. You will also need: napkins, cups, dessert plates, plastic ware, and maybe tablecloths. These items should all be available for $1 each. The dollar store is also the best place to purchase your chips, dip, drinks, ice, burger/dog buns, cheese and condiments.

Drinks - Flavored water is a hot item these days and the dollar stores have lots of flavors and brands. You can use them as mixers too. If you are serving alcoholic drinks, your cheapest option is a nice Summer Punch. You can mix flavored sparkling water and lemonade, orange or cranberry juice with vodka and add some sherbet or fruit and ice. It’s refreshing and cheaper than wine. You might also buy beer too.

Invitations – No need to send out paper invitations anymore. Facebook invites, text messages, or phone calls to the older folks are fine. Include the theme of your party in the invitation so guests can prepare appropriately.

THEME IDEAS

No Frills Party – In this theme, you can purchase the cheapest items you can find. Nothing has to match, and the food can be the cheapest you can find. Burgers, Hot Dogs, and cookies complete the plan. This party can be impromptu. If this is all you can afford, it’s okay. Remember, the focus is enjoying family/friends and creating a memory. However, if you have some time to plan, I recommend you choose a more structured theme.

Red, White & Blue – You can never go wrong with this theme. It’s a great summer theme and can be put together cheaply. Purchase red, white, and blue paper products and a few flags at your dollar store to put around your yard. You’re set. You can also go with an All-American Menu: burgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, potato salad, and deviled eggs. Don’t forget the chips and dip or veggies and dip. Watermelon is a fine dessert for an All-American theme. Pies are also All-American.

Luau – There are some fun luau decorations at the dollar stores. You can get flowered paper plates and a grass table skirt. They also have colored paper lanterns if your budget allows. Some dollar stores have flowered leis in the kids’ party section. You can serve burgers and hot dogs in addition to some type of barbequed pork – either ribs or pulled pork. Potato salad, pasta salad, baked beans, and a green salad are fine as sides. You might also include sliced pineapple or similar fruit desserts.

Garden Party – You can use a variety of potted flowers as decorations for this party and later plant them in your yard after the party. This theme usually involves the guests to dress up a little more than the previous themes. Ladies like to wear dresses and sometimes hats to Garden Parties. Men often wear pastel shirts and shorts. Choose a pastel color to feature in your paper products. The food is usually a little fancier (though can be reasonable) and could include little sandwiches (egg salad, tuna, cucumber and cream cheese), salads, veggies and dip and a variety of mini desserts.

Under the Sea – You can choose blue or turquoise paper products and purchase some cheap Sea- related decorations (shells, starfish, fishing nets, etc). The menu can be primarily seafood. Seafood is not cheap. If you choose this theme, you will probably spend a little more. You don’t have to serve lobster and shrimp though. If you want to keep the cost down but still use this theme, you can serve seafood salad (imitation seafood), and a nice piece of barbequed or broiled fish such as salmon. Sides might include green salad, macaroni and cheese, or baked potatoes on the grill. Add some veggies and dip and a layered cake for dessert and you’re all set.

Toga Party – I always think of a Toga Party as a wild time. I think people who are willing to come to a party dressed in a sheet are willing to have a good time. You can choose either gold or green as your color focus and keep the decorations simple. Putting some potted green plants on your deck or around your pool are enough. The menu might include finger foods: pigs in a blanket, little quiches, spanakopita, chips and dip, chicken salad wraps, and Greek salad.

Summer Olympics – The planned games are the focus of this party. Plan for at least three team games such as three-legged race, sack race, egg toss, pie or watermelon eating contest, or some type of team relay – team members race to fill a bucket while carrying water on a spoon. Be prepared to give away a few little prizes - $5 gift cards to Wawa or some other little prizes. Keep the food simple – burgers and dogs, potato salad, baked beans, deviled eggs.

Don’t be afraid to get creative with your themes if your guests are more adventurous.

Other theme ideas - Hippie Party, Wild West Party, Super Hero Party, Fire Pit Party, Dance Under the Stars Party, or whatever your guests are into.

If you’re trying to save money, stay away from the more expensive meats, and don’t over buy. We tend to make way too much food at parties. Keep to your theme and let it guide you in narrowing what you serve.

Whichever theme you choose, try to add something that’s a little unique and memorable. It can be a special decoration, special food item, or fun game. I like to make a special potato salad

Gourmet Potato Salad Recipe

3 lbs of white potatoes

2 lbs of sweet potatoes

6 eggs

-boil, cool, and peel potatoes and eggs

-chop potatoes in small squares and fine chop hard boiled eggs

Add:

2 stalks chopped celery

1 chopped small onion

2-3 chopped spears of dill pickles

Mix Together:

2 cups Mayonnaise

2 Tbsp of milk

1 level Tbsp of sugar

2 Tbsp of dill pickle juice

Salt & Pepper to taste

Garnish with a few sprigs of parsley or celery stalk and radish slices and sprinkle paprika

Serve chilled

© 2019 Cherie Scheurich

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