Escaping the summer heat sounds like a dream come true. Making it portable summer fun sounds even better! But one look at our checkbook tells us we won’t be going to the beach this year.
In spite of money or travel restrictions, you can still escape the heat in budget friendly ways.
My favorite thing to do is to go on a picnic. Picnics are a transportable meal that can be taken anywhere you want to go. You may choose to go to a local park. Going on a weekend camping trip blends seamlessly with picnicking.
The least expensive picnic idea is to just set it up outside. Spread a blanket out, open the hamper and enjoy. To give your picnic a little extra fun, plan on spending an afternoon in the backyard.
Design a treasure hunt. Set up a play area that involves water games. Or, build your own beanbag toss and set up a badminton net and croquet course.
And be sure to have a fully loaded picnic basket for refreshments during all that fun. Not sure what to add to the hamper? Let’s start here:
Summer Fun with Delicious Food and Drinks
Having a picnic is all about the food. The best picnics are simple, yet delicious. If you aren’t sure what to pack, try a few of these ideas.
Lemonade is one of the first things I pack when headed on a picnic. It’s cold, refreshing, and the sweet/tart flavor is delicious.
Another fun thing to take is sweet or spiced tea. For the kids, they may prefer Kool-Aid, which is one of the least expensive drinks you can make. Or, spread your wings and make up a batch of homemade Ginger Ale.
Regardless of what else you bring, make sure you have plenty of water. Between the heat and the activities, your body needs just plain old fashioned water to replenish what is sweated out.
To transport your drinks, consider some type of thermos or ice chest geared for liquids. These have a spout at the bottom, and make it easy to serve yourself.
Another option is to make it and transport it in plastic, screw-top pitchers. For the most economical way, wash and rinse out a one-gallon milk jug. Using a funnel, add your liquid refreshment. Replace the cap. It’s as easy as that!
The list for picnic food can be endless. If you are looking for something romantic, a simple meal of French bread, cheese, fruit and a bottle of wine (or your favorite non-alcoholic beverage) is perfect.
But for a more simple meal, think about a few of these:
I love these. They are easy to make and depending on how long your bread loaf is, can easily feed a small army. The bread can be anything from a round Artisan loaf to French bread. Slice the bread diagonally and fill. Wrap it in tin foil. Once you arrive at the picnic, slice it in individual servings.
Hamburgers & Hot Dogs
Whether you are staying at home or going to a park that offers grills, hamburgers and hot dogs are favorites with most appetites. These two are probably the most ‘American’ picnic fare there is. Pack plenty of buns, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes and onions, and each person can build their own. And don’t forget the mayo, mustard and catsup!
You can easily make your sandwiches ahead of time. By doing this, you can make them according to each family member’s preference. From ham and Swiss, roast beef and cheddar, to even the standard favorite of PB & J, sandwiches are easy to make.
Wrap each one individually with waxed paper or plastic wrap, and tape a name on it. Better yet, wrap them in Bee Wrap. It’s reusable for up to a year, and seals better than plastic wrap. When it comes time to serve, you already know what sandwich belongs to whom.
Fried chicken is probably the most well-known picnic food. You can make it a day ahead of time, or buy a bucket on the way.
Sliced Ham is another easy to transport main dish. A day or two before the picnic, bake a ham. Once it has cooled, slice it and put it in a plastic storage container. When you are ready to pack your hamper and ice chest, just grab and go!
Potato salad works well with any main dish. It pairs well with sandwiches, hamburgers or cold meats. Because of the addition of mayonnaise, make this the night before or the morning of the picnic to keep it fresh.
Cole slaw is another great salad that goes great with the fried chicken or ham. It’s cool, delicious, and an at least somewhat healthy addition to your picnic!
Pasta salads are my favorite thing to take on a picnic. There are also endless ways to prepare it. From tri-colored spirals topped with Italian dressing to elbow macaroni with cheese, vegetables and mayonnaise, the kind of pasta salad you make is limited only by your taste buds and imagination.
Another favorite is the one Aunt Dot used to make. Traditionally it was called ‘Dot’s Macaroni Salad’, but since it has cubes of cheese in it, I call it ‘Mac (and cheese!) Salad. It is easy to make, cool and delicious!
No picnic is truly complete without a few sweet treats. Add easy to eat items such as cookies or cupcakes. Or, take it to the next level and bake a cake. These can be layered or a sheet style, baked in a 13”x9”x2” pan.
If you want something a bit simpler, just make a pan of brownies or blondies. These will satisfy even the most sweet tooth you have!
Chips are one of the most popular items on a picnic. These come in a wide range of flavors. You can either get one or two larger bags, or buy an assortment designed for individual servings.
Pickles, deviled eggs and fresh vegetables are also a perfect addition to your hamper. These are cool enough to enjoy and easy to eat with your fingers. Need bowl covers to keep the bugs out? Try these cheerful ones!
Pack your Portable Summer Fun
For most any picnic, you want to narrow down the items you have to carry from the car to the table, or from the kitchen to the back yard. The trick is to get everything ready to transport in the proper basket, box or container.
The Food Basket
This is the basket that has all the food in it. The best picnic basket for this is one that is a bit larger and deeper. If you prefer a wicker basket, be sure it has sturdy handles, as all of this can get heavy. The decorative, but more flimsy baskets won’t hold up to the weight.
It doesn’t even have to be a traditional basket. There are some great soft-sided containers that work perfectly for picnic fare. Some of these are insulated and work well to keep your foods cold.
You can get a picnic basket that comes with all of the plates, utensils and gadgets. However, you do have to bring all these home to wash. I prefer using paper goods. These can be tossed in a trash can. You may still have to bring serving utensils, but clean up when you get home is quicker and easier.
The Ice Chest
If you use an insulated basket, the ice chest doesn’t have to be as large, as it will mostly contain the drinks and ice. To make it easier to transport, the best option is to get one on wheels.
A drink cooler also allows for you to have a smaller ice chest. A 3-gallon cooler will allow you to have water, lemonade or even Kool-Aid ready to go at a push of a button.
The Game Box
This is where the fun comes into ‘play’. Find games that all of the family can play together. Using different sized baskets and some homemade bean bags, you can make a bean bag toss. If you are picnicking at home, one can be built out of wood and painted.
Horseshoes is another favorite outdoor game. Ready to spread out and move around a bit more? Think croquet. Or, you can fill up a swimming pool and have Balloon boat races. Add an extra touch of fun by offering prizes to the winner!
If you have found fun ideas on ways to Escape the Heat this summer, be sure you share them in the comments below. We all want to cool down, and your suggestion just might be the perfect thing for us!
Ready to read more about having Summer Fun? Check out these posts by Kathi, Annie & Shawna!