Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How to Make a Portable Picnic Pack for Car or Backpack - Thrifty Thursdays

Sometimes the best time for a picnic is right now! If you're not prepared, valuable picnicking opportunities could be passing you by -- even as we speak!

It makes sense to be prepared for picnics while traveling or even in your own home town, as they provide the opportunity to enjoy memorable meals in extraordinary surroundings. Imagine munching on baguettes and brie while gazing at the Eiffel Tower, or chowing down on fried chicken and ribs while gazing at the vast expanse of the Grand Canyon. The travel picnic possibilities are endless. At home, get out of the office at lunchtime and chow down in a pretty park instead.

Picnics are a great way for budget conscious travelers to stretch their vacation budget, as a few picnic ingredients obtained at the local market will almost always be less expensive than lunch or dinner in a restaurant. With most non-US hotels offering rooms with breakfast, you could eat lunch or dinner picnic style, have one meal per day in a restaurant, and use the extra cash for souvenirs.

Make each member of the family a small picnic traveling pack to tuck into their luggage and you'll be ready whenever the mood or opportunity strikes.

The following are instructions for how I made my Suitcase or Backpack Picnic Kit. I tried to give the traveler a lot of tools and accessories in as small a space as possible. Likewise, the kit in the photo has just the bare minimum. If you have extra space, add some of the options to your pack.

These portable picnic packs make wonderful gifts for the travelers in your life, whether they be backpacking students or middle aged business people, or seniors on a holiday.

What You'll Need for Each Kit

2 Cotton Bandanas -- Bandannas are lightweight, don't take up much space and can serve as place mat and napkin, or if the sun's too hot, a hat or neck band. If you don't like bandannas, use a lightweight kitchen towel instead.

Flexible Plastic Cutting Board
These kitchen gadgets are the greatest! You see them advertised on late night TV or you can pick them up in housewares stores (Trader Joe's usually carries them too). Thin as a sheet of heavy stock paper, you can roll these "cutting boards" for easy storage, and in fact, this is what gives our traveler's Picnic Pack its shape. Travelers can use the flexi-board to cut and prepare picnic food or as a plate for serving and eating.

Cutlery and Tools -- To keep things minimal, I've used a Swiss Army Knife, which includes a sharp knife, can opener and a corkscrew, among other features. If you don't want to use a Swiss Army Knife, make sure you include at minimum, these three essential tools. I've also included a real fork, just because I hate eating with plastic. If you have no such qualms, you could substitute plastic cutlery.

Seasonings, Condiments and Clean-Up -- Take small individual packets of salt, pepper, sugar and condiments (ketchup, mustard, relish, soy sauce, taco sauce, whatever suits your fancy) and place them in a small zipper top plastic bag. Add a few moist towelettes and seal the bag, removing excess air.

Options to add if you have Extra Space
If you have the room you might add paper napkins or paper towels, matches and a candle, a deck of cards, non-perishable food items (crackers, beef jerky, candy, etc.), a small bottle of hot sauce, water purifying tablets, a small trash bag and an electric immersion water heater for heating water in hotel rooms.

To Assemble the Kit
Lay the bandanna flat on a table and place the flexible cutting board in the center. Place remaining kit components together near one side. Fold in the long edges of the bandanna. Tightly roll the entire kit as tightly as possible. Take second bandanna and roll into a rope lengthwise; use to tie rolled picnic kit together, as in photo at the top of this post.

More Helpful Picnic Links

Thrifty Thursdays is a blog event created by my fried Amanda Formaro from Amanda's Cookin' blog. I've agreed to participate, so look for a frugal themed post here each Thursday. In addition to reading my posts, be sure to visit Amanda's blog for a round-up of all the thrifty home and cooking tips and recipes that came in this week from folks around the blogosphere.


  1. This is such a cute idea! I know that my kids would love to make these packs and use them on a picnic this summer. They would also make nice party favors for a camping birthday party or a picnic party!

  2. They are really handy. I keep one while traveling too, perfect for picnics or even a quick snack in the hotel room.