5 Budget-Friendly Picnics and How to Transport Them

Use these five lunch ideas to have your picnic and bike there too — all without breaking the bank.

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Budget friendly lunches bike

Photo by Rob Deutscher

Park season is upon us and it can get costly to pack a picnic lunch or dinner to enjoy on your bike ride to the park every time. Not to mention, the challenge of figuring out how to transport all of your necessities on the bike, along with everything else you have in your backpack, without too much trouble.

As a regular biker, however, you know there’s always a way to make it work and in the case of budget-friendly, transportable lunches, that is in fact true. To start, all you need is a small, insulated cooler, like this one that can fold down and stick inside your regular backpack. Don’t want to carry the weight on your back? Green Guru makes a super useful pannier called the Carbon Cooler made from upcycled material and insulated to keep your food and beverages hot or cold. Don’t want to buy a new cooler? Make your own for the picnic: line a large tote bag with a plastic trash bag and place ice packs inside, according to this Lifehack.org tutorial.

Then, use these five lunch ideas to have your picnic and bike there too—all without breaking the bank.

Filling Picnic Lunch: Cold Fried Chicken and Potato Salad

To transport this delicious lunch, you need a light, sealable container for the potato salad and zip top bags to hold the chicken and an ice pack. One trick, shared by Julie Thomson on Huffington Post, is to freeze an almost filled water bottle for each person. Use these as your “ice packs, ” and then you’ve got cold water to drink with your picnic lunch as the ice melts.

Romantic Date Night: Wine and Cheese

The perfect date picnic involves only two things: a bottle of wine and the cheese of your choice. With a quiet spot, tucked away from the hustle and bustle, you’ll be glad you pedaled away for a romantic picnic.

Don’t forget this pro tip for transporting your wine: “The wine bottle (not forgetting the bottle opener) is either carefully wrapped in a blanket or secured to the crossbar with a wine bottle holder,” says David Zotter, writer and bike enthusiast; safe and secure for the whole ride.

Classic Snack Plate: Turkey, Swiss Cheese, and Grapes

Not only is turkey less expensive than most other meats, costing an average of only $1.62 per pound, according to a 2016 turkey pricing analysis, but it’s also versatile, easy to transport, and packed with protein, so you’ll have the energy for a bike ride home after.

Instead of eating it as a sandwich, though, turn it into a classic snack lunch, setting the turkey, cheese and grapes out into a perfect picnic spread.

Ultimate Picnic Lunch Hack: Pasta Salad in a Jar

Pasta salad is budget-friendly, easy to make, and easy to transport. In The Best New Way to Bring Your Lunch, author Niki Quintero shares: “Why mason jars, you might ask? Despite the obvious cuteness factor, these jars will keep your greens fresher than fresh, they won’t stain, they’re BPA free, microwave and dishwasher safe, perfectly sized for salads for one, won’t leak, travel well, and are reusable.”

The best part is these are perfect if you like to prep lunches at the beginning of the week. Make a big batch of pasta salad, separate into jars and then head out with a full meal every day without having to do any extra work.

Protein Packed Picnic: Hard-Boiled Eggs, Fruit, and Nuts

Eggs are easy on the budget and easy to transport when hard-boiled. You can wrap them in foil or place several in a sealable container, lined with paper towels. For a complete meal, toss in a couple of apples, a handful of almonds, and your favorite crackers, stored in a baggie. Don’t forget hummus or cheese spread for your crackers and something to slice the apples. If you slice them before leaving, drizzle a little lemon juice on top to stop the oxidation (when they get brown).

Got a great idea for a budget-friendly and transportable picnic lunch? Please share! We’re always hungry and looking for ideas.

Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a full-time blogger. She is also an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition specialist, and the owner of her own personal training business, Honest Body Fitness in San Diego. She’s written for Shape, Reader’s Digest, AARP, Snap Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness and more. Follow her on TwitterFacebook and Instagram for health articles, workouts tips and more.

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  • We pack our lunches in reusable fabric or paper bags from lunchskins.

  • Nathalie Drummond

    Another great picnic lunch idea can be taken from the Japanese onigiri. Basically a handheld rice ball, with a tasty filling. I have done a classic turkey dinner set, using shredded turkey, a touch of cranberries and some diced pickles, or have gone more traditional using Takikomi Gohan (a rice cooked with different veggies, and if you want, meat, plus seasonings. Shape the whole thing into a ball, wrap with a bit of nori to keep your hands clean, and Bam! Delicious, filling, and infinitely customizable, plus the perfect size for picnics or as a easy to make lunch for work.

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