This post was inspired by a reader question I received oh, nearly six months ago now (sorry about the tardiness) but as it is summer and school holidays I thought it would be a good time to cover the topic: how to save money on family outings.
The key to saving money on family outings is to be organised. That means having the things ready that you need to take and having easily packed snack or lunch options available in the house, ready to grab.
It just so happens I’ve created a little printable checklist to give you some ideas on what you might need to pack on outings (you can download it below).
But what about spontaneous decisions to go out and have fun? How can you be organised and spontaneous? The way to prepare for spontaneous fun is to have a kit in the car of things you might need (picnic blanket, towels, spare kid’s clothes, sunscreen) as well as having things organised at home so that they are easy to grab.
For instance, in the summer months, you might consider storing all beach stuff – towels, swimmers, kickboards etc., together in the one bag or place so that everything is quick and easy to find when the urge to swim hits. That means you’re out the door with little fuss and spending more time having fun. To make things easier on you (always a priority!), older children can have their own bag with their stuff in it, that they can carry themselves.
When it comes to saving money on food and snacks there are several options. The first is to pack your snacks and lunch before you go. The photo above is a sample of what we might pack for our little fella a day trip: there’s sultanas (much cheaper to buy a large packet and decant them yourself into containers rather than buy individual boxes), some cut up apple (I have found that it doesn’t tend to go brown in the container – I don’t know why), some cheese and crackers and a vegemite sandwich. I also pack a bottle of water for each person (but not bottled water, if you know what I mean) and maybe some snacks for me that the little fella doesn’t eat, but I didn’t photograph these. The sandwich sized containers, by the way, are great. DH takes his lunch in them and we haven’t used cling-wrap in years.
Alternatively, you can pack an easy picnic with things like bread rolls and salad that you can make up during lunch time. For the super prepared, there’s always cold quiche or leftover chicken, but I’m generally not that organised. In a pinch, you can pick up some rolls and ham from the supermarket, which is much cheaper and healthier than junk food. If you store your picnic set in the boot of your car it makes these spontaneous picnics easier.
Lately we’ve been having dinner down at the river where it’s much cooler. We generally eat dinner around 5:30pm, so we’re not changing our routine to cook earlier and make it down before nightfall. These picnic dinners are often spontaneous and again, having picnic gear already packed and ready to go makes spontaneous decisions easy to execute.
Many dinner dishes lend themselves to being packed as a picnic instead. We’ve eaten honey roasted pumpkin risotto by the river (beats KFC any day), stir fries and curries (just pack the rice and the curry separately like they do when you get takeaway), and the other night I cooked a chook in the slow cooker and we bought a couple of dollars worth of chips to go with it.
One day I might make some insulated carriers for these meals, but for now I find wrapping the containers in tea towels keeps dinner warm and we have the tea towels for hand washing if we need.
You can download the checklist here (pdf format), and I’ve included blank spots so that it can be customised.
Now it’s over to you. What are your tips for saving money on family outings? How do you get out the door with minimum fuss and without forgetting the things you need? What easy food / snack ideas do you have on standby for when you’re out of the house?
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.