The Family Picnic

The family picnic is a fantastic way to spend time with family, have a lot of fun, and stay on a budget.  Last time, we wrote about the Ontario Staycation Tax Credit and mentioned that picnicking is a great way to save money on food when travelling with your family.  This time, we’re going into more detail about picnicking.

Having a Great Family Picnic

One of the best things about the family picnic is you can have them the way you want to have them.  But there are many things to consider to get the most out of your picnic.

Where is the Family Picnic?

Sometimes, everyone wants to use the same place at the same time.  If you’re planning on going to a well-known picnic spot, being early may be key to ensuring you have a table or you may even need a reservation.  If you’re ok with a blanket, the world can often be your playground. Other places to have a picnic include a public park, and if going this way you can often find a spot with fewer people if you take a quick hike through the whole park.

Permission Required?

If you’re having a larger picnic or planning on special activities in a public park, you may be required to get a permit.  Check with your local municipality to see if you need one.  You’d hate to have the family softball tournament broken up by a by-law officer.  Also, remember to respect other people’s property.  Picnicking on private property is disrespectful and can get you into trouble. There are several private parks in Toronto that aren’t fenced and don’t look private; if unsure, check an online map.

In some instances, special permits can be acquired to allow for alcohol, to reserve a picnic enclosure or park, or for special performances or activities such as the use of sports fields or stages.  Make sure to obey local by-laws and throw out your trash appropriately after the family picnic.  Be courteous to those picnicking around you.  It’s fun to have music, but you don’t need to turn it up to full volume.

The Family Picnic Menu

Of course, having the family picnic means planning out the food (my favourite part)!

What’s for Lunch?

It’s best to have things that are easy to serve and require little to no preparation when you’re at the family picnic location.  If you’re planning on barbequing, be sure to check local by-laws and regulations to ensure it is allowed. Also ensure food safety when preparing food for others. You can be held liable if someone gets sick from food you prepared at your picnic. Ask about allergies and food preferences as well.

You can go as fancy or as simple as you like.  Charcuterie boards or peanut butter and jam sandwiches, the important thing is to tailor the menu to your family’s tastes.  Serving up a gourmet meal that gets left untouched by the kids can hurt your wallet and your feelings.

Quick Picnic Tips

Have a good cooler with ice. Package food in water-proof containers, because nobody likes a soggy sandwich.

Have plenty of drinks and water

Remember, drinks from a convenience store can be 400% more expensive than the grocery store.  Sugary drinks or drinks high in caffeine can exacerbate dehydration and lead to an early end to the day. Bringing your own water in a reusable bottle saves plastic pollution and a ton of money as well. Hydration is important to allow the fun to continue.  If someone has a headache, they should start drinking water, it’s often an early sign of dehydration.

Avoid canned beverages

Bees generally don’t bother people at picnics, they tend stick to the flowers (a common misconception).  However, wasps can go into your can and sting you on the tongue or in the mouth requiring a trip to the hospital.  Bottled beverages with a cap are best, and reusable bottles are even better.  Mixing up a big batch of iced tea the day before can provide huge cost savings and keep sugar intake down. Here are some ideas about how to keep the wasps from crashing your picnic.

Avoid bringing things that are perishable and if you are bringing them, serve them first.  Substitute out mayonnaise on sandwiches if possible, and go with oil and vinegar based salad dressings over cream based salad dressings to avoid upset stomachs. Here are some ideas for foods that won’t spoil your picnic. Remember, bacteria in food doubles every 10 minutes when at room temperature, so for picnics you have to be mindful.

Make sure you plan according to your family’s tastes, food sensitivities and allergies.

Don’t bring things that will melt like ice cream or chocolate – or if you do, make sure you have a fool-proof plan to keep them from melting.

Bring lots of fruit.  Fruit is nutritious and has great natural sugars that can help the fun continue all day!

What Is Right For You?

For a couple looking for a romantic interlude, a picnic with no plan can be wonderful.  However, if children are involved, we all know that they’ll need something to do or they’ll get bored.

As with the menu, cater to your family’s taste.  If your family is all about sports, bring some equipment to get them active after lunch.  Sometimes, all you need is a soccer ball.  If games are more your speed, bring some.  Packing a  deck of cards is always a great idea.

Leave the screens at home – and lead by example.  If your children see you on your phone all day, they’ll want their screen-time too.

What to Bring

Sometimes, we don’t think of something until we’re already at the family picnic spot.  Here’s a quick list of things to bring with you.

Sunscreen, hats and umbrellas

Sun can be as much of a problem when picnicking as rain or bugs can be.  Make sure your family is protected one way or the other.

Bug spray

Be careful to apply bug spray away from the food – it is not meant for human consumption. Bug sprays with deet can be harmful to the environment, so please try to spray them away from plants, trees and wildlife.

Food coverings

Once the initial feast is done, you’ll likely have some munchies out for people to enjoy.  Keep the food covered so you aren’t eating ants with your potato salad.

Allergy medication and EpiPens

Bad allergies can ruin someone’s day, and a trip to the hospital from a nut or bee allergy is never something you want to experience.

Things to do

Be it sports, games, fishing or something else entirely, cater to your family.  Once lunch is done, you’ll want to maximize your time outdoors enjoying each other’s company.  Try to stick to interactive activities, the idea is to spend time together.

Water, water, water

It’s so important to keep hydrated when spending time outdoors.  Make sure you have more water than you need.

A Few More Considerations

Sun can be as much of a problem as rain.  Make sure you have a time limit for how much time you’ll spend in direct sunlight as sunstroke is terrible.  Shade isn’t always available at picnic spots, so a good beach umbrella or dining shelter can help. If you want to save money on picnic gear, use nature to your advantage. Forests provide free shade and protection from the sun, so having a picnic in a tree-covered area can save you some money and a trip to the store.

Check the Weather

Check the forecast before you go.  If it’s going to be windy, rainy or particularly hot, you may need to add a few last-minute items to your packing list (such as more water!).

Be courteous

Be courteous to those around you.  The only thing more annoying than someone showing up with a giant speaker blasting music is two people trying to find out whose speaker is louder.  The point of spending time together is to spend time together, not blow out your eardrums.  By all means, bring some music and enjoy yourself, but be courteous of those around you.

This extends to the type of activities you undertake.  If there’s a couple having a romantic picnic under a tree, get the kids to play soccer away from them. Make sure your kids aren’t wandering into someone else’s field of play.

Respect wildlife

Don’t feed the animals, birds included.  Often, seagulls, ducks, chipmunks and squirrels will show up expecting a snack.  Feeding them encourages them to continue to show up and they may become a nuisance for other picnickers or the local community.  Also, if you feed them, you might not be feeding them things they should eat – it may actually harm them – and they may become more reliant on humans as a source of food. You don’t want your picnic to cause an extinction of species.

And remember – take only memories, leave only footprints.  Put your recycling in the recycle bin and your garbage in the trash.  Most picnic areas are already set-up for this, but the receptacle is in the parking lot.  Bring some extra bags just in case the trash and recycling bins are full.

Be Safe, Have Fun!

The most important thing for the family picnic is to be safe and have fun!  Keep an eye on the children if there are any dangers around such as creeks, lakes or rivers, animals or other picnickers.  It’s a great opportunity to teach them about some basic safety concepts.  People playing sports can be involved in what they’re doing, and not pay attention to their surroundings.  Keep small children out of the line of fire.

From all of us at KATA Accounting Solutions PC, we hope you have a safe summer with lots of fun!

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