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Planning a practically perfect picnic

<p>Special to the Pahrump Valley Times - A lot of local events offer the option of planning a great picnic, which might save money on the budget and offer family time as well.</p>

Special to the Pahrump Valley Times - A lot of local events offer the option of planning a great picnic, which might save money on the budget and offer family time as well.

You know what I love about summer? There are so many reasons to get outdoors and have a picnic; concerts and plays, movies in the park and yes, fireworks.

A picnic is the ultimate frugal family fun because you can make a meal special without spending a lot of money. I do have certain “rules” for packing a picnic. First, it has to be easy. Easy to prepare, serve, eat, and easy to clean up afterward. Secondly; it has to be safe to eat. Food can spoil quickly in summer heat if left out too long. Who wants their picnic remembered as the time everyone got food poisoning and watched the fireworks from the emergency room?

Due to the fact it’s difficult to keep hot foods at a consistent, safe temperature outdoors; it’s preferable to go for the cold.

Use an insulated cooler, freeze bottles of water for ice packs that you can drink as they thaw. Some foods can be packed frozen and thawed in time for serving. To minimize opening the cooler have a second cooler for items that are accessed frequently like drinks and snacks.

Choose foods that are easy to eat without utensils. Sandwiches, wraps or pita sandwiches are excellent choices. Pre-portion as much as you can. Cut and individually wrap sandwiches. Mason jars are perfect for transporting things like green salad, pasta or potato salad.

This is a great time to bust out the skewers and make kabobs. You can put practically anything on a stick, cubed fruit, grilled veggies, cooked chicken or sausage. Kabobs are easy to serve and even more fun to eat. Bring snack foods like popcorn or trail mix. We like to bring popcorn to the movies. Easy peasy. Don’t forget easy desserts like cupcakes and cookies.

Take several blankets so you can spread out. If you’re setting up on grass be sure to bring a waterproof tarp to put under the blanket to keep your bums from getting soggy. This is a great use for an old shower curtain. If you’re arranging to meet people at the venue; bring a banner on a stick or a bunch of balloons to make yourself easier to find in a crowd. Bring folding chairs for comfort.

Bring some fun along for the kiddies, bubbles, a Frisbee, sidewalk chalk or a board game. Bring some music along for ambiance. If you’ll be out after dark, remember to pack a flashlight.

To make clean up a breeze bring a roll of paper towels and a garbage bag. Baby wipes are good for cleaning hands before you eat and for sticky fingers later. Always leave the area even cleaner than you found it.

So go gather family, friends, food and a blanket and head to the park. Happy Independence Day from all of us at Divas on a Dime!

Frugal Family Fun contributed by Patti Diamond. Author of Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous! www.divasonadime.com Join us on Facebook at “DivasOnADimeDotCom.”