One of my favourite memories of getting to know my now-husband’s family is the way they would have frequent picnics.  They had a host of spots that they would frequently go to – one with a swimming hole for hot days, another with beach views and another that was sheltered for cooler weather.  It has made me want to keep this tradition going with our family.

Planning a family picnic can be a creative and thrifty endeavour.  It’s a cheap activity to get everyone together for the afternoon, or if you and the whanau are on the road travelling together, throwing a picnic in the back of the car means you can avoid costly food stops.  Instead, why not stop at a park, let the kids run around and have a bite to eat – for only the cost of a few ingredients you are likely to already have at home.  Add a pack of chips, a few apples and some chilled bottles of water and you’re set.

Here are some of my favourite on the fly, thrifty recipes to creatively use up some of those ingredients hanging around your pantry.  All of them are able to eaten on the go and will travel well. Just pack up a picnic blanket and your picnic set and hit the road – easy peasy lemon squeezy!

Cheesy Relish Muffins

These are super easy and super tasty.  You can create many variations on the recipe to use up what you have.  My mother incessantly turns her extra vegetables into relish that lands annually in my pantry, so I tend to use it up in these.  Equally good are any mix of caramelised onions, gently fried bacon, chopped sundried tomatoes and/or olives… or whatever else is hanging around your pantry or lurking in the corners of your fridge.  You can easily leave out the cream cheese if you don’t have any to hand.


1 egg
1 cup milk (I’m thrifty, so I use 1/3 cup milk powder made up to a cup with water)
50gms melted butter

3 heaped tablespoons relish (vegetable, cucumber, tomato… anything will work)

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 cup grated cheese

12 small teaspoons of cream cheese


Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Melt the butter in a bowl in the microwave.  Whisk egg, relish and milk into the butter.

Sift the flour and baking powder, salt and cayenne. Make a well in centre of dry mix and add the liquid mix. Combine together quickly with a large spoon – this is important – the dry ingredients should be just moist and no more or you will get tough muffins.  Add the grated cheese and quickly fold into the rest of the batter.

Spoon the mixture into a greased muffin pan.  Poke a small teaspoon of cream cheese in the top of each muffin and bake for 15 minutes (until the muffin just springs back to the touch).  Cool and pack for your picnic! 

Self Crusting Pie


3 small potatoes

2-3 sausages (chorizo are nice but anything will work, or substitute ham or whatever you have to hand – or leave it out for a vegetarian family)

6-8 eggs

½ cup self raising flour

1 cup milk

Salt and pepper to taste

Any pizza-type topping you have to hand can go in (mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes work well, as well as fresh herbs such as parsley or oregano)


Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Dice the potatoes and microwave them for 7-10 minutes, until they are starting to soften.  Grease a pie pan and place the potatoes over the bottom (they will be hot so use tongs or similar).  Layer up the sausage and any other toppings you have to hand.

Whisk the self raising flour into the milk until smooth.  Beat in eggs and seasoning.

Pour this mixture over the layers in the pie dish.  Bake 30-40 minutes until the egg mixture is thoroughly set.

This dish is nice cool – or warm – depending on how long your journey to the picnic is!

Easy Chunky Brownie Slice


1 cup self raising flour

½ cup dessicated coconut

½ cup sugar (brown or white or a mix of both – whatever is already in the pantry!)

3 Tbsp cocoa

125 gms melted butter

1 quantity condensed milk (either a 400 gm tin… or my thrifty recipe to follow)

Approximately 200-250 gm chocolate chunks (any mixture of chocolate you have hanging round in your pantry will do – if you’re lucky enough to have chocolate hanging around! Flavoured chocolates work just as well as plain, or buttons/melts/chips) and/or a handful of nuts.


Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Line a small slice tin with baking paper.

Sprinkle your chocolate chunks and/or nuts over the bottom of the baking paper.

Combine the other ingredients and pour this mixture over the top of the chocolate.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until set.  Let slice cool before slicing.

Pack something cool beside the slice before putting it in the car for your picnic, so the chocolate chunks don’t melt (i.e. some of the chilled water bottles).

Thrifty Condensed Milk


1 cup milk powder

½ cup boiling water

2/3 cup white sugar

3 Tbsp butter, melted

Whisk all ingredients until smooth.  This is the equivalent amount to one 400 gm can.

0 0 votes
Article Rating

Sally is the Community Manager here at Kiwi Families. She fills her time with her handsome, busy boys and her handsome, busy husband; trying out new recipes and researching and writing about family life in Aotearoa.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x