Fabulously Frugal: Pack a frugal lunch for the total solar eclipse

Everyone is talking about it, so we might as well plan our lunch for the 2024 total solar eclipse, too! Photo by Sarah Cronk.

Hello Frugalists!

We’re all pretty excited about the upcoming total solar eclipse next week! Sadly, with the causeway being, once again, paused (The Pauseway!), it’s anticipated there will be a lot of traffic on the remaining routes to the two eclipse events on the east side of Kingston.

If you’re planning to watch the eclipse at a local park or even your backyard, and not break the bank (or sit in traffic while burning gas!), pack a lunch and use active transportation to see this once-in-a-lifetime event with your own special picnic feast.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Backpacks and/or tote bags for carrying your eclipse glasses and a blanket.
  • A cooler (thrift stores have these on the cheap if you don’t have one) or an insulated bag (your local grocery store or even the dollar store has these).
  • A couple of thermoses — one for coffee and one for the hot dogs on-the-go (recipe below).
  • Something frozen to keep the food in your cooler bag cold.
Everything you need to enjoy a total eclipse picnic! Photo by Sarah Cronk.

Try these frugal tips:

  • The least expensive way to have not just fresh, cold water, but have it double as cold packs is to DIY it! Got a 1L plastic juice bottle? Fill it ¾ full and freeze it! Cold water all day long and a re-usable, recyclable cold pack!
  • And if you’re packing oranges and a ball to throw around, bring a flashlight and show the kids how a solar eclipse takes place, like this!

What to pack, using this week’s specials and a frugal intention, with an eye on nutrition and some fun

Sourced from the items on sale this week (see bottom of article), you can pack a picnic basket chock full of fun and yummy foods to take in totality on a full tummy!

Hot dogs are on sale this week, and yes — you CAN take hot dogs to your picnic and then decorate them with sunny yellow mustard! Here’s how:

  • Pre-heat a wide-mouth thermos by putting hot tap water in it — the hottest your tap will give you. Boil your hot dogs until just heated through and hot (you may have to sample these — who doesn’t like hot dogs!).
  • When your kettle or pot of water has boiled, empty out the thermos, put the dogs in (not too tightly packed as they will expand) and then fill the thermos with the boiling water, leaving a bit of space at the top, and screw the lid down securely. Your hot dogs will stay warm for hours and be fully cooked. Pull them out with tongs, pop them in a bun, and you’ll have a warm meal for your picnic!
Image via Ball Park Brand.

Half-moon black-forest ham sandwiches:

  • Make your sandwiches as usual. Cut both ends of an empty tuna or flaked-ham can out with your can opener. This makes a perfect circle for cutting your sandwiches.
  • Trim away one side of a bread-circle slightly if you want to make a partial eclipse sandwich! Bonus if you use mustard and you can see the outline of it on the circles. This is so much fun for kids!

And some more picnic-friendly snacks and treats:

  • Cooked shrimp
  • Carrot sticks (DIY these!), apple slices (slice at home and brush with a little OJ to prevent the slices from darkening), cucumber sticks
  • Oranges segmented and ready to eat (but save a couple whole for the activity above)
  • Cashews
  • Sunny D (not overly nutritious, but it’s a very special day!)
  • Goldfish crackers and Cheez-its
  • Chocolate milk
  • Popcorn (see my previous column on how to make your own on the cheap)
  • Iced tea
  • Fruit bars
  • Cheeze twist sticks

Weekly Flyer Deals (to make it happen):

No Frills:

  • Apples – Royal Gala, Farmer’s Market brand: $2.99/ 4lb bag
  • Oranges – Farmer’s Market brand: $2.99/ 2lb bag
  • Carrots – Farmer’s Market brand: $4.99/ 5lb bag
  • Peppers – red, green, and yellow: $2.99/lb
  • Cucumbers – minis: $2.99/package of six
  • Hot dogs – Schneider’s brand ‘Red Hots’: $3.99/375 g
  • Black forest ham – Ziggy’s brand: $6.00/300 g
  • Shrimp – cooked, Sea Quest brand: $4.99/300 g
  • Popcorn, Orville Redenbacher: $2.99/ 850g jar (kernels) or six-pack (microwavable)
  • Iced tea or Coca-Cola: 24 cans for $12.99
  • Fruit oat bars – Go Pure brand: $2.99/box
  • Cheese Twists – Amooza brand: $4.49/12 pack
A group of people experience the 2017 solar eclipse together in Madras, Oregon, USA. Photo by Adam Smith.

Food Basics:

  • Flavoured water – apricot and peach: $0.99/1L bottle
  • Chocolate milk – Beatrice brand: $0.99/1L
  • Orange juice – Tropicana brand: $5.99/2.63L
  • Cashews – Tropical brand: $2.99/200 g

Giant Tiger:

  • Crackers – Pepperidge Farms brand Goldfish: $1.88/box
  • Crackers – Cheezits: $1.88/box
  • Flakes of ham – Maple Leaf brand: $2.27/can
  • Mustard – French’s brand: $0.97/225 ml
  • Sunny D: $3.27/1.89 L

Happy savings, and have a wonderful Eclipse Weekend!


Kingston resident Sarah Cronk offers tips on money-saving strategies and the best deals to be found in local grocery stores in her bi-weekly Kingstonist column, Fabulously Frugal. Have any questions for Sarah or things you’d like her to investigate in terms of cost savings? Let us know! Email Kingstonist Editor-in-Chief Tori Stafford at [email protected].

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