In the back of my car, I currently have three chairs, a small wooden table, a tablecloth and some cloth napkins. I am perennially ready for outdoor dining, a lunch under a tree, a meet up with friends.

Susan Dromey Heeter's Budget Vogue column sig

And, why not, Budget Voguers? We’re in a pandemic; I feel best beneath the sky and I adore a gentle breeze accompanying any meal.

My cloth napkins and tablecloth, of course, are from thrift shops. I always carry cloth napkins in my car as they are environmentally friendly and so much better than paper.

I scored several from Fair Tide in Kittery, Maine. French Provence-patterned napkins make any meal so much better — even a burger from McDonald’s or a bagel from Dunkin.

And the chairs allow for a wonderful view. I like to set up near any body of water, a park, the beach, under a tree. And, sure, it’s going to cool off but not for a while — autumn is still a glorious time to eat in plein air, to bask under the fall colors, the clouds, the sky.

And, let’s face it — outside is wonderful at any time, but during a pandemic, it’s the best seat in the house.

My table is one I did buy at Crate and Barrel; it folds up neatly into a bag and then I screw legs on the bottom. I can put it together in under five minutes.

I gave the same table to my cousin when she got married — she loved mine when we ate melted goat cheese and warm bread on the beach. In fact, it’s a great gift for anyone — a portable table, like lovely table linens, makes any meal better.

And lunch outside, especially in September and October, well, it’s wonderful to soak up the ebbing sun, feel that cool breeze approaching.

I invite you, dear Budget Voguers, to eat outside, to carry what you need in whatever you drive around. It’s glorious and a memory to unpack in February and March, when eating outside seems as foreign as not putting on socks or jumping in a lake.

Inside? Oh, so gauche. Outside? Glorious. And always in mode, always healthy, always accessible.

Bon appetit, Voguers. Enjoy a lovely beginning to fall.

Susan Dromey Heeter writes and teaches on the Seacoast. Contact her at