Is $200 Too Much for a Picnic Tote? (Asking for a Friend)

 Photo: Millie Lottie

Photo: Millie Lottie

From Dolores Park to Napa, Spring has been showing off this year. The sunshine and warm weather practically demand dining al fresco, but that begs the question: how do you get your picnic from Point A to Point B? Enter: Millie Lottie totes.

 Millie Lottie Eva tote

Millie Lottie Eva tote

The Millie Lottie tote is a double layer canvas bag with a wide bottom that can easily hold a casserole dish. That second layer of canvas is important because it gives the bag a studier shape, and, if you choose the waterproof, thermal option, can help insulate dishes. The real star of the design, however, is the lightweight cutting board in the bottom of the bag. While the board is an add-on option, it's a practical addition for cheese or charcuterie. 

There's a lot to love about Millie Lottie. It's a locally-made, woman-owned brand. Founder Jan Hammock named the line after her mother and aunt, and names the designs after her kids and close family friends. Hammock focuses on sustainable design, sourcing materials in California and hiring contractors—when possible—within two miles of her home. The production process minimizes waste. It's a Goop-approved staple. The only drawback is the bags are relatively expensive. 

 Millie Lottie Etta totes, $175-$240

Millie Lottie Etta totes, $175-$240

The starting price for the totes is $90, without a cutting board. (The board drives the price of the smallest, Branch Food and Picnic Tote—10"x10"11.5"—to $120.) The large Branch tote (10.5"x14"x13.5") is $160 with the board. My personal favorite, the extra-large Etta tote, is $240 with the board. (With a 14" x 10.5" bottom, it can hold a roasting pan.) The most expensive option, the large Eva (10.5"x14"x13"), is $300 with the cutting board.

While the price tag may give you pause, keep in mind that producing domestically and sustainably increases the base cost of any item. (Remember the $300 vegan leather bag?) Labor costs alone are significant. Minimum wage in the Bay Area is $11 per hour, while the living wage is $19.63 per hour in San Francisco and Marin, and $16.48 per hour in Oakland. On top of that, the quality is outstanding. 

Back to the original question: is $200 too much for a picnic tote? The answer really depends on what kind of disposable income you have, and what kind of priority you place on stylish, multi-functional food transportation. But, if you're going to pay $200 (or more) for a picnic tote, Millie Lottie, hands down, is the way to go.