Around the Gypsies house, we tend to keep Valentine's Day simple. We avoid the crowds, skip the gifts, and usually opt for a nice, quiet meal at home. For half the price of a fancy night out, you can spring for a nice bottle of wine, and good cut of meat, or tofu for the Vegetarians, and enjoy a lovely evening in. And don't worry if you're not a good cook, just order out! You'll still save a bundle!
We usually like to go for a good cut of steak, like a filet, or scallops, something that is kind of a treat, and then add in some yummy sides, like baked potatoes or asparagus, and a good salad. You could make a nice homemade spaghetti, pick up a fresh baguette, put out some herbs and olive oil for dipping and you've got yourself a restaurant quality meal! If you know your sweetie's favorite dish, take a stab at making that. Finish it up with something sweet. I like to bake cupcakes or a cake for dessert, but you can totally hit up your local baker or grocer for a sweet treat if you're baking skills are lacking. When I am in need of some culinary inspiration or help, I use sites like All Recipes, Food Network, Cooking Channel, and Pinterest to get the wheels turning. You can't go wrong with a delicious home made meal, especially if you're ballin' on a budget! I find that the effort is worth more than the money spent (at least for me). And if you are springing for a gift, this will free up a little more cash to drop on something special.
To add a little flare to the evening, I usually put together a nice little table setting for two, using things I have around the house. I like to start with flowers. Rather than going for the big, expensive bouquets, you can grab a couple of smaller bunches at the grocery store, and put together your own little arrangement. To make the flowers go a little farther, round up few vases in varying sizes and divide the buds among them. It will go easy on your pocket book, and make for a really pretty tablescape. For a base, use a cute table cloth, table runner, a strip of pretty fabric, or you can do like I did and place a row of doilies down the center of the table. You can lay them haphazardly or in a nice neat row. However you like. If you don't have some already, you can usually find the cute little paper ones this time of year at the grocery store for next to nothing. For a little ambiance, I like to add in some candles. I have a collection of candle holders I've purchased from various thrift stores that are perfect for settings like this. I keep a stock of inexpensive tapered candles on hand to use with them. Small votive candles, or a group of pillar candles on a plate or mirror will do the trick too. If you don't have any lying around, pop over to your local dollar store and pick up a few.
You can easily stop there if you like. I took mine a step further this year by adding in fresh fruit. It is a great way to add color and interest to the mix. We picked up these apples and pears on sale at the grocery store this week, and I thought they looked nice with the arrangement I put together. I try to always use items I have on hand, rather than rushing out to buy a bunch of new stuff. Get creative and think outside of the box. There is no one way to do anything, so do what works for you and expresses your personality.
Bottom line, you don't have to break the bank to have a special evening. Go with something from the heart (and maybe the kitchen), and you're bound to hit a home run! If you're strapped for ideas or cash, ask me for suggestions and I'll be happy to help! I'm a romantic at heart, and love a good love story, so I'd be thrilled to help make your evening a success!