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They say the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach, and on Valentine’s Day, it’s only proper to fill your sweetheart’s belly with delicious food. But just because it’s a special occasion doesn’t mean you have to cough up a ton of cash on haute cuisine.
And if you haven't really thought about Feb. 14 until, well, right now, don't sweat it, these unique and creative culinary gestures are all totally romantic but won't take too much time to put together. And best of all, you’ll have money leftover to spring for a box of chocolates. Below, get inspired with 7 ideas to do Valentine’s Day on the cheap.
1. Challenge your love a friend at-home kitchen cook off.
Add some friendly (and flirty!) competition to your date by playing a toned down version of "Top Chef" in your very own kitchen. Here’s how: pick up a few must-use ingredients at the store (maybe marshmallows, sour cream or pickles) and bot of you can come up with a dish using whatever else is in the pantry and fridge. For a fun Valentine’s Day twist, use any type of chocolate, candy hearts or champagne as the main ingredients.
2. Have a breakfast date.
The thing about most Valentine’s Day dates is that you have to wait all day for the main event, but why not start your day with a romantic meet-up instead? Not only is breakfast the most important meal of the day, but it’s also the cheapest. Head to your favorite diner or restaurant before work, and start your day right … by noshing on an extra order of bacon with your love.
3. Serve up fast (fancy) food.
Order up your valentine’s favorite fast food to-go (upgrade to a large meal if you really want to impress). Then grab the candles and fine china, and don your finest suits and dresses for a fancy feast of cheap — but delicious — food. After all, after being so strict during January, is there anything more indulgent than a Big Mac.
4. Do dinner and a movie at home.
These days, movie tickets seem to cost a bajillion dollars, but you’re already probably paying for Netflix so you might as well put it to good use. Invite your valentine over to watch a foodie flick that you can pair a homemade dinner to. Try your hand at making sushi while you watch "Jiro Dreams of Sushi," cook your favorite Indian dish to go with "Today’s Special" or break out your finest wine flight to pair with the vino documentary "Somm."
5. Make a gourmet recipe together.
A restaurant run by a hot celebrity chef is nice, but it’s also probably hard to get into last minute, super expensive and overcrowded. Instead, check out said celebrity chef’s cookbook and make one of his or her gourmet recipes with your Valentine at home. And whether it comes out exactly the restaurant version isn't really the point, you’ll definitely have fun trying!
6. Try a potluck takeout surprise.
If you've been with your partner for awhile and want to surprise each other but don't have much time, plan a romantic surprise dinner party! Have you loved one bring a salad or appetizer, you bring the main, and both of you can surprise each other with a fun, little dessert to share. Make sure to order (or pick up!) something you know your partner will truly enjoy.
7. Have a DIY pizza night.
Try your hand at homemade pizza dough, or just use the store bought, and have a bunch of topping options on hand —pepperoni, mushrooms, basil, sausage, peppers and tons of cheese are good choices — to make your personal pie shine. Bonus points if you shape it into a heart before you bake them (aww!).