Valentine’s Day Without The Hefty Price Tag

By Hazel Bannerman

Well it’s here again. Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is looming before us with all the clichés…the giant teddy bears, the flowers, the nauseating displays of public affection… and worst of all: the excessive spending.

With the confines of a strict weekly budget, I figured it must be possible to create the perfect Valentine’s Day date without having to live off baked beans for the rest of February. In the absence of a significant other to test my theory on, I persuaded (bullied) my long-suffering flatmate Gemma into being my lab rat.

Over three nights we tried various “dates” and at the end, she chose her favourite.

DATE 1 – the meal in

For our first date night, I headed off to our local budget supermarket and grabbed whatever I could to throw together a romantic meal.

Scooping up some roses on my way, I settled on pork loin steaks, herb croutons, and a bag of mixed salad, paired with an Australian Pinot Noir.

It must be said: I’m a lazy chef, it was gone 8, and Gemma and I were starving. I set to work to make a quick “masterpiece” – breadcrumbed pork loin steaks, fried, and served on a bed of mixed salad with spring onions, and red onions that had soaked in white wine vinegar. It took just under half an hour to prepare, and it tasted incredible (Gemma’s words, not mine).

Eaten by candlelight (because any meal is romantic if there’s a candle present), this was far and away Gemma’s favourite meal. The home-cooked approach is definitely the best value for money if you’re looking to impress without breaking the bank.

£9.43 (+ £7 for wine and £5 for flowers)

Overall Score: 10/10

DATE 2 – the discounted meal out

Obviously our experiment wouldn’t be complete without heading out for a clichéd Valentine’s dinner date. In our case, we invited our other flatmate along and turned it into a full on “Galentine’s Day” (if you cringed at that, then I really don’t blame you).

Before choosing a destination, we desperately searched the Internet for the best deal available. Eventually we landed on 50% off mains at a chain French brassiere – a suitably romantic setting we reasoned, with a lovely French ambience and very reasonably priced food.

The meal was delicious and certainly the setting ticked all the Valentine’s boxes. I would well recommend this date night.

However if your heart is set on that decadent meal out and all the atmosphere and romance that comes with a softly lit restaurant (it really is lovely, it must be said), but the purse strings are a little tight, then do your research first and find an excellent deal. There are some great savings out there.

Just one word of advice: don’t go out for cocktails beforehand. Once you’re a few in you’re at risk of succumbing to that nice bottle of bubbly on the menu, breaking your budget altogether and ending up sat in a pub at midnight wondering what happened to the romance…well done Hazel.

Overall Cost: not counting needless bubbly, this date came to a fantastic £30 – not at all bad for two delicious moules marinières and one portion of fishcakes.

Overall Score: 7/10

DATE 3 – chocolate, chocolate and yet more chocolate

This one was cheap, and I mean really cheap. We popped down to our local corner shop, grabbed 6 bars of the cheapest chocolate we could find and an array of foods for dunking.

We really got creative here, sampling everything from bananas to coconut biscuits, and grapes to bacon (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it). Oranges dunked in dark chocolate were a particular favourite, and white-chocolate-covered bananas made much amusement for our flatmates.

This was a great date if you want to get messy and have a laugh. I challenge you to try and trail melted chocolate artistically across a biscuit. It’s harder than it looks and you may (like us) end up with more of a hearty dollop than an aesthetic drizzle.

Gemma was surprised though to find this was her least favourite date. Waiting for chocolate to melt and then cool can be a little tedious, and she felt it would’ve been more fun if we were genuinely loved up.So perhaps if you’re a bona fide couple, give this one a try.

Overall Cost: £8.50

Overall Score: 5/10

Hazel Bannerman

Hazel is a History undergraduate who delights in fine dining on a budget, she also enjoys classic comfort cuisines.

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