Valentine's Day is the perfect reason to spoil your sweetheart, but splurging this season doesn't have to mean overextending your budget. There are several ways to show you care, and preparing a special meal at home is one of them. You'll get a chance to enjoy a romantic night in, indulge in some of your favorite foods and enjoy some quality time together – all without paying a premium for the experience. Here are some ways to prepare a special Valentine's Day meal at home on any budget:
Make dinner preparation an event. Cooking together can be a fun and romantic way to segue into the evening and enjoy each other's company. Crack open a bottle of wine before getting started with preparations of your special meal for two. If you both have the day off, consider heading to the grocery store, wine store or gourmet food store to browse and shop for ingredients together. This can be another excuse to spend more time together, and it will give you a chance to create a custom meal you will both enjoy later that day.
Set the mood. Whether it's lighting the dining room only with candles or putting together a beautiful centerpiece made with hand-picked flowers, set the mood with creative décor. You can head to your favorite arts and crafts store for inspiration on centerpieces for the dining table. You could also pick up some small decorations and candles to transform the dining area for that special dinner.
Create the perfect ambience. Tune in to a free online radio station for romantic tunes to create the perfect ambience. Take advantage of curated lists on sites like Live365 or AccuRadio to stream your favorite genre of music or iHeartRadio to create an artist radio station for the evening. If you are a Pandora or Spotify subscriber, create a custom playlist specifically for your sweetheart and send it to him or her afterward for future listening.
Start with appetizers. Make an event out of Valentine's Day dinner at home by serving up several courses for the night. Get things started with an assortment of delicious appetizers that are easy to prepare and won't cost a fortune in ingredients. Tomato and basil bruschetta, stuffed cheese puffs, potato nests and hummus with pita chips are a few options that won't break the bank. Turn to Pinterest or your favorite recipe magazine for a few ideas that complement your main course.
Relax with pasta and red wine. A traditional Italian staple will help you relax and unwind with your significant other, and a pasta dinner with a light red wine is also easy on the budget. Explore a variety of gourmet pasta dishes you're comfortable cooking up with a handful of ingredients, such as fettuccine Alfredo, baked ziti or even a gourmet version of macaroni and cheese. Grab a bottle of red wine and settle in for some delicious comfort food made fresh to order.
Don't forget dessert. You could splurge on decadent ingredients to make the ultimate Valentine's Day treat or pick up a miniature dessert from your favorite bakery. Another option: Keep things simple with homemade chocolate-covered strawberries or an assortment of gourmet chocolates from a specialty chocolatier. Even a small tray of truffles can be enough to satisfy the sweet tooth while giving you an excuse to indulge for the night. Do a chocolate sampling together or enjoy some sweet treats with dark red wine for a gourmet treat.
Cozy up with memories. Make it even more of a memorable evening by putting together a sentimental gift. You could create a collage of photos of when the two of you met, share a video of a memorable date or write a poem or letter to your sweetheart to read to him or her after dinner. Turn off the television and smartphone so you can truly enjoy some quality time on this special day and make the most of your dinner date.
Preparing a special Valentine's Day meal at home could be just what you need to romance your sweetheart without spending more than planned this month. Use some of these ideas to make for a memorable evening.