Create a Charming Date Night on a Budget

Jenny Westhoff, Manager at Water2Wine, is on her eighth year of working with wine

Photo Credit: Kendall Ivie

Atmosphere is everything when it comes to a romantic evening for two. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, you might be checking your wallet and wondering how you’re going to pull off that romantic candlelit dinner your sweetheart has been talking about. No problem—putting on the perfect dinner doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank.

First things first: food. Most college students opt for ramen noodles, burgers at the drive-thru or delivery pizza, but a nicely cooked meal is sure to impress. If you’re short on ideas, let’s recall an all-time favorite “The Lady and the Tramp.”

You can’t go wrong with spaghetti; keep it simple and easy. At H-E-B, you can find noodles under $1, pasta sauce under $2 and Texas Toast under $3. Get creative with your spices to add a special touch to the entree.

We all know the most anticipated part of dinner is the dessert. You can find cake or brownie mix for under $3 at most of your local grocery markets. Making dessert together after dinner might add sparks to the night.

A nice wine has a way of bringing a special evening to life. With an Italian dish, Jenny Westhoff, Manager at Water2Wine, recommends sticking to the red wines.

For spaghetti or lasagna, “I would go with Chilean Pinot Noir,” Westhoff said. This wine has a lot of cherry fruit in it and isn’t overly sweet. No need to worry about dishing out too much cash either; this wine along with Water2Wine’s Selection & International Series wines are $15.95.

If you prefer grilled or baked chicken, Westhoff has a different wine to recommend.

“I would definitely go with a white wine, but if you put a heavy cream or red sauce on the chicken, then you can totally go red because that’s going to bring a little more body to the dish,” Westhoff said.

“Rose is one of those wines that you can pair anything with,” Westhoff said. A rose wine can easily complement most meats, cheese and fruit.

Dessert wines also have a place at the table. Westhoff recommended a Ruby Port dessert wine mixed with your favorite ice cream for a milkshake. Specialty wines run around $20.

For a personal touch, check out custom labels for your wine. At Water2Wine you can get a custom label at as little as $5 plus the bottle of wine.

To amp up the ambiance of the event make sure to light candles. Search for fragrances that blend well with your main course; Bath & Body Works has a three-for-$10 mini-candles special. You can strategically place the candles throughout your space.

The candles have a ten-hour burning time and are referred to as the “small but mighty candle” said Wendy, a five-year employee at Bath & Body Works; they are known to fill the room.

Wendy recommended looking for anything with citrus infusion or eucalyptus to aid in stress-relief or for floral scents with cherry blossoms for a somewhat sensual undertone.

If you are trying to put on the romantic dinner for your man, try Mahogany Teak Wood.

“Men love this candle—hands down this is the most popular candle we sell to guys,” Wendy said.

Nothing sets the mood for a romantic evening like the perfect music. Freshman chemical engineering student Caleb recommended playing classics such as Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” and freshman music education student Maddie recommended “At Last” by Etta James. If the classics aren’t your style, no problem — Pandora’s “love songs” playlist has you covered.

So whether you plan to pull a Patrick Swayze in “Dirty Dancing” or Lloyd Dobler in “Say Anything,” with the right food, drink and dessert, you are sure to have a memorable and cost-effective evening.