Date Night in on a Budget

September 22, 2011 by Amy Clark

About seven years ago, we stopped being able to run out and have dinner out whenever we wanted to. My husband lost his job and it got to a point where we just didn’t have the funds to enjoy a night out on the town.

As I became more acquainted with the kitchen, though, we soon realized that dinners out lacked the pizazz that we could easily get at home. In my kitchen, the food was a bit better, the atmosphere was comfortable, and we could spend a whole heck of a lot less and get a whole heck of a lot more out of an evening.

I did what I could to make life feel special, no matter how much or how little money we had. We discovered that $30 at the supermarket could buy us an elegant steak dinner, a great bottle of vino, artisan bread and fancy bakery cupcakes to finish off our feast. A meal like that could easily have cost $100 and not been half as good.

Dining in doesn’t have to feel like every other night of the week though. Do you have wedding china that has been gathering dust on your shelf? How about fancy stemware or silver that you are afraid to use? Use “date night at home” as an opportunity to bring out the fine linens and tableware just for the two of you.

Here are two of our favorite date night recipes that you can use to create a fabulous night in together. Hopefully your “date” will enjoy a cheap night in as much as my husband does. As long as we’re together, we know it will be special!

Grilling shouldn’t be just a summer activity – it can happen all year long. This steak marinade can make a less expensive cut of meat into a gourmet feast.  No need to splurge on the most expensive beef with this flavorful steak marinade.

Steakhouse Marinade

  • 2 steaks (whatever is on sale and looks good)
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Freshly ground pepper

Mix all ingredients together and place steaks into freezer bag with marinade overnight. This makes enough marinade for two large steaks.

I opt for a little shorter cooking time and prefer my meat medium rare. If you are unsure, a meat thermometer is the best gauge for the perfect steak!

Steak Grilling Timetable (medium doneness)

Filet: 13-18 minutes

Ribeye, Boneless: 6-8 minutes

Ribeye, Bone-In: 9-12 minutes

T-Bone, Porterhouse: 14-16 minutes

Top Sirloin: 13-16 minutes

Strip, Boneless: 10-12 minutes

Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables. It’s simple, low in calories and packed with vitamins. Roasting it with just a few simple ingredients brings out its nutty flavor.

Simple Roasted Asparagus

  • 1 bunch thin asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place asparagus on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat the spears, then sprinkle with garlic, salt, and pepper. Rub the flavors into your asparagus with clean hands. Arrange asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven until just tender, 12 to 15 minutes depending on thickness. After removing from the oven, give asparagus a light dusting of Parmesan cheese.

Amy Clark

Amy Allen Clark has been the driving force behind MomAdvice since 2004. In addition to running a successful community for women and running after her two kids, she has appeared on The Early Show, and in Parents magazine, Redbook, Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food, MSN Money and The New York Times.