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Valetine’s on the cheap (mostly)

By Julie Norman

Let me start this by saying I am a big ol dork when it comes to the grocery store.  I love it.  I love the cheese aisle, the produce section, the vareties of salsas...I love finding digital coupons and watching the total drop and drop and drop once all my "card savings" and digital coupons are applied.  It's a sickness, really.  This week City Market tried to lure me back (I'm a Safeway shopper) by sending me a bunch of personalized coupons.  There were coupons for free Kraft mayonnaise, free peanut butter, free grape tomatoes, etc. So I said FINE City Market.  I'll go and I'll use your coupons.  But you will not win me over! 

It just so happened to be the shopping trip during which I was buying everything for our Valentine's Day dinner. Yes, we celebrate Valentine's Day.  We buy each other cards and we have a nice dinner.  Honestly I just like excuses to have nice dinners once in a while. Valentine's is a good excuse. Still, I didn't go into this without a plan. I thought about what I already had at home, the coupons from City Market, and some requests I'd gotten from the BF. Here's the menu I came up with:

Appetizer: Shrimp cocktail

Salad: Boston lettuce "cups" filled with artichoke hearts, grape tomatoes, fresh mozarella (really I was going for any on-sale fancy cheese) and cucumber and topped with a viniagrette.

Main course: Grilled top sirloin steaks with a side of creamed spinach

Dessert: A parfait of vanilla ice cream and peach sorbet topped with a berry compote

The peach sorbet was already made and in the freezer.  I'd made it a few days ago with peaches I froze back in the summer.  The sirloins I'd purchased from the clearance bin at Safeway a few weeks ago. To determine pricing, I did think about how much of each product we'd use.  Here's the break-down:


1/2 bag shrimp (that's a lot, but we like shrimp...)  = $5

Cocktail sauce (1/4 bottle)                                      = .50


Cucumber (I counted the whole thing even though we probably won't use that much ) = .89

Tomatoes - FREE (with coupon)

Fresh Mozarella - I lucked out and found a "manager's special" container                    = $2.29

Can of artichoke hearts (this was a splurge)                                                                  = $3.49

Boston/Bibb lettuce - 1 head (I probably won't use all that)                                           = $1.50

Newman's Own Dressing (with .75 off coupon, assuming 1/4 bottle which is still a lot)  = .88

Main Course:

Top Sirloin Steaks (on clearance - Grass Fed Open Nature 1.5 lb)                              = $6.59

Any marinade we use will be from on-hand ingredients so I didn't count that.

Fresh spinach                                                                                                               = $1.29

Frozen spinach                                                                                                             = $1.39

Roux (milk price is correct, butter/flour is guesstimated)                                              = $1.60 (Lactose Free 2% milk is .60/cup)


Milk - 3 cups (again, Lactose Free 2%)                                                                          = $1.80

Sugar and vanillia (guesstimates)                                                                                  = .75

Berries (a mix of blueberries and blackberries on sale)                                                = $4


Total cost for 2: $31.97!  That's right at $16 a person.  Not bad for appetizer thru dessert!

Obviously that doesn't include alcohol, but I'm not in charge of that ;)  The real question though, is how much would something similar cost at a restaurant?

I checked out the menu for a common chain restaurant serving seafood and steaks. 

1 shrimp cocktail - $8.79

One order of sirloin steak with mashed potatoes and a side item - $14.99

One dessert (I went with the cheapest) - $4.99

So, without alcohol, ONE meal at a restaurant would be $28.77  That's almost double what my at-home meal will cost.  Plus we'll be able to relax, wear comfy clothes and honestly probably enjoy a better tasting, and definitely better for us, meal than we would at that chain restaurant.

This was definitely a budget WIN!


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