Order your favorite takeout
iStock/smpicsPut the pizza menus away and order grown-up food from your favorite restaurant, serve it on the good china, and watch your favorite movie on Netflix. (Wait until your kids are tucked into bed, of course!) "Late night sushi take-out and James Bond DVDs are our annual Valentine's Day tradition," shares Erin Zimmerman, mom of one. "I love it!" Unsure of which movie you should watch? Any of these top romantic movies of all time make for great cheap Valentine's Day date ideas. And while you're at it, get our free Valentine's Day guide packed with dozens of quick tips and sweet ideas for an amazing V-Day celebration.
Cook a gourmet meal
iStock/looobyIf you have more sophisticated aspirations for your Valentine's Day dinner, but you can't find a babysitter to hold down the fort at home, consider cooking a restaurant-quality dinner by using a meal prep box, like those from Hello Fresh or Blue Apron.
Treat the whole family
iStock/TsugulievIf you are going to be home with your children on Valentine's Day, why not involve them in your celebration? Chaunie Brusie, mom of four, found an inexpensive chocolate fountain at Target one year, and it became the centerpiece of one of their most memorable Valentine's Days at home with kids. Looking for cheap Valentine's Day date ideas that work for the whole family? Take a note from Beth Fulbright, mom of two. "We make homemade heart-shaped pizzas. The boys are always down to help make pizzas and the heart shape is different and fun." Lucky enough to score a last-minute sitter? Try one of these creative date night ideas that beat dinner and a movie.
Load up the whole gang for a night out
iStock/monkeybusinessimagesIf you're up for the adventure, don't let your lack of a sitter keep you from getting out of the house for the holiday. While you might (and should!) think twice about dragging your kids to a steakhouse for a candlelit dinner, there are plenty cute Valentine's Day date ideas that are casual enough to enjoy with your entire family. When her two kids were younger, Claire Lynn and her husband started taking them along for dinner and a night at the drive-in. It became a tradition for her family, and even though her kids are older, they still spend Valentine's Day together as a family at the drive-in theater. If you want to bring munchies along with you, check out this easy recipe for DIY microwave popcorn.
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Start the day with a family breakfast
iStock/franny-anneSince having kids, Lacy Stroessner and her husband have always spent their Valentine's Day as a family—and they kick the day off with breakfast out at a diner. "It's the perfect way to start the day. And yes, the kids come along!" This is a great alternative to going out in the evening for parents of young kids because you won't have to worry that your brood will disturb couples looking to have a romantic dinner, it's less expensive, and no reservations are required. Or try a fun breakfast at home like strawberry waffles or heart-shaped pancakes and be sure to involve the whole family in the cooking. Serve one of these healthy breakfast smoothies on the side.
Mandate an early bedtime
iStock/mediaphotosMake the kids a quick and easy dinner, like a box of macaroni and cheese, read them a few books, and send them off to their rooms to go to sleep. That way you can still spend most of the evening alone with your significant other. What you do after they fall asleep, well, that is entirely up to you. "After the kids go to bed, we have dinner, cheesecake, and sparkling grape juice," says mom Jessica Guhl, "We usually turn on a movie we've seen before (because then you don't care if you miss part of it), and play games. It actually makes for a fantastic date night!" Find out the 20 things happy couples do on the reg after work.
Pick a theme
iStock/mediaphotosTake dinner and a movie to the next level by picking a theme for the whole night. Rachel Peck, mom of three, made a red dinner including spaghetti sauce, red drinks, red jello, and red cookies one year when she and her hubby couldn't get out. "We even had red decorations," she recalls. You can also pick your movie and plan the whole night around your choice, dining on food inspired by the location of the movie or eating a meal seen in the movie at some point.