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10 Romantic Dinner Ideas on a Budget

Splurging on date night is common, but romance is no excuse for blowing the budget. Especially when you could save so much money with romantic dinner ideas at home—for a tenth of the cost!

As a result, we end up either neglecting romance or going overboard and letting date night tank the budget. The sweet spot is right in the middle! And don’t underestimate the power of dinner for two at home. The good news is, date night at home can be fun and affordable.

In fact, my husband Winston and I like to tuck our kids in bed a little early so we can enjoy romantic dinners at home by ourselves. That’s why I decided to put together a list of some of my favorite romantic dinner ideas to inspire your future date nights. Check out my five new recipes below that you can make for $15 or less—I’ve even broken out the cost per serving for you! Plus, I’ve highlighted five fun date night activities to try. Give them a whirl this week and find out for yourself how affordable and romantic your dates can be.

Jump to your favorite romantic dinner idea:

  1. Sausage and Tortellini Soup
  2. Pesto Pasta
  3. Southern Sweet Potatoes
  4. 4-Ingredient Chicken Roast
  5. Chicken Taquitos
  6. Have a Picnic
  7. Dream About the Future
  8. Be Tourists Together
  9. Relive Your Wedding Highlights
  10. Spend 50% Less on Dining Out

Romantic Dinner Ideas: Recipes 

First up, the recipes. To make my list, these romantic dinner ideas must be easy to prep, quick to make, and most of all affordable. Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Sausage and Tortellini Soup 

So many of my friends have quite the amore for Olive Garden. If that sounds like you, you’ll love this play on their Zuppa Toscana recipe. It’s just Italian sausage, chicken broth, kale, cheese tortellini and heavy cream. I like that you can control the spicy level by choosing different types of sausage.

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Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 6
Cost per serving: $2.63

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Italian ground sausage
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 bunch kale, destemmed and finely chopped
  • 10 ounces cheese tortellini
  • 1 cup heavy cream  

Directions:

  1. In a deep pot over medium-high heat, brown the sausage. When done, place the sausage on a paper towel to drain excess fat.
  2. Return the pot to the heat and add chicken stock and kale. Simmer until wilted, about 15 minutes.
  3. Return the sausage to the pan along with the tortellini. Cook until the tortellini are done according to package instructions.
  4. Stir in the heavy cream.
  5. Enjoy! That’s amore.

2. Pesto Pasta 

When you think of this recipe, I want you to think of one thing: ease. Romantic dinner ideas don’t have to be complicated—and they don’t have to require a ton of dishes either. You’ll roast some veggies in a pan, but then the rest of the cooking will happen in one big pot. It’s delicious and easy to clean up! It pairs perfectly with that little secret in the back of the freezer—I’m looking at you, store brand ice cream.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4
Cost per serving: $2.92

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups rigatoni (or whatever pasta you have in your pantry)
  • 1 head broccoli
  • 2 cups sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup pesto
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Separate the head of broccoli into individual florets, coat in olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast for 20 minutes.
  3. Cook the rigatoni in boiling salted water until al dente, about 10 minutes (but check with the directions on your package). Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water.
  4. Place the pasta and the reserved pasta water back in the pot.
  5. On low heat, add the sun-dried tomatoes, roasted broccoli, pesto and parmesan. Stir until combined and the cheese has melted.

3. Southern Sweet Potatoes 

Sweet, salty and saucy—three reasons this sweet potato recipe has become a favorite. You could change up the sauce and make it Tex-Mex, Ranch, or any other flavor combo your heart desires.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 40–50 minutes
Serves: 2
Cost per serving: $3.50

Ingredients:

  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 rotisserie chicken breast
  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage
  • 1/3 cup barbecue sauce, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons sliced green onions

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Remove two of the breasts (or thighs, if preferred) from the rotisserie chicken. Chop into small pieces and set aside.
  3. Poke holes all over the sweet potatoes using a fork. Bake for 40–50 minutes on the baking sheet until tender.
  4. When just a few minutes remain on the sweet potatoes, add the cabbage to a medium skillet over medium heat. Add barbecue sauce and sauté for about three minutes, until soft.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and mix the chicken into the cabbage.
  6. Once the sweet potatoes have cooled, slice in half lengthwise and scoop out some of the flesh with a spoon until a small layer remains.
  7. Add the chicken and cabbage filling to the sweet potatoes, douse in more barbecue sauce and top with green onions.

4. 4-Ingredient Chicken Roast

This romantic dinner idea is so simple because it’s a one-sheet meal. You roast the chicken and potatoes in the oven together, and voilà! Serve it up with some crusty French bread and a glass of white wine.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Serves: 6
Cost per serving: $3.50

Ingredients:

  • 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped sage
  • 1 pound russet potatoes, cubed small
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Set chicken out for 20 minutes while the oven preheats.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the butter and 1 tablespoon of the sage. Spread the butter both under and over the chicken skin.
  3. In a bowl, toss remaining sage with potatoes, oil and salt.
  4. Spread potatoes on a baking sheet. Lay the chicken on top of the potatoes. Season chicken with salt and pepper.
  5. Place sheet with chicken and potatoes in the oven for 25 minutes. Remove and toss the potatoes. Increase the heat to 450 degrees F and cook again for another 15 minutes, until the chicken skin is golden brown and crisp.

5. Chicken Taquitos 

Mexican recipes will always make it into my list of romantic dinner ideas. Winston knows when he whips up anything Mexican, it makes me so happy. And this recipe hits the spot! You just put a little bit of each ingredient in the tortillas, roll 'em up, and bake or fry them. That's it!

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 5­­–6
Cost per serving: $3.00

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 3 cups shredded chicken
  • 1–2 minced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 12 7-inch flour or corn tortillas
  • shredded Mexican cheese

Toppings (optional):

  • Pico de Gallo
  • shredded lettuce
  • sliced avocado or guacamole
  • unflavored Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • fresh cilantro

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Toss the chicken and chipotle peppers in adobe sauce.
  3. Lay the tortillas flat and fill the bottom third of each tortilla with 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture and 1/4 cup of shredded cheese. Roll tightly and secure with a toothpick.
  4. Place the tortillas on the prepared baking sheet and lightly brush the filled tortillas with oil.
  5. Bake for 12–15 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.
  6. Remove the toothpicks and serve with your favorite toppings.

Romantic Dinner Activity Ideas 

Now that you’ve got some new dinner recipes to try, make your date even more romantic with these ideas:

6. Go On a Picnic 

A picnic can be as relaxed as a blanket in the backyard or as upscale as wine and cheese with a view. You can plan around a specific nature walk or sight in the city. It’s cheaper than a restaurant, it’s secluded, and you can enjoy getting away from it all. Sunset, you, your loved one . . . and chicken taquitos. Enough said.

7. Dream Together 

While you’re enjoying that picnic, take the opportunity to dream about the future. Research shows that couples in healthy marriages are twice as likely to discuss money dreams together. And couples who set money goals together are generally closer. Why? Because the trust they share tends to be much higher! So, look deep into each other’s eyes and ask, “What are our biggest money dreams?”

8. Be Tourists in Your Own Town

Have you lived in your city for a while and still never been to its most famous spots? A staycation is a fun way to get reacquainted with the place you call home. You can go take pictures with cheesy murals, explore new neighborhoods, or dive into your town’s history. Just Google “Free things to do in ____” and you may be surprised with the nearby entertainment just waiting to be discovered.

9. Relive Your Wedding Highlights 

When was the last time you looked at your wedding pictures and thought about the big day? I can’t think of a better occasion to reminisce about the past than when you’re purposefully connecting with your spouse on a date night. Dust off that album or scroll all the way back on your phone. This is a great chance to think about how far you’ve come and all of the things you’ve learned about each other (like your love language or Enneagram number!).

10. Go Out During Lunch and Save Triple 

I know I said this was all about romantic dinner ideas, but for this last one, I want you to go out for a lunch date instead. Hear me out: This idea will save you triple the money. First, you’ll save because if you have kids who are in school or daycare already, you don’t have to cough up the cash for a sitter. If you’re headed back to the office after lunch, you’ll skip the cocktail—another cost saved. And finally, the lunch menu is almost always cheaper than the dinner menu!

The Best Way to Get Started With Romantic Dinner Ideas

Now that you’ve got some romantic dinner ideas, it’s time to put date night on the calendar and in the budget. Winston and I budget every single month because it sets us up to win today, tomorrow and over the long haul. That’s why we use EveryDollar, my favorite budgeting app. Learn how to budget, track expenses, pay off debt, and so much more. And right now, you've got nothing to lose by starting a free trial! Start yours today.

Rachel Cruze

About the author

Rachel Cruze

Rachel Cruze is a two-time #1 national bestselling author, financial expert and host of The Rachel Cruze Show. She has appeared on Good Morning America, Today and Live With Kelly & Ryan, among others. Since 2010, Rachel has served at Ramsey Solutions, where she teaches people how to avoid debt, save money, budget and win with money at any stage in life. Learn More.

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