I’m going to be honest with you all, I didn’t expect the article I wrote on the Best Date Night Foods to work so well at getting me dates. Now I’ve blown a bunch of money on first dates, and I really wasn’t equipped for this. I’ve had to resort to scheduling two first dates a night, and all those trips to the grocery store are starting to add up. Thanks to the Sporked‘s taste tests, I’ve found seven items that help me stretch my budget while still creating a meal to remember. Let me tell you about my secret weapons for serving up a wallet-friendly fancy date night dinner!
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- Bubba Burgers Angus Beef
Frozen burger patties were my go-to move in college when my fraternity bought them in bulk, so you can trust me to know my way around these bad boys. Sporked wasn’t around when I was in college, so I’ve now upgraded from US Foods’ generic burger patties to Bubba Burgers Angus Beef patties. To elevate the burger even further, I’d pair these with a homemade brioche bun and, on managing editor Gwynedd Stuart’s recommendation, “grilled onions, a good blue cheese, peppery arugula, and something sweet like fig jam.”
- Vigo Red Beans & Rice
These dates are adding up fast, but I’m taking notes from senior writer Jordan Myrick, who ranked the best store bought cajun rice dishes and found the best red beans and rice in the process. Rice and beans are the ultimate cheap and filling dish, but these don’t feel cheap. As Jordan noted, you don’t need to add a single thing to this to make a great dinner. I love to over deliver, though, so I’ll add some andouille and a side of buttered French bread (thanks for the tip, Jordan!) and serve it at a candlelit table. I’m always a sucker for buying more of something to lower the price per item, so I’ve already bought a 12 pack of these. Now I need some help eating them!
- Betty Crocker Creamy Butter Mashed Potatoes
Saving money on one item to splurge on another is the name of the game and the winner of that game is Betty Crocker’s Creamy Butter instant mashed potatoes. At a dollar a packet, I’m clearing the shelves of these! When the Sporked team went searching for the best instant mashed potatoes, these completely blew the competition out of the water. According to Gwynedd these are packed with flavor and don’t need any additional seasoning. Pair them with a show stopping main course like steak or salmon and no one will suspect you didn’t make your mashers fresh.
- Green Giant Simply Steam Creamed Spinach Sauced
I used to buy a lot of spinach when I stupidly thought the secret to finding love was losing weight. All along the secret was just writing unhinged articles on the internet to find women who’ll fall for me! Fresh spinach can skyrocket the total at the register and when you add in the fact that I’d have to cream it myself to serve for dinner, forget about it! Editor-in-chief Justine Sterling enjoyed the creaminess and savory flavor this pre-made frozen creamed spinach brought to the table. No one will suspect they should actually be dating the Jolly Green Giant.
- Bertolli D’Italia Marinara Sauce
Beggars can’t be choosers, I whisper to myself as I douse our pasta dinner with this affordable sauce from Bertolli. See, this didn’t take the top spot in Sporked‘s ranking of the best marinara sauces, but I’m simply not in a eating-Rao’s-with-every-meal tax bracket—sorry, ladies! All the same, this sauce is solid. Contributor Danny Palumbo praised it for including both tomato juice and tomato paste, the later of which brings out a certain sweetness in the sauce. Add some fresh basil and oregano, and you can take this sauce from good to great.
- Celentano Cheese Ravioli
Powerful enough to replace Jordan’s Wellbutrin, there’s nothing cheap about Celentano’s cheese ravioli besides the price. Jordan said it best: “Celentano’s cheese ravioli is absolutely sensational. The filling is herby and creamy. The dough is the perfect thickness. The ravioli are huge. You could eat these totally plain and be satisfied.” I’ll be pairing this with Bertolli d’Italia and a loaf of frozen garlic bread, so we can stay fed while we save up for that romantic trip to Italy.
- Great Value Chocolate Ice Cream
“Basic, totally inoffensive, and highly affordable.” You might think these were the words my ex used to describe me, but, in fact, this is how Gywnedd described Great Value’s chocolate ice cream in her roundup of the best chocolate ice cream! I’ve saved money on ice cream by getting a gallon pail of chocolate ice cream for under six bucks, and that extra money went towards stocking up on toppings. Sprinkles, caramel, Oreos, Smucker’s Unicorn Magic Shell; you name it, I’ve got it. What’s fancier than me bringing the full ice cream shop experience to you?!