Don’t let your relationship go into hibernation just because it’s too cold out, or because you’ve resolved to spend less money (and eat fewer calories) at restaurants. Date night in can be just as romantic, special, and delicious, says Ashley Rodriguez, creator of the blog Not Without Salt. In her new cookbook Date Night In, which is full of meals for two to make at home, she explains how the weekly ritual nourishes a relationship with her husband and gives her the opportunity to experiment in the kitchen. Plus, she says cooking at home lets you control what’s on your plate. Here, her top tips for an at-home date.
Put It On the Calendar
If you made reservations for dinner, you probably wouldn’t cancel because you got busy at work or felt tired. So treat your date night in with the same respect, says Rodriguez. “See it as something sacred.”
Choose Food That Excites You
You’ve got six other nights a week to eat your old standbys. So pick a recipe that you can’t wait to try—it’ll make cooking feel more fun and less like work. Rodriguez has tons of ideas on her blog and in her book, or check out these Date Night Dishes Guaranteed to Impress.
Prep in Advance—and for the Future
If you know you won’t have tons of time before your date, eliminate some of the prep work the day before or before you leave for work. Something as simple as shaking up a salad dressing in advance can take off some of the pressure, says Rodriguez. And make sure your hard work keeps working for you—whip up extras so you’ll have leftovers! Many of the recipes in her book will give you a cooking break for a few days.
Create a Special Environment
A table full of clutter or an unswept floor will remind you of chores, not romance. Candles aren’t always a necessity (although they’re nice!) but at least try and clear the space and set the table. Rodriguez’s husband sets up a playlist and shakes up a cocktail each week to help set the mood.
Dress Up (at Least a Little)
If you were going out, you probably wouldn’t leave your PJs on. The same goes for eating in, says Rodriguez. A cute top or a swipe of lipstick can go a long way toward enhancing the feel of the evening. It also helps remind you that even though you’re at home, you’re on a date! Check out this Makeup Tutorial for a Day to Night Look for some ideas.