Taking your sweetie out for romantic date can be challenging, stressful and expensive. But it definitely doesn’t have to be.


Be a bit creative and have some fun with ingredients from the grocery store instead of squeezing into a fancy, overpriced restaurant. Your holiday together will be more memorable and easier on the planet, too.


Here are a few fun date ideas you can use on Valentine's Day, or any day really:


Outdoors adventure: Take your date outside for some heart-pounding winter hiking or ice skating. This is a date that will require a bit of planning so that you both can make sure you have enough layers to keep you warm (always bring extra socks).


The key to making a winter outdoor date fun is food or beverages. Bring along a thermos of hot soup to share, or if it’s an evening date, a hot toddy (they’re easy to make).  When you’re warm and cozy together, the beauty of the natural world will add all the extra romance you could want. But maybe bring a blanket to share, too.


Dinner at Chez You: What could be lower-impact (and more romantic), than preparing a homemade feast for your loved one? The key here is the transformation of your home into the most exclusive private restaurant, which means clearing out any clutter (at least from the room where dinner will be eaten), the addition of flowers on the table and low light (if you have dimmers) or candles. No need to break the bank; even a few small blooms arranged in a low vase, and one small unscented soy candle turns a table into a mini world for two.


And think simple, healthy and locally sourced for the dinner; fresh pasta with a light sauce, garlic bread and a simply dressed salad make a great, easy meal that pairs perfectly with wine (and don’t forget dessert. Chocolate is always a romantic treat, but fresh berries with whipped cream requires no prep and never fails).


Head out to a movie: Sometimes simple is best, and time alone at a feel-good movie that leaves you both with warm fuzzies will fit the bill. Check out Drew Barrymore’s latest, “Big Miracle,” about the true story of the 1988 endeavor to save three grey whales trapped off the Alaska coast. It debuts on Feb. 3, and has romance, laughs, and some very sweet whales (and whale-loving people). Bring your own organic popcorn with butter and sea salt and some fresh iced green tea with honey and skip the theatre’s unhealthy options. Don’t forget to hold hands like you did when you first started dating, and consider a moonlit walk post-movie before you head home.


Host your own wine tasting: If you enjoy drinking wine, why not team up with one or two other couples you genuinely like, and spend Valentine’s Day together? Tuning into a specific sense, like taste and smell, is always a sensual experience.


Each couple should bring two bottles of wine (set a price point for the bottles, like $12, so that nobody feels the need to spend a lot), and the party host can provide cheese, crackers and fruit to accompany the wine. Choose a couple of organic bottles of vino and look for local-ish vintages. Vermont makes great fruit wines if you live on the East Coast and French, Spanish, Italian and German wines are more eco-friendly than Californian if you live on the Eastern seaboard. Those West of the Rockies are greenest when they stick to wines from California, Oregon and Washington state.  Mix up the varieties of each wine (you can assign this in advance, or just give general guidelines and see what people come up with), set out some nice glasses, and enjoy some oenophile conversation with friends – give each couple a notepad and a pen to record their thoughts about each wine for fun.


Get tropical with a fruit feast: The depths of winter are a time when many couples get away to sunny isles, but if a winter vacation’s not in the cards for you this year, fake it ‘til you make it (and boast a lower carbon footprint while you’re at it).


Head to the supermarket and gather up some tropical fruits like pineapple, mango, starfruit, papaya, and coconut. Bring them home and make a fruit salad, blend them into a sunny beverage (if you add rum, we won’t tell), or skewer them up and roast them over the kitchen stove or on the grill. What makes this fun is attacking the fruit together as a couple – feel free to feed each other the taste of the Caribbean as you chop, and relish the smells and textures of each yummy fruit. Accompany your fruity session with Hawaiian ukelele music (you can set a Pandora station for one) and a platter for two of grilled, marinated shrimp (look for sustainably harvested varieties) or tofu.  


Got other fun date ideas? Leave us a note in the comments below.