6 Non-Commercial Ways to Spend Valentine’s Day With Someone and Actually Enjoy it

Hand carved spoons

Not only can Valentine’s Day get expensive, sometimes it feels like “buying in” to what often feels like a greeting card holiday ignores what actually makes relationships work: being present, being honest, and making quality time for each other.

So why not skip the hectic dinner out, avoid paying $20 to see a sappy movie that probably just reinforces unhealthy myths about love and relationships, skip any plastic junk that’ll just end up in a landfill, avoid the high-fructose corn syrup, and lower your overall carbon footprint? Really, there are actual relationship-reinforcing, downright pleasant ways to spend your time.

Cook a meal together

Ask any professional in the restaurant industry (except maybe a restaurant owner) and they will try to deter you from eating out on Valentine’s Day. Not only is food over-priced, but staff is often encouraged to turn tables over quickly, meaning you shouldn’t expect to sit and savor your expensive meal. Instead of fighting the restaurant masses, why not opt for cooking a meal together? Pick a recipe together that you haven’t cooked before (this is important, you’ll want an even playing field), do a little research and buy the perfect wine to pair with your selection, and spend some time getting creative in the kitchen together. Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, and Epicurious all have suggestions for romantic recipes for two. Whether it’s stilton and pear gnocchi or burnt butter oysters, pick a recipe that’s a little interactive and time consuming, so you really have to work together, and work with your hands.

Take an aimless walk together

Some of the greatest minds in history were avid walkers, Henry David Thoreau, Virginia Woolfe, George Orwell, Wordsworth all believed that aimlessly walking through the world helped facilitate creative thought. And many studies show that it does just that. “There is something about the pace of walking and the pace of thinking that goes together. Walking requires a certain amount of attention but it leaves great parts of the time open to thinking. I do believe once you get the blood flowing through the brain it does start working more creatively,” says Geoff Nicholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking. So why not put away Google maps, pack a thermos of something festive, grab your partner’s hand, and get a little lost, together?

Read aloud to each other

The evidence that reading aloud benefits children, ESL students and even (sort of) dogs is boundless, but could it be good for partnership? Behavioural expert Judi James told the Daily Mail: ‘The lack of brain-effort required to produce a response [when being read to] is in itself relaxing, while the softer and more intimate tones used while reading out loud is both seductive and relaxing.’ There is an intimacy in reading aloud, that could be ideal for a Valentine’s Day setting. So pick up a classic romantic novel, short story, poem, or even travel guide, and engage your imagination, together.

Plan a couple’s craft night

Instead of paying to see whatever vaguely Valentine’s Day themed movie is in theaters, why not spend some time bonding and getting creative at home? More and more research has been surfacing on the health benefits of crafting, so finding a way to incorporate this therapeutic activity into a date night, might be an exciting and romantic bonding experience. You could lay out paper, paints, markers and just let loose, or you could print out coloring book versions of pictures from your year and spend some time coloring and discussing happy memories. Or try learning a new skill together: a set of matching carved wooden spoons could be the perfect souvenir from a Valentine’s Day well-spent.

Write each other love letters

Spend some time sitting next to each other writing good old fashioned love letters. It won’t only make your partner happy, it will help remind you why you’ve chosen to be with them. Need a little inspiration? Check out these quotes from the Love Letter Hall of Fame.

Rethink how you’re giving flowers

Buying flowers on Valentine’s Day isn’t just a rip off, it’s pretty bad for the environment. But there’s no need to say goodbye to your beloved blooms, instead consider some more sustainable floral options. Give your partner a subscription to a flower CSA, where you’ll receive monthly bouquets made out of whatever is blooming on the local farm that offers the service. If a bouquet is the only option, look up a sustainable local florist on Slow Flowers, a nationwide online directory to sustainable florists, shops, and studios who design with American-grown flowers. Or, for those of you in it for the long haul, consider giving the gift of future flowers by gifting your partner a pretty packet of seeds.