I promised I would deliver cheap date ideas for those of you looking for love while on a budget, and I am a woman of my word.
But rather than give you a half-baked listicle (does anyone really need 643 date ideas?!), I’m giving you the all-time greatest, affordable date idea of all time.
In our guide to impressing a woman on a date I said thoughtful planning is one of the biggest green flags you can show a woman.
Well, good news. This date idea shows you’re thoughtful and fun, while keeping you on budget. Not only is it an affordable date option, it’s also interactive! And it allows you to spend time outdoors, which is great both for covid era-dating reasons.
May I introduce you to: the grocery store date.
The first time I went on a grocery store date, I was in college. College lends itself to low-cost dates, but I’m a fan to this day.
It was a sweltering summer day, I was starving, and so we decided to stop by the local grocery store and each buy items for the other person to try.
I went with my all time favorite salty-sweet snack: Fluff and pretzels. He picked up some kind of vegetable chip if I’m remembering correctly.
We took them to a little outdoor picnic table and snacked and chatted, and despite looking back on the whole situation and realizing I deserved a man who thought I was worth actually paying for said-Fluff and pretzels, it remains a really fond and romantic memory.
And you don’t have to take it from me – a recent styling client went on a second date to a Korean grocery store and then to the park to eat Pocky and play badminton (he had brought a set, pro move!) and needless to say, it was such a success will be more dates to come.
He told his stylist that perusing the market and talking about what to buy provided a great opportunity for conversation!
It’s been almost ten years since my first grocery date and I’ve zeroed in on a couple of critical elements to get right.
There are also variables to take into account depending on the person you’re dating, the region you’re in, the weather, etc.
So let’s break down the perfect cheap date idea, the grocery store date.
Avoid big chain grocery stores.
This is critical.
You’re aiming for artisan cheesemonger hole in the wall store-vibes, not Wal-Mart.
One of the best parts of this date is the actual trip to the grocery store. There is something about mimicking the domestic bliss of food shopping together while you’re still in the dating phase of a relationship that is both erotic and tender.
After all, food shopping together is something that – if things go well – you will one day do together as a couple.
Taking that intimacy and translating it into the context of a date is romantic, whimsical, and also super practical.
But it can easily go sideways if you pick the wrong place.
So, opt for smaller, local markets that have some character, and support small businesses to boot!
Of course local farmers markets are great, but they’re also pretty obvious and maybe even a little cliched!
If you live in a city with a Chinatown, Little Italy, or other neighborhood densely populated with a community that’s maintained its cultural roots, see if they have grocery stores where you two can try new food together.
And sure, these markets might be a little pricier than your average retailer, but they’ll still be a more budget-friendly date idea than going out to a restaurant.
And this should go without saying but when you get to the register? Pay the bill for both of you!
Plan where you’ll go next
Once you’ve acquired your exotic munchies, you’ll want to sit down to eat and chat.
A couple of key things to consider when picking a place to get settled: proximity to the grocery store, amenities, and safety.
It should be close enough that you can walk, or take a quick Uber or drive.
Try to pick somewhere that has tables or seating already available or be sure to think ahead and throw a picnic blanket in your car or bag.
Pick somewhere that is user-friendly. Meaning: don’t pick a state park that you have to hike a mile to a flat surface. Don’t pick a beach where you have to navigate through a bunch of tic-filled sand dunes to get to a clearing.
Chances are she’s going to be wearing something she feels her best in and unless you’ve agreed that you want this to also be a date that requires physical exertion, she will not want to get blisters just arriving at your picnic destination.
You also don’t want to pick somewhere too remote – this will give, and I mean this in the nicest possible way: serial killer vibes.
Pick a beach or park that is in a well populated area where there will be other people around; this also will make for great people watching, another critical aspect of this date (and every date.)
Finally, consider amenities: parks and beaches with public bathrooms are the best place for these kind of dates. Or, ones that are close enough to retail areas or restaurants that she can pop in somewhere when she inevitably has to pee.
This will require some reconnaissance work on your part. The day you bring her to this park or beach should not, under any circumstances, be your first time there.
Scope out the scene beforehand so you know everything from the parking to the layout of the area.
You absolutely need somewhere to sit.
No picnic tables at the park? make sure to bring chairs or at the very least a blanket. If you’re trying to get a woman to like you, you want to make sure that she won’t feel like there are ants crawling in her sundress the whole date.
You can pack something active – like a badminton set, croquet, a frisbee – if you think she’d be up for it. Something that requires minimal or no set up, and that you can play together.
If she’s more of a lounge around type of gal (hi, it’s me!), bring low-key activities to keep you two occupied while you’re relaxing, like a deck of cards.
You might not end up using them, but if you find yourself with a lull in conversation? Boom, problem solved.
What to wear on a budget-friendly date
This is definitely a more casual date – no suit and ties for a grocery store run and a picnic.
Still, you want to look your best and appropriate for the occasion.
Shop the outfit:
We love a knit polo; think about it like the cool brother to the golf shirt. This one from Abercrombie is both affordable and super stylish.
A nice linen collarless shirt, like this from Charles Tyrwhitt one is also a great option if you’d prefer something slightly more tailored.
Shop the outfit:
If there’s ever a date to break out your best shorts, a grocery store-slash-picnic date is it.
Of course, that shirt would look equally stylish with a pair of pants if it’s getting chilly where you live. Just swap the slip-on sneakers for a pair of boots. Our team loves a Wallabee boot right now.
Looking for date outfit ideas to wear that are personalized to you?
Well we’ve got you covered there too – sign up for a Wardrobe Refresh with one of our stylists and we’ll put together the perfect go-to date outfit!
To PDA or not to PDA in Public?
This is obviously something you should consider in general, but picnic-y dates especially prevent a very specific opportunity for PDA.
As someone who’s not super into it, I would be freaked out if a date went in for a makeout with me in full view of a bunch of people out for their midday jog.
Thankfully, there are ways to turn the heat up on your picnic date that are both sexy and won’t get you arrested for public indecency.
Try leaning in mid-conversation and asking go give your date a kiss. It’s something straight out of a romance novel, and if the mood strikes, I absolutely endorse this move.