Johnston: Celebrate Valentine’s Day on a budget

Published 12:12 pm Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Most of us have celebrated Valentine’s Day in some form or fashion.

In elementary school, children make mailboxes and pass out Valentine cards with cartoon characters all over them.

I remember in middle and high school sending carnations and “candygrams” to friends and crushes with little notes attached (do they even still do that?).

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If you walk into any grocery store in February, you are sure to find a large variety of chocolate and candy, flowers and stuffed animals, all waiting to be purchased and given on this day.

But what is Valentine’s Day and why do we celebrate?

According to, there are several stories of the origin of Valentine’s Day.

The most common story told is that of St. Valentine who defied an emperor’s orders that all young men be prohibited from marrying. The emperor believed single men made better soldiers.

But Valentine disagreed and continued to perform marriages for young couples in love until Emperor Claudius II ordered he be put to death, hence becoming a martyr for love.

Want to know a few interesting facts about Valentine’s Day?

Why boxes of chocolates? The tradition of giving a box of candy was started in the 19th Century by a British man named Richard Cadbury, whose family manufactured chocolate.

His company established a new technique to create more varieties of chocolate so Cadbury used this as an opportunity to see chocolates as part of a Valentine’s celebration.

Candy hearts started out as lozenges. According to Food Business News, pharmacist and inventor Oliver Chase created a machine that created medical lozenges.

Chase’s brother came up with the idea to print messages on the candy in 1866, and in 1901, the candy started being produced in the shape of a heart. But don’t be looking for Sweethearts brand conversation hearts this Valentine’s Day, as the new owner of the brand (Spangler Candy Company) needed time to make a supply of the hearts so they suspended production this year.

Thousands of love letters addressed to “Juliet” are sent to Verona, Italy, each year. Verona is the setting of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”

There is a group, the Juliet Club, that has volunteers who answer all the letters that reach the city.

On Valentine’s Day each year, the club awards the “Dear Juliet” prize to the most touching love letter.

Here are some ideas for celebrating Valentine’s Day in a budget-friendly way:

— Make a card or music playlist instead of buying one. The personal time and effort will be remembered long after a store-bought item.

— Skip the roses. Florists increase the price on this traditional Valentine’s Day flower so choose a more seasonal bouquet or plant. Consider buying flowers at your local grocery store and hand-delivering them to your Valentine. The flowers will be less expensive and no delivery fee.

— Try celebrating Valentine’s Day on Feb. 15 or after. Flower and candy prices will be reduced significantly. After all, Valentine’s Day is just a dat — you could celebrate your love any day that works for your schedules, so get the same stuff for half the price.

— Celebrate at home. Instead of going out for an elaborate, expensive dinner, make a meal at home to share. A homemade meal not only saves money, it’s a nice way to show you care by making a favorite dish and sharing it with your Valentine. Create a special atmosphere indoors like a picnic or eating by candlelight.

— For your kiddos’ valentines, have them pick out which Valentines cards they would like to distribute next year and buy them when they are on sale after Valentines Day. It is also a good time to buy some up to donate to your child’s school for those friends who may not be able to buy their own.

And no celebration is complete without dessert, and for Valentine’s Day, the dessert has to be chocolate.

To give your sweetie a delicious dessert with heart-health promoting qualities, opt for dark chocolate. After all, February is heart health month.

Dark chocolate offers an intense chocolate experience along with flavonoids. Flavonoids help improve blood vessel function which is good for the heart.

Try this recipe for dark chocolate fondue, and enjoy your special day.

Shonda Johnston is the Clark County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. She can be reached at 859-744-4682 or by email at