Valentine’s Day Doesn’t Have to Break the Bank

Valentines Day

February is here. The groundhog emerged last Sunday and saw his shadow, which means we’re in for 6 more weeks of winter. It also means that Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching. Did you know that the average person plans to spend $133.91 on Valentine’s Day gifts?  That’s a lot of flowers, dinner reservations, and heart-shaped boxes of chocolate!


These are all nice gifts, but it’s still possible to have a memorable Valentine’s Day without breaking the bank. Why not stay in and make a special dessert, instead of fighting for a seat at a fancy restaurant? You’ll have more time to enjoy each other’s company, plus it will save you money.


Remember, you can use your FNS/SNAP benefits to purchase most food items – including all the ingredients used in this delicious chocolate fondue recipe.


The recipe includes only five ingredients, and you’ll likely have most items in your kitchen already. The main ingredients are chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk, which you can pick up for roughly $4.00 at the grocery store. *


Fondue is a fun dessert because you can get creative with the foods to dip in the chocolate. Strawberries, bananas, pound cake, pretzels, and marshmallows just a few favorites. The options are endless, so if you’re not careful, you can end up spending more money than anticipated on the dipping items.


Follow these tips to help keep your chocolate fondue within budget.

1. Eat before you go to the grocery store.  Everything looks delicious when you are hungry.

2. Purchase items that are on special. Many fruits and snacks will taste great dipped in chocolate, so choose your ingredients based on the sale items in your grocery store.

3. Don’t fill your cart. Keep things simple by purchasing a few dipping ingredients.

4. Look in your pantry. You may have items on hand that you can use, such as canned pineapple, apples, cookies, or dried apricots.


You can find many chocolate fondue recipes online, but this one is from


Chocolate Fondue

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 (14 ounce) can Sweetened Condensed Milk (NOT evaporated milk)

2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract



  1. In heavy saucepan, over medium heat, melt chocolate chips and butter with sweetened condensed milk and water. Cook and stir constantly until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add vanilla.
  2. Serve warm as a fruit and cookie/cracker dipping sauce or drizzle over ice cream or cake. Store leftovers covered in refrigerator.



* Cost estimate based on February 2014 prices at Food Lion in Raleigh, NC.

– Chocolate chips – $1.99

– Sweetened condensed milk – 1.89

References: Suddendorf, T. & Busby, J. (2005).  Making decisions with the future in mind: Developmental and comparative identification of mental time travel.  Learning and Motivation, 36(2), 110-125.  Available at: