If the only time you have to deal with Valentine's Day is today, on your way home from work, here is what to do.
Stop at a supermarket! If I had my choice of every market in Tucson and it were today or tomorrow after work, I would stop by Trader Joe's for their amazing array of prepared frozen entrees, and buy dinner for two.
Another really good alternative--tomorrow is better for this one, though--is to stop and buy one whole cooked chicken as the basis of your dinner. Barbecued, herb-roasted, Italian, it makes no difference. Then wander over to the deli section and pick out your side dishes.
Don't over-complicate Valentine's Day; mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese can be gussied up a little to make a lovely dinner. For instance, if you have cooked bacon in your refrigerator (or if you pick some up), you can crumble it and sprinkle it over the potatoes or macaroni and cheese. You can do the same with green onions and fresh-ground pepper.
While you are at it, get your dessert. Supermarkets carry very high-end cheesecakes these days, not to mention beautiful and expensive chocolates and even roses for your table. If it has been a long time since you prowled every aisle just to see what's there, plan to do it soon. Among the treasures that you will see are ready-to-serve salad greens and high-quality dressings to round out your dinner.
Home you go, then, and when you get there you can make dinner. When you are ready, plate your side dish (potatoes or macaroni) and then take a pair of kitchen shears to cut your chicken in half neatly. Lay a chicken half on each plate next to or atop the side dish and set it aside.
Make a salad plate and then set out the food and wine glasses while you build a pot of coffee to turn on later with dessert. Finish your table with the napkins, flowers and serving plates and you are ready. This doesn't have to be a high-stress situation.
Don't take an hour to stroll through the deli section on Valentine's Day after work; keep your shopping quick and easy through planning. Don't hesitate to make a quick decision (hey, curried rice!) and keep moving so that you get home soon enough for some relaxation, a quick shower or whatever you need to do in order to get ready for the evening.
By the time you serve an unhurried, serene dinner and turn on the coffee pot, you will have gained some confidence that you can--and did--put this evening together quickly and well. If you are trying to impress upon someone that you are a good bet as a partner who knows what to do, you will have done it. After that, who knows what can happen?
I had that particular experience with my husband when we moved from Guam to Tucson. Upon arriving, we had our car--we drove over from San Francisco--but our household goods were en route. So we went to Walmart up at First and Wetmore and I selected a skeleton assortment of essential tools and dishes and we took them home to set up.
When it was all over, I asked my husband what he thought. His reply made me stop and think--he said that he had learned a lot about me while observing me setting up housekeeping. We are still going strong fifteen years later.