1 Monthiversary In Belfast!

Hey friend!

The manic working of the last few days has died down and I can finally get back to the blog so of course I have writer's block! I have a list of about 15 or so blog ideas in my planner and not one of them is calling to me to be written today, typical! Although as we've just ticked over to September that means I've officially been living here a month, so perhaps a blog to celebrate that and also reflect on what's been going on over here is in order. :)

I guess the most obvious place to start is our living situation. We're still living with family friends while a lot of complicated back and forth goes on with the house, but we should have news by the end of the week there. Hopefully we're not being too disruptive, I'm doing my best to tidy around each day and minimise the chaos I usually cause working from home! While we're here we're just focusing on saving as much money as possible to get a nice buffer behind us and also doing as much as we can to be ready when we do move.

I'm still on a bit of a decluttering spree. Not on such a big scale, but being surrounded by our things certainly makes you realise how much of it you don't really use that often. Having cycled through mostly the same clothes for 2-3 weeks while my case was in storage I have a much better idea of what I do and don't wear. There's some stuff I really missed having, or clothes for special occasions that need to be kept, but some of my summer wardrobe didn't even make it out once this season and they'll be going to charity very soon!

Health wise things are slowly improving - I'm coming to the end of my steroids soon (just 3 weeks to go!) and their side effects are slowly wearing off. I have gained a bit of weight since starting them and my sleep has been quite disrupted, but both of those are getting more under control as the dose reduces. :) I'm generally in less pain and starting to get my energy back too, so yay!

As for living in Belfast, I'm loving it! We haven't had a chance to explore as much as I'd like yet, weekends always seem to get eaten up with errands or we're so tired we just want a chill day. But we have done a few walks in Hazelbank Park and visited Carrickfergus Castle which was cool. :) I'm getting on well with all of Chris's friends too so we spend evenings with them pretty frequently playing games. Yesterday was the first time I had a touch of homesickness really and it was more to do with not being able to pop round to see people than anything. Communication hasn't really changed since I got here - I still get to spam everyone daily on Facebook, haha!

Riggle is settling in well too. She loves her new cage, especially with all the different ladders and platforms for her to climb all over. She still spends all her time climbing onto the roof of her cage then back down again, I'm not really sure what she's hoping to achieve but it's fun to watch! I'm working on another Chronicles of Riggle post but she's tricky to get non-blurry pictures of...

We're off to Bristol for the weekend and I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone. Mum is away on holiday which sucks, but I'll be catching up with friends and most of the fam while I'm back. I'm excited to show Chris a little more of Bristol too, since I wasn't well enough to do much other than pack when he last came over. We'll be enjoying the Chilli Festival, going to one of my favourite restaurants and maybe some other bits and pieces too if there's time. :)

Then once we're back there'll definitely be more exploring to get done! We'll (hopefully) have an idea of when we'll be moving, plus Kassi will be visiting in a few weeks as a birthday treat so there'll be adventures there too. I had very few doubts before I moved over here (I currently can't think of any but there must have been some), but now I definitely have no regrets. I'm super happy here and once I can really indulge my homemaking side it can only get better!

So here's to Month Two in Belfast. I can't wait to see what it brings!

What did you get up to in August? Let me know in the comments!



Challenges of Working From Home


This is just gonna be a quick post to apologise for how quiet I've gone at the moment! Over the weekend we had two birthdays to celebrate with friends, then Christopher was ill on the bank holiday so there was little time left for blogging!

It might be a day or two longer until I get back on it - being the end of the month I have quite a few things to tie up in my business (invoicing, reporting, the usual admin-y minutiae!) and the guaranteed money has to trump the hopefully-one-day money right now.

Working from home while extremely convenient when you've just moved to a new country, also comes with its downsides. For example when you're living with other people and their days off don't coincide with yours... Chris was still meant to be working yesterday (he has to book bank holidays as actual holiday so we weren't gonna bother) but in the end he was home ill, along with the other people we live with who had the day off. It made for a fun, sociable day, but wasn't very conducive to the day of blog writing I had planned!

It's also difficult to stay focused when you have your home comforts around you. Why not just watch a quick episode of Pretty Little Liars on Netflix over lunch? Or get some tidying done to save time later? Personal admin can seem incredibly urgent when your work deadlines are far away too. I'm getting better at managing these things, but on a day when you're tired or feeling under the weather it's so easy to convince yourself to take a break!

Today I managed to get a good 4 hours of work done so I was very pleased with myself. Now if only I can repeat that tomorrow I should be back in blog writing mode by Thursday. All in time for a trip back to Bristol this weekend for Rachel's birthday and the Chilli Festival! :) You will definitely be getting a post all about that!

So until then my friend, have a wonderful week and don't get into too much mischief!



Making Meal Planning Easy: Recipe Spreadsheet


I have a little confession to make - on Tuesday we ditched the meal plan and had a Dominos. It was completely indulgent and did break the food budget we set for the month, but we've been so good at cooking every night and doing our best to stay healthy that a lazy meal just sounded too good to pass up. We did apply some sensible principles to the splurge though - it was Two for Tuesday meaning we got 2 pizzas each and lunch was sorted for the next day. Also upon seeing that his pizzas cost twice the price of mine Chris even swapped to getting gluten free pizzas himself, so it was under £15 for 4 pizzas. Not cheap, but not break the bank either.

Even though it was contrary to our budget, it did make me appreciate how our routine since moving over has helped us save a lot of money, time and hassle just by keeping us organised. It's only when you stop using something, even for a moment, that you realise just how useful it is! So I wanted to share with you just how we're planning our meals and keeping things on-budget.

Introducing our recipe spreadsheet..

It's a work-in-progress, but it's working well so far!

This is one tab of a much larger spreadsheet where we keep our entire lives organised. It contains everything from our meal plans and recipes to our monthly budget, upcoming travel plans to home maintenance tasks to keep on top of. Basically if there's something that needs to be planned or organised in our lives, it has a tab!

There are two tabs that relate to our meal planning - the one above that contains all of our favourite recipes and another where we plan our meals for the week and create our shopping lists. I say lists because even those are broken down further - regular shopping, a list for the market (there's a weekend market nearby that has some amazing food when we want to make something special!), and lists for pantry items, cleaning items and misc. At the moment we also have a furniture list, but that will go once we've finished furnishing the house (and no news there either I'm afraid).

It sounds a little extreme to be this organised, but with so much going on and such variation in my fatigue it has really helped me remember things that would otherwise be forgotten. We also keep this spreadsheet on Google Docs so that Chris and I both have access to it and can edit it from either laptops or our phones when we're on the go. It's been incredibly useful for coordinating when he's at work!

So how do you set up something like this? It's quite simple and quick to do if you already have some favourite recipes bookmarked but even if you don't it doesn't take long to put together.

The set up

First you'll need to decide on a spreadsheet programme - Google Docs is easiest to access from anywhere, but Excel or Sheets works too. Then set up the top row much the same as I have, with the following columns:

Recipe Name - This might be the name the recipe book/site gives it, or the name you've given it yourself.
Main Ingredient - By having this column you can quickly look up recipes with a specific ingredient if you have an excess of something to be used up.
Cooked On - Similarly, having this column makes it easy to see what equipment you'll need for a recipe. For example if you're going to be out for the day and want a simple meal waiting for you then sorting by slow cooker will be useful!
£/Portion - This is something we're interested in as if we like a recipe and it has a low cost per portion it's gonna fast become a family favourite! We're aiming to get most of our meals to £1/portion or less.
Rating - This is what you and other family members think of the recipe. If anything gets less than a 3 then just delete it - over time you'll want to be cultivating a spreadsheer full of low-cost 4s and 5s.
Notes/Changes - These are changes you make to the recipe - for example we use sweet potato instead of normal a lot, or switch out beef mince for pork. Or if you add extra seasoning, be sure to mention it here so you can make it the same next time.
Link - This is simply a link to the recipe online. You could also keep a note of which cookbook/page the recipe is on if you have a physical copy.

Filling it in

This can be done all at once or over time. I've been keeping a folder of bookmarked recipes on my laptop for a long time anyway so I went through those and copied across ones I knew we would use regularly. Then it's just a case of keeping it updated as you find new recipes you like or want to try. I'm thinking of adding a baking section as we've got quite a few recipes we want to try like Apple Granola Bars and Sweet Potato Muffins.

It's also a great excuse to discover new recipes if you have an excess of a particular ingredient or find something on sale at the shop. We usually use the weekend to make something a little more ambitious, so we'll pick something we have in the freezer and maybe a style of cooking and see what the internet has to offer us. Chris searches for recipes during downtime at work and this was how we ended up with an amazing Harissa Chicken recipe! :)

Using it

I'm planning to write a blog on meal planning sometime soon which will go into this a bit better, because it's one of my favourite ways to get organised and save money. There are so many little tricks you can use to cut down your food budget without losing out on amazing meals it definitely deserves it's own blog! But the beauty of this spreadsheet is in its' simplicity.

Need a chicken recipe? Sort by the main ingredient column and select one. Looking for something to throw in the slow cooker and go out for the day? Sort by the cooked on column. Budget looking a little tight this month? Pick all the lowest cost per portion recipes you've collected over time (if you've bothered with this one)!

The hardest part is getting into the habit of using it, but once you see how easy it is and how much faster it makes everything I'm convinced you'll be as sold as I am. :)

How do you keep your recipes in order? Or do you just wing it? Any you think I should add to the list? Let me know in the comments! I'm always looking for yummy new recipes to try, especially on weekends when we can put a little more effort in. :)



Homemade Hummus Recipe

Good Evening!

Sorry for the lack of a blog yesterday, I was feeling a little under the weather over the weekend and got a little behind on writing! It's the first one I've skipped after being back for 2 weeks though so I'm pretty pleased with myself. :)

Today I wanted to share with you a recipe we've been using over the last few days to make our own hummus! We've been going through 3-4 tubs a week since I moved over, dipping carrot sticks and apple slices (seriously, apple in lemon hummus is amazing) on an almost daily basis, so it was getting expensive. £1.80 for 2 from Tesco was easily approaching a £15/month habit! Having made hummus in the past I knew we could cut down on the price and have a much healthier product to boot so off to the shops I went.

For our first batch the plan was to keep it simple and go for a lemon and garlic hummus, plus I'd looked up a tahini recipe and decided to make our own there too as it would be even more cost effective.

Your shopping list will look like this:

1 Can Chickpeas
Tahini (or sesame seeds if you want to make your own)
1 Lemon
Olive Oil
Smoked Paprika (we added it at the end for some extra flavour)

The Recipe

If you're making your own tahini do that first as you'll need to wash the blender (we used one of the small chamber blenders as we're making small quantities at a time). Making it is really easy - toast the sesame seeds until they just start to brown, leave to cool and then blend with olive oil until it's a runny paste. It smells amazing!


1 Can Chickpeas
1-2 Cloves of Garlic (to taste, we used 2 tsp of Lazy Garlic)
2 tsp Tahini
1/2 Lemon (or more/less to taste)
3-4 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt (to taste)
Smoked Paprika (to taste)

1. Drain the chickpeas and keep the water to one side.
2. Add all the ingredients to the blender, including ~5 tablespoons of the chickpea water.
(Note: It might be easier to add the chickpeas half at a time if you're using a small blender.)
3. Blend until smooth, adjusting consistency by adding more olive oil or chickpea water if it's too thick.
4. Taste and adjust flavour with more lemon, garlic, salt or paprika as you like!

Our first batch was quite thick which worked well for carrot sticks but not so much as a side dish with cous cous (another thing we've loved doing!). We made a second batch yesterday using lime instead of lemon and without the paprika. We made it a lot thinner and it went absolutely perfectly with Walkers Sensations Moroccan Spice & Sweet Tomato crisps (I'm currently in love with these as they're on offer for 75p at Tesco!).

Another great way to save money is to save old shop-bought hummus pots and clean them so you have perfectly sized containers to put it in! Although this recipe makes enough to fill 1 and partially fill another so you'll want a few before starting.

I've not done the official sums yet as we're still adjusting the recipe each time and finding ways to make it even cheaper (for example next time we'll be buying a giant bag of sesame seeds from Amazon to cut down on per-batch cost). That said, I've estimated that each batch is costing us about 80-90p - almost the same as the Tesco hummus but we know exactly what went into it and we get about 1/3 more with the homemade recipe, so already worth it.

Once we've finished adjusting and finding the cheapest way to make it I think we can get it down to about 75p a batch - coming in at a much more reasonable £6/month for hummus. Happy Ami and happy bank balance. :)

Have you made hummus before? What recipes do you use? I'm always looking for new ones to try! :)



Creating Home Away From Home

Hello again!

By the time you read this I'll have been living in Ireland for almost 3 whole weeks which seems crazy! But despite having moved here with the plan to be in our new home within the first week, I'm still homeless in a philosophical sense, if not a physical one.

Since my last update things got a bit more complicated and it could now be anything from 1 to 4 weeks until we move in. In the meantime we're staying with very kind family friends who've let us move into the attic bedroom and donated use of their dining room/study as a lounge for us. Despite it being a difficult situation to be in, everyone I've met since moving has been so lovely - I've been made so welcome it's unbelievable.

But all the loveliness in the world can't take away the stress or awkwardness that arises from not having your own home, and here I'm more talking a place that you feel comfortable and can just relax. The house we're staying in is better than we could hope for as an in-between place to live, but we're still guests and no matter how lovely our hosts are I'm still conscious of not getting in the way or making mess etc. (That's a me thing - they've made it more than clear we're welcome and to use anything we need!)

At first it was quite distressing not knowing when I'd get a place of my own (again, a philosophical "home", not a place to stay), but once the dramatic side of me shut up for a moment I realised that it's exactly what I'll be signing up for when we go travelling so it's something I'd better prepare for! Plus if we're talking in a philosophical sense, can't home be anywhere you want it to be? Which leads me to today's blog post: creating home away from home. This is exactly what I've tried to do and so far it's done wonders for my stress levels, so I wanted to share some of my tips with you!

1. Mind matters

This is probably the most important step (and possibly the hardest) because if you don't get your head in the right place none of the others will work. I wanted somewhere I felt comfortable - like I could relax without having to worry about anything and eventually I realised that isn't location dependant. My ability to relax comes from me and my worries about other people, which is something I can (and am trying to) let go of. So first up decide what it is about home that you want - somewhere to relax, somewhere your belongings are? Somewhere you can talk to loved ones? Then you can go about creating that wherever you are.

2. Create your "Home" spot

Wherever you're staying you need to pick a spot to be home. It doesn't need to be big - for mine I've chosen the bedside table in our room. This amount of space could feasibly be found anywhere we stay - just a little square next to my pillow whether that's a bedside table in a room or a patch on the floor in a hostel/tent.

Pick items that either remind you of the home in your head (your childhood bedroom for example, or reminders of family and friends) or create the kind of home you're aiming for and have them in this space. Since my goal was a place to feel comfortable and relax I chose to purchase a plant and a candle and have them alongside a "New Home" card my sister gave us when I left England. It doesn't matter that the room, the bed or even the table aren't mine - those items are and that means I have a little place of my own. Plus it looks super cute and tidy in a slightly chaotic room (we're surrounded by boxes and bags of our stuff right now) so it can be calming to see when you walk in.

The plant is called Steve.

3. Time to relax

There's no point creating home if you're not spending any time there. Even if it's only 5 minutes, spend some time in your spot (or next to it might be more appropriate..) and just relax. Whether it's reading, talking to a family member or friend, listening to music... whatever it is that made you want a 'home' in the first place. Today I wasn't feeling my best so I lit the candle (vanilla btw, yum!) and spent an hour reading. I still don't feel great, but it left me feeling a little more relaxed and able to take on my tasks for the day. :)

4. Get into a routine

Most people associate routines with getting up and ready for work or weekend plans, but routine can apply just as much when you're travelling around the world or moving a number of times in a short space of time. This regularity can really help with your sense of home and belonging so it's important to create one, just make sure it's flexible enough to suit your changing situation.

For example mine is to wake up and spend 15-20 minutes cuddling/snoozing with Chris before the day gets busy. Then he goes off to the shower while I head downstairs and prepare breakfast. We eat together and then he leaves for work, leaving me to take my medication and plan my day out. Altogether it takes about an hour and even though it's incredibly simple, it sets me in a good mood for the day.

5. Keep it simple and tidy

The beauty of a having a home spot is in its simplicity - just a few items can make anywhere feel like home, so it's counterproductive if you then let it get messy. Don't go overboard on items and turn it into a shrine either, as that's difficult to recreate in any environment. A quick tidy up could even be part of your daily routine - even though it's not a conscious thing, I grab any rubbish, glasses etc. from the bedside table before I head downstairs each morning.

I found this image just hours after writing this blog!

Being without a physical home isn't always easy, but it doesn't need to be as stressful as I first made it. After all - home is where the heart is! What does 'home' mean to you? Is it a place with all your stuff, somewhere you can relax? What do you do to make your space feel like home? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!



Top Tips For Decluttering Before A Move


Hopefully by the time this blog goes out we'll be in our new home and I'll have some more interesting updates for you (update since writing this: we're not in our new home.. more on that in this blog), but as I'm writing it's moving day for Chris's mum and I've found myself a quiet corner to get some work done. The good news is we've got a place to stay for the next few days with internet so I should be able to prepare things a little more before I disappear to the land of no net!

One of the biggest considerations I had once I'd decided to move to Belfast was how to get my stuff here. I knew I was bringing the car with me so I would be able to bring some stuff along with me, but would it all fit? Would I have to ship some of my stuff? How much would that cost? After a mental run-through of everything(ish) that I owned I decided that if it didn't fit in the car, it wasn't coming. Not only would it prove far too expensive to ship (we're talking between £1-200 just for a small pallet of things), I was convinced that a significant portion of my belongings were just filler. I wasn't using them or getting any lasting value from owning them, so why was I storing them?

Over the course of about 3 months I systematically went through all of my possessions (seriously, all of them) and sorted them into the following categories: bin (this was stuff that just wasn't good enough to be passed on in any way), sell (things that had a rough value of more than a few pounds), charity (things good enough for re-use that would be tricky to sell) and keep. The keep pile was then sorted into must come to Belfast, would like to come and could probably wait until someone visits.

I estimate I got rid of about 60% of my possessions in some manner, as what took us multiple trips in multiple cars to move out of the flat took me just one (very full) car to transport to Ireland. But getting rid of anything you own can be tough - it doesn't matter if it's clutter, at some point you decided that you wanted it in your life so letting go of it can be tricky. There were some things I threw away with no remorse and others really tugged at my heart strings before I set them aside. So today I wanted to share with you my top tips for decluttering!

1. Set yourself some rules and categories

Before you even pick up the first item, decide what your goals are. If you have a very limited amount of space (the back of your car?) you'll need to be more strict than if this is just a space-clearing exercise for a new home. Set up your categories (along with keep/sell etc. you could also have a re-gifting pile, or a pile for things that you 'acquired' from friends with the intent to give them back...years ago!) and then set some simple rules to go with them. Examples could be getting rid of anything you haven't used in a year, items that you could easily borrow or rent (eg. DVDs), or setting a limit on how many 'skinny clothes' you can keep (because you really might fit back into them one day!). If you are the kind of person who will actually mend things instead of putting them back in a cupboard for months you can also make a pile of things to fix, but be really honest with yourself on this one or you might just be throwing it out in 6 months..

2. Have back up

Have a close friend or family member with you when you're doing this and let them know all the categories and rules you've set. Pick someone who can be supportive through the process, but also remind you of your rules when you stumble across that sparkly top from 8 years ago that didn't even really fit at the time.. This isn't an opportunity to reminisce though, so don't pick someone who will get stuck down memory lane with you.

3. Set up your space before you start

Have some boxes prepared in advance labelled with each of your categories. This will allow you to keep everything organised and by labelling them your "keep" pile isn't going to accidentally end up in a charity shop. It has a secondary benefit of letting your companion put things in boxes while you do the decision making so they're not sitting around bored. Yay for teamwork!

4. Break it up

Don't try to do it all in a day, or even work through an entire room in a day, unless you really have to. Decluttering is a draining process so pace yourself and break your possessions down into logical groups to sort through; room by room or by item type (clothes, kitchenware, memories box etc.). I had a giant clearing session early on when I moved out, followed by another sorting session about 3-4 weeks later, and a final push in the last 2-3 weeks before the move. I knew when I was getting overwhelmed and needed a break because I'd start getting snappy with my partner (try not to do this!) or I'd feel the beginnings of a migraine. Know your limits and make a plan beforehand so you don't overdo it.

5. The decision making itself

Hopefully by preparing as much as possible before you even look at your possessions this bit should come a lot easier. You know your rules, you know where you're going to put items as you sort, now it's just time to do it. Key things to remember here are; you're not there to reminisce, if you find something you want to talk about or look through set it aside for a later date or during a break time. No one is forcing you to do this! When you get to a tricky item to get rid of it can help to remember that you've chosen to do this for your own peace of mind and space. Remember all the positive benefits you'll get from this extra space rather than the negative of not having the item anymore. You don't use things half as often as you think - borrowing is a legitimate option in a lot of cases.

6. Have a plan for where it's going after

The keep and bin piles are obvious, but where is everything else going when you're done? And how frequently will you deal with it? If you have set a number of sessions aside to sort through everything there could be days or even weeks between them where items can easily sneak back into your cupboards. Out of sight is out of mind and that's exactly what we want here! Know which charity shop is getting your stuff and take it there immediately (or as soon as is realistic). Plan sorting sessions before a car boot sale or a day off when you can list everything you want to sell online. You might need to do this a number of times, but it'll be well worth the extra effort when you see all the space you have after!

I was really lucky that a family friend enjoys selling stuff on Facebook in her free time and was willing to sell my things for me, so I made a giant (and I mean really, super giant) pile of bags and boxes that went over to her one weekend. As far as I know she's still going and has already made £40 from my stuff! If you know someone who sells online already ask them if they'd be willing to split the money with you in exchange for doing the work (after all, it was just going to sit in your cupboard anyway!).

7. If things get tough..

Take a deep breath and think about why you're getting upset. Do you really want to keep the item in question, or does it have an attachment that isn't healthy for you? Many people hold on to things because of a memory or feeling attached to the item rather than the item itself (think of souvenirs from other peoples' holidays) and it's not always good for you. If you're struggling, try to work through the cause of your emotion rather than avoiding it altogether. One solution could be to take a picture of the item, write the memory on the back and keep that instead.

If you're still getting upset or start to get overwhelmed then stop immediately. This isn't an exercise to traumatise you at the thought of getting rid of your things, it's a clearing process that will be good for you mentally and energetically in the long run. It'd be counter intuitive if you hated every second of it! Take a break, do something completely unrelated and come back to it when you're fresh and ready to start again.

8. Don't let things slip

Once you've gone through everything and each category has found its' new home it can be tempting to treat yourself to a few new things. You've got all this new space (and if you sell some things some extra cash too) so it couldn't hurt, right? Stop! It's best to adopt a "one in, one out" rule or something similar at this stage - for every new item that comes into the house another has to be donated or sold in its place. Otherwise in 6 months or a year you'll be back to square one and need to go through this all over again, only this time the things you kept in round one will still have valid reasons for staying and you've only just parted with your cash on the new items so you'll be loathe to throw them away.

The only exception to this rule is what we've had to do, and that's anything you need for the new house that you can't borrow or source some other way. We currently have an entire garage full of stuff for the new house - from cookware to bedding - but not all of it is new. We've been lucky that Chris's mum donated her sofa and a few other bits and pieces when she moved, along with anything I could fit in the car with me (I somehow managed to bring along my slow cooker, blender, tagine and a new knife block from my Nan in amongst my many belongings). As for the rest, we've gone for budget items on anything that was essential but not worth splashing out on and saved the majority of our furniture budget for things we'll get the most value out of the extra cash for. Since we're creatures of comfort at heart this has mostly consisted of extra fluffy towels and comfy bedding. Are you surprised?

Those are my top tips for decluttering, but what are yours? How do you cope when it's time to pare down your possessions? I'd love to hear in the comments below, especially as I still feel like I need to own less stuff! (I don't know where this minimalism drive is coming from but it better go away soon or I'll have nothing left!)

Have a fab day!



Date Night On A Budget: A Month Of Dates For £25 Or Less

Hey there friend!

I'm really getting into the swing of this blogging thing again and I'm loving it! Yesterday I spent an afternoon in the sunshine brainstorming ideas, so now I just need to flesh them out a bit and get writing. :) I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

As this is month one of living together Chris and I have set a pretty tight budget (to allow for extra moving costs etc) and our date budget is no exception. We put a total of £25 to last the month, which isn't even a meal for two at a restaurant half the time, but you know I love a challenge!

Why is this relevant you might ask? Well, last night Chris and I went on our first date night since I moved over! Things have been so busy with moving, along with still working and all the other normal life things lately that we just haven't had time until now. So I was delighted when I got a message through the day to say we would be going to see Suicide Squad that night.

(No spoilers, don't worry! But if you haven't seen it I would really recommend it. It's getting a lot of bad rep from people who read the comics, and if you're a comic fan you might be disappointed, but if like me you're only vaguely aware of the original storylines then you'll definitely enjoy it.)

With such a small budget for the month I was a little concerned that this might also be our only date, after all I've been used to paying £9.30 a ticket in Bristol! Luckily tickets are only £6.50 here, but that's still not cheap. This got me thinking about different ways to stretch the budget without losing any of the fun or romance of a date. 

Here are 4 ideas for keeping date night on a budget - I've gone for a budget version and a 'splash out' version, so you can choose which dates to splash a little extra on!

Movie Night

I absolutely love cuddling up and watching a film, whether it's with friends, family or a partner, so movie nights are a must on this list for me!

Budget Version: Grab your favourite DVDs, a blanket and some snacks and cuddle up in front of the TV. If you're feeling extra fancy you can light some candles or even a fire if you have one! Cost: £2.37 (Based on a bag of microwave popcorn and a 1.75L bottle of coke from Tesco.)

Splash Out: The cinema doesn't need to be expensive if you plan ahead. Aim for off peak viewing times, grab snacks at the shop before you go and things can be pretty reasonable. We bought 2 500ml bottles of Pepsi and 2 bags of Magic Stars (I don't share chocolate well) for £3.98 and paid £13 for our tickets (we couldn't go off peak due to work). Cost: £16.98 (obviously this will vary based on cinema prices)

Personally I'll take the budget version 9/10 times unless there's something I really want to see, like Suicide Squad (totes worth imo!). It's cosy, cost effective and even better - when the movie is over you're already cuddled up under a blanket so nap time is go! (Anyone else get really sleepy after films? Just me?)


Picnics can be as cheap or expensive as you like by making food at home or picking up pre-made convenience foods from the shop. Here I've gone for roughly the same menu but one you'll buy ingredients for and the other will be shop bought. This menu is based on the picnic lunch we had in the garden today, keeping it current. :D

Budget Version: Sweet chilli tuna rolls (2 each), carrot sticks (2 carrots), apple slices (2 apples), houmous (1 pot of plain organic houmous) and cheese cubes (from a bigger block). Plus water or squash to drink. Cost: £3.30

Splash Out: Tuna & cucumber sandwich (1 each), carrot batons (1 bag), apple snack pack (1 each), houmous (1 pot of plain organic houmous) and cheese slices. Plus a bottle of Oasis each to drink. Cost: £10.40

Again, I'd take the budget version any day, but sometimes you don't have time for making things at home or the tupperware needed to transport your homemade goodies so a combination of the two can be useful!

Going For A Walk

Some nice weather and a pretty spot is all you really need for this date, and even then only if you're a fair-weather walker! There are some beautiful parks around Belfast and I can't wait to make the most of the good weather we're having. :)

Budget Version: Walk out of your front door, wander around and see what views you can find! You'll be surprised by some of the pretty spots around your area if you start looking. Cost: Free!

Splash Out: Most parks, beaches, trails etc are free, but you could always combine this idea with a picnic or drive somewhere a little further afield for some nice scenery. On a recent trip before I moved here we visited the Giant's Causeway which was beautiful and had a little picnic on the beach. Using the entry fee for that as an example... Cost: £18 (includes tickets and parking)

Meal For Two

Good food and good conversation go hand in hand when it comes to date night, so sharing a meal is a great choice when you're trying to keep to a budget. Chris and I love cooking together so we don't often go out for food, but it can be done on a budget when you want to go that extra mile! :)

Budget Version: Cooking at home can be so much fun when you leave your comfort zone and put a little planning in. We absolutely love researching recipes, giving them our own twist and then bringing them to life in the kitchen. We're already developing favourites after 2 weeks and coming up with ways to make them even better! Our current favourite is Pork Ragu with pasta, so using that as an example with a bottle of fruity wine... Cost: £8.12 (bonus, this recipe actually serves 4 so you get leftovers! Cost per serving is £1.04)

Splash Out: You could still eat at home but buy something like the Tesco Finest offer: 1 main, 1 side, 1 dessert and a drink, if you didn't want the effort of cooking at home. Cost: £10

Go Out: I did promise you could get a meal at a restaurant for under £25, so here's how. Head to a restaurant at lunchtime instead of during their peak hours and many will offer a lunchtime deal. For example we went to Chiquito for lunch on one of my visits and it was quiet, the service was extra attentive and we still had the afternoon to explore. Cost: At Chiquito you can get 2 main meals, 2 soft drinks and share a dessert for £22.95 (or if you're greedy and want a dessert each it'll put you over budget slightly at £26.70...).

Feasibly you could do all of the budget versions of these dates in a month and only have to pay £13.79, leaving plenty of budget to pick one and splash out a little (or squeeze more dates in!) for a special night. We've already been to the cinema and we're planning a picnic if the weather stays nice by the weekend. I'm looking forward to coming up with more budget ideas for next month too! :)

What are your top tips for dates on a budget? Anything I've missed or something you could make better with a little more thought? Let me know in the comments!


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