On a budget? Seven cheap but romantic date ideas

Hey guys!

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Photo by Lea Khreiss on Unsplash

So, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, we’re getting a little bit romantic today on A Little Mad Smith. First off, I have to apologise to all of you who are already sick of Valentine’s Day! I have to be honest, I’m not much of a Valentine’s Day person myself; I was one of the kids who never received a Valentine’s card while I was at school,  meanwhile some of the other girls were receiving teddybears and chocolates in abundance. Safe to say it put me off the celebration somewhat- we’ve all been there, right? 

Skip to the present day, and I still don’t eagerly mark the 14th Feb on the calendar in gleeful anticipation; but one thing that I certainly do enjoy doing is going on dates with my boyfriend Jason. Hence today’s post!

But before we begin, a little disclaimer! These date ideas are more aimed at couples who have been dating for a while rather than those wishing to woo that special someone. I’m not one to speak for others, but your Valentine might not enjoy spending your first date cycling!

BUUUTTT today is for those of you for who are all loved up and looking forward to spending some oh so important quality time with your partner this Valentine’s Day. Today I bring you my favourite cheap date ideas, for those who want a little romance without breaking the bank!

Cycling Date– One of my favourite days spent with Jason was about three and a half years ago, on the day we finished our GCSEs. We decided to go out for the LONGEST bike ride ever! It was bloody exhausting, but great fun. Neither of us really cycle much in our day to day lives- it’d been a few years since I’d last rode a bicycle before Jason and I decided to go out for a ride!- but it made a lovely change to our usual routine. If you’re lucky enough to be living somewhere warmer than ‘freezing your you-know-whats off’ this Valentine’s Day, why not pack some sandwiches and sweet treats in your backpack, have a cycle down to a local park and enjoy a mini picnic! Great exercise and great fun.

Indoor picnic– This is probably one of the most romantic things I’ve done for Jason, he’s usually the romantic one (he’s gonna kill me for saying that). To mark three years of us dating, I decided to lay out an indoor picnic in my living room to surprise him when he came round for lunch. I laid out blankets and lots of cushions, brought out my record player and the picnic baskets, and put on a load of good food. I also made some of his favourite coffee cakes. Wanting to up the romance a bit? Go all out with candles and rose petals. Put on an array of their favourite treats and have a romantic song playing when they walk in; wayyyy cheaper than a meal out, and way more intimate.

Go for a walk!– I know, I KNOW, this is so obvious. But you’d be surprised at how nice a walk just the two of you can be, especially while its chilly out. Enjoy each other’s company without getting distracted by phones and the buzz of everyday life, before coming home to a warm drink and lots of blankets! Who doesn’t love getting cosy after you’ve had your fingers fall off from frostbite? At least that would be the case with the current weather we’re having in Lancaster.

Iceskating– If you’re lucky enough to live near an ice rink like I am, then iceskating makes a really great date idea! Great fun, cheap entry and good exercise! All the while it gives you an excuse to cling on to each other for dear life- win win win win, right? 

Go to watch a little known singer or band– As some of you may know, I live near Manchester in England. This means that there are an absolute shedload of up-and-coming artists who perform at venues throughout the city all year round. Jason and I recently went to see Nina Nesbitt, with our tickets costing £12 each. I know it isn’t THE cheapest date idea, but its always a great night out for music lovers. Plus the fact the artist is up-and-coming means that the performance is likely to be in small, intimate venues, making for a great atmosphere. Don’t forget, Ed Sheeran started by gigging in pubs and small venues, so you could be watching the next big thing!

Museums and Art Galleries– If you and your SO have a shared interest for a particular artist or period in history, museums and galleries make a great date idea! Plus the best part is that they’re usually free to enter! Jason and I have visited a good few museums and galleries in our time, as we both enjoy that sort of thing, and it’s great to learn new and interesting facts together.

Movie night in– An oldie but a goodie. Who doesn’t love buying loads of junk food and sitting down to watch a film together in the comfort of your own home? Jason and I are movie addicts; we love going to the cinema to watch new releases- that’s actually what we did for our first ever date! But when money’s a bit tight, there’s few things better than stocking up on microwaveable popcorn, dimming the lights and enjoying watching a classic Rom-com.

That’s all from me today guys! I hope some of you found this post helpful and no one hates me too much for writing about Valentine’s Day! Back to normal next week- no more of this lovey dovey stuff. 

What’s your favourite date activity? Will you be celebrating Valentine’s Day this year? 

Let me know in the comments!

Best wishes to you all,

Maddie x

Making Beeswax Soap- Review and How To!

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Hello you lovely people! How are we today?
Today’s post is all about my first experience of beeswax soap making! As some of you may remember, for my birthday back in September I did a HUGE Hobbycraft haul, returning home with innumerable crafting goodies, supplies and kits that I was just dying to try out. One of those kits was this Kirstie Allsopp Beeswax Soap making kit.

Soap making is one of the few popular crafts that I hadn’t tried out prior to purchasing this kit, and I was super excited to give it a go and see how it turned out. There were a couple of other soap making kits available at Hobbycraft during my visit, but I loved the luxurious vibe of this one, thanks to the beeswax.

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So how did I find it? 

This kit retails for £10, and contains enough ingredients to make four square soaps. You also get a mould for your soap, an instruction booklet with some background information on the process of soap making, and an inspiration booklet.

This kit uses a Melt and Pour base to make the soap. This means the process is super easy, and all you have to do is melt the base, add your preferred fragrance and colour, before pouring into your moulds. Your soap will be ready to use after just a few hours of setting time. This makes the kit great for novice soap makers, like me, and great as a gift for young adults too.

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The process was super easy and I was really pleased with the result. I began my soap making endeavour by melting my beeswax pellets in a double boiler and setting it to one side. Once I had done this, I melted the soap base in the double boiler before adding the beeswax.

I then removed my mixture from the heat and stirred it thoroughly, before adding a few drops of fragrance. Then all I had to do was pour the mixture into the provided mould and allow my soap to cool over night!

I loved the look of the finished soap, and actually ended up wrapping some up to gift to friends over Christmas. Also, the fragrance provided with this kit smells divine- it’s a wonderful sweet honey scent.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed making this soap, and I think this kit would make a great gift for the crafters in your life who are wanting to try something new.

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Do I think it’s worth the money? 

I do think this kit is worth the £10 I paid for it. I had great fun making the soap and it does make a wonderful homemade gift for friends and family.

I probably wouldn’t repurchase this kit, but I would definitely purchase the soap making ingredients individually. I usually find with trying out new crafts its always better to start out with a kit and then purchase your ingredients separately from there on; it normally makes things cheaper in the long run, and prevents you from repurchasing unnecessary instruction booklets and moulds.

That’s all from me today folks! I hope you’re all having a wonderful January, best wishes to you all! 

Love as always,

Maddie x

5 Top Tips to save money and stay healthy on a student budget

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Hi all! Seeing as it’s a new year and all that, I thought I’d do something a bit different for today’s post. So, who’s been making New Year’s resolutions? I’m one of those people who only makes resolutions that I can keep, to save me from being disappointed in myself when it gets into February and I find myself surrounded by empty chocolate wrappers even though I swore I’d cut out chocolate this year- we’ve all been there. Last year my resolution was to start a regular home yoga practise, a resolution that I’m very proud to say I managed to keep! I now practise yoga daily. My only resolution for this year is to drink more water, something that I know I really should be paying more attention to.

I’m pretty sure that one of the most common new year’s resolutions is to be healthier, whether it be eat better or start a regular exercise routine. Another popular choice seems to be save more money! So today’s blog post is bringing you a little combination of the two- how to eat healthily and save money!

As some of you will know I am currently a second year student at Lancaster University, England, studying Theoretical Physics with Mathematics. Following moving out of my family home for the first time and learning to look after myself, I’ve come to know a few tips and tricks that have enabled me to really save my pennies when it counts. I also like to eat a well balanced diet, so I’ve gotten used to shopping in a manner that allows me to make plenty of healthy meals whilst saving my money.

I’ve put together my top 5 tips that I have learnt during my time as a student that have allowed me to make my money go further, whilst also maintaining a healthy and well balanced diet. Enjoy!

Meal plan! This is without doubt the most important thing I could tell you about budgeting. Weekly meal planning has saved me so much money over the past year, as it ensures I won’t go hungry while keeping waste to an absolute minimum. I will not buy anything unless I know I will definitely be using it for a meal that week. Make a plan, write your list and stick to it. Meal planning also means that you can concentrate on making meals which all use the same basic ingredients, and also ensuring that you will be eating a wide variety of healthy foods over the week ahead! Almost everything I cook will feature the same basic ingredients, whether it be a curry, chilli, risotto or quiche. I purposely buy veg that I know will work well together and in a variety of different recipes, such as onion, red pepper and mushrooms to name a few. Cook with the same kind of oil all the time to save you buying several, whether it be vegetable oil or olive oil. Purchase a few carefully chosen spices that are good all rounders, such as black pepper and mixed herbs. These will allow you to add favour to your dishes without requiring a full spice cupbpard to store them in!

Buy veg individually and focus on carbs Purchasing your vegetables individually will keep costs low. Buying just one or two carrots every week as opposed to a pack will mean that less food is wasted and also less money. I do this will all my vegetables, and usually only pay a few pence per item. You’ll already know exactly how many of each vegetable you will need thanks to your meal plan, so stick to it and don’t get carried away buying 3 for 2 cauliflowers when you know you’re only going to eat one. Opting for veg instead of fruit is also a great way of eating your five a day whilst on a budget; it’s cheaper and can be used to make several different dishes. Focusing on carbs such as rice and pasta is also a good way of maintaining a healthy diet while on a student budget. You can purchase a kilo bag of pasta for just a few quid, and it will be a great foundation for so many meal possibilities! The same goes for rice; open up your mind to curries, chilli and risotto, all using the same main vegetables, of course.

Learn the lifetimes of your groceries This is something that you will get to grips with within your first two weeks of moving away, though you probably won’t have given it much thought before. Think about it, if you live in a house with four people and you all drink milk, you’ve probably never seen that milk go off before, seeing as you all drink it daily. But if you go and buy yourself a 4 pint of milk just for you, you’re probably not going to drink it all before it sours. The same goes for your eggs, fruit, veg and meat. Learn the lifetime of your food! Once you know how long things will last, you can evaluate if its worth you buying 12 eggs or 6, and if its really worth buying a full pack of bacon just for you.

Make in bulk I have to be honest with you, I don’t freeze food. I wish I was more confident with that, but it’s just not something I’ve ever done. I do still, however, make food in bulk. Cooking for just yourself is strange, you’re dealing with much smaller portion sizes that will probably only require, like, a quarter of a pepper or something. I make things like veggie chilli and pasta salad and keep these in the fridge in tupperware for about three days. This means that I can still use full vegetables when I cook, and it gives me some really quick and easy no-cook meals later on in the week! To avoid getting bored of eating chilli three nights in a row, I’ll mix it up by serving it with rice one day, sweet potato another day and maybe tacos on the third day. But, of course, if you don’t fancy eating that much of the same thing and you’re comfortable freezing your food, by all means, go for it!

Buy the cheaper brands– OK, so I know this is probably not the piece of advice that you wanted to hear. You like your Heinz tomato ketchup and your Kellogg’s cornflakes, I get it. But cutting down costs does means that you have to make some sacrifices. I’m not saying you have to give up everything; decide which brands you cannot live with out and which ones you’re open to change with. I don’t like cheap baked beans as much as Heinz baked beans, so I still buy Heinz. But I purchase the supermarket’s own brand of bolognese sauce and honey. Making these decisions and being open to trying new brands really will cut down your weekly spending.

There you have it guys, my top 5 tips to help you save money and live healthily on a low budget. Going from living at home to managing your own finances at university can be challenging, and daunting for some, but with these top tips I guarantee that things will be a little easier.

So remember: implement your meal plan and stick to it, don’t buy perishable items in bulk, learn the lifetimes of your groceries, make large batches of food for the fridge or freezer, and be open to making sacrifices.

I hope that you’ve found this helpful, whether you be a student or simply looking for a way to cut down your weekly spending!

If you would like any more advice on food shopping on a low budget, or anything else for student life, please get in touch in the comments! You can also check out my other post on student life, Packing for university, here

Best wishes to you all,

Maddie x

Homemade Chocolate Bark- a super easy gift idea!

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Hello you lovely people! How are we doing? I’m feeling full of festive cheer and excitement today, as my parents are coming to pick me up from university tomorrow and bring me home for Christmas! I am soooo excited to go back home and spend time with my family and friends; this whole festive period is my favourite time of year, and I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather celebrate it other than back in my home town.

When this post goes up, I’ll be out enjoying an early Christmas dinner here in Lancaster with some friends from my course at university. Seeing as few of us get the chance to see each other over the holidays, it’s really nice to be able to celebrate Christmas early together.

As a little ‘thank you’ to my friends for all the good times we’ve had in 2017, I decided to make some small individual treat bags for each of them, filled with some homemade chocolate bark.

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This chocolate bark was so easy to make, and I think it turned out looking really cute! I especially love the freeze dried raspberry pieces on the white chocolate bark- I love the flash of red it adds! I decided to keep it pretty simple with flavourings with this chocolate bark, seeing as there was going to be nine guests for Christmas dinner and I wanted something that everyone would enjoy.

In the end, I opted for a milk chocolate bark with fudge pieces, mini marshmallows and golden sugar stars to keep it seasonal, and a white chocolate bark with freeze-dried raspberry and fudge. I drizzled both with some melted dark chocolate to make it look super classy 😉

I think this would make a great gift idea for work colleagues, or to take to a dinner party! I popped some pieces of bark in clear plastic bags, and finished them off with some ribbon. All in all, making the bark took well under ten minutes (excluding cooling time of course!) and I think it turned out looking great. Fancy making your own? Find my method below!

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Ingredients:

  • Chocolate! The amount depends on the amount of chocolate bark you wish to make. I used a 200g bar of milk chocolate and a 200g bar of white chocolate. This made sufficient bark for eight people.
  • Toppings! I used freeze dried raspberries, fudge pieces, golden stars and mini marshmallows, but use whatever you fancy! I definitely want to try making me more with peanut butter next time!
  • Chocolate in contrasting colour for drizzling (optional).

Method:

  1. Line two baking trays with kitchen foil. (One for milk chocolate, one for white).
  2. Break your chocolate into two microwavable bowls. Pop each bowl in the microwave for one and a half minutes, take out and stir your chocolate, before putting it back in for another minute. Repeat this as necessary until the chocolate is melted.
  3. Pour your chocolate onto your baking trays, slowly. This stops the chocolate from spreading out too much and keeps your bark thick. If your chocolate doesn’t spread out as much as you’d like on its own, smooth it out with the back of a spoon.
  4. Add your toppings! Sprinkle on whatever you fancy. You could optionally drizzle some melted chocolate in another colour over the top of your toppings like I did for extra style points.
  5. Pop your baking trays in the fridge for a couple of hours or until the chocolate is set.
  6. Remove your bark from the baking tray and break into pieces ready for serving. Ta da!

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I love how quick and easy this recipe is (if you can even call it a recipe!), and it’s so easily adaptable too! Mix it up by adding nuts or dried fruit, or maybe your favourite toffees on the top!

I hope you enjoyed this post guys, and I hope you’re all having wonderful weeks! What have you been making recently? Let me know in the comments! 

As always, best wishes to each and every one of you,

Maddie x