[SHOPPING] Beat the bag tax

plastic bags

From tomorrow, in England, you’ll have to pay 5p for a carrier bag, whatever you’re buying. Previously in England, some stores charged for bags for food shopping but this wasn’t law, now it will be, for every single shop.

So we’ve put together our five favourite canvas shoppers from the high street to save you 5p – they all mount up! Just make sure to remember to put one in your bag every time you head for the shops.

beat the bag tax

  1. This geo print shopper from Next will go with everything.
  2. How about a snake print canvas shopper from River Island? And for just £2!
  3. This pineapple print tote via New Look is a steal for less than £2!
  4. Cath Kidston’s fold away shopper is practical and cute.
  5. Finally, we love this retro owl print bag from Accessorize.

Will you be beating the 5p bag tax tomorrow?

[HOW TO] Pack A Capsule Wardrobe For A Weekend Away

full suitcase

I’m off to Lisbon tomorrow for my hubby’s birthday. We’re heading away for a long weekend. I’m trying (after over-packing for honeymoon) to pack as light as possible, so while thinking about what I’ll be throwing in, I figured I’d share my idea of a capsule wardrobe for a weekend city break (this covers a 5-6 day trip). It might look long but believe me I’ve packed more and fitted it into a carry-on size case!

holiday capsule wardrobe

  1. Oversized shirt – doubles as a cover-up on the beach and something slightly warmer in the evenings
  2. 2x vests – what more do you need for daytime wear on holiday than shorts and a vest?
  3. Denim jacket – a cool cover-up for evenings and travelling
  4. 2x day-to-night dresses – gives you a different option for city break days and takes you through to the evening
  5. 2x pairs of sandals – one for walking (I always take my Birkenstocks) and another for evening
  6. Trainers – for travelling
  7. Shorts – denim shorts are the most versatile
  8. Jumper – for cooler evenings

What do you pack for a weekend away? Do you choose to pack light or throw everything you own in?

[HOW TO] Get Ready In 20 Minutes In The Morning

alarm clock

We’re not early risers here at Sugar & Spice, so we like to think we’re experts when it comes to getting ready quickly in the mornings. If you’re also a fan of lie ins and staying in bed for as long as possible, even on “school” days, these ten tips for getting ready in under 20 minutes are for you:

  1. Forget washing your hair, you don’t have time. Instead keep some tried and trusted Batiste Dry Shampoo on your dressing table for these occasions. Spritz all over your hair and leave while you jump into the shower… You should only have used a minute or two for this. (I’ll be honest – I never wash my hair in the mornings anymore, I instead wash the night before if I need to.)
  2. Quickly jump in the shower. This should take no more than two or three minutes without the hassle of washing your hair.
  3. Brush out the dry shampoo. This is important; otherwise you may look like you are greying! Another minute.
  4. Pin your hair up. A simple ponytail is probably most sensible as it will take the least amount of time and will look smart. If you’re like me with short hair that can’t be thrown up into a fail-safe ponytail, a little prep is required (hence, my washing the night before!). This will take another two minutes.
  5. Brush your teeth. Very important but also very easy to forget when in a hurry. Spend two minutes on this!
  6. Underwear. Make sure it’s the nicest underwear you have. It’ll instantly make you feel better.
  7. Know your standby outfit. Think about it. You must have a go-to outfit for all of those times when everything else doesn’t look right. Whether it’s a little black dress (in my case) or a simple trouser and shirt combo, today is the day to fall back on this. If you don’t know what yours is, think about it now. You don’t have time to think about it the morning you over sleep! And if you do know exactly which outfit I mean, it shouldn’t take you five minutes max to grab it and chuck it on.
  8. Make up. You don’t have time for a full face. So combine tasks. Keep a tinted moisturiser to hand for mornings such as these, that way you’re killing two birds with one stone. Laura Mercier’s Tinted Moistuiser is just the thing.
  9. Curl baby, curl. Curl your eyelashes. With no time for both eye shadow and mascara, I always go for lashings of dark mascara. I think it makes me look so much more awake. V important on mornings where I have overslept!
  10. Blusher. Make sure you put some blusher on, you don’t want to look washed out this morning. Five minutes to get your face on and you’re ready to go!

Are you an organised early riser? Or do you like to lie in and then rush around trying to get ready on time?

[HOW TO] Create a bedroom you’ll love

pinterest home inspiration board

I hate decorating. Painting is so messy and the prep alone is such a pain. But I do love the end results.

We just repainted our bedroom. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos of the tired yellowing peachy walls – complete with holes! But, believe me, it was not pretty – and certainly not somewhere we wanted to spend any time.

Now, though, it is a haven to retreat to.

The decoration process started, as most processes do these days, with a Pinterest board! I love the whole simplistic minimalistic Scandi decor of white washed walls and white washed bare floorboards.

Working with what we had (dark red carpets which we can’t afford to change right now), we set about doing everything we could to make it as Scandi as possible.

We went for cream walls. We did white walls in an old house and they looked quite cold and uninviting in the winter, so we went for a slightly off white shade – Dulux’s Natural Calico.

I’ve changed our bed linen too – for all white – white pillow cases, white duvet covers, white sheets – it looks cleaner and kind of hotel-esque.

white ikea bedding

The room is quite small (with a fair amount of furniture) so we wanted to keep the wall decoration as simple as possible. One of the things I kept seeing on Pinterest, was a picture rail above the bed. With an impending trip to Ikea, I grabbed one and we added it to the wall.

bedroom redecoration

We already knew we wanted to use the letters that my sister made for us for our wedding in the bedroom and the rail was a great way to display these. I didn’t want to add too many different colours to the display as we were trying to ensure everything else was light and simple, so I picked out the yellow and blue and used a couple of photos from our wedding and a holiday snap of a blue Fiat 500!

For the rest, I’m trying really hard not to clutter up my bedside table too much!

Is your bedroom a place to hide out in or a place you’d rather hide from?

[HOW TO] Travel on a budget part 2

fly away on holiday

Last week we talked about ways to save money on getting to your holiday and on where to stay, this week it’s all about how to save money once you arrive.

  • If you’ve chosen self-catering, one of the easiest ways to save the pennies is to eat in. We try to eat in once of twice a week (depending on how long we’re away for) so that we can afford even better meals when we do go out.
  • Eating in doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your meals. We’ve found lovely (and cheap) take out pizza places in Italy and grabbed a few beers to go with them. In Sorrento we bought olives and a bottle of prosecco from the local supermarket and enjoyed aperitif hour on our balcony – complete with a view of the sea.

prosecco on the balcony

  • Whether you’re self-catering or in a hotel, buy bottled water from the local supermarket. Don’t buy bottles of water from tourist trap shops – or the mini bar! You’ll find it for pence in the supermarket and can then take a bottle with you for days out.
  • Check out free walking tours. A lot of European cities offer free walking tours. We’ve found them in a number of holiday destinations, including Seville, Copenhagen and Naples. They’re a great way to find your feet and get some local inside tips. We found a couple of great places to eat on these tours that we would never have found without the advice.
  • Walking will save you money on transport but will also mean that you see even more of the place you’re visiting. Sure, you’ll find you need to use public transport for some parts of your trip but for the most part, you should be able to take your time and soak in the atmosphere and sights of where you’re staying. Just remember to pack some comfortable shoes!
  • Do your research before you go. This will save you loads. Check out how to get from the airport before you arrive. You’ll likely be tired and keen to get to your accommodation when you arrive at the airport, so if you’ve not done your research, you’re far more likely to take the easiest route, which will also likely be the most expensive. If in doubt, if you’re self-catering, you can usually ask the owner of the place you’re staying for their advice.
  • If you’re planning on using public transport and visiting the sights, it might be worth getting a tourist card. A lot of cities have tourist cards these days which offer free or reduced entry to museums and sights, as well as travel options too.
  • Check out local blogs for tips before you travel. I’ve found some great places by checking out local blogs and sites before heading off on our hols – a few of my favourites are Mad About Copenhagen, Lisbon Lux and a new one (closer to home) The CDF.

What are your tips for travelling on a budget? Any hot reading tips? Favourite travel blogs or websites?

[HOW TO] Travel on a budget part 1

travel tips

We’ve been asked a few times now by readers for some general travel tips and we thought that it was time to share what we’ve learnt of over a decade of travelling on a budget. The first part will cover travel and accommodation:

Save on flight and accommodation prices

  • Being flexible is always going to help make the pennies go further, for flights and accommodation. You’ll also likely save by booking each part of your trip separately. We tend to book our flights and accommodation ourselves, at different times and through different sites. We use skyscanner to search for routes and cheap lines and then go directly through the airline’s website.
  • An extra tip for saving a few pennies is using your Sainsbury’s Nectar points for money off Easyjet flights and converting your Tesco clubcard points for Avios points for use on BA and other airlines.
  • These days my husband and I prefer to choose a self-catered apartment where possible as it gives us more space and flexibility for our money. We’ve trialled a few sites now that offer apartments for great prices:

Air Bnb – we used for visiting Amsterdam for my sister running hehalf marathon and in Edinburgh for her running her first marathon! I think a lot of people think that you stay with the owners/hosts when using Air Bnb but this isn’t always the case. If this isn’t your bag (it wasn’t ours) then just search for “the entire home”. This is the view from the bedroom of our Edinburgh apartment – looking out up to the castle:

edinburgh air bnb apartment

HomeAway – we used HomeAway for finding our apartments for our honeymoon in Naples and Sorrento – they were both wonderful. Both apartments had balconies and views of the sea:

honeaway italy apartments

Owners Direct – we have used for many, many trips, including Lucca, Seville, Palma (photo below) and Barcelona. Each apartment has been fairly priced and always with everything you need for a place of your own:

owners direct palma apartment

All Copenhagen Apartments – this is one we’ve used for our last two trips to Copenhagen and found them to be very bargainous and always very spacious – except for the bathrooms! But I think this is a Copenhagen thing – just don’t expect a luxury bathroom!

Save on baggage charges

Once you’ve saved on your flight costs, there are a few ways to save further on your baggage costs:

  • Choose hand luggage and pack light! How many times do you go away and end up wearing only half of what you pack? Every time, right? So only pack half what you would normally and you’ll easily fit it all into your hand luggage sized suitcase! This is particularly true if you’re only going for a long weekend but also as true for a longer period. We always choose self catering (see below) and always choose a place with a washing machine so that we can put a load on if we’re running low on clean clothes!
  • Toiletries always seem to take up a lot of room and are often too big for hand luggage restrictions. You have a few options to save space – buy at the airport or when you arrive at your destination. If you don’t want to be bothered with buying when you arrive on holiday, Boots have set up their click and collect service which allows holiday makers to order online before they go and pick up after security at the airport. Of course, the other option is to pack mini versions of your everyday toiletries. Most brands now produce minis of their best selling products, even No7 have just launched their Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Travel Kit (launched today).
  • The alternative is to choose an airline that includes baggage in the ticket prices rather than as an expensive add on. We recently flew with SAS airlines for a trip to Copenhagen and their prices include your checked in baggage – and their prices were less than the “cheap” airlines options.
  • Or if you are flying with a budget airline and your travelling with friends or family, you could share the cost of one checked in bag and fill that with toiletries and other heavy things like shoes. I’ve done this with friends and my husband for previous trips and it’s worked out cheaper and easier.

Next week we’ll be sharing our top tips for saving money while you’re away.

What are your top tips for holidaying on a budget?

[HOW TO] Home Cooking


I love cooking. But I’m not a very adventurous cook. I think, like many people who work fulltime, I tend to stick to the same tried and tested recipes most nights, out of convenience rather than anything else. So I recently decided to set myself the task of trying out a new recipe every weekend that I’m home – which is probably about once a month in reality. Most of these are main dishes which can then be added into the weekly rotation. I thought I would share a few of my favourites:

  1. Chicken Sauternes with tarragon and pea and lemon rice. This was a very decadent but delicious meal and surprisingly easy. I’ve actually only made this once but I keep intending to make it again. The recipe if from Lorraine Pascale’s How To Be a Better Cook. I really love Lorraine Pascale’s cookbooks – the recipes sometimes look a little daunting and long but actually they just explain every step really clearly and are so easy to follow.
  2. Lasagne. I can’t really believe that I hadn’t made this until recently. I make Bolognese a lot but only recently decided to venture beyond. My recipe (for the béchamel really) is from another Lorraine Pascale book: Home Cooking Made Easy. I still stick to my own tried and tested Bolognese recipe – in fact I usually make this for us a meal one night and save half for a lasagne later in the week. The leftovers make great packed lunches if you have a microwave for reheating.
  3. Courgette and green bean salad. This salad also from Lorraine Pascale’s  How To Be A Better Cook. It makes a lovely spring/summer lunch and is very light and refreshing.
  4. Meringues. I love meringues and always remember my mum making these for summer desserts when we were little. When we went to a dinner party at a friend’s house for New Year, we offered to take dessert – and then panicked!! But I borrowed the recipe from my mum (from a very old Sainsbury’s dessert recipe book) and they were so simple. Made them again for the same friends for dinner last weekend too!
  5. Red pesto. This is a recipe by the other much talked about food/chef bloggers of the year, Hemsley + Hemsley. I got their cookbook for Christmas. This recipe is actually from their website and is easy peasy. I throw everything into my Nutribullet and it’s ready to go.
  6. Lamb rogan josh. This is another recipe from How To Be a Better Cook and is so good. I’m a fan of curry recipes that use the spices to make a paste and this one tastes really authentic (I got the balti serving dishes in the photo above in Aldi!).
  7. Veggie chilli. I had the much talked about Deliciously Ella cookbook for my birthday and I love this recipe. The grated carrot creates a deliciously sweet alternative to the mince and I skip the kidney beans, just adding the black beans which are kinder on the stomach. An added bonus is using the Le Cruset dish we got for our wedding!
  8. Hummus. Another Deliciously Ella recipe. Not really a meal as such but a great healthy snack option for the office. Again, I make this in my Nutribullet and it always works.

If you want to see what I’m cooking up in my kitchen, make sure to follow the blog on Instagram @sugarandspicesg