As coronavirus cases in the UK have been increasing the government has implemented a three-tier lockdown system across areas with higher infection rates, such as Liverpool and Lancashire.
For those in long-distance relationships, or who do not live together, the endless months of lockdown earlier in the year prevented many couples from seeing one another, and despite restrictions lifting towards the end of summer, regional lockdowns once again mean people are separated.
But one way to ease the stress of however you're feeling is to organise a dedicated date night, which can bring back some feeling of normality.
Obviously, you can’t go out for a drink, head to your favourite restaurant, or anything that you might do usually do on a date, but setting aside time to get dressed up, opening a nice bottle of something and cooking a meal together in person or over Zoom can make all the difference to your relationship.
It will break up the monotony of lockdown that we're all feeling, as well as giving you both something to look forward to.
We've put together some ideas to help you create a great date night, whether you’re living together or separately.
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Get dressed up
If like us, you’ve spent the majority of lockdown and working from home in jogging bottoms, pyjamas and comfy clothes (hello elasticated waistbands) then use date night to put on a dress, or smart trousers and a shirt.
This lodi modal high neck tank dress (Know The Origin, £38) is perfect if you want to look stylish, stay comfortable but still be eco-friendly. It’s made from crease-resistant fibres of beech tree and you can dress it up with a statement pair of earrings and a red lipstick.
Button up a shirt to add a touch of formality. We like this slim fit dyed 100 per cent linen shirt (Massimo Dutti, £49.95) that’s lightweight and matches everything (even pyjama bottoms) while still looking smart.
If you're missing the hairdressers and feel like your locks needs freshening up, do it with a hair mask. We love the Philip Kingsley elasticizer hair treatment (Feel Unique, £34) that came top in our IndyBest of the best hair masks, which left our tresses shinier, more supple and less lacklustre.
Then style using the new Dyson corrale straighteners (John Lewis & Partners, £399) which we found beat a pair of classic ghd straighteners in our head to head review. The Dyson's are cordless, can be used to create tousled waves or sleek straight styles and take half the time.
Cook dinner together
Whip up a feast over a Zoom call if you're not in the same house. The Art Of The Larder cookbook (Amazon, £17.49) by Claire Thompson won the best store cupboard essential cookbook in our IndyBest review.
The beauty of the book is being able to "make something from anything" – so you're sure to find a use for that can of chickpeas you've been meaning to cook with. And you can both learn some new recipes too, like the Greek roasted tomato and oregano timbale with yoghurt topping, which our reviewer loved.
If you're more of a novice cook and need a little helping hand, get inspired and learn a new skill together with Jamie's Ministry of Food (£20.80, Amazon) by Jamie Oliver – it's an oldie but a goodie and came top in our roundup of the best books to learn how to cook. It has lots of pictures to guide you through each step, so you'll always know you're on track.
Order in the same food
If you want something that feels more like a restaurant experience, we’re fans of Pasta Evangelists, the subscription service that delivers a weekly drop of two fresh pasta meal kits (or more if you want), which you can pick from 10 recipes.
Each dish takes very little preparation or cooking time, meaning more time can be spent eating and less time clearing up afterwards – so it will feel like you've gone out to your local Italian together. Dishes start from £7.25 and you can do a one-off order too.
If you’re missing your usual order from your favourite restaurant, plenty have put together DIY meal kits, so you can make them yourself without ever leaving the house to get the ingredients.
Patty & Bun has created a Lockdown DIY patty kit, £25, featuring four of its signature beef patties, brioche buns, a squeezy bottle of smokey mayo, cheese slices and homemade pickled and smokey onions. All you need to buy is lettuce and tomato to finish it off. Whether you'll be prepping it in the same kitchen or not, it will be fun to see how they both turn out.
It also has a vegan kit which contains four plant-based patties with vegan bacon, mayo and cheese along with buns and caramelised and pickled onions. Delivery is £6 and it's available for postcodes within the M25.
Open the wine
Let’s face it we all deserve a glass (or two...) of wine to help us make it through these seemingly never-ending weeks in lockdown, and there’s plenty of online wine shops and vineyards that are still delivering across the UK.
If you want something a little more special than your usual bottle of Prosecco for dinner, Hampshire-based company, Black Chalk, is a go-to for sparkling wine. It's also a good time to try and support English vineyards who are struggling during this time too.
The Classic 2015 and Wild Rose 2016 sparkling wines are £37.50 each. Made in small batches, the classic 2015 is a crisp blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot Meunier while the wild rose 2016 is a summery mix of raspberries and strawberries that would suit a sweeter palate, which we think are perfect for date nights and celebrations.
If you're more of a pint person, we've rounded up the beer and cider shops that you can still buy online from, and if you sign up to a subscription service, it can become a regular feature in future date nights.
Try Beerwulf, a craft beer specialist spread across Europe, with more than 600 beers, kegs and beer taps in its online shop. There’s something to suit every budget and palette, with prices starting from £1.99 and a selection of vegan, organic, gluten-free, low alcohol and non-alcoholic options.
Settle in with some entertainment
Once dinner is out the way, head straight to the sofa with a film or your favourite TV series. While you may previously have reserved Netflix for watching alone or with your flatmates on an uneventful Sunday afternoon, Netflix Party has come along just in time to help, as you can watch the same thing together, even if you and your partner are living separately – unless one of you skips ahead, that is.
Available through Chrome browsers, it’s an extension that allows you both to simultaneously watch the same TV show or movie, by synchronising playback and adding a group chat for you to discuss it while you watch.
If you want to make it a more civilised affair, try Marquee TV, a streaming service for dance, opera, music, documentaries and theatre from places like The Royal Ballet Company, The Royal Shakespeare Company and Opera Zurich.
It’s £8.99 a month or £89.99 a year, which will certainly save you money on tickets and get you a front-row seat to shows you might have missed out on. Work your way through The Nutcracker, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Giselle with glasses of wine in hands, dressed up to the nines with your date.