Laurence Andrews

The 2022 Below Deck Challenge

Not taking credit for the name of this one, that was all Victoria. Yes, another challenge, this is the year of all the twos after all. As regular readers will know, we use YNAB to keep track of our finances, YNAB is great and it’s a very powerful tool for budgeting the future but it is also really useful for reporting on the past.

We’ve been using YNAB full time for just over two years and as a result have a good amount of data at our fingertips. The data isn’t perfect, because of those two years, we’ve been in the ‘covid-era’ but it’s still pretty interesting. One thing that stands out is just how much we spend on food shopping.

This post on reddit the other week really made me think. Over the past two years, on average we spent £125 a week (£540/month) on food shopping. That’s groceries alone, excluding booze, lunches when in the office and cleaning products - although including toiletry basics like toothpaste and bubble bath. And one of us, and therefore more often than not, both of us, don’t eat meat.

A lot of the posts in that thread seemed to be pretty surprised at the OP’s £130 a week spend. Since we’re basically at that same number, I can’t help but ask myself if we are eating like kings? I don’t feel like we are, most stuff we buy is supermarket own-brand, we don’t really waste any food, we scratch cook virtually every dinner with fresh ingredients, freeze leftovers and certainly aren’t buying a Daylesford ploughmans for lunch.

But I genuinely have no idea, maybe we are eating like kings. At the start of the pandemic in 2020 we consiously increased our food shop spend, but were trying to keep our morale high, given what was going on. One thing we did observe at the beginning of 2021 was that the data from the previous year seemed to suggest the fewer times we went to the shops, the less we ended up spending. But that can’t be the only thing.

So this month (and if it goes well, maybe future months) we’re going to take on what we’re calling The Below Deck Challenge where we do two things:

  1. Significantly cut back on our weekly food shop spend
  2. Pretend we’re on a boat, without access to a supermarket

Our aim is to keep our weekly cost under £65, specifically £260 from the perspective of YNAB. I think if we’re careful and plan, that’s reasonable. In January 2020 we spent £313 without too much thought, so certainly an achievable goal.

For visits, I really see no reason why we can’t keep it to less than four supermarket trips a month, three should be easily achievable with planning. Trips to convenience stores are banned.

Why are we doing this? Other than to answer the question on Reddit, no real reason, but if we can spend less and save money, all the better.

I’ll report back later with our progress. Wish us luck!

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