/ Shopping

Is it more expensive to be single?

Last weekend I did a weekly shop for one, expecting the bill to be much cheaper than my usual two-man shop. In fact, it was hardly cheaper at all. It left me wondering whether it’s more expensive to buy for one?

I’m not an impulsive shopper, so when I popped in to Tesco, I had a week’s worth of meals planned and a shopping list prepared.

The first thing on my list was spinach – I only needed 100g but I could only buy a 400g bag. Next was asparagus and again, I was forced to buy a much larger packet than I needed. I found a similar theme throughout my shop – I was often forced to buy much larger packs of food than I wanted or could use.

The downside of bulk-buying

After my shop was over, I found it difficult to swallow the extra expense of buying smaller packets of food compared to the relative economy of buying larger packs. On top of that, I felt the majority of special offers I encountered didn’t apply to me, as it usually meant bulk-buying more fresh produce than I could possibly use before it went out of date.

On a practical level, ’BOGOFs’ for a single person who travels home by bus or by foot can also present a logistical nightmare. Once you’ve stuffed 24 loo-rolls in your backpack and six litres of fizzy drink, your muscles start to strain and there won’t be room for much else.

In fact, when we asked you what you thought about Asda dropping multibuys, 70% of you voted that other supermarkets should follow by simply discounting individual items.

My colleague Patrick Steen argues that my case is flawed as most vegetables can be bought loose and, with a little careful meal planning, you can simply use up excess food in the following days. He also says that most food can be frozen either before or after cooking.

The cost of being single

But when I thought about it harder, I considered some other costs that many singletons might consider a ‘penalty’.

For example, we’ve all seen the ‘single supplement’ on holiday packages that effectively charges solo-travellers for the privilege of having a room to themselves. Another example is council tax for single people, which is only 25% cheaper than for two occupants or more.

So single living can certainly be expensive. Have you experienced higher costs linked to your single status? Do your shopping bills soar when you’re buying for one? Or do you agree with Patrick that a little savvy-shopping can save on your expenses?


As a grumpy single person who is very bad at shopping, I can completely relate to this. When I *do* cook I’ll try and make a large batch of something and freeze portions of it, but I do always have the problem of food going off if I try and buy a batch of it. Onions in particular usually end up languishing somewhere, as you rarely need more than one or two when cooking.

And don’t get me started on bottles of wine that get opened (and half-drunk) when I’m feeling celebratory then poured down the sink a few weeks later.

I see Patrick’s point about food planning, and it’s definitely partly my fault for not being better at planning and budgeting. But it’d be a huge help if supermarkets stopped marketing ‘family’ bulk-buy discounts and simply applied discounts to individual items.

Do what Nigella does… freeze it and use it later for cooking.

Freeze, dehydrate ecetera and you’ll be pounds better off.

When there is a will, there is way.

Rumi says:
15 May 2012

Agree with Jen. Especially if you live in London and are likely to have the small “local/metro” versions of supermarkets near you which don’t always sell loose veg so you have to buy it in a pack. It’s not just veg too – other things which you need to buy in a bigger pack e.g. sour cream, I needed a tablespoon for a recipe last week but had to buy a whole tub (and they only had a big version of it in the supermarket, not a smaller option).

I agree you can prevent this to an extent by careful planning. I try and plan what I’m having in the week too so that if I need to buy a big pack of veg, I have planned a couple of meals which will use it.

With the freezer storage, it’s a good idea and something I try to do. On a practical point, if you are buying for one and are living in a houseshare with housemates who you share freezer space with, there’s a limit to how much you can cram in there.

On balance, I’d be really surprised if you didn’t save money on a 2 person shop compared to a 1 person shop.

Eif says:
15 May 2012

Food wise I’d have to agree with Patrick that better meal planning makes a big difference, once you know pack sizes in your local supermarket then you can plan your meals around that. e.g. if you only need 100g of a 400g pack of spinach then choose another meal that week that uses up more of the spinach etc. Alternatively you could shop at more local shops that cater for your needs more with more loose products, which can still be competitive price wise with the supermarkets. Generally prepacked fruit and veg is more expensive than bagging it up yourself.

Having a chest freezer makes a big difference to me as I can cook a meal then freeze the rest ready to heat up on other occasions.

However if you think about mortgage/rent payments and utility bills then these generally remain the same regardless how many people are in the house e.g. if you have a 3 bed house then it’s gonna cost the same to heat if there’s 1 or 4 people living there(thermostatic valves and switching radiators off can regardless) and if you’re not on a water meter then you get charged the same as a house full of people.

Then you’ve got vet bills, household purchases, household repairs to contend with. Things like this, and the above, would normally be halved with a partner. Plus we haven’t even considered if you have kids or not.

So, yes, being single is more expensive :0)

Rosie says:
15 May 2012

It must be awful for single people. It’s bad enough for couples as, if we’re on a tight budget, we have to check deals and prices online before we dare set foot out the door to shop! For example, we wanted 1 bottle of cola in our shop but that was £1.98 at our usual shop. We could, though, buy 3 bottles at a reduced per unit price at our preferred shop (we don’t have the storage space to bulk buy everything to get a reasonable price!), or go elsewhere to get 2 bottles at a reduced price. We couldn’t get one bottle at a realistic price! We bought the 2 bottles but more often than not I give up and we just drink water or squash! I also no longer plan meals till I’ve seen what the prices are.
I’d just like to go back to the days where we paid a fair price for a product and there wasn’t all this senseless upping and downing of prices by supermarkets just to give us “offers” that aren’t really offers! I’m totally fed up of having to shop in 3 different supermarkets on a monthly (sometimes weekly!) basis and if I was single I’d probably be driven nuts (or would need a lot more money to buy what I wanted).

ASDA has a few items in Chilled isle for 1 person but they are expensive and there is the odd 1or2 readymeals in the Freezers.If the Truth be known all Supermarkets are simply not interested in Single people all they really really want is a Family with a Trolley full.The same as eating out e.g.Toby inns 2 for 1.When the subject of Council Tax came up before although 25% isnt enough when Maggie Thatcher was in power she introduced THE POLL TAX so we have to be carefull what we wish for.Singles miss out on offers even for Cinema Tickets;Holidays &many more.Its more expencive to be single and thats a FACT!.

Just as a random question, if you are reading this as a subscriber – does your partner also read it ?
If so, you are paying effectively half the subs I am, as I am single !

Hi Alistair im single&just joined Which. I dont have a partner.So have to do what most of us men dont like Shopping but it beats having a Vebally agressive Drunk of a Wife.Man is unfairly blamed
by the media for marrital breakdowns&Judges show very little sypathy towards men regards acess
to children.Im a Senior so that doesnt apply to me but im well aware youngwomen use the Law to make fools out of us men.I believe the Law is better in America for dads i could be wrong though.

My Alma Mater is holding a 3-day bash at a Cambridge college
post Olympics.

Charges: £525 per person sharing twin-bedded room with shower
and toilet (en suite), for single room accommodation there is
a supplementary charge of £30.00.

I rest my case.

It’s a fair cop, I should have directed my comment at the magazine subs!
I doubt that many married couples have a subscription each!…

I still maintain being single is more expensive perfect example at my Local ASDA Store Last week A packet of Spam was £1.50 this week its £1.90 but there is a Special Offer buy 2 for £3.00 i rest my case.

Emily says:
11 October 2012

Far more expensive being single in my experience – and the main extra expense is not food but housing/council tax/bills. Not so easy to save for a home deposit as a single, not so easy to get a mortgage with just one income to go on, not so easy to take a career break if you can’t rely on a partner’s income for a short while, not so easy if you’re freelance and work falls off, not so easy to meet rental payments and deposits – and if you apply for housing benefit, you’re at the back of the queue. In some cases. Supermarkets that only do fresh food in bulk have lost my custom. Presumably the only reason this kind of inequality is not considered a scandal is that the (unwarranted) assumption is that being single is temporary, being in a couple is the norm.

Have you all noticed that all the big supermarkets like to reward the big-spending family with offers like spend £40 get £5.00 off your next shop? its so not right for the Lower paid single/senior citizen;that’s why i like Aldi&lidl no nonsense prices for reasonable goods.Often i notice fruit like strawberries unsold in Asda;Sainsburys;Aldi i recon they all charge too much hence so much left unsold.Also Asda i cannot understand why they charge so much for Potatoes they must have such buying power in bulk they really ought to charge less its most infuriating that you have to buy 2 X 2.5kg of them to get a reduced price i don’t know of any other supermarket that does that for what use is 5kg of Potatoes to the single person? hence i rarely shop at Asda any more because if i cannot buy one of my main items there i might just as well take my custom elsewhere.

More about why its more expensive to be single supermarkets offer Meat 3 for £10.00 priced at £4.00 single how many singles want to buy 3 chickens or a mixture too many single people £10.00 is quite a bit of money and they have other items they have to pay for supermarkets should charge a fair price to everyone not just the big spending family shopper.

This week offer from Tesco Spend £20 get £5.00 off next weeks £40 Shop.Still on going 3 small Chickens for £10 or Pick and mix for £10. At Aldi one can buy same size Chicken for £3.00.Why don’t these big Supermarkets Cater for us Singles and Seniors;Unemployed??? They should be told just drop the prices not everyone is a Philpotts.

In to-days post i got a club card 6 weeks of savings from Tesco if i spend £20 or more.1 i don’t have a Tesco near me;2 its very rare if i spend £20 in one shop they should think more about Seniors& singletons;students;Unemployed more £1.00 off when you spend £10 or more would be more attractive but better still just reduce the prices of products it certainly is more expensive to be single
.Multi-Buys are also big rip off.