Single Parents Are Having To Make Impossible Decisions This Winter

Single parents are struggling to heat their homes and afford the food shop as this cost of living crisis grips the nation – and with Christmas just a few weeks away, many have said they are having to make huge cutbacks this year.

There are around 1.8 million single parents in the UK, according to charity Gingerbread, and roughly 90% of them are women. Many of them struggled on in the pandemic, when single parents were more likely to lose their jobs, and now they’re facing yet another blow as food and energy prices soar to unaffordable levels.

A recent survey by consumer watchdog Which? revealed three in 10 single parents have skipped meals due to rising food prices – compared to one in seven parents in couples.

Ema, is a single mum living in north London with her eight-year-old son. She is already feeling the strain of rising gas and electricity prices and plans to spend more time in libraries and community centres this winter to keep her family warm.

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The 51-year-old, who preferred not to share her surname, works 20 hours a week for her local community centre and is also studying art.

She has noticed that her daily shops are shrinking. “I have to shop a lot more carefully,” she says. “I noticed that what I was getting before, I can’t get as much now. I’ve got to be more thoughtful in what I’m purchasing.

“It’s not that they’ve got a little bit higher and stopped, the prices are getting higher still.”

Gone are the days when she’d pop to the shops for something and come away with four or five extra bits. “Now it’s like you go in for a bottle of milk and that’s what you buy,” she adds.

Each week she is following a strict meal plan so she knows exactly what is being eaten on what day – and at what time. Portions are smaller, she notes, and she’ll also try and make one meal stretch to two where she can.

“It’s just making it stretch that little bit further, when we’re already stretched as it is,” she says, likening the situation to her grandmother rationing in wartime. “It’s going back to making sure you’ve got the right rations, which seems crazy for 2022.”

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