A really interesting article/advice column about sharing food expenses with roommates, and how that can start to break down.
How have you done food costs with roommates? I’ve done a lot of different styles:
- No sharing, everyone has their own food cabinet and things in the fridge
- Mostly no sharing, but occasionally roommate with a car/job at grocery store will buy bulk items and we’ll split equally by paying back that roomie
- Shared for all bulk item like oil, tofu, soy milk, beans, popcorn and paid for by a house fund that is a set amount each month ($50 I think)? and ordered whole sale (10 people in the house) by someone as their chore
- Shared for all food expenses, with a rotating group cooking schedule for dinners, paid for as part of rent, managed by someone as their house chore (30 people in the house, 100 people on the commune) - if you wanted something special (nice tea, beer, potato chips) you would buy it yourself
As soon as I saw your post title I was like AW HELL NO. I get annoyed just splitting utilities with people who overuse AC, I don’t want to handle them also eating more expensive food. And in a commune situation I’m probably eating different foods than most.
I’ve mostly done no sharing, but have lived with people where we informally would pick things up for each other. My weird “thing” is ice cream, for some reason - if I buy a pint of ice cream my brain expects it to be JUST MINE. Even from my kid when he was younger. The funny thing is that ice cream is the one thing my current housemate and I buy extra of for each other because neither of us drive and it’s such a pain to get to the store that has what we like best.
I’ve done it all sorts of ways, depending on who I’m living with and how much I trust/like them. Hahah.
- I’ve done it where we buy our own food, cook our own food, and only eat the other person’s food on Pain of Passive Aggressive Escalation.
- And I’ve done it my current situation which straddles the line between Roommate-ship and Partnership, where we split the money for food down the middle and eat communally. I do the shopping and cooking, Roommate does the cleaning up and more of the house-stuff. Receipts go into an over sized clothespin on the kitchen island next to the fruit. At the end of the month we do The Reckoning and tally up the receipts and the difference between what we each spent is handled in the rent check.
For a bigger group the happiest split was when we decided what gets bought together (back then I think it was laundry soap, dish soap, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, oil, butter, milk and sugar). We each had our own rules about if/when you could share our other food and respected that.
My longest ever roomie and current BFF and I basically just took turns buying and eating and sharing. If a thing had a specific purpose the buyer was responsible to tell the other. We still work mostly like that on vacations and stuff.
Crazy ex roomie and I shared treats but not food. Also due to reasons, if she drank my alcohol she’d replace it. But she kept drinking the replacements and eventually I just had such gross feelings about the alcohol that I gave up.
Bad situations have included begrudging, multiples of identical items and being mocked for my food habits. So now I live without other humans.
We’ve done a mostly-no-sharing setup. Shared things have usually included things like oil and spices, but not beans, tofu, milk, or anything like that (people will all use the same pepper and basil and cumin and olive oil, but have different preferences in milks, beans, and so on).
We have always used either a spreadsheet or Splitwise, so costs for shared things like oil have been split equally. Every once in a while someone would bow out of a particular expense (like, if someone were allergic to cinnamon you wouldn’t charge them for cinnamon! or if they hated corn oil you wouldn’t charge them for that).
ETA if anyone needs to do a “this isn’t working” group talk with housemates, the format the author gives in that article is a great one and one I highly suggest using.
The most recent times I’ve lived in with roommates, there was one person who was the arbiter of who lives there. In one case, one of three roommates owned a townhouse and rented out the other 2 rooms on a month-to-month arrangement. In the other case, one roommate was a long-term tenant with a teenager who sublet out 2 other rooms on a month-to-month basis.
In both cases, that main person (owner or primary tenant) took the responsibility for what you might find at an average airbnb: paper goods, a starter amount of laundry detergent or dish soap, some spices and basic staples, utensils, etc. Everything else was buy your own/don’t take someone else’s stuff. In some cases, people offered communal food or to share from time to time. It wasn’t expected or planned.
My experience in the two places was very different. The townhouse felt like the kitchen/dining and living spaces were shared. We did a pretty good job of allocating refrigerator and pantry space to one another. The rental house with long-term tenant felt like I wasn’t supposed to spend time in the kitchen/dining or living space, and neither I nor the other month-to-month roomie were given enough space in the fridge for our own stuff.
In no case would I have wanted to share expenses for stuff with any of these people.
No sharing other than splitting paper towel/toilet paper/salt/pepper type things. I hate, hate, hate making plans during the day to eat X only to find it has been consumed and not replaced and then having to do executive functioning when tired and hungry. If someone used stuff in order to make a shared meal that would be different vs. shared groceries for individual cooking. I had a taste of the shared food thing during the latest work vacation and people suck at vegetarian meal planning so the likely hood of me signing up for that is looooow.
My most recent roomate situations have been where I am the landlord, renting rooms to tenants. They are responsible for their own food. Of course if they ask to borrow some milk or something I say yes, but they have to ask.
I provide the sugar, spices, dish soap, condiments, etc. It would be silly to have multiple of those things.
This is more or less our arrangement with our roommate, and it’s making me feel better that it’s fairly typical. We buy most of the condiments and similar, the laundry detergent (because a lot of scents make my head hurt, so I pick them), and toilet paper. He fills in things if he notices he’s been using a lot, and buys his own food and etc. and occasionally offers to share beer. It works out.
I live with two roommates, and for the most part we don’t share food costs or food. We each have our own cabinet and a shelf in the fridge. We do share on occasion though, we tend to have a taco potluck for any holiday though!
We do share costs for paper towels, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, garbage bags and such. Typically we rotate who buys whatever needs replacing and toss that person our share.
Taco potluck holidays sound amazing!
When I lived with roommates (outside of college), it was two couples (one of which included me) and one single person. We all bought our own food, but some would be shared. It was usually explicit, like “hey, if you want these leftovers, I’m not going to eat them” or “these raisins are for everyone.” Though I’m pretty sure we all used each other’s spices and oil. It was very informal, I suppose!