During the coronavirus pandemic, online food shopping has taken off, and its popularity shows no sign of waning. The benefits are clear – you can avoid human contact with potential coronavirus carriers, keep track of how much you are spending, and, better yet, you can do it all from the comfort of your bed.
From Ocado to Tesco and AmazonFresh, there are plenty of shopping sites online. But which supplier to choose? Whether you opt for a supermarket brand or an online-only retailer, there are some basic points to consider.
Same-day grocery delivery is a major bonus to an online food shopping site – although bear in mind that there may be a cut-off time to place your order. Most companies have a minimum spend, so consider this if you’re planning to buy a smaller selection. A varied food and drink offering is equally important, to achieve the weekly shop in one fell swoop.
Here we have appraised some of the major retailers’ websites and offerings, and compared the best online food shopping services going.
Why we like it: A flexible service with no minimum spend
If you’ve run out of milk or forgotten to plan tonight’s dinner, Tesco offers a more flexible way of ordering last-minute necessities. There is no minimum spend on your order, although there is a minimum £4 basket charge for orders under £25. Click and collect has a minimum spend of £25, but there is great flexibility as you can choose from 400 stores.
Ordering groceries is easy, as you can shop your favourites and use the Tesco delivery app when you’re out and about.
Delivery covers most of the UK, and you can opt for same-day or scheduled delivery. A fixed one-hour slot on your chosen day can cost between £3 and £7, or you can select a flexi-saver slot for a randomly allocated one-hour slot, which costs between £1 and £4. Be aware that Tesco delivery is very in-demand at the moment; at the time of checking, the next available slot was in two weeks, so be sure to book in advance.
With the new Delivery Saver option, you can get free home delivery (not including same-day delivery) and free any-day click and collect, for just £7.99 per month.
Why we like it: Same-day delivery of fresh food from impressive brands
As the name might suggest, AmazonFresh specialises in delivering fresh food to your doorstep. Amazon has partnered with Whole Foods, Morrisons and local shops and markets to supply a diverse selection of fruit, vegetables, meat and baked goods.
You can book a two-hour slot for next-day delivery between 8am and midnight, and same-day delivery is also available. Alternatively, you can book a slot up to 28 days in advance.
Due to the coronavirus outbreak, your delivery will be left on your doorstep, to minimise contact and risk of transmission. The service, which launched in 2016, currently only delivers to London and the south-east of the UK, but there are plans for expansion in the future.
Unfortunately, the service is exclusive to Prime members, and it costs £7.99 a month to become a member (although there is a 30-day free trial). Minimum spend is just £15, with a £3.99 delivery fee, although orders above £40 have free delivery.
Why we like it: Unrivalled variety of branded products
For 10 years, Ocado has been synonymous with Waitrose, but now the online retailer has partnered with Marks & Spencer. Over 5,000 own-brand M&S products now replace the 4,000 Waitrose products.
Ocado stocks a real range of branded products, from fresh fish to toothpaste, as well as many M&S-branded offerings.
The minimum spend on the site is £40. Next-day delivery is usually available, with one-hour time slots between 7am and 10pm.
Ocado has tried to make its deliveries as environmentally-friendly as possible, with green delivery slots, and they have reduced their vans’ carbon dioxide emissions by 33 per cent from 2012 to 2018. The company also recycles carrier bags (if you hand them back to the driver). Unwanted supplies are donated to food banks and charities.
Why we like it: Wide selection of food on an easy-to-use website
Waitrose.com is one of the best-stocked suppliers of both pantry snacks and fresh food: a search for ‘chicken’ yields almost 400 results. There is even more choice on WaitroseCellar and WaitroseEntertaining, for all of your alcohol and canapé needs. All food comes with a freshness guarantee.
Ordering is easy on both the website and app, with labelled categories and a ‘favourites’ list that speed up the process. Minimum spend is £40 for home delivery and there is free trackable next-day delivery to homes all over the UK, seven days a week.
Why we like it: An affordable way to buy essentials
Selling fresh fruit, meat and enough products to meet your pantry needs, Morrisons scores well for its variety – as well as its affordability, with price cuts on hundreds of products.
One of the newest and most impressive features is the Morrisons Food Box – which takes the hassle out of shopping, by packaging the ingredients you need for your weekly meals. You can opt for a themed box or stock up on essentials, with the Cupboard Essentials Box or Fruity Favourites Box, for instance. Our favourite all-rounder, however, is the 5 Meals to Feed a Family of 4 box, which is priced at just £30 and includes ingredients for five meals (Spag Bol, Veg Pasta Bake, Rosti Topped Cottage Pie, Sausage Tray Bake and Veggie Chilli with Wedges).
Elsewhere on site, there is a £40 minimum spend but delivery prices start from just £2. Delivery Passes are available to help regular customers save on delivery. The delivery service is fairly environmentally friendly, as you can book a ‘green van slot’, where Morrisons is already delivering to someone nearby in your area. Morrisons is committed to recycling its plastic bags, and has pledged to make all of its packaging recyclable by 2025.
Why we like it: Frozen food that helps you plan for the week ahead
During lockdown, frozen food saw a comeback – probably because it keeps for longer, protecting you from food shortages. “Sales of frozen food have seen notable increases and we have noticed a trend towards customers selecting multi-buy deals and larger packs,” says a spokesperson from Iceland.
Iceland’s website is simple to use and has a focus on affordability, with the £1 Value section offering pantry essentials for just one pound or less. Elsewhere on the site, you can choose from fresh or frozen food, as well as household items, and Iceland is particularly well-known for its low prices on branded products. There is a £25 minimum spend but free next-day delivery when you spend £35 or more online.
Why we like it: Affordable online shopping that is good to the environment
With a minimum spend of just £25, Sainsbury’s offers a handy small-shop option, but note that delivery can cost £7 for smaller baskets; orders over £40 incur just a 50p-£7 delivery charge. Regular customers can make savings, however, by investing in a Delivery Pass.
Ordering is simple, and you can even create a dietary profile so the site can flag up products that you should avoid. The range is as broad as you’d find in the supermarket itself, and same-day delivery is available if you order by 12pm and the earliest delivery time on the day is 6pm. Alternatively, you can book a slot for another day from 8am to 11pm, and order by 11pm for next-day delivery. Click and collect is also available from various locations and if you order by 11pm you can collect the next day between 8am and 8pm; if you order by 12 midday, you can collect on the same day from 4pm.
Sainsbury’s follows in Ocado’s footsteps with their environmentally-conscious delivery service, with eco-friendly ‘green slots’, where you can schedule a delivery to coincide with when a Sainsbury’s van is in your area.
Why we like it: Value for money on a range of groceries
Money goes a long way with Asda groceries. Like its supermarkets, prices are typically lower than on other sites. Plus there is no minimum spend, so you should be able to buy most of your groceries for low prices (although there is a £3 charge on deliveries under £40).
The website is simple in its design, and we like that you can search for multiple items at once (simply click in the search box and select ‘Search for multiple items’), which speeds up the process. There is a good selection of items on offer – including fresh, frozen and chilled groceries – and a ‘Favourites’ tab gives you suggestions based on your recent orders.
Next-day delivery is theoretically available, starting at £3, although due to the site’s popularity it is unlikely you will find a slot. That being said, when I checked, the next delivery slot was in just two days – which is a vast improvement on the wait time for Waitrose and Tesco.
Why we like it: Low minimum spend, good quality and excellent potential
Co-op is relatively new to the online food delivery game, and only appointed an e-commerce director in January 2019. The service may still be in the early stages of development, but Co-op is clearly thinking outside of the box, with trials of robot deliveries in Milton Keynes and a Deliveroo partnership in 2018.
There is a moderate amount of product choice, incorporating meat, vegetables, ready meals and alcohol. Currently, as a result of the pandemic, there is a restriction of max. 30 items per shop (to ensure everyone can access the essentials). Before Covid, Co-op had invested in bagless delivery for environmental purposes but now, to reduce risk of transmission, it has reverted to delivering in carrier bags.
Impressively, Co-op offers two-hour delivery slots and same-day home delivery; alternatively, you can also click and collect within two hours of your order. Delivery has not been rolled out to the whole of the country, so be sure to check your postcode, but Co-op is currently hiring more team members to increase its delivery capability. Minimum spend is just £15, and delivery costs a reasonable £2.49.
The best online supermarket for grocery delivery: our verdict
We were particularly impressed by Co-op’s low minimum spend and speedy delivery times. Ocado’s all-encompassing selection also made it one of the strongest contenders, and AmazonFresh’s value for money also made it one of the best sites for online grocery delivery.
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