Shopping on a plate: your online Christmas dinner
Home deliveries from supermarkets are convenient and flexible, but can you be sure of getting the best produce?
Sunday 30 November 2008
The countdown to Christmas is on and although many recession-afflicted Brits will be looking to economise, the supermarket checkouts will still be busy and that means queues and car parks full to bursting. So why not take the strain out of your yuletide food shopping and go online?
Many of the leading supermarkets – including Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda and Waitrose – offer an online grocery service, although Marks & Spencer doesn't deliver food apart from in hampers. With petrol prices still high and time precious, many consumers find home shopping both convenient and economic.
For a small charge, the supermarkets will deliver at an appointed time to your home. However, not all UK addresses are covered. As a rule, the UK's towns and cities enjoy very good coverage, and the rural areas less so. Generally, Tesco has the widest distribution network across the UK as it has multiple depots, while smaller players such as Waitrose deliver to fewer areas.
The good news, though, is that most of the supermarkets operate seven days a week and at all hours, although some have a less frequent service on Sundays.
Charges can range from 99p to £9, although you should expect to pay between £3 and £7 for most deliveries. That said, Sainsbury's will deliver for free midweek provided your order is for more than £100.
The supermarkets vary their charges according to what time you want the item delivered. Commit to waiting in for the van on a weekday and you'll pay less than if you ask for your groceries to be brought to your house after work or at weekends.
Although most online services offer home deliveries close to Christmas, all the supermarkets say it is best to book early as slots will fill up fast.
If an item on your shopping list is unavailable, a "logical" substitute will be provided, which you are free to reject on delivery for a refund. Where an item is replaced by one of higher value, Asda and Waitrose charge customers at the lower price.
The main drawback, though, is that you can't physically pick the goods you want; you're relying on the staff member in the supermarket's distribution centre to give you the freshest produce, rather than something close to its sell-by date. So to an extent, shoppers are taking pot luck.
Last year, consumer group Which? conducted an undercover "mystery shopping" exercise and found that food bought online is 1.28 days nearer its "best before" date than produce available in-store.
Laura Starkey, from the consumer advice website Fool.co.uk, points out that there are a number of ways to ensure you receive fresh food. "When you shop online, you give up control," she explains. "But some websites, such as Ocado, will give you a product idea and provide you with the sell-by date before it gets to you.
"If you want a Christmas delivery, you would need to book it early, but you could also stagger the process by getting booze earlier and then the veg a little later."
And there are savings to be made on delivery costs or the groceries themselves, as supermarkets compete for yuletide business. "Often you can find online voucher codes on forums such as Hotukdeals.com and websites such as MyVoucherCodes.co.uk, where you input the code at the checkout and it offsets the cost of delivery –and most of the time it will be free. We will see more of this the closer we get to Christmas," adds Ms Starkey.
However, consumer groups believe that the best deals are to be found offline rather than online because supermarkets will sometimes keep their cheapest products and one-off special offers in-store. In addition, while the budget supermarkets, such as Aldi, Lidl and Netto, don't offer home delivery, they have still been stealing a march on the traditional big names.
"We are now seeing people flocking to discount retailers," says Sarah Dennis, a researcher at Which? "Aldi and Lidl beat the big four supermarkets in our recent survey. We looked at the quality, and in a lot of the cases Aldi and Lidl were just as good as Tesco. Price is the main reason for shopping at these stores."
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
Questions of Cash: What are my rights if my leak is caused by neighbours’ roofs?
Pension mortgages: 'The advice I was given was wrong and now I face losing my home'
Gold-plated pensions – the key to retirement freedom?
The 10 Best money-saving sites
Bank-beating exchange rates on your international payments
- 1 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 2 Doctors remove 80 teeth from boy's jaw
- 3 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 5 Sir Winston Churchill’s family begged him not to convert to Islam, letter reveals
Millions of Britons struggling to feed themselves and facing malnourishment
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Nigel Farage: Ukip leader named 'Briton of the year' by The Times
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
iJobs Money & Business
Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...
Not specified: Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Global Equity | New Yor...
Not specified: Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation This top tiered investment...
Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...
Day In a Page
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens