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?

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

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Compensation and Benefits Manager - Brentwood - Circa £60,000

    £60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...

    Data Analyst/Planning and Performance – Surrey – Up to £35k

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

    IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

    £24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

    Markit EDM (CADIS) Developer

    £50000 - £90000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CA...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker