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; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Suggested Topics
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
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

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Assistant / Buyer

    £15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

    £15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

    Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

    £40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

    Day In a Page

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'