Groceries With A Click

By Megan Last edited 153 months ago
Groceries With A Click

Have you tried ordering your groceries online? How does it work?

Is it cheaper?

Buying groceries online is convenient but not perfect. Shopping with the four major supermarkets (Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, and Waitrose through their online partner Ocado) is easy: Register for an account, select your items, supply credit card details. You can buy everything you would in person, even produce. The order is then assembled in your nearest store by a "personal shopper", and the prices are the same as they are there. So buying online is not generally cheaper, and including the small delivery fee it could even cost more.

But the biggest drawback is that if your store is out of a product, your personal shopper will substitute the next best thing. So you could end up with Tesco-brand spaghetti sauce when you wanted Loyd Grossman. The delivery person will point out changes to your order, and you are free to decline them, but of course this may mean a trip to the shops in person to make up for it. Returns are also usually handled in person at your nearest supermarket. The retailers try to match your preferences as much as possible by providing a space for you to make notes on each item ("Greenish bananas, please."). But obviously this is no failsafe.

Having said that, we do know people who swear by online groceries —especially flatmates who share shopping responsibilities and families with small children. We think it’s a good way to stock up on non-perishables while buying your fruit and veg in person. It could also help your budget by reducing your number of trips to the supermarket. No longer will you pop in to Sainsbury’s for a loaf of bread and also accidentally buy a tub of Haagen-Dazs and the Jacob’s Creek special. Some supermarkets have a minimum order of £25, others have a limited delivery area, so visit their web sites to decide which is right for you.

For fresh food you could also try a smaller web site, like or, which claim higher standards and more individual attention.

Last Updated 21 July 2005


I've bought from Tesco online, and the main problem I had was specific bottles of wine being substituted with something I hadn't ordered. They delivered on time and while I wouldn't buy fruit and veg online, it's good for heavy stuff like tins, fruit juice, washing powder etc.


For organic veg delivery I've heard that Abel and Cole are pretty good, although I've not tired them yet.

Marcus Aurelius

If something is not availabe then one should have a right to decline (at least on non-commodity items). As noted above no two wines are identical and it isn't as simple as sub'ing Cabernet brand Epsilon for Cabernet brand X.

The problem is accurate inventory tracking which is a challenge and for such items it may turn out to be more costly than it is worth.

For commodity items (brand X canned corn is the same as brand Alpha canned corn) no problem, but not all items we buy are commodities.

Here in my little corner of the world (Upper Midwest of the USA) we do not online grocery shopping yet.


it works out cheaper because of the prevalence of online discount codes. google some forums for sneaky tips! Thats one of the reasons Icelands online store went under. People were getting £50 shops for £5ish.

Tamara S

I have shopped with Ocado for at least two years and they are brilliant. Have tried Sainsbury's but they can't handle substitutions. Once they sent me two packs of chicken thighs and a pack of breasts when they couldn't supply a full roasting chicken. Which is just silly. Tesco is similar for substitutions (I've tried them too). Rarely will Ocado not deliver what I've ordered, they often throw in little freebies and when I write "no substitutions" in the comment box that's exactly what I get. Also, they have a one-hour delivery time slot as opposed to the two hour one Sainsbury's has. Lifesaver! Even for fresh fruit and veg.


Funnily enough, I heard a horror story today from someone who uses Tesco's delivery service. The bleach she ordered was packed in the same bag as some fresh food items, and the bleach had leaked all over the food. The problem with these services is that you risk having some trainee monkey who hasn't got a clue packing your goods for you one week. You just can't tell.

I use Abel & Cole for the fruit & veg part of my shopping and they are very good at substituting items that you don't like for something else you prefer. You can have these preferences recorded so once you've set up your regular delivery, you don't have to repeat yourself.

Tamara S


What's the Abel and Cole pricing like? I've seen them deliver on my street and was intrigued by them.


Your perception of how reasonable the pricing is, I suppose, all relative. They do a small box of fruit and veg for less than a tenner and that suits two of us just fine each week. You can always ask them to deliver every other week instead if you find it too much.


An Ocado van was parked near the Warren Street cordon this evening, giving out free bananas and water to London's sweating workforce on their long walks home. Rather nice of them.

Cordon bleu, perhaps?


M@ - gags like that are only helping the terrorists.