Your Guide to 

Buying Groceries Online

Everything from clothes to the weekly food shop can now be ordered online but how does it work? And what do you need to know to buy your groceries online?

In this guide, we look at everything you need to know about buying groceries online from UK supermarkets. Plus we examine why this method of shopping is important and useful during the current pandemic.

We will cover:

  • How and where to buy groceries online
  • How to order groceries online safely
  • How to save money when you buy groceries online
  • An overview of the main online grocery shopping supermarkets
  • An overview of your main payment options
  • An overview of your main delivery options
  • Tips and tricks to cut delivery costs

We also have a handy FAQ section to help answer any immediate or pressing questions you may have about online grocery shopping or general online shopping during the current pandemic restrictions.

Why shop online?

Most high street stores have streamlined their services in order to keep up with the onset of the digital era. For customers this means a whole new way of purchasing everything from bedding to weekly groceries.

Shopping online has become popular with consumers for a number of reasons, such as:

  • Greater choice of products
  • More flexibility over shopping & delivery times
  • Increased convenience from buying groceries from the comfort of your own home
  • Increased competitiveness over prices
  • Greater visibility of deals and promotions
  • A means of securing your shopping

What are the benefits of buying groceries online? 

Many of the reasons people cite for buying groceries online are also the benefits of the service. With websites accessible 24 hours a day, it is possible buy your groceries whenever is most convenient for you – a detail which can be invaluable to customers with impaired mobility.

  • Avoiding the need to travel
  • Avoiding the need to pay for parking and associated driving costs (petrol)
  • Avoiding the need to stand in long queues or contend with busy crowds in peak periods
  • Being able to research and compare products more easily
  • Being able to source unusual items quickly without navigating supermarket aisles
  • Being able to save regular shopping baskets on your computer to make weekly grocery buying easier
  • Being able to save money on weekly shopping thanks to rivalry between online retailers
  • Added safety and protection from the risks of infection by travelling to supermarkets.

How secure is online grocery shopping?

The chances of your private data or finances being compromised when shopping online are extremely remote, providing you follow these simple safety procedures:

  • Use only reputable websites which will use coding and encryption to protect your data
  • Check that the website you’re using is secure by checking the web address displays “https” not just “http” and has a small padlock symbol in the address bar 
  • Only access online grocery stores from devices with internet security installed on them
  • Always log out from your account after you’ve placed an order
  • Never store your payment details or passwords on a piece of paper or on your computer or internet-enabled device – even if you are the sole user
  • Always use a credit card for purchases over £100 as legislation means they automatically provide an insurance buffer which will protect you against theft or fraud
  • Search the online directory ShopSafe for stores (example below) which are reputable – you’ll find helpful reviews as well as details on any current offers you can claim for money off 
  • Visit the government website Get Safe Online to learn more about online security – their section on Shopping, Banking & Payments is particularly helpful and outlines everything from how to make sure you’re not on copycat websites to how to donate to charity online.

Buying Groceries Online

The convenience of shopping online means that consumers are now spared the hassle and current risk of visiting a local supermarket. The ability to buy food groceries online also makes it easy to avoid overspending on in-store deals designed to encourage you to deviate from your list.

Read on to find out how to shop for groceries online.


What is online grocery shopping?

Put simply, online grocery shopping involves using a web-enabled device (like your computer, tablet or smartphone) to connect to the internet and contact your local supermarket.

You are then able to conduct your normal food shop by selecting the items on the screen and paying for them using a debit or credit card. Your food shop will then usually be delivered to your home on a day and in a time slot of your choosing.

When can you shop for groceries online?

One of the best things about online grocery shopping is that you don’t need to make your purchases within supermarket opening hours and you can shop 24/7. 

Typically orders can be placed up to three weeks in advance and delivery slots can be narrowed down to the hour so that you don’t have to wait in all day. However, presently delivery times might be extended or pending as demand is increasing during the current pandemic. 

How can I use online grocery shopping?

You first visit the webpage of your chosen supermarket and will usually be asked to conduct a quick postcode check to ensure they can deliver to your home. You must then register for an account before you can begin shopping. Some sites let you select your groceries without registering but you will be directed to the registration page when you go to enter the checkout. 

Once you have registered and chosen the items you wish to buy you will be asked to choose a delivery slot and pay – usually with a credit or debit card. Some companies offer free delivery if consumers have reached a minimum spend while others like Ocado, Tesco and ASDA sell delivery passes with priority slots to encourage customer loyalty. 

First-time customers may be entitled to receive benefits like free delivery on their first order or money off their first shop, so keep an eye out for these deals.

Where can I order groceries online?

Most supermarkets now operate an online shopping option.

Each supermarket offers a fairly similar online shopping experience. However, you should still compare delivery times, delivery costs and minimum spend thresholds to ensure you’re getting the best deals.

Customers wishing to register for online grocery ordering will need to visit the online registration page of their chosen shop and provide some personal details.

The main online supermarket sites that offer HOME DELIVERY are:

Shops which do not support home delivery but which still have websites that allow you to browse products and offers at your local store include:

Saving money on grocery shopping

Online shopping is more than just a convenient way to get your weekly groceries – it’s also a way to cut costs on your food bill. You can do this by using price comparison websites such as My Supermarket and Vouchercodes.

You can do this by using PRICE COMPARISON sites such as:  VoucherCodes

Type the name of your preferred store into the search bar to view details of the latest offers or browse vouchers by category, using the drop down list on the far top right of the screen.

Click on a discount to be shown the voucher code – you copy this code into a relevant box when completing your online shop at that retailer (the box will usually appear at the checkout and be entitled “promotions”, “discount code” or something similar)

VoucherCodes also offer a FREE mobile app that sends you vouchers direct to your phone when you search for deals.

Other money saving tips

National newspapers often write about the best online supermarkets too, so it is worth taking a look at what they have to say.

Additionally, there are a whole host of apps designed to help you cut the cost of your shopping bill. You can also download apps which allow you to use your phone as a barcode scanner and compare the price of goods whilst shopping.

Some of the most popular examples of these apps include:

All of these apps are available for FREE download from either the Apple App Store or Google Play. 

However, it’s worth remembering that most of these will be more suitable for when shopping returns to normality, also some can allow you to scan barcodes and QR codes if they’re available when online shopping.

How can I use online grocery shopping? 

Once you have registered with an online grocery store, you are ready to begin shopping. We’ve outlined the basic process you’ll need to follow when online shopping below. All online shopping websites are fairly similar, so we’ve used the following generic guidelines:

STEP 1

Add items to your shopping cart

After you’ve logged in, you will be presented with a list of options. These allow you to:

  • View special offers
  • Choose a delivery slot
  • Browse groceries using the category tabs at the top
  • View your favourites (returning customers only)
  • View recipes
  • Search for items using the multi-search bar

STEP 2

Choose your delivery

Once your basket is ready, you must then click the ‘Checkout’ option (this might also be ‘Continue to Checkout’) to proceed to the next screen which will most likely offer you ‘Home Delivery’ or ‘Click & Collect’ in store options. 

You can also potentially click something like ‘continue shopping’ to add more items to your shopping cart if you’ve forgotten anything.

Right now, options like ‘Click & Collect’ are likely to be restricted or unavailable. You may also see warnings about COVID-19 affecting available delivery slots, like this example

Home Delivery

If choosing ‘Home Delivery’ you will be offered a series of one hour slots across a selection of days. You must:

  • Choose your preferred time.
  • Choose where you would like the shopping delivered.
  • Submit your contact details.

At the bottom of the page you may have an option to add any ‘Delivery Instructions’ or ‘Packing Instructions’ before clicking ‘Checkout’ to proceed.

Click and Collect

If selecting ‘Click & Collect’ you will be offered a different series of options. These will allow you to pop into the store at a convenient time to collect your groceries yourself and you must:

  • Select the store where you want the goods delivered.
  • Submit your personal details (address, payment details etc.).
  • Make a note of the time it will take for these items to be available in the store and select an appropriate time slot to collect them.

There is usually no fee for this service, which can make it attractive to those who don’t want to pay delivery fees or who don’t qualify for free home delivery due to the size of their order.

Again though, we must stress that during the COVID-19 pandemic, this option is likely to be limited or unavailable with many online supermarkets.

STEP 3

Confirm your order

It’s likely you’ll then be asked to click ‘Proceed to payment’ and enter your card details and billing address. On other sites you may be given a slightly different command to choose – such as ‘place order’ or “continue’.

At this point you will also have the opportunity to add any Clubcard, voucher or coupon codes from sites such as VoucherCodes ( see 3.4 ). These will then be subtracted from the final balance and/or your membership points will be added.

[VoucherCodes graphic example]

Then click ‘Confirm Payment’ and the supermarket will issue an ‘Order Confirmation’ and send you an email with your unique, order confirmation number. This is a virtual receipt so make sure you save it in your emails or print it out.

STEP 4

Arrival of items

Your items should arrive during the appointed slot and some important things to note here are:

  • The delivery driver will carry the shopping into your home for you.
  • The delivery will be accompanied with a receipt – always check the goods which are delivered match those on the receipt.
  • If an item is missing from your delivery or you encounter any problems, then you can get in contact with the store either online or on the phone.

Due to increased demand at the moment, your delivery might take a little longer, or your appointment time might be missed. The supermarket will most likely let you know in advance though if your groceries are delayed.

The delivery person should also maintain social distancing and may leave your items on your doorstop, before knocking on the door and stepping back to the current recommended safe distance. Once they’ve confirmed your order they’ll be on their way.

[insert social distancing graphic if available]

For added safety it’s recommended you also collect your items wearing gloves and that you then clean and decontaminate your groceries before you put them away and finally wash your hands. 

Payment options for buying groceries online

While most takeaway delivery persons (pre-pandemic) are happy to accept cash on delivery, due to issues with insurance and safety, supermarket delivery drivers are unable to provide this service.

Supermarkets are fairly strict when it comes to ordering groceries online, usually only accepting payment with a credit or debit card upfront at the time of order.

Delivery tips and tricks

For those who choose home delivery for their grocery shopping, there are a few ways in which you can cut costs and make the service more efficient. These include:

  • Buying in bulk to meet the minimum requirements for free home delivery – this should only be done with non-perishable foods that won’t go off
  • Choosing an earlier or later delivery slot so that you get your goods at a more convenient time of the day. Subject to pandemic availability.
  • Request an early morning slot to ensure you get the best pick of fresh fruit and veg that will have been loaded into the supermarket that day.
  • Buy a delivery pass to cut the cost of regular deliveries – these are available from all major online supermarkets and typically cover one month periods (check for any exclusions to delivery days or times before buying). Subject to pandemic availability.

Other

There are many other things you can buy online as well as your groceries. Clothes, household items and even electrical appliances and gadgets can be purchased over the internet and delivered to your home or collected in store at a more convenient time. 

What else can you buy online?

There are many other things you can buy online as well as groceries. These include:

  • Clothes, shoes and accessories
  • Toiletries and makeup
  • Household cleaning products
  • Crockery, glassware and kitchen utensils
  • Homeware items
  • Garden items including garden furniture
  • Electrical appliances including TVs, ovens and refrigerators
  • Toys and games
  • Gadgets including mobile phones, music players and cameras
  • Some retailers also offer their customers the chance to pay for their items using a virtual payment service called PayPalwhich lets anyone with an email address and a bank account pay securely for goods online.

    This can be particularly useful if you have no cash in the house but want to order a takeaway or for added protection when using websites to place orders.

    You will likely find that the same restrictions you may now face when online grocery shopping in the UK are the same across the different retail sectors. 

    How to find the best deals when online shopping

    There are a number of websites designed to help shoppers get the best deals whatever they buy.

    These include:

    Groupon - is a site which lists vouchers and deals.

    Money Saving Expert - which offers a wealth of information on saving money.

    Voucher Cloud - can help secure free delivery deals, money off and priority time slot selections.

    VoucherCodes - offers discount vouchers to be redeemed online at a range of retailers.

    TopCashback - allows you to earn money back on supermarket purchases.

    Wowcher - another website which lists deals and vouchers in different sectors.

    Lots of deals are also available via retailers’ email newsletters, so be sure to sign up to your favourite stores if this interests you.

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