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1 . Introduction

E-commerce – or buying things online – has grown in popularity over recent years and is now a daily activity for many people. 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 on the Internet.

We will cover:
  • How and why to buy groceries online
  • How to buy groceries online safely
  • How to save money on online grocery shopping
  • An overview of the main online 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.

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2 . 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

2.1 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


2.2 How secure is online grocery shopping? Section 2-01

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.
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3 . Buying Groceries Online

The convenience of shopping online means that consumers are now spared the hassle 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.

3.1 What is online grocery shopping?

Put simply, online grocery shopping involves using a web-enabled device 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.

3.2 When can you shop for groceries online?

Anytime. One of the best things about online grocery shopping is that you don’t need to make your purchases within supermarket opening hours. This means you can spend more time doing the things you love in the day and then sit down to do your food shop in the evening. 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.

3.3 How can I use online grocery shopping?

Online grocery shopping is very simple to use. 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 free delivery on their first order or money off their first shop so keep an eye out for these deals.

3.4 The main online grocery shops

Each supermarket offers a fairly similar online shopping experience which makes it easy for you to place order online. 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:
Mysupermarket and VoucherCodes.

Saving money on grocery shopping

  • Use the “Offers” section to look at the latest deals being offered by various supermarkets and online shops or select different food groups to start building your shopping basket and comparing prices

  • Add items to you basket to see an instant comparison of prices from nine online stores on the right-hand side of the screen
  • Click on a store name in the right hand side to switch to that store when placing your online order and get an instant comparison of delivery costs and what points you could earn on various store cards (Tesco ClubCard, Nectar Card etc)

  • MySupermarket also offer a free downloadable app for iPhones and Androids which allows you to create your shopping list on the go and compare prices
  • 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 deal

Other money saving tips

Other money saving tips

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

This article on The Guardian is an example of the sort of thing you can expect to find:

Additionally, there are also a whole host of apps designed to help you cut the cost of your shopping bill. As well as the apps for My Supermarket and Vouchercodes mentioned above, 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.

3.5 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. As all websites are fairly similar, we’ve used Tesco as an example.

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

When you find an item you want to buy, just click “Add” (shown as A on the image below). Once you’ve completed your list, click “Book Slot” (B on the image below) on the upper right bar and then make note of any delivery charges for a small shop (C on the image below).

N.B You may like to use a traditional list to help them shop online as it ensures that they select all of the goods and groceries that they need before proceeding to the checkout.

Step 2

Choose your delivery

You must then click “Checkout” to proceed to the next screen which will offer you ‘Home Delivery’ or ‘Click & Collect’ in store options. You can also click “continue shopping” to add more items to your shopping cart if you’ve forgotten anything.

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 add any ‘Delivery Instructions’ or ‘Packing Instructions’ before clicking ‘Checkout’ to proceed.

Click and collect

If clicking “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 you want the goods delivered too
  • Submit your personal details
  • Make 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.

Step 3

Confirm your order

You must then confirm your order. Click ‘Proceed to payment’ and enter your card details and billing address. On other sites you may be given a slight different command to choose – such as “place order” or “continue”.

At this point you will also have the opportunity to add any voucher or coupon codes from sites such as Vouchercodes ( see 3.4 )

Then click ‘Confirm Payment’ and Tesco will issue an ‘Order Confirmation’ and send you an email with your order 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

3.6 Payment options for buying groceries online

Whilst takeaway food outlets like Dominos or Pizza Hut 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.

You may be able to use secure payment sites, such as PayPal (www.paypal.co.uk), when ordering other items online (such as clothes or takeaway food) but this is not common with online grocery stores.



3.7 Delivery options for buying groceries online

When you order your grocery shopping online there are two ways to get it: by collecting it from the store or having it delivered to your home.

Click and collect

  • Very beneficial for professionals and time-poor individuals who wish to be able to get their food shopping at a time that suits them
  • Easy to use – simply book a slot between 10am and 10pm and collect your prepacked groceries
  • Supermarkets require that orders are collected using the card which was used to make the online purchase as proof of ID so make sure you take that with you
  • Stores often incentivise customers to use Click and Collect by offering this service free


Home delivery

  • Customers place an order online and have it delivered direct to their door
  • Perfect for people that work from home or are less able-bodied
  • A driver will bring your goods directly to your home but you unpack the bags
  • Delivery times vary store to store but generally range between 10am and 10pm
  • You select the day and preferred time slot for your delivery when placing your order
  • Delivery costs vary from store to store and some supermarkets only offer free home delivery if you spend over a certain amount


3.8 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:

  • Buy 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
  • Choose an earlier or later delivery slot so that you get your goods at a more convenient time of the day
  • 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)


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4 . 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.

Here we offer a brief look at what else you can buy online and how to find the best deals.

4.1 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 PayPal which 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 website to place orders.

4.2 How to find the best deals when online shopping

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

  • Money Saving Expert
    which offers a wealth of information on saving money
  • My Supermarket
    compares prices of groceries from nine stores to help you get best deal
  • 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.

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

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5 . FAQs

How are supermarket deliveries made?
How fresh is the produce?
How can I trust goods that I am not able to physically inspect before purchase?
How long do supermarkets usually take to deliver?
What happens if the items I ordered aren’t available / in stock?
What if my goods are late or don’t arrive at all?
How easy is it to return to the site and place the same order?
How secure is it when I pay by credit or debit card over the Internet?
What information do retailers store about me and my buying habits?
What happens if my goods get damaged during transport?
What are the rules around buying goods such as cigarettes and alcohol online?

* Where this website contains links to other websites and resources provided by third parties, these links are provided for your information only. We have no control over the contents of those websites or resources and we accept no liability for their content. Inclusion of the third party website does not necessarily represent an endorsement of their views nor does it imply a business relationship between McCarthy & Stone and the company whose website it is. We will not be liable for any loss or damage that may arise from your use of them.

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