Even as we pass the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the popularity of online grocery shopping shows no sign of waning. The benefits are clear – it can be quicker and easier to keep track of how much you are spending, and, better yet, you can do it while eating breakfast in bed.
But which supplier to choose? Whether you opt for a supermarket brand or an online-only retailer, there are some basic points to consider.
Same-day grocery delivery is a major bonus to an online food shopping site – although bear in mind that there may be a cut-off time to place your order. Also note that all sites require someone over 18 to sign for the delivery. Most companies have a minimum spend, so consider this if you're planning to buy a smaller selection. A varied food and drink offering is equally important, to achieve the weekly shop in one fell swoop.
Here we have appraised some of the major retailers' websites and offerings, and compared the best online food shopping services going.
Why we like it: Same-day delivery of fresh food from impressive brands
As the name might suggest, AmazonFresh specialises in delivering fresh food to your doorstep. Amazon has partnered with Whole Foods, Morrisons and local shops and markets to supply a diverse selection of fruit, vegetables, meat and baked goods.
You can book a one-hour slot between 7am and 11pm and same-day delivery is also available. Alternatively, you can book a slot up to 28 days in advance.
In wake of the coronavirus outbreak, you can now select an "unattended delivery" at checkout if you don't want to come into contact with others.
The service, which launched in 2016, currently only delivers to London and the south-east of the UK, but there are plans for expansion in the future.
Unfortunately, the service is exclusive to Prime and Fresh members, and it costs £11.98 a month to become a member of both. Minimum spend is £40, with a £3.99 delivery fee, although orders above £60 have free delivery.
Why we like it: Wide selection of food on an easy-to-use website
Waitrose.com is one of the best-stocked suppliers of both pantry snacks and fresh food: a search for ‘chicken’ yields over 300 results. There is even more choice on WaitroseCellar and WaitroseEntertaining, for all of your alcohol and canapé needs. All food comes with a freshness guarantee.
Ordering is easy on both the website and app, with labelled categories and a ‘favourites’ list that speed up the process. There is free trackable next-day delivery to homes all over the UK and Waitrose is currently trialling Rapid Delivery to select areas, which only takes two hours and has just a £10 minimum spend. Food is delivered in crates, instead of carrier bags, which is better for the environment.
Note that the minimum spend is higher than many, at £60 for home delivery, although Waitrose has announced on its website that it will be reducing this minimum spend to £40 in coming weeks.
Why we like it: An affordable way to buy essentials from fresh vegetables to school uniforms
Selling fresh fruit, meat and enough products to meet your pantry needs, Morrisons scores well for its variety. It even has a clothes section of the site, where you can browse women's, men's or even children's clothing - with school uniform jumpers starting at just £3.
This affordability is also true of the food on offer, as you would expect from Morrisons. There is a £40 minimum spend but delivery prices start from just 99p and there's free delivery for the first month. Delivery Passes are also available to help regular customers save on delivery.
Ordering is simple, especially given the 'suggested order' feature, where the site suggests products based on your previous buying history.
The delivery service is fairly environmentally friendly, as Morrisons have banned the use of plastic bags and they have pledged to make all of their packaging recyclable by 2025.
During lockdown, frozen food saw a comeback — probably because it keeps for longer, protecting you from food shortages. “Sales of frozen food have seen notable increases and we have noticed a trend towards customers selecting multi-buy deals and larger packs,” says a spokesperson from Iceland.
Iceland's website is simple to use and has a focus on affordability, with the £1 Value section offering pantry essentials for just one pound or less. Elsewhere on the site, you can choose from fresh or frozen food, as well as household items.
There is a £25 minimum spend but, usually, Iceland offers free next-day delivery when you spend £35 or more online.
Why we like it: It has excellent potential
Co-op is relatively new to the online food delivery game, and only appointed an e-commerce director in January 2019. The service may still be in the early stages of development, but Co-op is clearly thinking outside of the box, with trials of robot deliveries in Milton Keynes and a Deliveroo partnership in 2018.
There is a moderate amount of product choice, incorporating meat, vegetables, ready meals and alcohol.
Considering that it is a relatively new delivery service, it is surprising that the Co-op is offering same-week delivery (with a set time slot) to various locations. Delivery has not been rolled out to the whole of the country, so be sure to check your postcode. Minimum order is just £15, and delivery is free.
Why we like it: A flexible service with no minimum spend
If you’ve run out of milk or forgotten to plan tonight's dinner, Tesco offers a more flexible way of ordering last-minute necessities. There is no minimum spend on your order, although there is a minimum £4 basket charge for orders under £25. Ordering groceries is easy, as you can shop your favourites and use the Tesco delivery app when you’re out and about.
Delivery covers most of the UK, and you can usually opt for same-day or scheduled delivery. A fixed one-hour slot on your chosen day can cost between £3 and £7, or you can select a flexi-saver slot for a randomly allocated one-hour slot, which costs between £1 and £4. Bagless delivery is available.
All food comes with a freshness guarantee. If, say, your croissant arrives damaged on arrival, you can return it to the driver and they will process a refund.
For 10 years, Ocado has been synonymous with Waitrose, but now the online retailer has partnered with Marks & Spencer. Over 5,000 own-brand M&S products now replace the 4,000 Waitrose products.
Ocado stocks a real range of branded products, from fresh fish to toothpaste, as well as many M&S-branded offerings.
The minimum spend on the site is £40. Next-day delivery is usually available, with one-hour time slots between 7am and 10pm.
Ocado has tried to make its deliveries as environmentally-friendly as possible, with green delivery slots, and they have reduced their vans’ carbon dioxide emissions by 33 per cent from 2012 to 2018. The company also recycles carrier bags (if you hand them back to the driver). Unwanted supplies are donated to food banks and charities.
Why we like it: Value for money on a range of groceries
Money goes a long way with Asda groceries. Like its supermarkets, prices are typically lower than on other sites. Although there is a £40 minimum spend, you should be able to buy most of your groceries for low prices.
Next-day delivery is usually available, and costs approximately £3, but you can buy a 6- or 12-month Delivery Pass to save money.
The website is simple in its design, but not as easy to navigate as some of the others. There is, however, a good selection of items on offer – including fresh, frozen and chilled groceries.
Why we like it: Affordable online shopping that is good to the environment
With a minimum spend of just £25, Sainsbury’s offers a handy small-shop option, but note that delivery can cost £7 for smaller baskets; orders over £40 incur just a £1 delivery charge.
Sainsbury’s follows in Ocado's footsteps with their environmentally-conscious delivery service. Not only do they offer bagless delivery, but they also have eco-friendly ‘green slots’, where you can schedule a delivery to coincide with when a Sainsbury’s van is in your area.
Ordering is simple, and you can even create a dietary profile so the site can flag up products that you should avoid. The range is as broad as you'd find in the supermarket itself, and same-day delivery is available if you order by 12pm and the earliest delivery time on the day is 6pm.
The best online supermarket for grocery delivery: our verdict
We were particularly impressed by Sainsbury’s eco-delivery service and their low minimum spend, plus the variety of products on offer. Ocado’s all-encompassing selection also made it one of the strongest contenders, and Waitrose’s easy-to-use site and variety also made it one of the best sites for online grocery delivery.