Groceries include everything from fruit juices and tea, to fresh fruit, vegetables, canned goods, meat, cheese, and condiments. Basically, if you can find it in a supermarket, it fits into the groceries category, but how can you save money when buying these essential items?
These days, customers have a choice. They can head to supermarkets and load up their trolleys, or do the same thing electronically at various digital delivery portals (most of them associated with leading grocery retailers). In this hotukdeals buyer's guide, we'll investigate what this entails, how buyers can make grocery savings and find the best groceries deals, and which retailers are the best ones to choose. But before we get onto that, let's run through the history of the grocery trade, to understand how our one-click, same-day delivery system came to be.
A Brief History of Groceries and Household Supplies
Ever since people moved into cities and left a predominantly rural existence, they have needed ways to connect with food producers. For thousands of years, this meant that grocery shopping tended to take place via markets, where producers from the countryside or merchants could congregate and serve urban consumers. This changed from the 17th century onwards, as markets became more international and complex. Rising incomes and the growth of industry fed new markets for processed foods, imported luxuries like tea and coffee, sugar, or rum, and merchants scrambled to respond.
The result was the rapid expansion of the High Street as a centrepiece of British urban existence – and Napoleon's famous quip that the country represented a “nation of shopkeepers”. He was completely correct, as it happened. Britain was the first country to commercialise on a national scale, and the first to create a national groceries market – with products appearing from every corner of the world.
Small stores dominated until well into the 20th century, but from 1900 onwards, the grocery sector started to change dramatically. Small stores were replaced by larger enterprises, with spacious premises. Branded goods became advertised in every town, via billboards, newspapers, sports events, and – later on – radio and TV.
The first recognisable supermarket opened in Streatham, South London, in 1951, but development was limited by post-war rationing and measures to protect smaller stores. However, supermarkets eventually replaced classic grocery stores, capitalising on new technology such as refrigeration, preservation, electronic stock-taking, and the automobile. Laws changed, too, allowing larger stores – and sparked the massive expansion of Tesco in the 1960s and 70s, while “out of town” shopping centres also decimated small operators.
This wasn't to last, though. In the 1990s, supermarkets started to feel their own pressures, as competition led to price cutting, and organic stores and farmers markets began to claim the premium market. The internet also started to pose serious questions for big box retailers, potentially replacing their business models with decentralised, consumer-focused delivery systems.
Since 2000, businesses like Ocado have shown that these concerns were justified. Online shopping has become a routine activity for millions of Britons. The traditional supermarkets have been quick to respond, building their own delivery services, while competing with upstarts (and invaders like Amazon Pantry). It all adds up to a vibrant groceries sector, where customers can usually find huge savings, which is what this hotukdeals buyer's guide is all about.
What Do We Mean When We Talk About Online Grocery Shopping?
This buyer's guide is mainly concerned with buying groceries online. We're not so interested in purchasing from high street or out of town supermarkets, markets, or wholesalers (although check below for a little advice about non-digital purchasing options). Instead, what we are talking about here is online ordering.
In recent years, online grocery shopping in the UK has exploded. The total amount spent by Brits on online groceries is around £13 billion, and rising 9-10% every year, while UK stores sell over £140 million in groceries via the web every week. About 65% of shoppers aged between 25 and 34 buy their groceries online, and around half of us have purchased something via the web in the past year. These stats make the UK the world's second largest online groceries market, a sure sign that the practice has become totally embedded in the country's way of life.
Why would you shop online for food, drink and essentials like dishwasher tablets or shampoo? Well, there are actually plenty of potential reasons. Thanks to modern grocery shopping apps, you can organise deliveries at work, and have them ready when you get home. It saves time that would be wasted trekking to supermarkets and hauling trolleys around, allows you to set up repeat orders for items that are always in demand, and also enables major savings if you shop in the right way.
Different Products Available with Online Grocery Deals
What can you actually buy online from companies like Ocado, Waitrose, or Morrisons? In short, there are very few items available in standard stores that aren't available for home delivery. So if you were worried about having a more limited selection, those fears can be put to bed. Even so, there are some slight variations that online shoppers should probably know about.
Limitations – Some online grocery retailers will limit the amount of specific items that customers can order. For instance, Tesco reports that some items are limited “To ensure we have enough products available to as many of our customers as possible.” Sainsburys also impose a limit of 36 bottles of water or 6 bottles of spirits. These limits won't apply in bricks and mortar stores (but are very rarely a major obstacle).
Substitutions – Other retailers will automatically “substitute” products that are out of stock with what they deem to be the closest possible alternative. For example, Morrisons will deliver substitutes, while giving customers the opportunity to claim money back immediately if the product delivered isn't appropriate.
Differences Between Stores and Online Deliveries – In other cases, supermarkets simply don't offer their full range via online deliveries. Sainsburys is a good example. On its delivery FAQ, the store admits that “Each store has its own range tailored to its size and customer base, so sometimes products are available in your local store but not in the store which delivers your online shopping.” It's always possible that certain products will be unavailable, regardless of which supplier you use.
Aside from those possible issues, shoppers can buy anything they need online that would ordinarily be available on supermarket shelves. It's also worth bearing in mind that online shoppers can often benefit from special offers that are only available via digital deliveries, and that these will generally be easy to find via hotukdeals.
Delivery Options from Major Online Grocery Retailers
Whenever you make an online delivery from a major UK supermarket or alternative supplier, you'll need to create an account. This is unavoidable for all services, and it's worth the time. Your account will usually allow you to create repeat deliveries, process cancellations or refund claims, check out special offers, and track deliveries. And it should hook up with the retailer's mobile app as well (see below for links to popular apps).
Customers can generally start adding items to their orders before actually creating an account, but be aware that you'll need to provide a few personal details and payment information before checking out (when you can also add things like promo codes associated with grocery coupons). When you do, you'll generally encounter a few typical delivery options:
Scheduled Delivery Slots – When you make an order online, retailers like Ocado will create a “slot” for you to receive those items. These could be any time – usually within the next week, and they tend to expire within 60 minutes. This ensures that stores can keep their delivery rotas as efficient as possible, but it shouldn't cause too many problems unless you leave the website running and head off to do something else. Choosing standard delivery slots a few days in advance is standard, and should ensure low delivery rates (unless you apply free delivery promos).
Off-peak Deliveries – Not all delivery slots are equal. Many retailers also operate peak and off-peak delivery systems to manage the load on their teams. These times will vary depending on the retailer, but most reduce their rates at less popular times of day. So if you can be in to receive the order during working hours, it can be a good way to save.
Same Day Deliveries - When you buy your groceries same day delivery will usually be an option as well. This is obviously the most convenient way to order, but also the most expensive, with rates rising by 20-30% for same day deliveries. If that's a problem, be sure to check for sane day delivery promos, which pop up regularly at hotukdeals.
Bulk Delivery Discounts – Most online grocery retailers also operate ceilings for bulk deliveries, meaning that the more you order, the more you save. For example, Sainsburys eliminates all delivery charges for orders worth over £100 placed between Monday and Thursday after 14:00.
Delivery Passes – Supermarkets also want customers to buy regularly and in large quantities. That's why “passes” have become increasingly common. These products allow you to pay a fee upfront, which then entitles you to free deliveries for a set period of time (usually 3, 6, or 12 months). Passes may also be divided into “anytime” and “weekday” versions, and voucher codes are routinely available. So compare prices of passes and single deliveries before placing your first order. If you don't intend to buy regularly from a single retailer, a pass probably won't make sense. But if you are loyal to Morrisons or Tescos, they are very sensible investments.
What Are the Best Places to Buy Groceries Online?
The UK has a fairly diverse and competitive online grocery delivery market, which means that customers will want to compare prices whenever they make an order. Most major high street brands are represented, as well as a couple of contenders who don't have a bricks and mortar presence, but could well be an appealing online alternative. Here are some leading options that can be found at the hotukdeals groceries listings:
Ocado – Voted the best online grocery delivery service by consumer magazine Which? In 2019, Ocado is an independent retailer (although it was associated with Waitrose for a long period). Well known for its accurate orders and prompt deliveries, Ocado operates via an easy to use online catalogue, which regularly offers big introductory discounts, savings for referring friends, and various “top offers” to supplement grocery shopping. There's no delivery pass, but Smart Pass functions in a similar way, adding access to special deals, free samples, and priority access at peak periods like Christmas.
Tesco – The UK's oldest supermarket has updated its operations well for the digital age, and buying online groceries at Tesco is an established option for the retailer's many fans. It covers 99% of UK addresses, beating all other online delivery services, offers environmentally friendly bagless deliveries, and also runs the Any Day Pass system, which ensures very cheap fees for regular customers.
Morrisons – Covering around 75% of the UK, Morrisons does have its blind spots, but generally offers a good level of service to urban shoppers, with prompt deliveries and very competitive prices. Delivery passes are available for regular purchasers of groceries at Morrisons, drivers will help carry in shopping if needed, and bagless deliveries can be arranged (for a very small fee). As with Ocado, there are usually discounts for the first shop, so be sure to redeem any promotional codes when creating an account.
Waitrose – The UK's number one premium groceries retailer has struck out alone, creating an independent delivery service covering over 80% of UK locations. Almost as highly rated as Ocado in the customer happiness stakes, Waitrose offers delivery services to the inside of customers' homes, and tries to minimise plastic bag usage. When shopping online, it may also be a good idea to sign up for MyWaitrose, the store's loyalty scheme, which ensures 25% savings on selected groceries.
Sainsburys – One of the most popular supermarkets in the UK, Sainsbury's has created a slick, simple, and reliable delivery service for all of its grocery products. If you 're looking to buy online groceries Sainsburys covers pretty much every area well, with its delivery passes, flexible time slots, coverage of 98% of the UK, and unpacking services on demand. There should be plenty of discounts for online shoppers as well, and there are special screening tools for shoppers with special diets – a neat touch that not all retailers offer.
Amazon Pantry – Even online giant Amazon has entered the UK's groceries delivery market, and is starting to make waves with its innovative ordering system. Amazon Pantry benefits from the company's ownership of Whole Foods, ensuring an excellent selection of health foods and organic brands, and there are numerous savings across all grocery classes – in keeping with the Amazon sales strategy. Money off deals for larger orders are common, as are selected samples to ship with orders, and discount vouchers are also part of the deal. If you have a Prime account and want to explore something a little different, it's definitely worth checking out.
Iceland – Finally, the UK's number one frozen food specialists have created a popular online grocery ordering platform that's ideal for party organisers and budget shoppers. Everything is here, from vegan burgers to vol au vents and ice cream, and it couldn't be simpler to order. Iceland offers 86% coverage, which is pretty good, and tends to be well regarded by customers thanks to its punctuality and accuracy. Check out the party food bundles for special occasions, as well as free next day deliveries for higher spends.
There is no iOS or Android app for Iceland deliveries, so it's a case of buying via web browsers only.
Asda – Owned by the American Walmart group, Asda has a huge product range (including the popular George clothing catalogue), offers 97% postcode coverage and reasonably affordable rates. The company is slightly less accommodating regarding deliveries to the inside of customers' homes, but offers the usual range of same day deliveries and discounted passes. So if you're an Asda fan, you won't be disappointed.
If you haven't placed an online order before, you may not be aware of how voucher codes and grocery coupons work. However, you'll probably have encountered paper coupons on the past, and their digital counterparts aren't all that different.
When you shop online, most ordering portals will clearly show the kind of deals that are on offer, such as “free delivery for orders over £40” or “35% off your first order”. Normally, these orders will come with a code attached. In most cases, shoppers will need to note down the code and check for the entry field when checking out. There should be a “insert discount code” field on the payment page, with an “apply code” button right next door.
Just enter (or copy and paste) the code, press “apply”, and your order sub total should be reduced. In other cases, discounts will be processed automatically (such as “first delivery” deals). Double check that this has happened before finalising any orders, as it's possible to miss an option to include discounts – and not all retailers make it simple to apply the savings they offer.
Alternatively, shoppers can head to listings sites which aggregate current grocery coupon deals. hotukdeals is one of the best around, covering online shopping with all of the brands listed above, and highlighting deals as soon as they emerge. Simply click on the deal, see if it applies, and press the link to the retailer's delivery portal before entering any relevant codes when prompted.
What About Bricks and Mortar Stores? Some Quick Grocery Buying Tips
Although we've been talking about digital grocery deliveries, it remains true that the majority of grocery purchases in the UK occur at store checkouts. So it's useful to run through a few quick tips to help save money at your local supermarket.
Don't buy for the next few days, buy for the medium term – The best way to save money is by taking advantage of multi-buy deals. All supermarkets offer these promos, usually for essential products. But most of use make purchases with the next few days in mind, and pass up big savings as a result. Don't do that. Instead, buy your washing up liquid or frozen peas for the next few months, and take advantage of savings as they appear.
Work out what you need – However, there's a big qualifier to think about here. Deals aren't a good deal if you are tempted into buying things that you don't actually need. So focus on multi-buy offers for the things you require. Make a list, stick to it, and don't be seduced by seemingly irresistible offers for products that you wouldn't otherwise buy.
Join loyalty schemes wherever possible – Regular supermarket visitors should always be members of customer loyalty programs like MyWaitrose or Tesco Clubcard. These schemes let you access exclusive discounts, earn points to spend in the future, and access other perks (such as free Waitrose coffees). Don't pass them up.
Loyalty is good, but feel free to look elsewhere – This doesn't mean that you should only shop at one retailer. Far from it. The biggest savings are realised by shoppers who know how to compare deals at various retailers, and take the effort to exploit them. When making a list, check out hotukdeals listings for groceries, search for the brands you want, and see which shops offer the best prices.
How and When to Pick Up Cheap Groceries Whenever You Need Them
We all need to purchase groceries. Unlike smartphones, jewellery, or Chanel perfume, groceries are essential items that we purchase week in, week out. However, just because we buy the same products all the time doesn't mean we should accept higher prices. Whether you shop on or offline for groceries, it's always possible to cut your weekly bills, and here's how to do so.
First, follow the advice outlined above regarding shopping around, making lists, exploiting multi-buy deals, and joining loyalty schemes. These ideas apply to digital deliveries just as much as bricks and mortar stores.
The best place to compare prices is via the hotukdeals groceries listings. Our listings feature up to date information about grocery promotions from the UK's leading retailers. Whether you shop at Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsburys, Iceland, Asda, Morrisons, Ocado, Marks & Spencer, or Amazon Pantry, our listings will include deals that you won't want to miss.
Moreover, our listings include a huge variety of discounts for online deliveries. If you want the convenience of ordering online, be sure to consult our directory of same day discounts, multi-buy promotions, and introductory savings. These apply to all places to buy groceries online, and nobody should place an order before taking a look.
Finally, be aware of deals to coincide with special occasions. Christmas, the New Year, Valentine's Day, Easter, the school summer holidays, World Cup or Olympic events, and Black Friday are all great times to explore groceries deals, and you'll find every promotion at the hotukdeals groceries listings.
Stock Up On Food, Drink and Other Essentials with the Grocery Offers at hotukdeals
Ordering groceries has come a long way since customers had to haggle with stall holders at their local markets. Nowadays, shoppers can use mobile apps to log onto the websites of major retailers, organise a delivery slot, and receive their order within hours. If you're planning a big online purchase, be sure to check out the huge range of offers at the hotukdeals grocery listings.