/ Food & Drink, Money, Shopping

Does online food shopping help you to spend less?

Online shoppers

If you’re already logged in to your laptop, or looking at your phone while waiting for a train, then it’s all too easy to organise your grocery shopping online rather than digging out all your Bags for Life and trekking to the shops.

In fact, getting your food shopping delivered is becoming more popular – online grocery sales are expected to reach £9.8 billion this year, topping last year’s figure by 13%, market analysts Mintel say.

And, according to a Mintel survey of 2,000 people, one in ten of us have done away with the weekly trip to the supermarket altogether and only buy groceries online.

Supermarket psychology

Aside from the convenience factor, those surveyed said one of the main reasons for buying groceries online was to keep a better track of their spending.

But one of the biggest drawbacks of the digital approach can be how little control you have over what you’re buying.

Whether that’s weird substitutions (Pampers instead of sausage rolls for dinner, anyone?) or receiving bruised and battered vegetables, there’s a clear advantage to choosing exactly what goes into your trolley.

Supermarkets use a range of tactics in store to tempt you into loading up your basket. Our 2014 investigation into supermarket psychology found products that are bought together are often placed together on shelves to encourage you to buy all of them – whether that’s a meal deal or gin and tonic.

And the overall layout of a supermarket is carefully planned to get us to part with our cash – the area at the front of the supermarket doesn’t contain much, cleverly planned so that we slow our pace to a leisurely ‘shopping speed’. And wide aisles mean you can become distracted by items that aren’t on your shopping list.

Pressure to purchase

So for those of you that shop online, especially now that the major supermarkets allow you to save favourite items – and sometimes even whole shopping lists – is it easier to avoid impulse buys? Or do you find that you have the same pressures to purchase more as you would in a supermarket?

And for those who tend to pick up what they need from a smaller supermarket of the Express, Metro or Local variety, where your bill can be higher than if you’d gone shopping further out of town – do you ever find yourself shopping online to save money?


We shop online every 4- 5 weeks and the bill seems to come to around £200 which might sound a lot but probably averages around £50 a week. On top of that, most of our meat, fruit and veg is bought fresh locally.

First we go through special offers in our favourites and stock up on anything that is either freezable or storable, then select everything else from our favourites we need or want.

Then maybe a quick look at some of the new products which might get added to the basket or put in favourites to try when they are on special offer.

Then a check of the basket which is probably nearer £300 and remove all the things we don’t really need!!!

Sounds simple and straightforward enough, so why can it take several hours sometimes?

I shop a lot faster on foot than sitting comfortably at home in front of a computer. All the in store tactics supermarkets use are wasted on me as I usually have a shopping list, head for the aisles I want and ignore the rest. If the supermarket has moved the aisle, I usually can’t be bothered to find it and do without especially if I am in a superstore.

Online, you might want a salad dressing and discover a whole new range of products. Then you discover a new brand and investigate what else they do. You might find a buy 3 for the price of 2 which you investigate….. In store, an area only gets a quick glance, something you can’t do online as you look at everything on your screen.

So maybe I am falling for online tactics instead !!!

Iused to use ASDA, but have now been using Tesco for a number of years. Tesco delivery persons are somewhat more refined than ASDA persons. So I presume that they have a different way of interviewing.

It was raining the last time I had a Tesco delivery.

The driver took the carrier bags out of the van and placed them on the ground in the pouring rain while he searched for the next lot. I went and got them and gave him a slight ear-bashing.

We have also had very good Tesco delivery people.

I generally prefer to buy online and yes it does take longer than when walking around the store. I do put things in my trolley on impulse just like in the store. However, there is time to react and reflect on that impulse and take it out with online shopping. Do I really need that? Do I want it? I might have needed it or wanted it yesterday but today I don’t and the delivery is not until next week. Overall I feel I spend less with online shopping although I spend more in individual shops. I use two services, one organic which delivers weekly or fortnightly and then one for main produce I can’t get from the organic company every couple of months. Overall it is cheaper and I feel more in control than going to the supermarket 2 or 3 times a week and ending up buying all sorts of things I hadn’t planned for

Christine says:
7 May 2016

I’ve been buying my groceries online for a couple of years now and would never go back to the drudgery of shopping regularly in-store. We buy what we need, and a treat here and there, and have cut our spending considerably. We still take advantage of offers when they apply to items we want . There are downsides of course; sometimes the best before/use by dates are shorter than we’d like but then there is no guarantee that they would be much longer in-store. Sometimes goods are not available (I don’t allow substitutes for most of my shopping) but again they would not be on the shelves either. Providing you check the dates on the delivery and return anything you think is too short, and complain about it too (to the delivery man and online, be firm but polite) – the store providing the service usually responds by taking more care – at least for a few weeks ….

We do use Ocado from time to time, buying essential ‘bulky’ things like ‘6 packs of water’, boxes of Tea and packs butter etc.
If you buy over £45 worth , delivery is free at an agreed time, and the delivery people are always very polite and helpful.
The only downside I find is that I get bombarded with offers from them while I am searching their website, and after my delivery, via Email.

Philip Baker says:
7 May 2016

I have been doing my shopping online for a number of years now and usually have a delivery every couple of weeks. Overall I think I’m probably spending roughly the same as if I shop in store. I have been lucky in that I have never really had any problems with receiving strange substitutions or damaged/bruised fruit and veg.Also, I have always found the delivery people very friendly, helpful and always on time.I do still go into the store,usually at least once a week for occasional items and just to see if I have missed anything online.

We have used Tesco delivery for years, saves so much time and hassle on going to the store. The main problems have been short use by dates on items and pickers ignoring the weight of a joint of meat we have requested and bringing one much larger (and thus more expensive) or much smaller (which seems to happen whenever we have guests and need more!). Since Tesco went over to sending our deliveries from a warehouse rather than the local store though we have noticed the selection available has got much smaller, with one of our favourites becoming permanently unavailable per month. In one case a search yielded 25 items to choose from but this dropped to just 14 when I logged in and my postcode was taken into account. We’ve complained about this but nothing changes. I’m now thinking of switching to Sainsburys or Morrisons to see if they are better.

I need that trip 2/3 times a week to get out and about, get some exercise. I’m retired, and using my free travel card means that I can reach further out of town shops, like Aldi (taking a book for the journey). The horror stories I’ve heard about substitutions is enough in itself to deter me from online shopping. So, at least for some people, making the trip to the supermarket is sensible. As for impulse buys: what’s wrong with a bit of self-pampering occasionally?

I have shopped online for the past 6 years. We changed supplier & get far better service plus other benefits. It’s an absolute boon to us as I’m a pensioner & hubby disabled plus we don’t have a car & live a 20 minute bus ride from our supermarket as we live in the country. We spend less online than in store. I allow some substitutions but am specific as to what is acceptable. Also I like that I can refuse any item & get a refund immediately. It has been extremely rare that substitutions were not acceptable. In those instances I telephoned customer services & was refunded the cost. EG: Eggs were only found to be broken once the box was opened.

I only buy online when I know the shops are full (Christmas, Easter …). I’ve noticed that I do buy only needed items, therefore I spend less. But I won’t be albe to do that all year – I’m afraid I will loose the shopping spirit 😀 😀 😀

I buy all my food shopping online. I find that it stops me from making rash purchases as I can make a list and stick to it rather than browsing the aisles. I enjoy having it delivered at a time that suits and i think that the delivery costs are very reasonable. I have had some strange substitutions but overall it hasn’t been too bad. The worst was a delivery on xmas eve when the meat I ordered was out of stock so they hadn’t sent any! We were very lucky as the driver noticed that the hadn’t packed our xmas dinner and ran into the shop to get an alternative himself to save us from having no dinner. excellent customer service.