/ Shopping

Have we fallen out of love with the big weekly shop?

Fruit on shop shelf with no prices

The big weekly shop. For many of us Saturday mornings used to mean a family trip to an out-of-town superstore where we squabbled over what to eat that week – before carting home an improbable amount of food.

But it seems we may have fallen out of love with the weekly wrestle with an overflowing shopping trolley and its always dodgy back wheel.

New research from the Co-op claims that the once-a-week visit is in decline. It says that half of us no longer tend to shop that way. It’s even higher (six in 10) for 25 to 34-year-olds.

The research claims that among the major reasons for this are efforts to reduce food waste and people claiming the weekly shop no longer fits in with their busy lives. Instead we’re more often using convenience stores and shopping online.

Giving up on the big shop

I became a fan of the big weekly shop when I got my first car. No more buying just what you could carry. No more carting home splitting plastic bags on the bus.

I quickly became expert at knowing the times when my nearest superstore was at its quietest and the most efficient way around the aisles to get the things I wanted.

Sadly, I was more a hopeful than a realistic shopper. There was space in the car, so I filled it. Not with the things I needed, but the things I aspired to. A brief foray into pastry making was never likely to last.

Eventually I gave up on the big shop and the car. I’m lucky in that I live near a high street that has two smaller ‘convenience’ stores.

Are we going back to the past?

It seems that one in three of us now adopt a ‘grazing’ mentality – shopping for food multiple times a week. It seems we’re going back to the past in this way – back in 1965 one in three women used to shop every day for groceries.

I certainly remember my mother doing this – although I suspect there was a large social aspect to her shopping habits.

Apparently, we use convenience stores for different things depending on the day of the week. If it’s a Monday, we’re most likely to be topping up on staple item. Nearer the weekend it’s more likely to be alcohol or something for that evening’s meal.

For a long time it seemed that all that supermarkets had to do was build bigger and bigger stores out of town, then we would find a way to travel to them for the sake of ever greater choice. But are the supermarkets now coming to us instead?

How do you do your weekly food shopping? Do you still favour a big weekly shop or do you prefer to top up a number of times during the week? How do you think the supermarket chains should change to suit your needs?

How do you do your weekly food shopping?

I prefer to shop multiple times a week (53%, 572 Votes)

I prefer to do a big weekly shop (47%, 516 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,088

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I suppose the answer depends very much on where you live and what alternatives you have, I doubt anybody has the choice I have.

Within 10 minutes by car I have two Aldis, a third arrives soon, one Morrison, two Waitrose, two Sainsburys, and an 18 hour a day Tesco., and another Tesco. There are also two small Co-ops, and a M&S shop at the local petrol station. The closest on foot is ten minutes.

We use Aldi, Waitrose, and the Co-op in decreasing importance and shop at the first two weekly. The Co-op hardly ever. And the farm shop once a week – but that is just over 10 minutes away.


We have the opposite scenario to dieseltaylor in this Herefordshire town (well, if I lived in the Scottish Highlands there would probably be even less choice) – namely a small Tesco and a Co-op. Both these chains are consistently at the bottom of Which’s pile, but a lot is down to individual store management – our Co-op isn’t as bad as many others I’ve been to.

However, with the nearest Lidl 10 miles away, they have no competition. I frequently go to the West Midlands where my lady friend lives – there’s a Lidl or Aldi on almost every street corner, so that is where I do my bulk shopping. I very seldom make a special journey to do a supermarket shop, but if I’m in the area, I take advantage.


Food shopping is not something I enjoy. Therefore I do it as seldom as possible – once per week at a large Sainsbury’s. I’m usually in and out in under 15 minutes. For different reasons, booze shopping is even less often, roughly every 9 months – 2 hours from home at Carrefour in Calais and Lidl in Belgium. Going to a supermarket more than once per week would be a waste of my time.


So many things have changed in people’s work and leisure patterns that it’s not a question of whether we have fallen out of love with a big weekly shop, it’s a case of fitting in the shopping when and where we can. With so many more people commuting to work and not controlled by a regular shift pattern life has become looser; eating out at lunchtime [or going out to get a snack and a beverage] rather than opening a lunch box means the evening meal diminishes in regularity and importance. It’s so easy to get a takeaway; virtually every pub sells food; most people have a well-stocked [but not necessarily well-used] freezer and enough in their cupboards to live on for some time before replenishment is necessary.

Probably over half a shopping trolley load in a major supermarket is not food but household products, toiletries, drinks [including immense volumes of water!], and all the other non-food products that are available now from ironing boards to school uniforms. Perhaps the Co-op is noticing a decline in the big weekly shop because its stores are generally smaller and do not carry the vast range of goods of the Big Four supermarkets. Our nearest shop of any type is a Tesco superstore [15 min walk] that we mainly use for top-up shopping [because it has the only posting box for miles!] but it has a very comprehensive selection of foodstuffs and household products that only one other shop in the town can match [Sainsbury, two miles away]. There are several smaller stores like Aldi, Lidl, Iceland, and Farm Foods but you cannot do a big shop in them because they do not have all the ancillary products like herbs and spices, cleaning products, toiletries, and the preferred brands.

The local/convenience stores like Tesco Express, and the M&S at the filling station, do not carry a wide range of foods [Tesco’s have quite small freezers with a very limited selection]. Space is generally given over to drink, snacks, and instant foods; we would find it very unsatisfactory if our choice were to be restricted to just this kind of store. Small Tesco’s in particular usually only stock one product in each category, generally a national brand because the mark-up is higher than with own-label products, and obviously they cannot provide deli, fish, meat and bakery counters so all ‘fresh’ food is pre-packed.

Our habit is to use the Sainsbury superstore for a home delivery about every two or three weeks mainly for the ‘stock’ commodities and provisions plus fresh food for the week ahead. That is our ‘big shop’. In between we pick up what we need wherever it is convenient and fits in with our movements which might include the weekly market, a farm shop, the BP/M&S, and Aldi, as well as other shops for toiletries and household products. If we go to Norwich we would usually call in at one of the Waitrose stores on the way home in order to “refresh” the larder and add a few higher quality items.

I have spent years criticising the way the major supermarkets have proliferated, leading to the closure of so many smaller independent shops from bakers to hardware stores, CTN’s to shoe shops. Now they are under threat themselves as the likes of Aldi and Lidl grow their market share. The problem is that if they withdraw or reduce their inventory [and there is already evidence of this] there are no independent shops left to fill the gap. The large Tesco on or doorstep, for all our grumblings, sells an incredible range of speciality products and unusual varieties that you might need only once or twice a year but which the competition will not be able to offer. There is almost one whole gondola dedicated to food wrapping and presentation products, from parchment to serving trays, drinking straws to ice-cream cones – rarely available in the smaller stores. The Sainsbury store likewise.

If the smaller shops increase their market share beyond a certain level neither of our large Sainsbury or Tesco stores will be able to maintain their current offering across so many categories and, little by little, products will be withdrawn. I don’t think they will have to fight it out to the death so that only one superstore remains – major new housing developments are planned that will increase footfall and Morrison have already withdrawn from a new-build store development on the back of the new housing and no one else has taken their place.

Thankfully, the big weekly shop is still important in our area – which still has the traditional family lifestyle – and Friday night and Saturday morning are the favoured times when all the checkouts are open, the self-service section is full and queuing, and there are no trolleys in the car park..


When I used to live next to a massive Asda, I used to do a weekly shop. It was just easy to carry home a bunch of shopping bags.

I live a little bit further away from a supermarket now. It’s a Tesco. Now I generally shop every couple of days, stopping off at a Sainsbury’s and M&S on my way home. I think it’s just a better way of shopping for your meals. Even though I expect it’s more expensive in the long run.


We do a weekly shop but I’m sure it is wasteful – buying stuff that you fancy at the time, or think you’ll need, or in case the family visits, but doesn’t get used. So shopping regularly when you need food, and buying what appeals to your taste buds on the day seems a much more sensible way of perhaps both saving money and eating enjoyably. If only it didn’t require more effort….. An en route stop off is a good solution. Perhaps. like schools, it should be a priority when choosing a new home?


We, and perhaps a lot more people nowadays, will not make a special car journey for food and household shopping. If it’s en route for some other purpose that’s OK. I agree with Malcolm’s point about buying what appeals to you on the day but that’s where we face a dilemma: if we stop at a small shop there is not the choice, but if we stop at a major supermarket with heaps of choice the chances are we come out with things we didn’t really need to get right then and sometimes stuff we probably didn’t need to get at all [and I am usually the impulsive culprit]. Picking up a basket at the entrance rather than a trolley is one way of controlling overload. Another way in which my urges get constrained is having things taken out of the shopping bags at the exit and put in the Food Bank bin. It’s a moral as well as an economic lesson.


When I chose my present home, there was a local butcher, greengrocer, baker and small supermarket nearby. None survived long after Tesco opened a supermarket nearby. The only one I miss is the butcher. I call in at Tesco once or twice a week and take the opportunity to shop elsewhere if passing.