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Supermarket deliveries: have you been given items with expiring use-by dates?

Has your supermarket delivery arrived with fresh products approaching their use-by/best before date within just a day or two? If so, we’d like to hear from you.

Online supermarket orders have surged for obvious reasons throughout the pandemic – hundreds of you came to Which? Conversation in April last year to report difficulties securing a slot for your grocery shopping.

Fortunately the situation has eased considerably since then, but with online deliveries still preferred by many as restrictions gradually ease, it can be frustrating to receive your order only to find that half the items are approaching their best before/use-by date extremely quickly.

Short shelf lives

We know that the Twitter user above is far from alone, with many disgruntled customers sharing photos of items with short best before dates on social media.

I’ve heard from Which? staff the last few days who have had the same issue – some told me they had to re-think their entire week’s shop due to so many fresh items expiring in such a short space of time.

Over to you

So the question is: has this happened to you? I’m especially keen to here which items are expiring, how soon you have to use them, and which supermarket you ordered from.

Do you think supermarkets should do more to let you know which items are approaching their use-by date before you order? And are there any stores that are doing a good job?

Let me know your experiences in the comments.


This going to sound like a stupid question but I’m hoping someone can perhaps give me a bit of advice because I’m at my wits end. Is there any supermarket that delivers that is the least culpable of this? I’ve had cheese delivered with mould on that the supermarket said shouldn’t even have been on their shelves! I’ve had to stop buying the grandchildren the snack packs of fruit because of almost expired dates, yoghurts I’d get them were always a really unfunny joke, the cold meat for their sandwiches was ridiculous – oh I could go on forever but I don’t think anybody’s got that much time!!!
I sent bags and bags down to my daughter pretty often purely because I knew that with 3 boys like bins on legs the stuff would hardly last a moment whereas granny on her own would be having to bin most of it! Found myself looking up “can I freeze” so often I think I was saying it in my sleep! – more than once I considered using the stuff for stews, homemade soups and the like but of course the freezer’s filled with all that “can I freeze” stuff so I’ve nowhere to keep it!!!! Got to the stage that I’m looking for tins and packets that I can possibly try to create meals with!! (extremely unhealthy)
I was just wondering if perhaps someone could advise me on any supermarket that’s the least offender of this so I don’t have to resort to that.
Can anybody help?

Thanks in advance.

Then your best bet is probably Ocado.

“We show a Life Guarantee on all fresh products, which is the minimum number of days you can expect an item to last. This is counted from the day following your delivery.”

e.g. LIFE 3d+ means a product should be good for at least three days following the date of delivery.

And because Ocado operate from an automated warehouse, they don’t rely on humans checking each individual product and rotating stock as they have to in a public supermarket.

Obviously, there can still be problems with fresh produce, where handling and weather conditions can mean some products like raspberries could be damaged or go mouldy before the use by date. But Ocado will refund any products without the usual “Have you got the receipt and packaging?” interrogation.

Hi Karen,
I also shop mainly with Ocado and have had to change the way I shop and cook since lockdown. We used to shop for fresh produce whenever we needed it but with one delivery a week it doesn’t usually last that long so our eating habits had to change. Our repertoire has shrunk somewhat, but at least food rarely goes to waste.

I now cook in bulk and freeze meals so meat and veg are mostly used up in one go. I cook for two people and freeze mostly in Judge Seal & Store Glass Containers 350ml that hold just over 380g of food. Freezer bags can also work when food has cooled.

I make turkey or beef stews with root veg and mushrooms in a slow cooker. A meal for one will have mashed potato on the top (freeze bottom half first). The container is not quite big enough for a meal for two so will have a thick sauce to thin down to increase the volume and also add mushrooms, peas or tinned sweetcorn. I either use fresh potatoes or packet mash – Idahoan Cheddar Cheese Mash is a great improvement over Smash. Cabbage and broccoli usually last quite well as a green veg.

Minced beef or lamb is cooked with fried onion then frozen. It can then be used for various dishes to eat with pasta, potato or rice.

I buy a leg of lamb to make curry, cut off most of the meat but leave enough for a roast dinner and some cold meat for lunch.

Rather than buy ready-sliced cold meat, I get a joint of gammon and roast it to eat hot then cold. It works out much cheaper than buying ready sliced.

It takes a bit of planning ahead, but when you have some room in your freezer, maybe have a go at buying ingredients that you can use up in one go. Not only is it cheaper, you know what’s in it so is healthier than buying ready meals and saves having to prepare a meal from scratch every day. I shop online for my mum and now have her supplementing fresh produce with Coffee-mate, milk powder, Idahoan mash and frozen vegetables. Her age and health now prevents her from doing too much cooking but she does now manage to handle a weekly delivery instead of going to the supermarket several times a week.

(I always defrost food in glass containers before putting them in the oven as one brand couldn’t handle the sudden change in temperature.)

Thanks ever so much for that Em I really appreciate it

Karen, you don’t say which supermarkets you have used, but I second Ems advice, as I have used Ocado for quite a long time and have yet to receive anything past it’s sell by date. If they are out of stock of any item it will say so at the point of ordering, which means substitution is a rarity.

I use click & collect services from Morrisons, Tesco and Waitrose and I have usually been satisfied. If I am not happy about anything I give it back to the member of staff who replaces it, which is better than having a refund for a missing product. This only works where the groceries come from the store rather than a depot, which they do with the stores I currently use. When I have used Waitrose deliveries I have quickly looked at the dates and quality of fresh food to avoid delaying the driver but not found any problems.

At one time, Sainsbury’s was disappointing many customers (this was mentioned repeatedly in another Conversation and by friends who used their service) but these problems seem to have been overcome. It may depend on where you live.

We only use Sainsbury’s. Their delivery service isn’t bad but I wouldn’t recommend them. We have learnt to compensate for their inconsistencies but they continue to disappoint with the unavailability of certain products that are not generally out of stock elsewhere. Even up to 11:00 pm on the day before delivery they list products as available but by 8:00 am they have become unavailable by which time it is impossible to order a replacement. Where substitutions are allowed their choices are sometimes unsatisfactory. I get the impression that if a product is not available on the shelf, rather than get more stock from the warehouse they will pick a substitute. We have to allow substitutes on more lines than we would wish to in order to do a full shop. As Wavechange says, it seems to depend very much upon which store or depot is servicing your address.

Perhaps it’s worth speaking to neighbours and other local residents to gain an insight into the service provided different companies in the area.

Which? News published this appraisal back in August, although the analysis raised some criticism

I have family who use both Ocado and Waitrose without problems.

My food delivery from Sainsbury’s was yesterday. As usual there were a number of items unavailable, in fact 20% of my total spend was unavailable. However this wasn’t why I am adding my comment. They delivered a dessert that was 3 days past its ‘Use by date’ which I am sure is a safety concern as well as being illegal. I telephoned them & they were ‘willing’ to refund the item & didn’t appear to grasp the importance of expired food. I asked for someone to call me but as yet I have heard nothing. . .

I suggest you contact Sainsbury’s head office, William. You are right to be concerned. If you receive food past its use by date again you can contact your local council which will pass you on to the local department that handles food safety. If there is a problem you can contact the Food Standards Agency.

Some supermarkets do better than others at maintaining stocks in these difficult times, so it might be worth looking at what others have to offer if you have a local choice of supplier.

Simon says:
11 January 2022

Tesco has lost the plot on this recently (last 12 months). It used to be excellent, but we now get fresh produce with really short dates – and sometimes the produce is wilting, browning, otherwise not what you’d have picked for yourself.
In Lockdown we couldn’t get Tesco deliveries so easily (couldn’t find slots) so we signed up with Waitrose as click and collect slots were easy to get. We now use Waitrose for delivery of fresh produce as their approach couldn’t be more different. We have grapes in the fridge that have been there 10 days and they’re still crunchy and fresh, for example.