/ Shopping

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.

Bluesden says:
23 April 2021

Not had too much trouble TBH over lock down with deliveries and product dates from Waitrose and Sainsbury’s. However, our recent Sainsbury’s shop was terrible; lots of fresh products on date for the day they were delivered or the day after. What was super annoying is that I had bought a few items in bulk to last a few weeks (as they would normally) and had to freeze them as they were all on a very short date (the day after the delivery).

Thankfully back to shopping in store now.

Normally have Asda deliveries and had no problems with use by dates. In fact have found them better than other supermarkets in store dates. A few deliveries from Tesco and their use by dates were a day or two on all occasions

Simon Collett-Jones says:
23 April 2021

Sainsburys have been far from perfect. The main problem has been milk that expires a couple of days after delivery. We have had this problem with other chilled items. If the date is too soon we will reject the item. The delivery person’s response is usually to give us a credit for the amount and we keep the item.

We have recently stopped using Sainsbury because of this and many other issues. No amount of complaints and requests for pickers to be more careful helped. Maybe I should just have gone to Twitter/Which straightaway? Issues in no particular order:

– delivering weighed meat which was twice the size we’d asked for, eg if you are getting a joint of meat, they will give you a set of weights to choose from, they *always* deliver the heaviest, even if you tick the lightest, in some cases putting over £10 more on the shop;
– short dated products with no warning as described in the article, usually meat, and products with only 1-2 days use by left are never listed as short dated on the receipt;
– fruit and veg that was obviously rotten, but hidden in a paper bag or turned the other way up, so not easy to spot when unloading a large shop at the front door;
– punctured goods which had leaked over the rest of the shopping, eg can of juice, bag of sugar. One can of juice was in a multipack and ruined a brand new shelf in the cupboard.

I’ve spent over a year shielding, once we eventually got delivery slots, we used to alternate between Tesco and Sainsbury because they each sell items that the other does not. We cancelled Sainsbury altogether at the start of the month. However, whilst I argued on the phone for a cash refund for some damaged/rotten items, the returned or substituted goods were refunded as a ‘voucher’ for the next delivery, which means we’re out of pocket.

Fiona says:
23 April 2021

Have used Asda click and collect since last March. We were not previously Asda customers (we used Aldi, Sainsburys and Waitrose) and choose Asda because they had collection slots available. However we have been pleased with the quality and range of goods and have stuck with them. Use by dates are not generally a problem. Substitutes are generally pretty sensible too. It is easy to either hand substitutes back at the collection point, or if you find a problem when you get home, you can easily go online to get a refund. The refunds arrive the same day.

Only one weekly shop with Tesco delivery. Rarely problem with most fresh produce and use freezer in some cases. The main problem is with vegetables. However they always have 2 days on short life items and normally the delivery man lists them and gives you a choice to accept or not. Regularly others with 3 days and more often 4 days. I take some notice of Best Buy dates but much more on look and smell and often eat vegetables days after best buy date and they’re fine. Occasional short life with dairy that can be inconvenient, but again 48 hours can be added to all dates.

Jan Titcombe says:
23 April 2021

I have had to completely rejig menus after receiving items with very short use by dates from Sainsburys. Once they warned me and gave me the opportunity to reject. Other times I discover after the delivery man has gone. Worst is chicken. I ordered a whole one for Easter Sunday but it expired the day after delivery and the freezer was full so I had to cook it there and then and order takeaway for Easter.

Alison says:
23 April 2021

Ocado provide itemised orders with use by dates on the morning of the delivery day so if I see something with too short a time to consume, the driver has always taken the item back and refunded the cost. Occasionally I miss something but if I email Ocado and they will usually refund the cost. This all works very well.

They must have a system problem today, as my delivery is due between 11am-12am, it is now 11.05am and I haven’t had my usual text and email.

I normally receive them at 8am.

Peter Marsh says:
23 April 2021

This Monday, the 19th, we had a delivery from Sainsbury’s including a shoulder of pork with a use by date of 19th, the same day. In the same delivery were parsnips which were so old you could bend them in half.

M Williams says:
23 April 2021

We have not been in a supermarket since March last year, online only. We only use Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and occasionally Tesco. Only used Iceland if really desperate due to sloppy service. Sainsburys is the worst offender. Many items that day or two days to sell by date. Also not so fresh fruit, raspberries and strawberries mainly. Clearly damaged goods even if within date. Unless you study every item at the door, you don’t notice. I have complained.
Waitrose the best and most reliable but don’t have all the items we like.
I don’t often use Tesco as there is rarely a suitable slot but I was pleasantly surprised by the freshness and quality of our pre Christmas deliver.
My other issue is unavailable items. An increasing problem. You never know until the day of delivery. I’ve had as many as 9 items not available. I don’t agree to many substitutions, as I rarely find them acceptable. Eg dishwasher rinse aid replaced by dishwasher cleaner!

Jackie Allen says:
23 April 2021

I have a large Sainsburys order once every 2 – 3 weeks and have found there are always a few items with either short use by or best before dates. I bought a small chest freezer so I could freeze suitable food that I couldn’t use in time. I often have one or two non-freezable short life items that have to be used almost immediately but on the rare occasion that I can’t use the items in time (mostly salad, vegetables and fruit) I phone their helpline and they have always refunded the cost. On the whole most of the food has good or very good use by or best before dates but I have never been told in advance that I have short life items in my delivery.

As an existing delivery customer I do have to thank Sainsburys for giving me access to priority slots right from the start of COVID because of my advanced age and the wonderful delivery drivers who are always so helpful. Slots were limited initially, I had to book the slot well in advance at first and had a few acceptable substitutes but I could always rely on getting enough suitable food, they were a life saver. I was even able to help my neighbours who could not get registered with any supermarket deliveries in the first few weeks of lockdown.

Catherine says:
23 April 2021

Had this with a couple of Tesco Click & Collect orders on sliced meat expiring within a day. Tesco apologised and refunded promptly when I complained, but it still happened again.

Sainsburys are always delivering substandard produce and produce going out of date within a couple of days. The worst one was a 4 pack of Sainsburys raspberry trifles, delivered at 8pm, and going out of date the next day. Every time I have contacted Sainsburys to complain, they tell me to take the item back to the store for a refund. I have tried explaining that we are shielded (we’re on their priority register) and that the idea of having a home delivery is so that we don’t have to go instore, but it falls on deaf ears. I estimate, that since we started shielding in March 2020, we have lost around £40 from Sainsburys alone with substandard food and substitutions that leave us paying more. Yes, they give us coupons for the difference, but an example is sandwich bags. I ordered a pack of 20, and they substituted with a more expensive pack of 10, so I have paid more and am still 10 bags short. Now, I have to make the delivery driver wait until I have checked all of the food and return anything that’s not up to standard. Even then, they have refunded the wrong items. Because of this, we get 2 shops a week as we are a large family and fresh food never has long enough dates on it, so we use Tesco for the other shop. Their delivery is much more expensive for priority customers, but, the produce is normally pretty good, with fairly good dates, and crucially, if there’s something wrong, I email them and they refund us, no problem.

Ceris Gruffudd says:
23 April 2021

Have had Morrisons fruit which was within date but had turned soft / soggy. Items reported refunded but have changed supplier in the meantime as things should be better. When I do a large shop I have to juggle what I eat according to the use by date as some are within a couple of days. Some items had their Use by dates obliterated. Tesco have stopped putting use by dates on some fruit and veg

‘Use by’ dates relate to food safety. https://www.food.gov.uk/safety-hygiene/best-before-and-use-by-dates It is ‘Best before’ dates that have been removed by Tesco and other supermarkets to reduce food waste.

Some fruit and veg is very easily damaged by rough handling.

Fairly regularly Waitrose has delivered short dated cooked meats which has resulted in waste. No warning is given before or during delivery so it only comes to light when being unpacked. It has resulted in limiting cooked meat orders ‘just in case’.

Anonymous says:
23 April 2021

We use ASDA online. The only serious defect we have experienced is the ridiculously near their use-by dates so many perishable items are on delivery. Unless one has a large freezer capacity (we don’t) waste is inevitable on occasions.

claire says:
23 April 2021

I’ve been ordering food on a weekly basis from Waitrose. This week apart from not receiving all the items I ordered (which is a nuisance as I get all my food from them), some of the meat and fish had very short shelf lives. Shopping on a weekly basis as they request – there should be better shelf life. If I were in the store I could pick and choose. Also the fruit doesn’t last long at all and we have to throw a lot away.

I don’t think grocery shopping on-line will ever compare with personal shopping in the store.

If we had ordered strawberries and they were not ripe enough to eat for several days we would be annoyed. If we had ordered cream and it had to be consumed by the next day we would also be annoyed. So the supermarkets can only do their best with what the pickers see in front of them as they go round the store. They do not know when their customers wish to eat what they have ordered.

I feel we have to be realistic and accept that unless the stores are able to ask us to specify either short date, regular date, or long date on the particular items we shall have to make the best of what we get and put up with it. Most people [but not all, of course] have fridges and freezers – and in the winter it is often colder outside than in the fridge so things could be kept there until needed.

Life is generally a compromise and the price of food shopping safety and convenience is a remarkably high level of fulfilment overall but the occasional short-dated item. I prefer to count our blessings in these difficult days. Supermarket deliveries have been a life-saver for many.

I shop on line at Sainsbury’s for my 97 year old Mother and brother as they do not have internet access. My Mother tells me that the chilled food, notably the cooked meat usually arrives with a very short use by date – either the same day or a day after delivery. She has also had problems with rotten veg in multi packs particularly potatoes and parsnips so small that they hardly make a meal. Also, the pickers need to be more thoughtful about substitutions as my Mother has some odd changes – mushy peas for pease pudding for example or grapes for melon when she already has grapes in the order, or the most bizarre substituting bags of Halloween chocs which were presents for the children in her block of flats for a single Santa chocolate figure.
To be fair to Sainsbury’s they have never failed to delivery and my Mother was put on a priority list for delivery when the pandemic started due to her age. The delivery people have always brought the shopping to her door even when the lift has not been working – three floors up.

Jane says:
23 April 2021

Had a bag of organic baby salad leaves last weekend from Sainsbury’s with the use by date the same as delivery date.