Can you cut your grocery bill by shopping online?
As more and more of us turn to shopping online, it has becoming increasingly common to do your weekly grocery shop by simply sitting down in front of your computer screen.
But while this might save you fighting with fellow shoppers over the last pint of milk or enduring the tantrums of a bored two-year-old, is it really as stress-free as it sounds?
To find out, the Moneywise team decided to test the biggest supermarkets to see whether they truly deliver on their promise.
TESCO: Tested by Rebecca Atkinson
My first experience of doing an online shop with Tesco will hopefully be my last. I'm pretty web-savvy but I found the site hard to navigate. For a start, I was unable to watch its video demonstration because I don’t have a flash player.
The customer helpline was an 0845 number, and although I used saynoto0870.com to find a cheaper alternative, I was unable to get through as the switchboard is only manned until 6pm.
My initial problem was finding items – for example, yellow split peas were listed in the dried nut section, while the particular type of stock powder I like wasn't included under storeroom essentials.
Luckily, the search facility on the site is pretty good so I eventually managed to track down all the items I wanted.
I also struggled with the special offers. While these were clearly listed, it was hard to understand whether the expiry date referred to the date of the online purchase or the date of delivery.
Also, the shopping basket doesn’t show up the discounted price until you pay, so it's hard to know how much you're really spending.
However, I did like the fact Tesco offers you cheaper alternatives to items and allows you to see other products on the shelves that are similar to your desired purchase.
The biggest problem with my shop arose when it came to the checkout and I realised my delivery address was incorrect (my fault). Once I'd rectified the mistake, however, my basket appeared as empty and I had to start all over again.
It would have been nice to have been able to see what I had initially put in my basket, if only for reference.
I did my online shop mid-week and there were plenty of delivery slots available, although these do range in price.
My delivery arrived at the end of the two-hour slot I was allocated, and while my deliveryman was friendly and polite, he did'’t offer to carry my crates up the stairs to my flat.
A couple of items I ordered weren't available but no substitutes were offered other than (bizarrely) a tin of coconut milk in place of reduced-salt soy sauce.
All in all, I wasn't impressed.
Verdict: Difficult to use
OCADO: Tested by Nathalie Bonney
I think I got the best deal by drawing Ocado to test for the Moneywise online shopping challenge.
It's exclusively an online delivery service, working in partnership with Waitrose, which means it doesn't have the hassle of running high street supermarkets at the same time as trying to ensure its delivery service comes up to scratch.
The website was extremely easy to navigate. As well as a 'special offers' section, it allows you to narrow down your search to display, for example, fair trade, organic, kosher or 'free from' products.
The 'you might like feature' also suggested items based on my searches. For example, when I bought red peppers, it recommended fajitas and chicken to go with them.
It's a handy tool, but you have to watch out as the recommended items are not always the cheapest.
Other features include a Tesco price-match on branded items. And you can save your shopping lists too.
Ocado offers next-day delivery, provided an appropriate time slot is available. The cost depends on the time of day – from £6.49 in the evening to free delivery if your order costs more than £75.
There's also a green delivery option if the any of the vans are already going to be in your area.
My delivery cost me £2.99, and on the day of the delivery, my order arrived at 10.31pm for the 10.30-11.30pm slot – how's that for efficiency?
The deliveryman carried my bags through to the kitchen, informed me that all the items on my order were available, and left promptly.
Chilled goods were packed in red bags and the rest of the shopping in purple ones, and I was informed that I could return the bags with the next delivery for recycling.
When I unpacked my shopping I found everything was fine, apart from one tin of tomatoes, which had a slight dent.
So how do I rate Ocado? It's expensive food but it does provide a fuss-free shopping and delivery experience.
Verdict: Most expensive
WAITROSE: Tested by Rachel Lacey
As a fan of Ocado I was keen to test-drive Waitrose's new online delivery service. I was disappointed – the site is nowhere near as slick as its more experienced partner and much harder to navigate. I had to go to the FAQs just to work out how to register.
There was little information about the products, just a picture – I couldn't check ingredients or best-before dates. And I couldn't simply order six sausages or three courgettes; I had to order by weight.
The easiest way to fill my trolley was to search for individual items, but even that was frustrating – the first item to come up on a search for tuna was cat food.
You can come back to your order if you forget something, but it was a bit of a palaver working out how to add new items rather than simply change amounts.
Another disappointment was price. Ocado price-matches Tesco on branded items, so doing my usual shop felt quite a bit more expensive.
The big plus is free delivery and a decent choice of times. My order arrived within its two-hour slot and the delivery person was polite and helpful, although he dropped the bags at the door rather than taking them through to the kitchen.
Verdict: Least user friendly
ASDA: Tested by Esther Armstrong
My online grocery shop with Asda started well. Registration on the site was quick and easy, and once registered, a helpful prompt popped up on screen with five easy ways to start my shopping.
Delivery charges ranged from £3.50 to £5.50, with the cheapest slots during the middle of the day.
The site was easy to navigate and had additional functions such as ready-made lists and the ability to sort by price or brand.
Unfortunately, my online shopping experience quickly headed downhill. I was impressed by the punctuality of the delivery, but a bit disgruntled when the driver didn't offer to carry my bags through to the kitchen.
This turned to outright irritation when I realised a whole crate of shopping was missing.
After calling the number for queries and reciting 13 separate product codes for my undelivered items, I was offered a refund or redelivery. When I asked if Asda was willing to compensate me further, I was offered a free delivery next time.
Just as I was resigning myself to redelivery, the doorbell rang again and a rather harried deliveryman stood with a crate of shopping at his feet – it had been mixed up with someone else's order.
I was pleased to receive the rest of my shopping but couldn’t help feeling annoyed that I’d just wasted 15 minutes on the phone.
In terms of quality, Asda did redeem itself: all the fruit and vegetables were in good condition. I was given one substitution, a more expensive brand of free-range eggs, but was only charged the price of my original selection.
It could be I was just unlucky that time, but if I didn't have a free delivery to use, I wouldn't shop with Asda online again.
Verdict: Cheap but unreliable
SAINSBURY'S: Tested by Johanna Gornitzki
As a Sainsbury's fan, I was more than happy to test-drive its online facilities. The site was easy to navigate, its offers were clearly displayed and it even has a section where you can search for the latest deals.
It also has a shopping list where you can write down all the things you need and the site will do a search for you.
I wasn't so impressed by the lack of available delivery slots. I initially placed my order on a Thursday evening, hoping to get my shopping by the weekend. But there were no slots available on Saturday and the only one left on Sunday didn't suit me.
So I plumped instead for Tuesday at 7pm at a cost of £6 (delivery is free on orders over £100 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and £3.50 for orders over £40).
On the day of the delivery, the deliveryman carried all the bags up my stairs and even asked me if I wanted help unpacking.
There was only one thing it didn’t have in stock and that was loose nectarines, but it replaced them with a basket of four, which was fine.
I later received a courtesy call from Sainsbury, asking if I was happy with its service. It told me my previous order will be saved online, so I can check back when I do my next shop to see what I ordered last time.
I was really impressed with Sainsbury’s online service and will definitely use it again.
Verdict: Best overall