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 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

Your Comments

I think the person who shopped at ASDA online had an unfortunate expereince as I have shopped with them online many times and have always had excellent service.

You can also shop through and switch between all of the above shops. After you have selected your purchases it will tell you which of the supermarkets is the cheapest. They also award you points for going through them.

I find it really useful

I have used Tesco on line shopping for over three years now and very rarely go to the store. The problems I have had could be counted on one hand and I think I definitely spend less as I am not distracted by displays of offers. Like all of these sites they get much easier to use once you are familiar with them especially as Tesco stores all your favourites for the next time.

I'd be very happy to try Sainsbury's online service. Unfortunately, Sainsbury's is not willing to deliver to where I live, even though both Tesco and Asda are. As I refuse to shop at Tesco because it is trying to take over the entire world, or at a subsidiary of Wal-Mart where part of their induction for staff is how to claim state help to prop up the appallingly low wages the company pays, that leaves me still treading the aisles. But at least I know what I've bought before I pay for it, and when I'm getting it!

I dont know how on earth your researcher for tesco says the site is difficult to use. I have shopped there online at least 8 times and never had any problems like she encountered. If you have shopped at store previously, checked out with your clubcard, then decide to do a shop online, after entering your clubcard number everything you have previously bought from store is there in your favourites. How easy is that. The date of special offers are when the offers expire, so if BOGOF finished on 20th Jan say, delivery is 21st Jan then the special offer is not available.

I have used Tesco online shopping for over 2 years now and cannot fault it. The site is very easy to use and I definitely save more money than the delivery costs incurred. The drivers are always courteous and friendly and all my deliveries have been within the tme booked. I would not go back to shopping in store as I always find the offers online whereas it is difficult to see them all in store. well done Tesco and to anyone reading this DO TRY IT!

I use Tesco's delivery on an occasional basis - Christmas/holidays/and a time when I was booked to be in hospital and then recuperating from breast cancer operation - I DID find the site fiddly first time but after that it was fine, delivery Inc one where they phoned to say they were running late (and so was I - so that worked out ok) and they ALWAYS take the crates through to the kitchen - the only reason I do not do this more often is because I am now not working and like to have a chat with real people - I will be using it for bulk shopping before Christmas again etc.

i used to use the asda website regularly. when it all goes ok - its fine. when it goes wrong - it goes wrong big time.
i didnt get a bag with all my dairy items - milk, cheese, butter etc. when i rang the help line i got through to a call centre - the nice but unhelpful indian lady didnt under stand what dairy items meant . she promised to get someone to call back in 15mins. 4 hours and 5 phone calls later i was no further forward. i spoke to an indian person every time so i assumed it was a call centre in mumbai. they could not or would not put me through to a person in a store where my shopping had come from. i tried to tell them that a bag of my shopping must have gone to someone else as it was all dairy items - but this just seemed to confuse them more. after getting very stroppy on my 6th call - everyone promised to call me back but no one did. i eventually spoke to a nice welsh lady in a distribution centre somewhere who understood straight away what had happened - the dairy was delivered that evening - 7 hours late , but a grumpy and complaining delivery man. no conpensation or freebees were offered. i have not used them since!

L I have used Tesco several times and have not had any problems. Once you have placed first order it gets easier as items are stored as favourites and are there to reorder next time.One can write notes to the picker which are also saved. I ask for long dates on perishables and these are always done and the note is there for next time also.Delivery has always come within the appointed slot and the deliverymen have never questioned carrying upstairs to my 1st floor flat. Replacement items are pointed out by the delivery man and they will take back if not required. if a more expensive brand replaces the one ordered, no extra charge is made.

Altogether a very satisfactory service

I agree with previous comments. Tesco website is very easy to use, esp if you have a clubcard. All your favourites are stuff you have previous bought, and the search feature is easy to use to find items not bought often. Driver has always arrived on time and has offered to put shopping where I would like it. Anyone reading the article, try Tesco for yourself, as I feel this is a bit biased towards Sainsburys, as the person themselves said they preferred Sainsburys anyway.

I have shopped on line with Tesco several times and have always been very satisfied with the service. The delivery person always asks if I wish my shopping to be carried into my kitchen although I choose to have it left in my hall which is just off the kitchen. I have had a few substitutes which are nearly always satisfactory although on one occasion I did not want the substitue and it was taken away by the delivery person with no problem. The cost of this was was refunded on line within a day which is an excellent result. The chap also takes away any Tesco carier bags I have for recycling.

I am completely happy with the Tesco delivery service, especially when ordering heavy items, and I would thoroughly recommend it..

Have used Tesco/Sainsburys/Asda with Asda coming far worse delivery 24hrs late, we spent about four phone calls to there site (which is S.Africa) despite them saying they would get onto the store we received n notification whatsoever after many calls our order was delivered 24hrs late, never again Asda !. Sainsburys are ok but usually grocerys dearer than Tesco so-yes-we use Tesco online fairly regular, web site can be awkward at times.

I use Asda only when I get a free delivery,(first-time customer, 'we miss you' loyalty reward etc) but up to now have been relatively problem free. Only on my last delivery. were two items faulty so i phoned the help line and got offered the refund and a free delivery straight away. I salvaged most of the faulty items (mouldy tomato in the pack, and 5 broken eggs out of 15) so was more than happy. Afterwards though we discovered the apple pie was rhubarb! It had been put in the wrong box, so that wasn't the packer's or delivery man's fault and I didn't complain.

I am still waiting for the rest of my delivery from ASDA, a selection of chilled items including 6 x2litre bottles of milk (which I have now run out of).
Delivery was in expected time slot but signed for by my husband who not knowing what I had ordered had not realise there were missing items until the van had left.
We spent the whole of yesterday afternoon and evening waiting for promised phone calls saying problem had been solved and delivery on the way.More phone calls from us today the last one being a promise that Nick would call us in a few minutes to arrange delivery, that was at 13:16 it is now 17:16.
My husband has now left to get milk hopefully from the nearest garage while I wait for the phone call, hoping that tomorrow when I claim my refund from Asda It's less hassle.
This is the first time I have tried shopping online and with Asda will be the last.
My local Asda store however is very good and staff helpful and pleasant.
PS .17:30 shopping just arrived no warning phone call .One item costing £4 stll missing.Not looking forward to tomorrows call to the South African call centre requesting refund for my packet of bacon, might not bother.