Online grocery shopping: Sainsbury's vs Tesco vs Waitrose

With time a precious commodity, it is no wonder that millions of us prefer to do our grocery shopping from the comfort of our own home, rather than heading out to the local supermarket - having to deal with traffic, car parks and check-out queues in the process.

Thankfully, most of the big supermarkets are now offering an armchair service. Sainsbury's, Tesco, Waitrose, ASDA and Morrisons already have an established online shopping presence, while budget stores Aldi and Lidl are yet to dip their toe into the digital market.

But how do you know which one is the best to use? Here at Moneywise, we wanted to test how the services stack up. By using a set shopping list, we ranked three of the leading supermarkets on ease of use, price, punctuality, and how well they matched our shopping list with what they delivered.

We then scored each one out of five – with top marks being awarded for our expectations being exceeded.

So if you are new to the world of digital groceries, here's how the Moneywise team got on with the online version of the supermarkets they usually visit. The services have been ranked by score.*


Ease of website use: 4/5
Delivery: 5/5
Punctuality: 5/5
Substitutes: 5/5
Cost: 5/5
Recommend?: Yes
Overall score: 24/25

LAURA WHITCOMBE: I'm a big fan of Waitrose and now I've tried its online service, I'm an even bigger fan. It's worth pointing out that there's a minimum order value of £60 for the online service and free delivery that comes as standard. This means that my shop was by far the biggest of the three included in this article.

Smaller shops can be delivered through the in-store 'We Deliver' service.

But back to the online service, registering for an account at was quick and pretty easy – the only fly in the ointment being that it took me six goes to come up with a username not already in use. The process also prompted me to sign up for a my Waitrose
card, which will grant me a free tea or coffee at my local store everyday and an extra 10% off selected items.

Finding a delivery slot was easy, too. I could book a one-hour window anytime I wanted from two days after ordering. I picked 8pm on a Friday night (rock and roll, I know) but I noticed after I confirmed my choice, the summary of my delivery that is displayed at the top of the website while you browse the 'aisles' was showing my delivery time as being 7pm.

It turns out that when you select the delivery time, the hour shown is actually the end of the one-hour slot. It was simple to go back and update it to a slot starting at 8pm by clicking the 9pm option but this slightly confusing system is all I would change about the process.

One of the most convenient aspects of the ordering system is the 'jotter multi search'. This allows you to type in or copy and paste your shopping list to automatically generate a list of matching products - a useful tool for saving time.

The only item from the Moneywise shopping list (see table on page 48) I couldn't get was a pack of two chicken breasts as only sells two-packs in its premium range, so instead I chose two free-range lemon and pepper marinated breasts costing £4.19.

The total cost of the Moneywise basket was £22.92. After adding the rest of my typical shop – which usually lasts me and my husband at least a week – I spent just over £65 and in so doing qualified for £10 off, too.

My delivery arrived promptly at around 8.10pm – safely within the one-hour slot. A smartly dressed member of the team called Glyn handed over several bags of shopping after making me aware of one substitution. I had ordered two bottles of Waitrose ironing water that had to be changed for the Comfort-branded equivalent but I was charged for the cheaper product I originally ordered.

All in all, I was thoroughly impressed with the service and will definitely start to shop regularly at


Ease of website use: 4/5
Delivery: 4/5
Punctuality: 4/5
Substitutes: 5/5
Cost: 5/5
Recommend?: Yes
Overall score: 22/25

MARK KING: Quick confession - we've been using Tesco's online shopping service for years. Our nearest large supermarket is Tesco, so when we had children and needed our shopping to be delivered rather than have to schlep to the store with the kids in tow, we naturally navigated to to do the honours.

We save money through online shopping because we are less likely to pick up impulse purchases; also, it's more efficient to create a meal plan for the week and then immediately order it online rather than wait to visit a supermarket.

For this specific shop, Tesco was very well-priced, although the quantities we decided on beforehand weren't always available. For example, chicken breasts could only be found in quantities of three at a pricey £4 a pop, unless I opted for its Everyday Value range, which I rarely do.

The shop came in at £18.04 for the 10 core items (the cheapest of the three services compared in this article), although this includes a premium for Andrex toilet tissue rather than the supermarket's own brand, which would have saved me 22p (or £1.33 had I gone for its Everyday Value brand). On the flip side, I picked up a bargain, with Robinsons Apple & Blackcurrant squash discounted by 49p to £1 (the same price as Waitrose) – making it 40p cheaper than Tesco's own-brand cordial.

For my wild card items, I picked Ryvita crackers, 400g of steak mince, and some squeezy honey, adding a further £7.18 to my shop for a total spend of £25.22. I had no problem populating my online shopping basket,bar the odd glitch when searching for some items.

Delivery was cheap at just £1, however our original choice of next-day delivery was unavailable because all slots were full, which was a little annoying. A day later and all evening slots (often priced at an expensive premium) were £1, though Friday night and weekend slots can be as much as £4. There were no substitutes, either.

The shop arrived on time and the delivery man was, as always, polite and efficient, carrying our shop through to the kitchen where we could unpack it briskly; ably assisted by my four-year-old daughter, Eve. As she says: “I like getting shopping delivered because I can help unpack and pop it on the side for Daddy, and pop things in the right places if I know where they go.” If only she could order and pay for it too, we'd be on to a real winner.


Ease of website use: 4/5
Delivery: 4/5
Punctuality: 5/5
Substitutes: 5/5
Cost: 3/5
Recommend?: Yes
Overall score: 21/25

ROB GOODMAN: Entering the world of online grocery shopping for the first time, registering my details on the Sainsbury's website was quick and painless, and in just a few clicks, I was ready to go.

The website was easy to use, with the entire process taking about 20 minutes. Ordering on Tuesday morning, I was given the option of having the groceries delivered in hourly slots up to 10pm, with only the 5pm to 6pm slot available the following day. This was still pretty reasonable I thought, even though it didn't suit my working hours. But I was able to choose between 6pm and 7pm the following night (a Thursday).

However, when it comes to delivery costs, Sainsbury's is behind the other supermarkets we tried out. There is a minimum spend of £25 if you want to order online (my wild card picks of pork chops, two pizzas and a salad bag were added to bump up the cost over the minimum spend, which added £8.31 and resulted in a final bill of £34.56). And for orders under £40, you'll be charged £6.95 – a hefty amount to be added to your bill.

Despite the pricey delivery cost, what Sainsbury's can't be faulted on is its customer service. On the night of the delivery, the driver turned up 15 minutes early and helpfully explained what I should do, as a first-time shopper, if there were any problems with any of the items.

Even better, there were no substitutions leaving me one happy customer.

*The scoring system

We used a 5-point scoring system:
1 = significantly misses expectations
2 = misses expectations
3 = meets expectations
4 = exceeds expectations
5 = significantly exceeds expectations

The shopping list

Chicken breasts (x2) £4.50 £4.19 £4
Long-grain rice (Uncle Ben's, 500g) £2.10 £2.09 £2.09
Penne (500g) £0.95 £1 £0.95
Orange juice (1 litre) £0.70 £1.85 £1
Chopped tomatoes (x4) £2.50 £2 £1.25
Bag of apples (Granny Smith) £1.75 £1.75 £1.75
Apple and blackcurrent squash (1 litre) £1.50 £1 £1
Extra mature cheddar (250g) £2.45 £3.30 £3
Loaf of wholemeal bread £0.75 £1 £1
Toilet rolls (x4) £1.90 £2.19 £2
Food total £19.10 £20.37 £18.04
Delivery cost based on order value £6.95 £5 £1
Total £26.05 £25.37 £19.04


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Your Comments

But don't forget to check your bill against the actual prices.
When my son was about to return from holiday, he ordered his family shopping from Tesco to be delivered during the day when he was due back very late in the evening.
We volunteered to go to his house to receive the order, and it appeared to go well.
I checked that everything that was on the delivery note was there, and I also checked the prices of the variable weight items against the price on the packet. The chicken that was priced on its label at about £5 (I can't remember the exact price) was showing on the delivery note at over £9.
How could this happen? Not a clue, but it shows that there can be serious errors which could cost you a great deal should you not check the items in this way.
The outcome: the next day my daughter-in-law phoned Tesco who refunded the difference without any argument. Maybe they were used to this sort of event?

If you book your delivery from 2pm onwards between Monday and Thursday (which Rob Goodman did) and spend £100+ (which Rob Goodman didn't), delivery is totally free with Sainsburys. It is also worth noting that Sainsburys basics are better than most of the other supermarkets mid-range products and are typically half the price.