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How to slash your supermarket delivery costs

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Last updated on

08 October 2013

Love online shopping but hate paying for the privilege? Check out our top tips to get cheap or free delivery with Sainsbury's, Tesco, Asda, Ocado and Waitrose.

Online shopping

While it takes a bit of time to get to grips with shopping on the internet, the benefits are obvious.

For a start, rather than cart the kids to the supermarket for an hour, they can play as you shop from the comfort of your own home.

It's easier to only choose the items you need (because you're not tempted into making impulse purchases), you can ensure you pick the right "offer" items – and it's delivered straight to your door.

But then again, online shopping can take far longer than it should, you can't pick your own fruit and veg and you have to pay for delivery.

Cutting the costs

Luckily, there are ways to slash those delivery costs. Let's take a look at the five main players – Asda, Ocado, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose.

Standard delivery charges

Asda has a minimum order of £25. Charges range between £3 and £5.50 and its cheapest slots are Monday to Thursday. The supermarket now offers a Groceries Delivery Pass, which entitles you to free delivery anytime for 31 days. It costs £8 per month, while the three-month version costs £15 so long as you get it before 31st October (£24 thereafter). There's a limit of one delivery per day and you normally have to spend at least £40.

Sainsbury's delivery costs vary between £2.99 and £5.99, with Sunday and Monday evenings slots usually being cheaper. There is no delivery charge for shops of £100 or more delivered on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Ocado charges vary the most, from absolutely nothing (on orders over £40) to £1.99, with the cheapest slots typically being in the evening (9pm onwards) or early morning (6am-7am). You have to spend a minimum of £40. You can buy a Smart Pass, which reduces the cost of delivery down to £6.99 a month for midweek delivery, paying for the whole year upfront makes the monthly cost equate to £5.83 a month. If you would prefer anytime delivery it costs £10.99 a month or if you pay upfront £9.17 a month. Bear in mind that this Smart Pass renews automatically unless you cancel it.

Tesco charges £2-£6 and its cheapest delivery slots are Monday to Thursday. It also offers a Delivery Saver scheme, where you pay either £36 for three months or £60 for six months for free delivery anytime. Midweek plans that get you free delivery Tuesday to Thursday cost £27 for three months or £45 for six months. There's a limit of one delivery per day and you have to spend at least £40 per shop.

Waitrose is the only supermarket to offer free delivery across all its time slots, but you have to spend at least £50 per shop.

Free delivery options

So Ocado, Sainsbury's and Waitrose offer some free delivery slots, subject to a minimum spend. But what if you prefer Tesco or Asda – is it possible to get free delivery with them too? If you shop at Tesco, the answer is no.

However, if you regularly shop in Asda and are financially disciplined it may be worth taking out the Asda Money credit card. If you spend £125 or more per shop online, you'll get free delivery if you pay with the card plus 1% cashback on your shopping.

Tips to cover that delivery fee

However, as an online shopper myself I've found a few alternative ways to cover that delivery fee.

1. Sign up for emails with all of the supermarket websites, even if you don't intend to shop with them straight away. Like all retailers, supermarkets often send out discount codes (such as 15% off your shopping) to entice us to shop with them which will usually more than cover the delivery charge.

2. Join the loyalty schemes. If you shop with Sainsbury's or Tesco (and don't mind them knowing your shopping habits) sign up to Nectar or Clubcard – cardholders are often sent extra money off vouchers/delivery offers.

3. Switch around. Never use the same delivery service twice in a row. Supermarkets tend to ignore loyal customers and send their best deals to those who haven't used their service for a while – make them stew and watch the offers roll in!

4. Complain, complain, complain. If there is anything at all wrong with your shopping (late delivery, damaged fruit or vegetables, items too close to their sell-by date, dented tins) don't just accept it, phone up and tell them. Most customer service managers are keen that you enjoy the service and will often replace or simply refund your money, straight away. What's more, depending on the problem many will issue credit notes too, giving money off your next delivery (which will cover that delivery fee!).

5. Scour the web for voucher codes and cashback. The likes of vouchercodes.co.uk and myvouchercodes.co.uk often have vouchers for free delivery and discounts on your groceries. And you can often earn cashback from the likes of Quidco and Top Cashback by clicking through to the supermarkets via their sites.

Make the most of your delivery

Of course, the best way to minimise costs is to have as few deliveries as possible. Consider planning what you will use in a whole month and do one big, online shop during this time. This way you could get as much of the heavy or bulky, non-perishable stuff (washing powder, toilet paper, tins, bottles, jars, juice cartons, frozen food, etc.) delivered, and by planning it in advance you could aim for a free delivery slot. Then you'll only have to pick up a few fresh items each week.

Free delivery isn't everything

Keep your wits about you. Depending on what you buy you could still end up spending more with Ocado, for example, than Asda, even if your delivery costs nothing. To get around this problem, try shopping through MySupermarket to compare how much your trolley would cost with a number of supermarkets.

What price service?

Equally, cheapest is not always best. Choose Tesco or Asda and you'll have a 2-hour time slot to wait in for. And while Ocado often comes up as the most expensive option, it does offer the greatest flexibility in delivery times, your shopping is delivered to your kitchen (not dumped at the door) and not only do you tend to receive items with long sell-by dates, it also lists these on your receipt so you know how long you have to use them up.

More on cutting the cost of everyday living:

How to eat out for less

Ways to save on energy

Where to find cheap clothes

How to save money on your food shopping

How to find the cheapest petrol and diesel prices


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