Shopping rules: latest restrictions at Asda, Sainsbury's, Tesco & more supermarkets explained


Updated on 15 September 2020 | 14 Comments

From shopping alone to face mask exemptions, we round up the latest shopping rules and restrictions being enforced by the major supermarkets during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on the way we buy things, with all UK supermarkets introducing new shopping rules and restrictions on a regular basis.

Whether you shop at Tesco, Asda, Aldi, Sainsbury's or any major supermarket, you could be denied entry if you don't adhere to the rules, so it's important you understand the requirements before you head out. 

From forcing limits on the number of shoppers to one-way aisles, we look at the latest rules being enforced at each major supermarket, which we've listed in alphabetical order below.

Don't forget the face mask

But first, be aware that face masks are mandatory for shoppers in Scotland and England (you can read our guide to the best face masks here).

If you don’t wear a mask and are not exempt (learn more about exemptions here), you may be hit with a fine of up to £100.

Each supermarket has their own policy, so we asked all six major supermarkets to explain theirs and have published their response, with the exception of Morrisons who has not responded yet.

One final point: if you are able to secure an online delivery slot at any supermarket and are self-isolating, please make a note in the 'delivery instructions' section when ordering so the driver can respond accordingly.

Latest Aldi shopping rules

Has Aldi changed its store opening hours?

Stores are now open up to 10pm every day except for Sundays, when opening hours are 10am to 4pm.

Aldi has helpfully revealed the busiest and quietest times to shop, which you can check out below.

Busiest and quietest times at Aldi. (Image: Aldi)

Are there any buying restrictions in place?

Aldi has lifted restrictions on all products.

What is Aldi’s policy on face masks?

Aldi is encouraging staff to prompt customers to comply with Government guidelines but won’t be asked to enforce them.

Any dedicated elderly & vulnerable shopping times at Aldi?

Yes, Aldi opens its stores 30 minutes early on Monday to Saturday to allow the elderly (over 70s) and vulnerable to browse.

Any dedicated shopping times for NHS workers?

All stores will be open half an hour earlier on Sundays for NHS, police and fire service workers, as well as emergency workers with a Blue Light card.

The latter includes social care workers, first responders and St John’s Ambulance staff.

If you’re eligible, you’ll need to bring a form of ID, which will also get you priority ahead of queues at any time.

Any restrictions on shoppers at Aldi?

Yes, the number of people in store is being limited when necessary. Aldi uses an 'automated traffic light' system to indicate when customers can safely enter the store. 

There are markers on the floor to help everyone maintain a safe distance and paying by contactless methods is encouraged.

Aldi is also advising people to shop alone if possible.

Are contactless card payments up to £45 accepted?

Yes.

What’s the current waiting time for new online deliveries?

You can’t order grocery products online for delivery except for Aldi’s food parcels (subject to availability).

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Latest Asda shopping rules

Has Asda changed its store opening hours?

At the time of writing, opening times vary, so it’s best to check the store locator.

Are there any buying restrictions in place?

There are no buying restrictions, but Asda says it will occasionally put purchase limits on certain products that are in high demand.

What is Asda’s policy on face masks?

“Whilst we will do all we can to strongly encourage customers to wear a face covering inside our stores, it is the responsibility of the relevant authorities to police and enforce the new rules,” commented a spokesperson for Asda.

On its site, Asda says packets of disposable masks are available in store that can be opened and worn before being paid for at the checkouts.

Any dedicated elderly & vulnerable shopping times at Asda?

There are no special opening hours for the elderly or vulnerable, but a Volunteer Shopping Card will allow people to buy goods for those who cannot leave the house.

This card doesn’t involve exchanging cash or sharing bank details and can be used for contactless payment.

Any dedicated shopping times for NHS workers?

NHS and care workers can get priority access to larger stores every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8am to 9am, as well as on Sundays between 9am and 10am where they can browse, according to media reports. 

You'll need to bring ID to enter the store.

Any restrictions on shoppers?

Yes, the number of customers in store will be limited when necessary, so Asda recommends shopping by yourself if possible.

There are floor markings spaced two metres apart across the store to help encourage social distancing.

Are contactless card payments up to £45 accepted?

Yes, the contactless limit has been increased to £45 at Asda.

What’s the current waiting time for new online deliveries?

Asda is currently showing deliveries for the next two weeks – there are a few available, but it’s worth flagging that the amount of home delivery slots can vary in different areas.

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Lidl shopping rules

Has it changed its store opening hours?

Lidl says most of its stores are open as usual, but recommends customers check local opening hours.

The discounter has also revealed the busiest and quietest times for shopping – check out the graphic below.

When Lidl is busiest and quietest. (Image: Lidl)

Are there any buying restrictions in place?

Lidl has lifted restrictions on everything.

What is Lidl’s policy on face masks?

Lidl says it will follow Government guidance on exemptions and will be taking the same approach to Sainsbury’s.

So, this means it won’t challenge customers without a face mask when they enter a store as they may have a reason not to wear one.

Any dedicated elderly & vulnerable shopping times?

There are no dedicated shopping times for the elderly and vulnerable.

Any dedicated shopping times for NHS workers?

There are none at the time of writing, although Lidl has worked with the Royal Voluntary Service to deliver fruit and veg to NHS frontline staff.

Any restrictions on shoppers?

Lidl is monitoring the volume of people entering stores, so the number of shoppers may be restricted and there are floor markings to encourage social distancing.

The discounter is also advising people to pay by contactless if they can.

Are contactless card payments up to £45 accepted?

Yes, you can now pay for your shopping via contactless for bills of up to £45.

What’s the current waiting time for new online deliveries?

You can’t order grocery products online for delivery – you must go in store.

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Morrisons shopping rules

Has Morrisons changed its store opening hours?

Yes, most Morrisons stores will now be open from 7am to 10pm, Monday to Saturday, while Sunday opening hours will be 9:30am to 4pm.

Are there any buying restrictions in place?

No, there are currently no buying restrictions in place.

What is the policy on face masks?

We have contacted Morrisons and we have not yet received a response. We’ll update this article when we get one.

It’s worth flagging that, according to media reports, Morrisons is encouraging shoppers to wear a face mask and are giving out free ones if you don't have one. 

On top of this, the supermarket says it will offer sunflower lanyards to those with hidden disabilities, so extra help can be offered.

Any dedicated elderly & vulnerable shopping times?

There are none at the time of writing, but Morrisons does offer a Doorstop Delivery service for the elderly and vulnerable.

Any dedicated shopping times for NHS workers?

NHS workers can visit any Morrisons store from 6am to 7am, Monday to Saturday, and 9am to 9:30am on Sundays.

Any restrictions on shoppers?

Morrisons encourages ‘one person per trolley’ and uses a queueing system when necessary.

The supermarket offers a ‘speedy shopper’ queue. So, customers who want to do a smaller shop (with one basket) can gain quicker entry – there will also be more dedicated card-only checkouts to speed up shopping.

Morrisons says three ‘speedy shopper’ customers will be let in for every person with a trolley, while marshalls can help people pick the best queue for their needs.

Are contactless card payments up to £45 accepted?

Yes, the contactless limit has been increased to £45.

What’s the current waiting time for new online deliveries?

According to Morrisons, delivery slots are in high demand, so you might need to wait a while for one. 

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Sainsbury’s shopping rules

Has it changed its store opening hours?

Yes, most stores are now open from 7am to 10pm, Monday to Saturday, while Sunday opening hours will remain the same.

Are there any buying restrictions in place?

Unfortunately, Sainsbury’s is still experiencing high demand for certain products. Some restrictions remain in place for pain relief and cold and flu products, as well as certain face masks.

What is Sainsbury’s policy on face masks?

Sainsbury’s says it won’t challenge customers without a face mask when they enter a store as they may have a reason not to wear one.

Any dedicated elderly & vulnerable shopping times at Sainsbury's?

People can now shop at any time although elderly and vulnerable customers, as well as their carers, will have priority access from 8am-9am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Any dedicated shopping times for NHS workers?

All NHS and social care workers will have priority access to Sainsbury’s for half an hour before they open (usually 7:30-8am) from Monday to Saturday. You’ll need to bring ID when you visit the store.

Any restrictions on shoppers?

Yes, only one adult per household will be allowed into the store. If you show up with more than one adult, one must be chosen to shop while the others wait outside.

Children are welcome – but only if they cannot stay at home.

There is also a queueing system in place outside stores and markings on the shop floor to help everyone maintain a safe distance.

Are contactless card payments up to £45 accepted?

Yes,  the contactless limit has been raised up to £45.

What’s the current waiting time for new online deliveries?

Sainsbury’s is prioritising elderly and vulnerable customers for online delivery slots and there has been no confirmation concerning how long customers will need to wait for a slot.

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Shopping basket. (Image: Shutterstock)

Tesco shopping rules

Has Tesco changed its store opening hours?

Yes, most stores will now close at 10pm but it’s recommended that you check opening times for your local.

Are there any buying restrictions in place?

Yes, there is a limit of 95 items per online order and restrictions on essentials such as face masks, handwashing products, flour and eggs.

What is Tesco's policy on face masks?

A Tesco spokesperson told us: “From Friday 24 July, in line with new Government guidelines, customers in England will need to wear a face covering when visiting our stores."

If a customer has forgotten their face mask, Tesco will make face coverings available for purchase near the front of its stores – customers can use them and pay at the checkout.

Any dedicated elderly & vulnerable shopping times?

All stores will be prioritising access for elderly and vulnerable customers between 9am and 10am every Wednesday and Sunday (except at Express stores).

Any dedicated shopping times for NHS workers?

NHS workers get priority access to Tesco stores and can skip the queue at any time (with proof of ID). 

Any restrictions on shoppers?

There is a limit on the number of people allowed in store, although the supermarket said it has recently increased this cap. 

It is still encouraging people to shop on their own (kids are obviously allowed to accompany you) and there are floor markings both in store and in car parks to help people maintain safe distances.

Tesco has recently become the first supermarket to scrap the one-way aisle system, so it'll be interesting to see whether the others follow suit. 

Are contactless card payments up to £45 accepted?

Tesco has raised its contactless limit to £45 in all stores.

What’s the current waiting time for new online deliveries?

The availability of Tesco delivery slots is improving but availability can vary in different areas.  

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Waitrose shopping rules

Has it changed its store opening hours?

No, but some shops may have slightly different opening hours than normal. 

Are there any buying restrictions in place at Waitrose?

Waitrose have lifted restrictions on the majority of its products.

What is Waitrose’s policy on face masks?

Waitrose says that Government guidance states it is not up to staff to enforce the wearing of face coverings, but its marshals at the front of the shop will be reminding customers of the new rules.

If someone is exempt, it’s recommended they let the store marshal know.

Any dedicated elderly & vulnerable shopping times?

The first trading hour of all Waitrose supermarkets  on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, will be dedicated to serving elderly and vulnerable customers, as well as their carers.

Waitrose will also be prioritising online delivery slots for vulnerable and elderly customers, as well as offering an e-gift card so other people can buy goods for them.

Any dedicated shopping times for NHS workers?

Currently there are no dedicated shopping hours for NHS staff, but all Waitrose stores offer a priority access and checkout service exclusively for NHS workers. You’ll need to bring ID to prove eligibility.

Any restrictions on shoppers?

Yes, Waitrose is currently limiting the number of customers in its shops and has requested that couples and families don’t shop together.

Similar to other supermarkets, there will be signs to keep customers two metres apart. On top of this, dedicated marshals will help manage queues.

Are contactless card payments up to £45 accepted?

Yes, Waitrose has increased the limit.

What’s the current waiting time for new online deliveries?

You may have to wait several weeks for a delivery slot. Waitrose advises checking the site regularly as new slots are being added daily.

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