Cheapest online supermarkets 2021
With so many options for online food shopping, it can be hard to know where to begin – but this guide gives you the lowdown of where to go, and how to get the best price on your weekly haul.
Food shopping online has plenty of benefits. For starters, you don't need to lift your bum off the sofa to wander the supermarket aisles. And, you can even do your entire week's shopping at home in your pyjamas. Bliss.
Comfort aside, it can also help you save money on food as you should be less likely to impulse buy unnecessary things. And, with a couple of these tips, you can actually get food online for free.
Read on to find out how to get the most out of the online grocery world.
What’s in this guide?
Which supermarkets are best for online shopping?
Here, we've got a lowdown on the major stores who deliver groceries, and what they can offer.
First, a quick note on the typical first-order discounts – some of these are listed on their websites, some aren't. But the important thing is that these aren't necessarily the best offers (better ones may pop up from time to time). Rather, they're what is typically available.
Always go looking for a better deal, first by checking out our deals section. If we haven't got what you're after, a quick Google could help too.
This list shows you a comparison of the best online food shops so you can find the cheapest deal:
Delivery: Starts at £1
Minimum spend: £40
Delivery pass: Starts at £5 a month, or £24 as a one-off payment
Typical first order discount: £20 off a £50 spend
Delivery: Starts at £2, free with spend over £35
Minimum spend: £25
Delivery pass: Iceland's loyalty card (Iceland Bonus Card) entitles you to free delivery
Typical first order discount: £3 off a £50 spend
Delivery: Starts at £1.70
Minimum spend: £40
Delivery pass: Starts at £5 a month
Typical first order discount: £10 off a £60 spend
Delivery: Starts at £2.99 for orders under £75, free for deliveries over £75
Minimum spend: £40
Delivery pass: Starts at £6.99 a month
Typical first order discount: 30% off orders over £60 (max £25 off)
Delivery: Starts at 50p for orders over £40, £7 for orders between £25–40, free for orders over £100 delivered after 2pm Monday–Thursday
Minimum spend: £25
Delivery pass: Starts at £10 for three months
Typical first order discount: £18 off a £60 spend
Delivery: Starts at £2
Minimum spend: £40 (£4 surcharge if your order is less)
Delivery pass: Starts at £3.49 a month
Typical first order discount: None available at the time of writing, but be sure to search online for some before ordering
Minimum order: £60
Delivery pass: None
Typical first order discount: £30 off your first three shops (£10 each time, minimum spend £80 on each order)
How to save money on internet grocery shopping
Make a meal plan and a shopping list
Don't be daunted by the idea of planning your food shop in advance. It might take a little time, but the benefits are more than worth it.
Making a shopping list means that you'll know exactly what you need to buy, and reduce the chance of you buying loads of food that you think you might use in the week, but in reality, never will.
Coming up with a meal plan is a great way to figure out what should be on your shopping list, and if anything, makes dinner time a lot more enticing.
It's easy to get overwhelmed in the supermarket and just stick to your old reliables, but if you're sat at home with some time on your hands, you can research some seriously tasty recipes to make in the next week.
Use supermarket cashback apps
If you've not heard of supermarket cashback apps, it's time to get involved. They can save you a bundle on your weekly shop, both in-store and online.
Each app will have its own list of offers, ranging from small discounts to 100% freebies. All you need to do is buy the product from a participating retailer, scan the product and receipt with the app, and wait to be refunded either part or all of the cost.
Choose off-peak delivery
Having all that free time as a student is great in and of itself, but it can also save you money. Since you'll often be at home when the rest of the world is at work, you'll be able to get your shopping delivered at the cheapest times.
Each supermarket will have its own peak/off-peak times, but generally speaking, you should avoid getting your groceries delivered during a weekday evening or at the weekend.
Get a delivery pass for online shopping
If you're intending to get regular food deliveries from the same shop, you should probably look at buying a delivery pass.
Depending on the supermarket and the scheme you choose, a delivery pass will charge you monthly/bi-annually/yearly for unlimited delivery. The upfront cost is obviously more than that of a single delivery, but much like Amazon Prime, the free delivery will pay for the pass if you order things regularly enough.
The best part is that most of the major supermarkets offer some kind of delivery pass, including Asda, Iceland (theirs is free!), Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury's and Tesco. Just make sure you do the maths first, to make sure that the cost of a pass works out cheaper based on how regularly you'll get a delivery.
Use first-order discounts
This one's pretty simple – most supermarkets will have a promotional offer that gives you a certain amount of money off your first delivery. Assuming you've not made an order with any of them before, you could switch supermarkets every week and get discounted shops for around two months!
There are tons of offers out there – see below for a rundown of the typical first-order discounts at each shop.
Look for price matching at supermarkets
Because every supermarket wants you to shop with them, some promise to match the price of your shop if it's cheaper elsewhere.
Sadly, price matching seems to be a dying trade. In the past, most of the big names were running their own schemes and it was a great way to play stores off against each other.
Nowadays, Ocado is the last man standing – and even their offer is only valid against the prices on Tesco's site. Nonetheless, Tesco do tend to have pretty low prices, and Ocado will send you a voucher of up to £10 for the difference if your shop would have been cheaper at Tesco. Worth a go!
Order together to reach minimum order values
If you're only shopping for yourself, you might struggle to make it to the minimum order value that most supermarkets have. The exact threshold will vary, but it can be £40 or more.
As students only spend an average of £23 a week on groceries, you're unlikely to meet supermarket thresholds by yourself (if you do spend £40+ on a weekly shop for one, definitely look at trying the supermarket downshift).
Rather than buying things you don't need to reach the threshold, do a joint shop for you and your flatmates. Not only will this get you to the magic number, but you can also split the cost of delivery.
Check whether items are sold by weight or quantity
It sounds like something out of a corny sitcom, but it happens in real life too. If you fail to check whether an item (usually fruit and veg) is sold by weight or quantity, you could end up with far too much or too little. In other words, check!
Go bagless with online food shopping
It's kind of baffling that having plastic bags in an online order is even a thing anyway. The delivery comes in crates and they bring it to your door, so there's really no need to have any type of bag.
Anyhoo, the fact remains that it is a thing, so be sure to select the bagless option to avoid the 5p bag charge while cutting down on plastic. It's a small way to help your purse and the planet.
Be wary of item exchanges
For all its many benefits, online shopping does have its drawbacks. When you're shopping in-store and your usual purchase isn't there, you can carefully pick out whatever you want to get instead.
However, when you place an order online, the shop worker is tasked with finding you the closest replacement. While they'll usually choose something pretty similar, you can get some pretty laughable substitutions...
The worst part is that they will occasionally charge you extra if they replace the item you wanted with a more expensive alternative. If you don't want the substitute, ask them to take it back and refund you.
Complain if your online food shopping order is late or wrong
Now, we're not saying you should complain if your delivery is a minute late, or if they've given you four bananas instead of three. But if there's a significant error with your order, or they've delivered it way outside of the slot you booked, you're well within your rights to complain.
There are no hard and fast rules saying what the supermarkets will do to make it up to you, but if you're persistent enough, you stand a good chance of getting some kind of discount or refund.
Buy discounted food from Approved Food
Don't get us wrong – we don't think that best before dates are necessarily a bad thing. However, it's often best to think of them as a guideline, not a rule.
Approved Food get this, and they exclusively sell food and other products that are approaching, or have passed, their best before dates. Everything is still safe to eat, but it's available at up to 70% off the standard price.
So, if you're after tinned goods, chocolate, sauces, or anything else that doesn't really go off, check out Approved Food before you hit up the supermarket.
Get free food on OLIO
OLIO is a lot like what we imagine the old days were like (if grandparents are to be believed, anyway).
Users of the app in your local area will flag up when they've got an excess of food (perhaps they cooked more than they needed, or have something that will go off before they can use it), and make it available either as free food or for a donation to charity.
It's obviously not a perfect system – you can't guarantee the quality of someone else's cooking, after all. But it's certainly something that's worth keeping your eye on, especially if you find you're missing a crucial ingredient at the last minute!
Have you got these 20 student kitchen cupboard essentials?