Well, that was a first! This afternoon I had a phone interview with a researcher from the BBC for the show Right on the Money. The researcher, Hannah, asked me questions regarding saving money by shopping for groceries online. I was so excited to share my thoughts on online food shopping with someone from the BBC!
So let's say I decide to go ahead with making an online food order. When I shop for food online, I start by using the comparison website mysupermarket.co.uk. This site allows me to compare prices on all of the items I'm planning to purchase, not only within the store I'd like to purchase from but also against other stores and also makes suggestions for comparable items that are cheaper. I have also set up "Price Alerts" to notify me by email when a product I've chosen goes on sale at any of the stores on its website. I won't go into specifics about using MySupermarket.co.uk in this blog, but I'll revisit this soon.
Once I have added all of the items I'd like to my shopping basket, I can then send the order to the shop's website from which I'm ordering. Then I'm asked to choose a delivery slot. Occasionally I can find a voucher code for free delivery, but most of the time I have to pay for delivery. However, there's a way to save here, too. Prices for delivery can start at £1 for later evening delivery slots to £7 for more "prime" morning delivery slots, according to one shop's website. Having my groceries delivered to my house for a £1 probably saves on the cost of fuel to and from the shop, but probably not if I spent £7 for delivery. Some grocery stores even offer collection for free from their shops, saving you time on walking around the shop and standing in a queue at the checkouts.
So what are the advantages to online shopping if you've adopted a money-saving mindset?
1) You aren't tempted by the offers on the end of the aisles/ on the plinths. The items at the end of the aisles are marketed in such a way that they almost make you panic if you don't put them in your trolley or feel guilty for passing them up. Often they aren't a great deal, either; they're just being promoted.
2) If you are incapacitated or have young children who make grocery shopping a challenge, online delivery may make life easier for you since the groceries show up at your door.
3) Offers are easy to find so you can see all items in a category that are on offer in a glance so you can make a quick decision.
4) You're able to know exactly how much the items in your basket add up to before you checkout. At a normal shop, you likely don't know how much your shop will come to before it's time to pay and you're not likely to ask to have anything removed once your items have been scanned if you've spent more than you intended.
However, I find there are more disadvantages to online grocery shopping than advantages, such as:
1) You have to plan ahead for the groceries you will need tomorrow or later in the week and can't receive the food deliveries the same day, so you may need to pop to the shop anyway to get items you need before your delivery is due.
2) You aren't in charge of the exact items you pick. For instance, if I were to order 4 bananas online, the online shopper at the shop doesn't know that I prefer medium-sized, yellow bananas, not large, green bananas.
3) You may not get the best use before date of a product, although most online shoppers are trained to pick the best date, but they may not always be careful with their selection.
4) You won't be delivered any reduced items. This one's a biggie for me since, as I'm sure you already know, I love to buy reduced items when I can, especially meat which I can freeze.
5) There's usually a minimum spend required for online shops. So, if I don't plan to spend that amount of money, then you're somewhat pressured into buying items you weren't planning on just to reach that minimum spend threshold. Obviously, this goes against the money-saving mindset.
The last comment I made to Hannah was that no matter whether I shop in store or online, I can't stress enough the importance of "knowing your prices". Knowing what a good price is will always help you to save money (I'd love to expand on this in another blog post).
To summarize, if I have a money-off voucher to use, can book free or £1 delivery slot and don't need the items today or early tomorrow, then purchasing my food online may be a great choice. However, as I can mostly stick to my shopping list (except for adding a few reduced items to my trolley), I can still go to the shop while saving money on my grocery bill.
If I have missed any advantages or disadvantages to shopping online or any other tips you've found to shopping online, please leave a message on the blog or on the Finding the Pennies Facebook page. Thanks!