Demand for home delivery of groceries is soaring, with sales up 29 per cent last year.
Here, The Mail on Sunday looks at how you can keep delivery costs to a minimum while analysing some of the more bespoke – and traditional – delivery services available.
The online grocery shopping revolution has been driven by the high street supermarket.
Organic: A box of fruit and veg from Guy Watson’s Riverford farm in Devon costs £20.95
Researcher Mintel estimates that 48 per cent of households now do most of their grocery shopping online, while 11 per cent buy all their provisions over the internet.
In total, £10 billion a year is now spent on online grocery shopping, but Mintel predicts that by 2020 this will have risen to almost £15 billion.
The major supermarkets are the biggest beneficiaries of this shift towards online shopping – Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose – and online supermarket Ocado.
Grocery comparison service mySupermarket rates Asda as the cheapest overall when looking to buy a selection of popular branded products.
But it also highly rates Ocado for its quality of service. MySupermarket spokeswoman Terri Witherden says: ‘Each store group has its strengths. For example, Asda and Tesco are often the best value for everyday items such as milk and bread, while Waitrose and Sainsbury’s are top for specialist ingredients or premium lines.
‘But Ocado is widely regarded as the leader for home delivery. It is best at providing updates on when a van is near and keeping to agreed delivery times.’
The choice of which online supermarket service to use is one of personal preference and will vary depending on where you live and what you buy.
All the supermarkets have different delivery charges and these also vary depending on where you live and demand on a particular day.
Charges: Asda charges start from £1 for Tuesday to Thursday deliveries between 1pm and 4pm
ASDA: Charges start from £1 for Tuesday to Thursday deliveries between 1pm and 4pm. The peak delivery charge is £6 for Saturday between 7am and 12 noon and Sunday 9am to 12 noon.
But you can pay £5 a month for a delivery pass for anytime deliveries with a minimum shopping spend of £40.
MORRISONS: Charges start from 50p for Wednesday, 10pm to 11.30pm. Delivery charges then rise to £1 between 6.30am and 9.30am and 7.30pm to 10.30pm on Wednesday.
The peak delivery charge is £4.50 on Saturday from 9am to 8.30pm. But if you pay £7 a month you get a delivery pass for anytime drop-offs. The minimum order is £40.
OCADO: Delivery charges are usually free between 5.30am and 11pm on a Wednesday.
The peak delivery charge is £6.99 and applies on a Saturday and Sunday but this may be waived if demand is low.
You can pay £10.99 a month for a delivery pass for anytime deliveries. The minimum order is £40. There is no charge for mid-week orders of more than £100.
SAINSBURY’S: Delivery charges start from £1 between 3pm and 11pm on a Wednesday.
The peak delivery charge is £7 between 8am and 10.30am on Saturday and 8.30am and 10.30am on a Sunday.
You can pay from £5 a month for a delivery pass for anytime deliveries. The minimum order for these prices is £40.
A home delivery for £25 of goods can cost £7. There is no charge for orders of £100 or more.
TESCO: Delivery charges start from £2 between 11am and 11pm on a Wednesday. The peak delivery charge is £7 between 8am and 10am on both Saturdays and Sundays.
You can pay from £5 a month for a delivery pass for anytime deliveries. The minimum order is £40.
WAITROSE: There is no delivery charge. The minimum order is £60.
VERDICT: Ideal if you wish to avoid pushing shopping trolleys.
THE ORGANIC FARMER
There is no substitute for visiting a local high street grocery store or farm shop for top fresh produce. But you can also buy fresh organic produce online.
Riverford Organic Farmers in Devon began its delivery service 30 years ago. The internet transformed its business and it now delivers fresh fruit, vegetables and meat to 47,000 people a week.
The company claims it can beat high street supermarkets on price for organic groceries because as a farm – and with links to other suppliers – it cuts out the middleman.
It also tries to stand out from the crowd by offering seasonal vegetable boxes and ‘recipe boxes’ with all the ingredients required to cook a meal, plus online cooking tips.
Eco-credentials: Abel & Cole likes to boast that it is ‘committed to comply with the Modern Slavery Act’ and only burns fuel on ‘eco-friendly delivery routes
Deliveries are free and the day and time of a delivery largely depend on where a customer lives. Usually it will deliver once a week.
The cost of a large box with eight types of vegetable and three different kinds of fruit is £20.95.
Farmer Guy Watson founded the company and still runs it. He says: ‘A lot of vegetables in the supermarket look fantastic but are bland when you eat them and have been shipped halfway across the world.
ERNEST IS STILL SHOWING HIS BOTTLE 150 YEARS ON
My round: A scene form Raymond Brigg’s Ethel and Earnest
You might have thought the friendly milkman was a dying breed. But they are making a comeback.
The 4,000-strong army of milkmen is now offering a range of goods as well as dairy produce to compete with supermarkets and provide a more rounded home delivery service.
Delivering to two million homes a day, the profession offers the biggest shopping delivery service in Britain.
Service: Milkman Terry Jennings with his dog Jess
The modern-day milkman not only delivers milk in bottles like Ernest in the hit animation film Ethel & Ernest, but more than 250 other groceries.
Everything from basics such as bread and eggs to luxuries such as chocolates and champagne. You also no longer need to slip a note in a bottle if you want any extras – you can change an order using a smartphone.
Milkman Terry Jennings, 45, from Bishop’s Stortford in Hertfordshire, does a milk round for the company milk&more around Saffron Walden, Essex.
Last November, he found a lost dog early on his round. He saw a ‘lost poster’ for the pet and got the dog Barney returned home that same day.
Terry says: ‘We offer a local service that you won’t find from a supermarket delivery man. I see myself as serving the community.’
Even though he works anti-social hours – between 3am and 9am – he still has time to stop for a chat with customers to make sure they are OK.
Terry says: ‘My job does not stop at delivering milk and groceries. If milk has not been collected from the doorstep we check to make sure everything is fine. People say we are like a fourth emergency service. The job satisfaction of being valued by customers is wonderful. It is a privilege to do what I do.’
Increasingly, milkmen have had to adapt to the shopping demands of the 21st Century. So if a customer emails an order up to 9pm the day before, it will be delivered on the next round.
Terry drives a diesel van but a quarter of milkmen still use electric floats as they have done since the 1950s. The milkman first appeared in the 1860s pushing a ‘milk pram’ loaded with churns and pouring milk into jugs.
Milk was still hand-pulled on delivery carts up until the 1950s as depicted in the award-winning Ethel & Ernest, the graphic novel and animation film by Raymond Briggs.
You can find details of your local milkman at website findmeamilkman.net.
VERDICT: Gold top for milk, grocery basics and social service.
‘We focus on flavour and although organic food is not always the cheapest, it tastes the best and supports British farmers.’
Organic vegetables are grown without pesticides, synthetic fertilisers or genetic modification. Meat is reared without the use of growth hormones.
It typically costs 20 per cent more than non-organic food but Watson believes an increasing number of people are appreciating its value for basic food-on-the-table needs.
He says: ‘We have a mix of customers, not just one type of person. Knowing where your food comes from is vitally important.
‘The small price premium is not about us making more money but represents the added costs of providing better food.’
Abel & Cole also delivers organic food. Deliveries cost £1.25 but new customers get a free cookbook and the fourth fruit and vegetable box they order is free.
Its ‘large magnificent box’ – eight types of vegetable and three varieties of fruit – costs £27.50.
Organic marketing can seem sanctimonious. For example, Abel & Cole likes to boast that it is ‘committed to comply with the Modern Slavery Act’ and only burns fuel on ‘eco-friendly delivery routes’.
Those who want to know where their meat comes from should use a local butcher.
But there are also online meat specialists, such as Field and Flower, that sell grass-fed, free-range meat and fish caught by fishermen who have been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.
VERDICT: Often the tastiest option if you can afford it.
READY-MADE MEALS ON WHEELS
Those who struggle to get to the shops, rarely cook for themselves or are simply looking for convenience can opt for a ready-made meal.
Elderly and vulnerable people should check with their local council if they might qualify for meals on wheels help.
Visit website link gov.uk/meals-home and enter your postcode to obtain details of who you should ask.
There are also charities willing to help. The most famous is the Royal Voluntary Service which helped victims of the Blitz during the Second World War, when people were bombed out of their homes and unable to cook. It provided hot meals to those in need.
Budget: Fern Britton stars in Wiltshire Farm Foods TV ads
There is now a growing trend for ready-made meals delivered to the doorstep which can be heated up at your convenience to eat. They vary in quality.
Describing itself as a gourmet grocery shop, national chain Cook has a high street presence and delivers dishes to the door.
Home delivery is free as long as you order at least £50 of meals, so you will need space in the freezer. Otherwise, the minimum delivery order is £30, with delivery ranging from £5 and £6.95, depending on where you live.
James Rutter, brand director of Cook, says: ‘We have chefs who prepare the meals in our kitchens.
‘The dishes are not made on a production line like you might expect from supermarket ready-meals, though the sizes of the pots and pans we use are a lot bigger than usual because we are preparing meals for 1,500 at a time rather than just one or two people at a dinner table.’
He adds: ‘The beauty of freezing is that we do not need to use additives and preservatives.’
Another provider of frozen dishes that targets those on a tight budget is Wiltshire Farm Foods. The firm is perhaps best known for its TV advertising once fronted by the late comedian Ronnie Corbett, but now starring television presenter Fern Britton. Its delivery service is free for select areas, but a minimum order of £19 is usually required. Deliveries tend to be once a week.
Oakhouse Foods, another provider of frozen ready meals, offers free delivery on orders of more than £30.
VERDICT: Great for convenience.