Will it cost you more to order your groceries online?
From September 1st Ocado will replace Waitrose groceries with those from Marks and Spencer. It’s part of a 50% buyout of Ocado by Marks and Spencer – marking the first time you’ll be able to shop for M&S food online.
All three supermarkets tend to have a reputation as being pricey – and it’s often the case that they’re substantially more expensive than their rivals.
The most recent Which? report shows their sample shop of 85 items costs £117 at Ocado and £122 at Waitrose compared to £99 at Tesco and Morrisons and £79 at Aldi and Lidl. Big
Now, I have a slight issue with these comparisons, For a start, you aren’t always comparing the same quality. And if you tailor your shop around special offers you can get pretty decent value at all three – if not paying as little as you would at the discounters.
(Sadly, going online does mean you miss out of yellow stickers and reduced items – something I regularly use to spend less when shopping in actual M&S and Waitrose shops.)
And something that’s important to me is that both Waitrose and M&S have the highest animal welfare standards for their own brand meat and dairy. So yes you might pay more for a chicken at Waitrose than at Iceland, but there’s a good reason!
Of course if you don’t mind about this things, or don’t agree about the quality difference, then I doubt you shop at Ocado.
But if you do, then this big change to its delivery service will be something that will affect what groceries you buy – and how much you spend.
Here’s what it’ll likely mean for you, depending on whether you like Waitrose, M&S or Ocado.
What it means for Waitrose fans
Obviously you won’t be able to use Ocado to get your Waitrose shopping delivered. Which is a pain if you have a delivery pass.
If you don’t want to swap to M&S equivalents you can still shop online directly from Waitrose’s website.
For most customers this means your order is picked from the shelves at your local (or nearby) Waitrose shop rather than at a warehouse. This might not sound like much of a difference, but in my experience it can mean more missing items.
That’s because the shops rarely have much space to store items. Instead, most supermarkets rely on a “just-in-time” system where lorries bring in new stock just as the shelves empty.
Now, I love Waitrose – it’s my number one supermarket for quality. But I’ve regularly left frustrated when I go to my store by something that’s not there (usually fresh corriander!). And if the item is sold out in your shop then it can’t be delivered via an online order.
Of course, Ocado orders often have missing items too, so you might not notice too much difference – but it’s worth bearing in mind.
Historically there have been new customer offers, but since lockdown these have disappeared. It could be they return once the Ocado change happens as I’m sure Waitrose will be keen to get people to swap to buying food direct from them.
Delivery from Waitrose is free, though you’ll find there’s a minimum order size of £60 – less than with Ocado.
What is means for Marks & Spencer fans
It’s good news! For a start you don’t have to trek to the high street to stock up on the items you love. You can now get them delivered.
It looks like the regular special offers you see in M&S Food stores are on Ocado too, such as the “3 for £10” on meat and fish which I think represents great value. There will also be a wider range of products, including larger value pack sized versions of M&S faves.
Plus you can get more items, often those branded ones, that the shops don’t sell. Ocado also sells a huge range of own-brand items (I recommend the nduja). And these are often on special offer too.
You won’t however be able to use any Sparks discount vouchers you get – they’re just for shopping in-store at M&S.
When you order on Ocado there is £1.99 charge on orders under £75 – and depending on the slot you choose it can be between £0 and £6.99 on top.
You can opt for a “Smart Pass”. This is £9.99 a month, £54.99 for six months for £99.99 for a year. This will mean you don’t pay anything extra for delivery and you’ll also get discounts on certain items.
Right now there’s only the “Anytime” pass, but in the past there has been a cheaper “Midweek” option. There’s often a free trial so keep an eye out for this. Oh, and if you cancel it’s worth haggling – my mum is often offered free months or discounts to sign back up.
What it means for Ocado fans
Though you’ll potentially miss some regular purchases, Ocado has been working with Marks to produce alternatives to popular Waitrose branded food and drink. In fact there will be 6,500 M&S products compared to the 4,000 that were from Waitrose.
If you have Waitrose items in your favourites and regulars they’ll be swapped for similar items from MS&.
At the time of writing, before the changeover, I can see both the Waitrose items and M&S options. It’s hard to know exactly which items will go, but I’d expect most non-Waitrose items will remain.
And though it pains me to say it (I really do love Waitrose), the M&S items fare pretty well. A few examples:
Lamb Rogan Josh ready meal
- Waitrose – £3.99 for 350g (£1.14 per 100g)
- Marks & Spencer – £4 for 400g (£1 per 100g)
Minced Aberdeen Angus beef 5%% fat
- Waitrose – £5 for 400g (£12.50 per kg)
- Marks & Spencer – £4.50 for 500g (£9 per kg)
- Waitrose – 75p for 250g (£3 per kg)
- Marks & Spencer – 90p for 335g (£2.69 per kg)
12 large free range eggs
- Waitrose – £3.50 (29.2p each)
- Marks & Spencer – £3.24 (27p each)
This was just a random selection of products that sprang to mind, so I’m sure there will be cases where Waitrose items are the same or cheaper. And of course, there could be cheaper Ocado branded alternatives too! But it does show that if you tend to buy Waitrose items you might be able to save a little.
Spending less at online supermarkets
According to Waitrose 77% of us do some of our grocery shopping online – no doubt spurred on by lockdown. The term “Some” is vague so it’s hard to tell how many are doing their regular shops via the internet, but when I asked on the Be Clever With Your Cash Facebook community more than half of people still did the majority of their shopping in person.
Of course you can probably spend less on your order if you shop around and use different delivery services.
Sadly the brilliant MySupermarket comparison site closed down earlier this year so it’s harder to quickly see what the prices are elsewhere. My friends Deepak and Tom at Latest Deals have developed an app that is worth checking out but it’s quite basic.
You can also cut your spend by avoiding premium brands and going for alternatives which could very easily be made in the same factory!
Don’t forget to compare the price per unit (whether weight, volume or quantity) to see if you can save cash by buying a different size package.
And if there are standout promotions, I’ll share them on my Supermarket deals page.