Coronavirus Covid-19 Online Supermarket Shopping Tips – How to Find Stuff

If you have never used online shopping before, and are using it under pressure because of this awful situation, it can seem overwhelming. I have been using online grocery shopping for over twenty years, and I have made a wide selection of mistakes. I hope that I can share what I have learned and make things a little easier.

I made a note about online shopping, including substitutions here. This post is about finding what you want when you are completely unfamiliar with online supermarket shopping. When you feel under strain, the last thing you need is to be hunting for diced chicken as your blood pressure rises. However it is possible to hunt for what you need, and you may find some surprises along the way. I suggest that you take your time, have a cup of tea at your side and checkout regularly, so that you don’t get timed out.

Fresh Fruit and Veg

To find what you want, you have to hunt around for the menu. Some stores are easier than others. Asda will not allow you to browse all fruit, for example. You have to click each particular type, so you click apples, then oranges, then bananas. Other supermarkets are more forgiving.

It’s hard to judge quality through a screen, especially if you have got a delivery slot in an unfamiliar supermarket. On the whole, the better quality produce costs more. All items should have ‘price per kg’ or ‘price per 100g’ next to them. You can sort the items by cost – low to high, but you don’t get the full picture as you will get price per individual apple to price per large box and the prices aren’t always equivalent. You may have to work out the prices with a calculator, or even just guess.

Important – Produce

closeup photo of carrot lot

You will get the option to buy loose produce. Be very, very careful. When you choose this option you get a choice of buying by quantity or by weight. Do not, whatever you do, get them confused. I have been let down receiving one solitary carrot instead of the kilo of carrots I wanted for soup. I have heard of people receiving ten kilos of carrots instead of the ten individual carrots that were wanted. Check, double check and, if it’s really important, buy ready bagged.

Meat

If you go to a supermarket in person, you can make decisions like, ‘if they haven’t got a nice bit of chicken, then I’ll get some lamb’. When you online shop, you have to commit.

On the whole, by and large and in general, the better quality is more expensive. Check the weight as well. At time of typing, Sainsburys whole chickens range from a chicken with a maximum weight of 1.35kg at £1.90 to £7.45 for a 2.2kg, free range, organic chicken. There are plenty in between. It is worth taking the time to consider what you need, what you can afford, and how you will store it.

Dietary Restrictions

It can be really tough if you are on a restricted diet. It is a good idea to make a note against items as you check out that, for example, you cannot have dairy. There are sections devoted to items for restricted items in all stores, but Tesco also have a ‘lifestyle’ menu where you can sort for items that are, for example, gluten free without them being specialised ‘free from’. For example, Tesco’s own brand stock cubes are gluten free, but they are not marketed as such. I found out that they were safe by checking the lifestyle menu.

rice grains with measuring scoop in container

Don’t Get Carried Away

When you are in a supermarket, you can see how much your trolley is filling up. You can see the heap of tins getting higher. You can look at the extra large turkey and have a good guess whether it will fit in the fridge. You can’t do that when online shopping. Get what you want, and what you need, but don’t get things just because you can. Check how much space is in the freezer before you order extra frozen sausages. Don’t order more bread than you can use up before it goes stale. Do not make my mistake and buy a load of stuff that you don’t like that much just because it is a bargain. Always check the total cost as you are checking out (or even as you shop!). It may come as an unpleasant surprise.

Miracles Take a Little Longer

Finding what you want when you are not sure about the layout is hard. It can be rewarding, though, having a browse through the different sections. For example, if you like Branston pickle, and search just for Branston pickle on the Asda site, you get 18 results, including some other brands. However if you go to the ‘condiments, chutneys and pickles’ section then you find 116 different items, including Branston Onion Chutney, which suddenly really appeals. You may get inspired or reminded of an old favourite.

Too Much Choice

It can get overwhelming. If it just seems too much, it’s okay. Checkout (always, always checkout), walk away, take a few breaths and remember that you cannot possibly be expected to know it all straight away. Even now, when supermarkets are actively restricting choice because of the situation, there is just so much! It’s okay to make a list with pen and paper, come back and just use the search box to find what you need. If you have time, you can come back and explore. If you haven’t time now, you may be able to take more time next delivery, and it will be more familiar. Everybody gets things wrong. I forgot milk on the last delivery. I forgave myself.

Campbell's can lot on shopping basket

If you are doing your first online shop in these trying circumstances, I hope you find these suggestions useful. Drop a comment below if you have any questions or suggestions, and I’ll do my best to answer.

Wishing good health to all.

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