Why I’ve ditched Waitrose and Asda Online to go round Aldi with a trolley…
I must admit to feeling a twinge of guilt at the news that Tesco is to close 43 stores. But I wasn’t surprised. After all, a few months ago I interviewed a former Tesco worker for The Sun who’d written a book about Tesco’s downfall.
A few years ago I – like many others it seems – bought all my groceries from Tesco. But at some point due to rising prices and falling quality, I began shopping at other supermarkets.
For the last couple of years I’ve been shopping online using a combination of Waitrose and Asda. To keep the cost down – I do find Waitrose very expensive but good quality – I have been using the online saver website mysupermarket.co.uk. I have then split the orders – so half of it has arrived every week (deliveries are free over £60) from Waitrose while the other half comes from Asda.
That way I’ve kept products that are high quality (but not such good quality in Asda) in my online Waitrose trolley while products that are too expensive from Waitrose I get from Asda.
But recently my online shopping – which I have been doing August 2003 – has turned into a real chore. Apart from seeing the price of my shopping rising every week (we are a family of five adults and it has been regularly hitting over £200 for a weekly shop!), going on those websites has become a nightmare.
Once, in 2003, I could go on and quickly zip down a list of favourites, checkout and that was it. Now, having chosen the products online (and been subjected to ‘other customers like you bought this’ and ‘this would be cheaper’ on every blasted item), I then have to navigate more sales pages that say ‘have you forgotten something’ (they bring up everything I have ever bought) – and if that isn’t enough there are other ‘sales’ hurdles to jump over before check out. ‘Look at the flash sales before you go’ and ‘this or that isn’t on special offer when your delivery slot is due’ or ‘you haven’t completed your bogoff offer.’ The said bogoff offer is highlighted in red to alarm you that you should be getting double fruit so you can chuck one lot away.
Thus just choosing the shopping online has become a two-hour nightmare when I am subjected at every turn to hard sales as I try to check out (and sometimes a website glitch makes that nigh on impossible as well.)
Then there’s been two weeks running when Waitrose said they had no white rice (indeed not any rice apparently) in their store. With not even a substitution of rice for rice I was left having to go out to buy a basic product. Despite me ordering a large joint of beef, they could only manage to send minute joints of beef as well. When I ordered £40 of steak as a treat for the weekend, someone decided that was too much money to spend and sent me just £25 worth instead. Hence another trip to the local Sainsbury’s (an assault on the senses with its massive choice, screaming special offer signs, huge aisles where you have to walk miles to get the basics – all utterly exhausting.)
Then Asda brought ground nuts instead of mixed nuts, orange juice in a plastic bottle rather than a carton, jelly marmalade instead of ordinary marmalade (can there really not be any ordinary marmalade in a supermarket?) They were always out of stock of some vital ingredient or substituted some healthy product I’d carefully chosen with one full of sugar instead. My cupboards are still full of stuff we will never eat or use – substituted items I’ve accepted because I was on the phone when they arrived that we didn’t really want.
Quite often sell by or use by dates mean the joint bought for Sunday has had to go in the freezer, everyone has had to eat the yoghurts tonight. Or bread is squashed so it is in crumbs, the milk has leaked everywhere, bright orange loo rolls turn up instead of white ones, paracetamol is somehow replaced for aspirin or an egg is broken. Recently no onions were delivered by anyone – as the basic of just about every dish that was another headache.
Of course I’ve complained but ringing the supermarket means hanging on a phone for ages – while your blood pressure goes up as you are passed from person to person.
Every week I’ve dreaded Tuesday. This was the day I had to do the online shop – Waitrose have to have your completed shop by 10.45am the day before it is delivered (I choose Thursday as that leaves me Friday to go shopping when things don’t turn up.) And if you leave it too late, there are no slots left. I was living with the worry the van would break down and there would be no groceries delivered (which has happened) or someone would turn up while I am still in my dressing gown (they often turned up too early) but of course I didn’t want to turn them away in case they never came back.
I’ve regularly had the drivers drive off with a vital bag of my shopping. I have often received other peoples’ shopping. And some stuff just doesn’t turn up – unfortunately I sometimes haven’t noticed that missing ingredient until I am cooking which is incredibly frustrating.
Supermarkets will always refund the lost bag – or if you are lucky and you can catch the driver (which means stopping your working day and hastily ringing the store to try to locate him or her), they will try to redeliver and they will give you vouchers. Waitrose think a bottle of wine will make everything ok (but I don’t drink and I’ve got quite a lot of those bottles now.)
I thought about switching my online shop to someone else – but sorry to say I have had the same experience with everyone from Ocado to Sainsbury, Waitrose to Tesco and Asda. In fact it seems to be impossible for these supermarkets to just deliver what you order.
It got to the point where the online shop had ceased to become helpful – it had become a huge great hassle. And so a few weeks ago I decided to do something radical (for me.) On Tuesday night I gave the online shopping a miss and the next day went to Aldi.
I haven’t done so before because my nearest one is a 15 minute drive and as Aldi don’t do a home delivery service, I couldn’t imagine how in my busy working day I’d fit a shop in. But when I totted up all the time spent online doing the shopping and then sorting out all the missing/broken/wrong items I reckoned it wouldn’t take any longer.
As it’s a discount store I expected Aldi to be a giant warehouse. So I was pleasantly surprised to find it is a small traditional and almost slightly old fashioned store which you can easily get round. The first difference is it is quiet. Lots of shoppers but less noisy – and full of helpful shop assistants busily stocking shelves. At first, given the size, I worried I wouldn’t be able to get a whole shop. But I was wrong. Every single item I needed is on those shelves – only there isn’t tens of brands or sizes to choose from but just the main ones.
This limited choice suits me – it was one of the reasons I turned to online shopping in the early days as it stops so many temptation buys and used to work out cheaper. Also I have never been a ‘brand’ person. I couldn’t care less whether it is McVities or Aldi on those biscuits, as long as they taste good (which they do). I also cook a lot from scratch.
That said, there is a lot of temptation at Aldi. I’ve been delighted by the choice of fresh food, quiches, pizzas, hams, cheeses. The veg and fruit is excellent and again much more choice than I imagined they’d have. Their Greek yoghurt tastes just like my favourite brand Yeo Valley (but it is a LOT cheaper!), their jaffa cakes are better than the real things – and there have been some surprises such as mussels, venison and quails.
There are no offers, which I prefer. There is no trying to work out which is the best deal. The price of products is clearly displayed. It has been fantastic to come home with one bag of tangerines and not be bullied during my online shop into buying two for one or three for two.
As Aldi is a small store, I am in and out fast and the shopping is all over and done with in a morning.
And of course best of all there is the price – around £130 a week for me for a massive shop. My cupboards, fridge and freezer are packed with stuff – but this time it is all items I want, all things we will eat. What a relief!
UPDATE: After six weeks of shopping at Aldi – and making direct comparisons between my receipts for the Waitrose/Aldi online combo and shopping at Aldi – my monthly bill has fallen from £900 a month to £500. The savings over a year will be over £4,000!
Have you forged new shopping habits? Let me know your views below…