Shopping bagsLove online shopping but hate paying for the privilege? Check out my top tips to get cheap or free delivery with Sainsbury's, Tesco, Asda, Ocado and Waitrose.
If you've ever been in a busy supermarket on a Saturday morning you will understand why so many people choose to shop online. Queues, noise, stress - who needs it?

Online shopping
While it takes a bit of time to get to grips with shopping on the internet, the benefits are obvious.

For a start, rather than cart the kids to the supermarket for an hour, they can play as you shop from the comfort of your own home.

It's easier to only choose the items you need (because you're not tempted into making impulse purchases), you can ensure you pick the right "offer" items - and it's delivered straight to your door.

But then again, online shopping can take far longer than it should, you can't pick your own fruit and veg and you have to pay for delivery.


Cutting the costs
Luckily, there are ways to slash those delivery costs. Let's take a look at the five main players - Sainsbury's, Tesco, Asda, Ocado and Waitrose.

Standard delivery charges
Sainsbury's delivers between 9am and 11pm Mon-Fri (9am-8pm on Saturdays and 10am-10pm on Sundays) in hourly slots. Delivery costs vary between £2.75 and £6.75, with Monday to Wednesday slots usually being cheaper.

Tesco delivers between 8am and 11pm Mon-Fri (8am-10pm on Saturdays and 10am-3pm and 6pm-10pm on Sundays). It has one hourly delivery slots, charges £3-£6 and its cheapest delivery slots are also Monday to Wednesday.

Asda delivers between 10am and 10pm seven days (7am-10pm if you live nearer a larger store). Like Tesco it does so in two-hourly slots, and has a minimum order of £25. Charges range between £2.50 and £5.50.

Ocado offers the widest range of delivery times (6am-11.30pm seven days a week) in one hourly slots. Its charges also vary the most, from absolutely nothing to £6.99, with the cheapest slots typically being in the evening (9pm onwards) or early morning (6am-7am). You have to spend a minimum of £40.

Waitrose offers delivery between 9am-10pm Mondays to Fridays (9am-8pm on Saturdays and 11am-4pm on Sundays) in two-hour delivery slots. If you order £50-worth or more of items you'll pay a £3 delivery charge, otherwise it'll be £5, regardless of when you have your shopping delivered. However if you shop online and your order is over £50, delivery is free.

Free delivery
Now there are ways to automatically qualify for free delivery. As mentioned, Ocado offers a number of free delivery slots in the evenings each week (you need to book at least a couple of days in advance).

However, Sainsbury's, too, offers free delivery if you spend over £100 for delivery on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Other options
But what if you prefer Tesco or Asda - is it possible to get free delivery with them too? Well, pop into your local Tesco - many stores currently have a voucher at their tills offering new customers £10 off their first online shop when they spend £50 or more.

And if you regularly shop in Asda and are financially disciplined it may be worth taking out the Asda Reward credit card. If you spend £99 or more online, you'll get free delivery if you pay with the card plus reward points on your spending.

Tips to cover that delivery fee
However, as an online shopper myself I've found a few alternative ways to cover that delivery fee.

1. Sign up for emails with all of the supermarket websites, even if you don't intend to shop with them straight away. Like all retailers, supermarkets often send out discount codes (such as 15% off your shopping) to entice us to shop with them which will usually more than cover the delivery charge.

2. Join the loyalty schemes. If you shop with Sainsbury's or Tesco (and don't mind them knowing your shopping habits) sign up to their loyalty cards - cardholders are often sent extra money off vouchers/delivery offers.

3. Switch around. Never use the same delivery service twice in a row. Supermarkets tend to ignore loyal customers and send their best deals to those who haven't used their service for a while - make them stew and watch the offers roll in!

4. Complain, complain, complain. If there is anything at all wrong with your shopping (late delivery, damaged fruit or vegetables, items too close to their sell-by date, dented tins) don't just accept it, phone up and tell them. Most customer service managers are keen that you enjoy the service and will often replace or simply refund your money, straight away. What's more, depending on the problem many will issue credit notes too, giving money off your next delivery (which will cover that delivery fee!).

5. Scour the web for voucher codes. The likes of vouchercodes.co.uk and myvouchercodes.co.uk often have vouchers for free delivery and discounts on your groceries.



Make the most of your delivery
Of course, the best way to minimise costs is to have as few deliveries as possible. Consider planning what you will use in a whole month and do one big, online shop during this time. This way you could get as much of the heavy or bulky, non-perishable stuff (washing powder, toilet paper, tins, bottles, jars, juice cartons, frozen food etc.) delivered, and by planning it in advance you could aim for a free delivery slot. Then you'll only have to pick up a few fresh items each week.

Free delivery isn't everything
Keep your wits about you. Depending on what you buy you could still end up spending more with Ocado, for example, than Asda, even if your delivery costs nothing. To get around this problem, try shopping through MySupermarket to compare how much your trolley would cost with a number of supermarkets.

Service is important?
Equally, cheapest is not always best. Choose Tesco or Asda and you'll have a 2-hour time slot to wait in for. And while Ocado often comes up as the most expensive option, it does offer the greatest flexibility in delivery times, your shopping is delivered to your kitchen (not dumped at the door) and not only do you tend to receive items with long sell-by dates, it also lists these on your receipt so you know how long you have to use them up.

More stories