E-commerce - the ability to buy things over the web - is now arguably the internet's primary reason for existence. Rather than tramping around the high street comparing products and prices - or worse, doing so only to find that your nearest retailer is hundreds of miles away - you can now do it all from the comfort of your computer, or even your phone. Some websites will even do the hard bit for you; just enter what you're looking for, click 'search' and find the cheapest available version from a variety of different retailers.
These days, most people will also be familiar with the dangers associated with esoteric online financial transactions. The honeymoon period is definitely over (read more on our Scam Warnings Page), which may be one of the reasons why the virtual shopping centre tends to be dominated by a few familiar giants, with their secure servers (check for the https at the start of the url when you're entering your details - the 's' is for 'secure') for online payment. Allay your fears at comparison sites such as www.shopsafe.co.uk, which only lists secure online shops.
To help with your shopping, we have compiled the following list of websites you might like to investigate. If you have any favourites of your own, please e-mail us and we'll consider them for inclusion below.
Before we start delving into sub-categories, it might be worth visiting www.somucheasier.co.uk, which offers a very user-friendly guide to shopping online for those attempting it for the first time.
Most of the main supermarkets now deliver to your door, many charging a £5 flat fee for the privilege (occasionally waived as part of an introductory offer, or if you spend over a certain amount). You simply compile your virtual list online and book a convenient delivery slot (usually a window of a couple of hours) when you must ensure that you're in to receive the goods - then wait to see what turns up. Be prepared for the odd substitution of your desired item with its closest equivalent (eg. Desiree instead of Maris Piper). www.iceland.co.uk deliver free if you spend the required minimum (£25 as at Feb 2010), but they don't do fresh groceries. Here are the other main contenders:www.tesco.com
One very useful online system is Tesco's online price check. Updated every Thursday, it compares prices on about 5,000 items at Sainsbury, Asda, Safeway, and Tesco itself. And it does seem to admit when Tesco is more expensive.
Speciality Foods: Cheese
Chocolate and Cake
Gourmet French Food