Do you find food shopping a frustration or a pleasure? Why do most of us find it a chore? Could anything be done to make it more enjoyable? I share your frustrations and make a few suggestions to improve the food shopping experience.
A few weeks ago I visited a local farmers market with Jane and our two dogs. It was a beautiful day, cold but sunny, and we ambled along looking at the local produce. Wherever possible I like to purchase locally produced products. One stall caught my eye – it sold artisan bread – and I succumbed to the offer to buy two loaves at the price of £5.00 instead of one at a price of £3.50. When we arrived home I was so disappointed to find that the bread was stale! Why would someone sell stale bread because I obviously won’t buy from that stall again?
I cannot single out farmers markets for selling stale bread, although this has happened to me before. Who else has bought bread or cakes from the bakery counter of a supermarket only to find it is stale? Who bothers to go back to complain? By the time you get home having navigated all the shopping aisles, the till, and then driven home and unpacked, there’s no way I am going to drive back over a purchase worth £1 or £2. I’d probably spend more in petrol!
Online Food Shopping Frustrations
These food shopping frustrations are specific to online shopping.
I’m sure that anyone who has shopped online for groceries has, at some time, received substitutions that are inappropriate. These can be quite comical. I recall reading of one instance where the shopper received a twix instead of tampax! The supermarkets give you a choice as to whether you wish substitutions to be made if the product you ordered is unavailable, and usually it’s useful to have a substitution.
2. Missing Products
It’s more frustrating when the item you ordered is just not delivered. Research carried out by Mintel found that 26% of online grocery shoppers experienced missing products.
3. Expired Special Offers
Most people want to take advantage of special offers that supermarkets are promoting and take these into account when deciding what items to include in their online order. I find it so frustrating when I find that I am excluded from these deals because my delivery date falls outside the offer date.
4. Bakery Products Excluded
Why can’t I order a French Stick or a freshly baked Granary Loaf? One of my main online food shopping frustrations is that I cannot purchase freshly baked bread. How many people in the summer months want to purchase French Sticks to go with their barbeque or perhaps to accompany their cheeseboard? When an order is placed for the food items needed for a particular occasions it is so annoying when a trip to the supermarket still needs to be made.
5. Deli Products Excluded
Similarly, why are deli products excluded from online orders? This is yet another frustration when shopping for food online.
6. Short Shelf-Life Products
Shopping in-store enables you to pick items with the longest shelf-life. I must confess to delving to the back of shelves to find products with a longer shelf life, such as cut bread, cream, milk, etc. When purchasing online you do not have this advantage and invariably receive products that have a shorter shelf life. I suppose this is inevitable but it is still frustrating because the same price is paid for the product regardless of its shelf life.
7. Poorer Quality of Fresh Fruit & Veg
When shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables, who doesn’t pick the freshest items on show? In-store you are able to do this but online you are dependent upon the person who picks the products for you. This can result in online shoppers being given a poorer quality of produce.
8. Delivery Charges
Why does it invariably cost more to deliver groceries from Thursday to Sunday? I’m fully aware that these days would be the most popular ones, but why charge more? Does the delivery driver receive more money? Do the shop packers receive higher wages? The only people the supermarkets are penalising are their customers who have to watch their pennies. Why not charge a flat rate?
The delivery charges vary from supermarket to supermarket. Some supermarkets offer delivery passes – but at a cost. Some provide free delivery if you spend over a certain amount. High minimum shop amounts discriminate against those on a small fixed income and those who for health reasons, have no choice but to purchase their groceries online.
In-Store Food Shopping Frustrations
Regardless as to whether you shop online, you will still have to shop in-store for some items. Most people use online shopping when they need a lot of items. A monthly shop will still necessitate shopping trips for fresh products.
9. Stale Bakery Items
I referred to this earlier. Are the supermarkets simply unaware that stale items are sold because people can’t be bothered to complain? Surely the person managing this counter knows when it is selling stale products? Or am i just unfortunate and this isn’t a common problem?
10. Products Out Of Stock
When a supermarket promotes a special offer it is frustrating when you make the trip to purchase it, and often supermarkets are situated out of town, only to find that the the item is out of stock. Unfortunately you are not able to telephone the supermarket to find out whether the product is in store before you make the trip. With today’s technology, is there any way to find out whether the product you want to buy is in stock?
It is also frustrating when common items are out of stock. For example, I have been to my local superstore only to find that they have been out of stock of bananas!
11. Inability To Find Products
Whilst I appreciate that supermarkets have to move items around to take account of seasonal products e.g. Christmas, it can be frustrating when you’ve learnt where everything is only to find it’s no longer there. Staff are usually helpful when you ask, but you have to find them and they are often busy. This results in spending more time in store, when really you just want to buy your shopping and go home. Surely an app could be developed which shows you where items are located, or for those without phones, a device in store which enables you to search for a product?
Understandably there are some who misuse parking facilities, but please use reputable car parking firms to control your parking – or in-house ones. In the past I have been fined for parking in a ‘parent and child’ parking space at a local supermarket when I had twin daughters under the age of two. I paid and then complained, but to date I have never received a response (my daughters are twenty-one now!!). Aged and disabled people are often penalised because it takes them longer to shop. And woe betide if there is a fault with the parking ticket machine because there is rarely anyone in store who can help.
Also, if supermarkets have to re-surface their car park – please could you carry out the work at night and not in the run-up to Christmas! I do appreciate that supermarkets have no choice for essential repairs, but for cosmetic works!
13. Get Rid of Plastic Packaging
A prime food shopping frustration is plastic packaging. Do we really want our cucumbers encased in plastic? What about buying baking potatoes wrapped in plastic? We do not want to purchase loose fruit or vegetables and have the only option to package them as being a plastic bag. To take advantage of a special offer of 4 tins of baked beans, why do they have to be wrapped in plastic?
I do realise that it is not that straightforward for supermarkets to abolish the use of all plastics, but please take urgent steps to get rid of the plastic packaging!
Money Spent On Food Shopping
From the governments statistics, the following information is quite revealing:
- In 2016/17 the percentage of spend on food and non-alcoholic drinks for the average UK household was 10.5%.
- The percentage of spend on food continues to be highest for households with the lowest 20 per cent of income, at 14.3% in 2016/17 .
- Food is the largest item of household expenditure for low income households, after housing, fuel and power costs.
Given the amount of money spent on food shopping, surely more needs to be done to make it a more fair and simpler experience.
To find some of the latest special offers from supermarkets click here.
Unfortunately for some people food shopping frustrations are a result of not being able to afford food. More people than ever are being forced to go to food banks. The Trussell Trust, which runs a network of food banks across the UK, has reported that it has given out more than 820,000 food parcels in the last six months. This is a 23% increase on the same period in 2018. In my opinion this is disgraceful for the sixth largest economy in the world. For information on where to find free food and drink click here.
Perhaps I sound like “Mr Angry” – but I don’t mean to. The food shopping frustrations I have mentioned are based on my experiences. Have I simply been unlucky? Are there any solutions to my frustrations that I am unaware of? Is there an app in development like the one I’ve suggested? Please share this blog because I’d love to hear from as many people as possible to see whether they share my frustrations and/or are aware of any solutions to them.