Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Avoiding the hop - shopping Free From online

Anyone else do the 'Hop'? 

No I don't mean a dance, as such, I mean the process by which you do your weekly Free From shopping. If you're anything like us, it means hopping from one supermarket to the next, in order to locate the various products that we need. I just can't get everything I need from one place - this is compounded by the fact that we are dealing with more than one kind of allergy. 

Two supermarkets near me stock the liquid I need to do my washing (to prevent 'Baby's' eczema), one of these stocks the gluten free pasta I prefer, either of these might have the bread I can tolerate, neither of them will stock 'Baby's' dairy free chocolate drops. And that's just the beginning! Some of the products I need are only obtainable from health food shops. 

To make things easier, for ourselves, we have found it generally makes sense to do some/most of our shopping online. I have investigated a few other ways of getting Free From items - I visit our local health food shops fairly often, but I wanted to buy some biscuits that I found at the Free From show, and found that I could not find them locally. It was then that I turned to the Internet.


I shop fairly often online with Amazon for various items, but was astonished to discover that you can also buy some Free From products from them - including my biscuits! However, you have to be prepared to buy in bulk. The biscuits weren't too bad - just four packets at a time, but ice cream cones by the same company have to be bought in packs of six boxes.  Therefore you need to consider whether you have got the space to store it, something which (if you're anything like us) we don't have a lot of!!

  • If items are eligible for 'Super Saver Delivery,' you get a small amount of money off and don't have to pay extra for delivery.
  • Buying in bulk can be cheaper.
  • Using Prime can save money on delivery costs.
  • You can get items that you can't find locally.

  • They can't always specify a day/time for delivery, so you need to be at home during work hours to receive a delivery. If you are not in very much during the week (let's face it most people are at work during the week) and do not have an understanding work place (who'll let you receive parcels at work) then you'd find it difficult to shop with them. 
  • Amazon purchases are often over packaged - not very eco-frendly.
  • You need space to store items bought in bulk.
  • You have to know which product you are looking for, when using their website - I haven't found a 'Free From' section!
  • you can now buy some products within two hours - for an extra fee of course!

Goodness Direct

I've also experimented with shopping online from Goodness Direct - they're like an online health food store. I'd heard of them through various avenues and thought I'd give them a try, to see how we got on. However, having tried it once, although as a first time customer they've sent me a 10% discount code for my next order, I'm not sure that it will be an avenue that I'll be exploring again all that soon - unless they have products that I really want, that I really can't get elsewhere. This is mainly because of delivery problems.

To be fair, it wasn't Goodness Direct's fault - it was the delivery firm that couldn't seem to operate the door entry system to our block of flats, but frustrating nonetheless, as I will not get those two days of my life back! 

I wouldn't have worried too much, if it wasn't for the fact that I had ordered some chilled items. I was worried that they would perish unless they arrived fairly soon - which was why I had waited in for them. As it was, I had to dispatch The Hub off to collect them from the depot when he got home from work (rather than wait for them to try and redeliver the next day).


  • Good if you don't have much access locally to good independent health food stores or if you don't have well-stocked supermarkets nearby (although Goodness Direct say they can't deliver chilled or fresh produce to some rural locations). 
  • Wide range of products.
  • They highlight common allergens and list ingredients for each product.
  • Delivery is free (except for chilled/frozen items) if you spend £35 on products - this can easily be managed, especially if you buy in bulk.
  • Delivery is free for all goods, if you spend over £75 on products.
  • You can pick up your order from Goodness Direct, if you live near their base (Daventry, Northamptonshire). You need to give 24 hours notice but this way, you can avoid delivery charges. Great if you live near enough!


  • Like Amazon, they can't specify a delivery day/time.
  • They charge £3.50 extra for ordering frozen/chilled products - for extra packaging.
  • You have to order a minimum of six frozen/chilled products at a time - apparently to keep them cool during transit.
  • They don't deliver weekends, bank holidays or days following bank holidays either (as I discovered).
  • They can't deliver chilled/frozen products to some rural locations.
  • There's not much that they can do about it, but I worry that their chilled packaging is not very 'eco-friendly' - what can you do with gel packs that have been enclosed with chilled/frozen goods, in order to dispose of them without harming the environment?


Having investigated these other options, to be honest, my preferred form of online shopping (I'm truly sorry for those of you, who have issues with this company) remains Ocado.
Lemon Van - all the vans are named!
Why Ocado?
I'm not paid by them to say this (or anyone, for that matter) but we choose Ocado for the following main reasons:
  • You can book a specific time slot - A major plus, in my book! I hate waiting around for a delivery and not knowing when it's going to arrive (as I'm doing today, in fact). With Ocado, we can book a specific time slot and the delivery runs pretty reliably to time. In fact, they are usually early, but that's probably because we live so close to their depot.
  • They stock a good range of ordinary groceries as well as an expanding range of Free From products, so although we still can't get everything, we can get most of our needs this way. 
  • If they're out of stock, you can usually see this on their website - rather than finding out when they turn up at your door, with some random substitute. This way, you can choose your own alternative products.
  • There are very few substitutions - when we shopped with another supermarket in this way, there were quite frequent substitutions, some of which were fairly random. Even when Ocado do substitute, they do so intelligently, so we rarely turn the substitute down.
  • They price match with Tescos on branded products - OK, this may be off-set by the delivery charges but then we're saving on our own petrol by reducing the number of journeys that we might have to make in the week.
  • They appear to be open to suggestions - you can recommend products that you'd like them to stock. This doesn't mean that they'll automatically take up your suggestion, but it's a step in the right direction. They now stock my pasta - one less reason to do my shopping hop.
  • They sucked us in, with a good deal on the delivery (quoting The Hub here)!

Other pros:
  • Products are placed in colour-coded bags - green for frozen, red for chilled and purple for general groceries.
  • Chilled and frozen items are stored at the correct temperature during transit.
  • They will carry your groceries in for you.
  • They recycle your shopping bags - they take away any old plastic shopping bags.
  • Sometimes they send you a sample of some product that they think you might like - not always useful, but can be sometimes!

  • There's a lot of ground that they just don't cover - yet! Sorry to those of you who can't yet get Ocado deliveries in your area. I'm rooting for you!
  • You need to spend a minimum of £40, but these days, that is fairly easy to do anyway.
  • Eggs might get broken in transit, but you can call them about it and complain. To avoid this, we now buy our eggs locally. The same also goes for bread - which can get squished.

Anything else?
  • For some reason long life milk substitutes are often put in bags containing refrigerated items. Not sure why!!
  • Sometimes, one item is randomly placed in a carrier bag all of its own, which seems a bit wasteful. I just hope this is offset by recycling the bags! 
  • If you return your bags they now pay you 5p a bag, but thie isn't terribly accurate if you're returning them in bulk!
  • I like my raw meat packaged separately from my cooked meat and yoghurts - Ocado don't see this is a problem, but I am not convinced! Therefore we no longer buy these in the same order.
  • Apparently if you live in an area where Ocado don't yet deliver, you can register online with them anyway, and they will notify you when they do. However, don't hold your breath, if you live in Scotland, or anywhere where there isn't a Waitrose, as that's where Ocado get most of their products!

Obviously, these are not the only options for shopping Free From online. They just happen to be the ones that I have explored so far.

Please note: 

This post is not an advert. I have not been paid to write this post. I am not sponsored in any way, even by advertising. I do not receive products free to review, although I have often been offered them. This is to try and maintain an unbiased approach. All views expressed are my own (unless I've asked for The Hub's or Kiddo's).

Enjoyed this post? Found it useful? You might like the following posts too:

Shopping with Food Allergies in the UK

Shopping around dairy free

Alternative Stores

Fancy a date... at the Allergy and Free From Show 2014?

So how about you? How do you get on with Free From shopping?


  1. I hop between supermarkets but I am fortunate that they are near to each other. It drives me bonkers, I have never liked the thought of online grocery shopping because I don't trust websites to list ingredients plus finding a slot for delivery is difficult as I have full time job & I lack organisation. I can see why it works for some people but it's not for me at this time.

    1. I know what you mean - we're not terribly organised ourselves!! The good thing about Ocado is you give them a specific one hour slot - so for us, that's usually at the beginning of the day or Saturday lunchtime(times when we know we're likely to be at home). Thankfully, they deliver evenings and weekends (essential for people who work a normal day). Also they list ingredients and nutritional information, quite thoroughly - you just need to click on the right bit of the page. We've not found any mistakes, so far!!