Dispatches from England: A Guide to Major British Grocery Store Chains

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I hope you’re enjoying reading about my experience learning the ins and outs of grocery shopping in Great Britain. In particular, my post comparing the U.S. and GB drew a lot of attention. Clearly everyone has a strong opinion on where to shop here. So I thought I’d finish the month-long theme of groceries with a brief description of some of the major chains. (You can read about similarities here and the things that surprised me here.)

I should preface this by saying that these are merely my opinions. You may prefer one store over another for very different reasons. Also, these are the stores I have personal experience with. There are several other major chains found in Great Britain, but not anywhere near where I live, and thus I haven’t shopped at them yet.

In alphabetical order to be fair:

ASDA: This is the UK equivalent to Walmart (owned by Walmart, in fact.) You’ll find it a bit smaller than a U.S. Walmart store, but otherwise fairly similar. I’d estimate that about 2/3 of the store is made up of food, and the other 1/3 is non-food products, like clothes, books, toys, home goods, etc. I only go occasionally, mostly because it carries the British version of Goldfish crackers (called Finz here) that my children really miss from home.

Marks and Spencer: This is both a grocery chain and a department store (the grocery version being called M & S Simply Food). There is one near my house and I love visiting, mostly for their quality ready-made meals. In fact, they run a popular deal called 2 for 10 Pounds. You get a main entrée, a side dish, a dessert and a bottle of wine, all meant to feed two people, for 10 Pounds (approximately $15). Can’t beat that price, and the quality is great.

Morrisons: I shop here somewhat regularly. The prices are pretty consistently low, and as it is one of the larger stores near my house, the selection is really great. I also enjoy that it has a salad bar (somewhat unusual here but something I love for lunch) and a large cafe.

Sainsburys: This is where I tend to do the bulk of my shopping. It is somewhat similar in size to Morrisons, but has the added benefit of online ordering and delivery. Plus, this store participates in the popular Nectar loyalty program. Since food is a big expense for my family, I like earning points when I shop. Plus, for me, it is conveniently located next to my son’s nursery school, so I drive by it often.

Tesco: This is a very popular chain of stores here, but I don’t have one close to where I live. So I’ve only shopped there once. There is a miniature version nearby, called Tesco Express, nearby that I pop into occasionally but it’s not large enough for me to do my weekly shopping run there.

Waitrose: Another very popular choice here. It is a bit smaller than some of the other stores, but the quality is fantastic, especially the ready-made meals, meat and produce. They also offer online ordering and delivery. I find their prices a bit high, but if I’m making a special meal then I make it a point to come here for most of the ingredients.

Again, this is not intended to be a comprehensive listing of British grocery stores. I’m well aware that I’ve missed a few big ones. Nor would I ever try to convince anyone to shop where I shop. It’s simply my experience learning and discovering what feels most comfortable to me.

 

 

Comments

  1. avatar says

    Yes! We love the £10 deal from M&S – you can eat like kings for almost nothing. When we stay in a flat in London, we always ate dinner in and saved a ton.

  2. avatar says

    The only problem with M&S is that there are not that many stores which means it’s a long trip if you want to shop there for food only – but it IS great food and clothing too.

  3. avatarRobin in DeSoto says

    I’ve enjoyed your posts on grocery shopping. I love reading about real-life, non-touristy Britain. Good job!

  4. avatarRyan Carterét says

    I’ve also heard that there are several Whole Foods markets in the UK. What are those like? If you’ve been to one in the US, are they much different?

  5. avatar says

    I love British supermarkets! I always feel like a kid in a candy store when I’m in one of them. Not that our German supermarkets aren’t good as well, but the variety of different foods you get in British ones is overwhelming. I think it must be due to the whole Commonwealth thing – they get foods from all over because there are so many immigrants from all over living in Britain, so there’s a demand for certain things. It’s the same with Turkish stuff over here – we have so many Turkish immigrants that supermarkets are slowly starting to stock up on various Turkish delicacies that were previously only available in small specialist stores or online.
    Whenever I visit the UK I come home with a big supply of various teas (Twinings and Tetley being my favourites), porridge oats, scones and clotted cream (sadly only the long-lasting, not the fresh version, so it survives the trip home). Most other foods I enjoy need to be kept cool at all times, so I can only have those while I’m there but not bring them back home, which is a shame.

  6. avatarLydia says

    I love M&S Simply Foods. This is a great option for tourists on a budget, get one of their ready made meals and bring it back to your hotel or eat it in a park. You save money and get excellent quality. And I wish we had them here in the US – great for when it’s been a long day at work and you don’t have the energy to fix dinner.

    For regular grocery shopping – I say Sainsbury and Waitrose. Tesco’s quality wasn’t as good from what I remember.

  7. avatarRob says

    Are the MacFisheries gone? First job I ever had was working in the fresh fruit & veg dept at their Uxbridge store one summer.

  8. avatarStacy H. says

    You need to shop in Tesco or Sainsburys during Easter or Christmas if you love chocolate- there are aisles and aisles of every imaginable chocolate, so much more than here in the States. I’m partial to Galaxy, but the variety is endless. I’m Canadian, my husband’s English, and I’ve shopped all of the above grocery stores. In fact, my husband was a produce manager at Sainsburys for a few years, so that is our go to grocery store when we visit my in-laws. Tesco’s quality has vastly improved , and M & S has great quality as well. There is a frozen food store called COOK, for ready meals, desserts, etc. and they’re great too! However, you can not miss the food stalls at Fortnum and Mason in London. It’s a little pricey, but for a memorable romantic day, we get a packed lunch here and head to Hyde Park and a bit of (hopefully) sunny grass and simply ooh and aah our way through the best of English food- for my husband that is pasties, for me, just about anything with fresh clotted cream on it!

  9. avatarEl says

    So posh!!! I reckon the best way of doing things here is to go to Aldi or Lidl first (cheap! and exciting foreign foods) and then go on to Tesco/ Asda/ Morrisons (bigger, greater range, more mainstream) for anything you couldn’t find (specific brands, nicer fruit and veg etc). Sainsburys is a bit posher and more expensive but about the same as the previous 3. M&S and Waitrose for special occasions because they do have really fancy ready meals, but they’re stupidly expensive and people will judge you if you do all your shopping there :’)

  10. avatarRoxanne Stickler says

    When we’ve been in UK. we’ve learned that the grocery stores are a great source of all kinds of pre-packaged foods & at better prices than eating out. We love that there are so many choices – not sure if it seems that way because they’re different than what we see in the US or if there really are lots of choices! Either way – it’s ‘good eats’!

  11. avatarMark Owen says

    Please visit your local produce market! We have great one here in Swansea with a great range of fruit and veg and all manner of clothing, nik-naks etc.

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