Grocery shopping is my least favorite errand. I don’t think there has ever been a time that I’ve enjoyed it. The entire process of grocery shopping can just be too much for some people—including myself. From the genuinely busy to the not-so-admittedly lazy, I know there are people out there who are just like me—people who wish that food would simply appear at your house like on the Jetsons. And you know what? Now it can.
I recently discovered that one of my favorite local stores offers online shopping and same day (or even same hour) delivery via a service called Instacart. After trying it out, I decided to review Instacart and share my opinion of it with you guys. I thought it might be helpful to do a little demo of the app too, in case anyone wanted to see a “test run” before trying it out themselves. For the record, this post is not sponsored—although I wish it was. I simply want to share my experience using it and give everyone my honest, unfiltered opinion.
Whether you’ve been looking for a good grocery delivery service or you’re dreading your next run to the store, this is the perfect post for you. Maybe there is someone out there who is reading this right now with an empty pantry or fridge. In as little as one hour, you too could have a restock of bagels and milk (or whatever it is you crazy kids eat).
What Is Instacart?
Instacart is a company that allows people to shop for goods from major retailers such as grocery stores, drug stores, or even pet suppliers right from the comfort of their own home. When you download the free app and enter your zip code, you will be able to select the available store you wish to shop. Simply pick which items you want, select a delivery day/time, and that’s it! You can just sit back and allow your assigned Instacart shopper to pick everything out and bring your groceries to your doorstep or anywhere else you’d like.
No long searches for parking spots.
No kids throwing tantrums in the aisles.
No rude people bumping into you with their grocery cart, “forgetting” to apologize.
No weird sticky stuff stuck to the floor of Aisle 8.
Yeah, I know. It is awesome.
How Can I Use Instacart?
The Instacart app is available for use on iPhone, iPad and Android devices. You can also shop on your computer by visiting their website.
Where Is Instacart Available?
Instacart is available in most major cities, as well as their respective suburbs. For specific regions, please check their website.
What Stores Are Available?
Honestly, there are so many stores available! Although this is hardly an exhaustive list, here are just a few of the retailers serviced by Instacart (depending on your location):
- Whole Foods Market
- Sunset Foods
- Sur La Table
Who Is Instacart Good For?
Seriously, everyone could use a little Instacart in their life. Unless you are anti-technology or you don’t know an app from an email, you should find this service super easy to use. But even if you aren’t the best with tech stuff, you or someone you know would probably love the ease and convenience of Instacart.
Whether you’re a really busy person who needs to free up some spare time or you simply dread shopping for yourself, this is a great alternative. I think it’d be especially useful for the elderly, anyone who can’t drive or someone who has any kind of disability or mobility issue.
This would be handy to use while traveling too! I love staying in apartments while traveling, so this is a great way to stock up on groceries if you aren’t particularly familiar with the local stores and/or can’t easily access them.
Last, but not least, this is the perfect app for anyone who lives in an area that is currently being ignored by other popular delivery apps like Postmates (such as myself) 😛
What Does Instacart Cost?
Delivery can be as low as $5.99, but can go up to approximately $8 if you are looking for same hour delivery. However, the app often features free delivery when you purchase X-amount of a certain product or brand, so I highly recommend checking out what deals are on the app before shopping. Who knows? The carton of ice cream that you don’t need, but are going to get anyway just might save you some money. At least, it did for me!
There are some other optional costs that you may incur as well, but I will actually go into more detail about that later on.
As for the price of your actual groceries, prices can vary from store to store. For some stores, items will be the same price in-store as they are on the app. In other stores, prices may be considerably higher on the app than they would be in-store. Fortunately for me, the store I shop with is pretty comparable in price, so this wasn’t much of an issue. I’m not sure what causes the discrepancy in pricing, but it is something to be mindful of as you shop. The app does tell you if the in-app prices are higher, lower or comparable to in-store prices beforehand, so that’s really helpful.
It is also worth noting that Instacart places a temporary hold on your payment card of choice for an amount that is slightly higher than your bill at checkout. They do this to ensure that there are sufficient funds available if any changes are made before or during the actual shopping trip. Rest assured that you will only be billed for what your shopper actually ends up buying. The exact hold amount will be clearly stated when you check out, so you’ll know what to expect ahead of time. As of yet, I haven’t had any billing discrepancies, but I have had many changes to my orders—you’ll hear about that a little later.
First-time shoppers can get $10 off of their initial shopping trip by using a fellow shopper’s referral link or promo code. I was able to take advantage of this my first time around, which was great.
And for all of my coupon and sale lovers, there is something for you too. Instacart does feature sales and coupons for a wide range of products, just as you would have in-store. You can easily view these in-app. I admittedly like to check these areas first, just to be sure that I catch anything good. One thing that I must point out is that the sales in-app may or may not match your selected store’s sales ad for the week. Once again, I’m not sure why this is, but it’s something I noticed while shopping.
Setting up an account is really easy. You just enter your name, address, contact information and a form of payment. If you’ve shopped online before, this will be a piece of cake!
Once you’ve reached the home screen of the app, you will see sale items, items you’ve purchased before and all of the categories available at the store you’ve chosen. You can scroll down to see ‘Sale’ items and then swipe through everything that way. Or, you can click directly on, let’s say, ‘International Foods’ and search for the specific item you are looking for.
You can also use the ‘Search’ tab to type in a specific brand or product you need. They offer popular search suggestions as well. This is a great option to use if you know exactly what you want and you’d like to save time.
I like using the ‘Browse’ tab because it allows me to see the categories more easily. From fresh meat and seafood to personal care items, each aisle can be found here. This feature is perfect for anyone who wants to see a full range of products from a particular category.
For instance, maybe you want to see all of the items available in the Dairy section. Clicking ‘Dairy’ will pull up every category that can be found in this area such as cheese, milk, eggs, etc. You can always filter by brand, price or item for further specificity.
The ‘Coupons’ section is where all of the discounted items can be found. They are categorized by “aisle” as well, which makes it a snap to find out if anything on your grocery list is already on sale. It’s also possible to sort by popular coupons or by the greatest dollar amount of savings. Just be sure to activate your coupons by selecting the coupon button when you’re adding an item to your cart!
As they are in-store, in-app discounts are only available for a limited time, so that’s something to be mindful of. However, I really like that the app not only marks which items are on sale, but also tells you when the sale is going to end. This is super useful if you’re simply browsing in advance because then you’ll know exactly how many days are left until the sale price expires.
My favorite area of the app is the “Your Items” section, which will populate after your first shop. In future shops, your previously purchased items can be accessed on this page. You can then sort by category, see which previously purchased items are currently on sale, and make a grocery list.
This feature is perfect for creatures of habit (such as myself) who pretty much purchase the same items all of the time. You can just go to this area, add your desired quantity to the cart and you’re done. It’s an excellent way to shop everyday essentials in record time.
An Instacart Demo
Now I will do a little demo just to show you guys how easy it is to shop on Instacart. Let’s say that I’m looking for ice cream, but I’m only interested in Haagen-Dazs (mmm…Haagen-Dazs). If I type ‘Haagen- Dazs’ (or just ‘Haagen’) into the search box, it should populate all of the Haagen-Dazs products available at my chosen store. I’ll be honest: the search function doesn’t always catch every single item available under a given term—it comes close though!
As you can see at the top of the screen, there’s an announcement noting a promotion that can make me eligible to receive free delivery on my entire order. Always look out for that!
When you search for a specific brand, the app should automatically list your prior purchases first, making it easy to find all of your favorites. I’m personally obsessed with this coffee flavor (I highly recommend it), so you can see that it is one of the first flavors to show up.
At this point, we could simply press the green cross icon in the upper right corner of an item to add it to our cart, but let’s pretend that I wanted to see more information about the product before buying it. Let’s click on the 14 fl oz. container.
In addition to populating any available coupons and telling you the basics of the item (size, price, price per unit), scrolling down let’s you view information such as the ingredients list and nutrition facts. You can also view related products. This is great if you’re shopping for something new and simply want to know more about it before purchasing.
Now, let’s say that I only wanted two containers of this coffee ice cream. I would set the quantity to 2 and add it to my cart. By pressing the little green shopping cart in the upper right of the screen, I can view my entire cart. As you can see, it lists the item, quantity, price and total. Although you can choose your delivery time and date when you check out, you can also do it by selecting the green clock icon on this screen.
You can easily see all of the available delivery times and dates for the stores in your area, as well as the delivery cost. Something I love is that you can shop the night before, pay for everything and have it delivered first thing in the morning.
The final screen will give you a complete summary of your order. It will show everything you purchased as well as your delivery time/date. You can also see if you’ve reached free delivery status. If not, they’ll let you know what you need to do in order to receive it.
You can also view (and edit) your selected delivery address, edit your payment method and review all of your charges.
I had to scroll down on the final screen to protect my personal info, but let’s look at the breakdown of my imaginary ice cream purchase.
In addition to the price of the items you’ve added to your cart, you will see the delivery charge (if there is one), as well as a service charge. The service charge is optional, but it basically goes towards paying all of Instacart’s shoppers—not just the shopper who is assigned to you. If you choose to pay it, it is 10% of your total order.
To tip your assigned shopper (also optional), you can pick a pre-set amount or determine your own amount. I personally wait until the end of the shopping trip to set a tip amount, so that’s an option as well.
My Instacart Experiences
As far as grocery delivery goes, I only had one other experience prior to using Instacart, but that was during a trip to the UK. Boy, was that ever a disaster! After ordering online with a very popular UK grocery store, I didn’t receive my food until three days after it was supposed to arrive! That being said, I was a little apprehensive about trying grocery delivery again. Let’s see how my first two experiences went when I tried delivery with Instacart.
Shopping Trip #1
My first Instacart experience took place the week before last. It was around noon when I started shopping. I had a reasonably sized order (57 items) that consisted of a little bit of everything. Having never seen or used the app before, I actually had no trouble figuring it out. I was thrilled by the variety of items that were available. It was like holding an entire store in my hands. The experience of grocery shopping from my bed was pretty awesome.
I wanted my order ASAP, but since it was a little later in the day (1 PM), some of the delivery slots were already claimed by the time I had finished shopping. They gave me the option to have everything delivered “within five hours”, so I should have received my order before 6 PM at the very latest.
Well, 5:45 PM rolled around. I got a notification on the app telling me that my order was finally being shopped. I already knew there was zero chance of the order being completed and delivered on time, so I was like, “Oh gosh, here we go!” However, I tried to remain positive and let them do their thing.
About twenty minutes later, I got another notification. This time, the app announced that one of my chosen items were “out of stock” and had been replaced with something I did not want.
Side Note: Before your order is shopped, Instacart allows you to pre-select acceptable replacement options in the event that something you want is unavailable. That way, shoppers know what to pick up instead. I did not know this ahead of time 😛
So, I go into the portion of the app that allows you to basically watch your shopping list as it is being shopped. There is a list for items they’ve already picked up, another for what is left and yet another list for price adjustments and replaced items.
I noticed that my shopper (a male appearing to be in his mid to late 30s) had only picked up one item in the time that they’d said my order had been started! Why on Earth had it taken twenty minutes to find the first item? I quickly selected a different replacement and went back to my work, but that was only the beginning.
Side Note: Once a shopping trip begins, you can see your assigned shopper’s name and picture in the app. However, you can not pick your shopper out yourself.
You guys, I kid you not: I ended up spending over an hour babysitting the app as he shopped because every time I turned away from it, another notification for a replacement would come in.
I wanted a certain yogurt. They didn’t have it.
I wanted a blood orange. They didn’t have it.
I wanted something for $4. He picks up a replacement for $8.
I almost wish I had recorded this entire experience because I was laughing so hard. There were so many “out of stock” items that I was starting to think someone was playing a practical joke on me. It was hard for me to understand A.) Why he’d waited so late to start shopping in the first place and B.) How over 15 items that were shown on the app were out of stock in-store.
I couldn’t help but shake my head when I saw the awful replacements he was making. Everything he picked was way more expensive than the original items I’d picked out, which didn’t exactly make me happy. I had to request a refund for many items or request a different replacement than the one he had chosen.
That guy ended up putting so many things back on the shelves! I felt bad about it, but if I asked for a vegetarian item, I wasn’t going to want a replacement that was full of chicken, you know? Towards the very end of the shop, I was actually making bets with someone about what item would be replaced next. It was low-key frustrating, but kind of comical at the same time.
Side Note: You may request a refund or specific replacement for any item that is out of stock by viewing your shopping list and selecting the corresponding options. If you do not monitor your shopping trip via text message or the app, the shopper will make a decision for you at their own discretion. You can also make changes by sending them a message via the app’s chat feature.
All in all, my first shopper took about an hour and a half to complete my order. Funny enough, it took him less than 15 minutes to bring it over from the store! He was friendly at the door and he hadn’t forgotten anything, so I was satisfied enough. My delivery was hardly on time, but at least it hadn’t taken several days to get it!
Shopping Trip #2
After my first experience, I wasn’t too sure that I would try Instacart again. However, I decided to test it once more. The service had really good reviews from other people, so I wanted to see if I’d simply gotten a shopper who was new or something. I was also wondering if shopping earlier in the day would result in fewer out of stock items and shoddy replacements.
I decided to make my second shop a little smaller than the first (about 30 items). Many items were either multiples of the same thing or things I knew the store would have in stock. I crossed my fingers and hoped that the shopping trip would go a lot smoother than before. After selecting my items, I chose a delivery time for first thing the next morning.
When I woke up the following day, Instacart sent me a notification reminding me about my upcoming delivery. I was then messaged about an hour before my delivery time to let me know that my shopping trip had been started. Only a few minutes later, I received an actual chat from my shopper. This time I had gotten a woman.
Right out of the gate, she sent me a really detailed and friendly message, encouraging me to let her know if I needed anything changed or had any questions. I could instantly tell that she was a great communicator and would do a much better job than the last guy. Not only was she starting on time, but she was proactive as well. The first guy didn’t acknowledge me at all when he first started shopping.
I’m not sure if Instacart instructs shoppers to send introductory messages, or if my shopper decided to do it on her own. What I do know is that I was really pleased by her early efforts and thought it was excellent. I also know that she is the only shopper out of the three I have experienced who has sent me a message like that, so maybe I just got lucky and had an amazing shopper that day.
There were a few replacements during this shop, but nowhere near as many as the first time. My shopper’s replacements were extremely good substitutions, so I approved the vast majority of them. Even still, she sent me a chat message after each replacement, explaining why she picked what she did.
When they didn’t have the “skinny” bagels I’d wanted, she picked some others that were similar, but unsliced. She actually offered to ask the store deli if they could slice them for me. I was like, “No, no, that’s totally okay! I’m good.” All the same, I really appreciated her mindfulness and willingness to help.
Next, they didn’t have the instant coffee packs I was looking for. At first, I was like, “Whatever” and pressed the refund button. It wasn’t that important for me to have them and the app didn’t suggest any reasonable replacements. However, she messaged me again to tell me that they did have smaller boxes of the same coffee. She took the time to calculate that I could get several smaller boxes and still get the same amount of coffee as I’d asked for, but for less money. She even took the time to send me a photo of the box! It totally impressed me that she made the effort to fulfill my original request even after I’d said she didn’t have to bother with it. Can someone say, “Great customer service?”
Overall, this particular experience was overwhelmingly positive. My shopper totally killed it. Everything was perfect. She was prompt, really friendly, super communicative and just plain willing to help out. Unlike the previous shopper I’d had, she made sure that I didn’t have to refund a single thing on my list, which was just awesome. I couldn’t have been happier! Thanks to her, I’ve become a regular Instacart customer and I’m loving it.
Want $10 off your first Instacart order? Want to show me some love at the same time? Just use my referral link! Thank you and you’re welcome ❤
All in all, I’ve used Instacart three times in the last two weeks. My first experience was a bit of a mess, but the ones that followed were awesome. I’m honestly thinking that my original shopper might have been a bit on the lazy side because everyone else has been able to not only finish my order quickly, but fulfill my order almost perfectly. I’m kind of thinking that he might not have wanted to spend much time looking for the items I asked for because everyone else has gone to the same exact store and done an amazing job.
I think Instacart is such a game changer. It has helped me save so much time and energy. Let’s not forget that it is sparing me the stress of having to brave the grocery store myself! From my perspective, the main thing that can make or break your experience using Instacart is the specific shopper you get. If you have a communicative and conscientious shopper, everything should go really well. However, if your shopper is a bit mute and lackadaisical, you might have to “supervise” the shopping trip a little bit. Even still, when it comes to the overall experience, I think it is totally worth trying at least once.