What I love about Instacart is I can get same-day grocery delivery from my favorite local stores. Lately, I’ve been getting deliveries within two hours.
Instacart was the first grocery delivery service we started using when the pandemic started. With one membership fee, you can place orders from a bunch of local stores and get same-day grocery delivery. In my area, I have access to over 15 stores.
Also, through my tips, I can support the local essential workers that deliver my groceries.
How to Get Started
After you sign up, I recommend installing the Instacart app on your phone.
As an Express Member, you get unlimited free deliveries, including same-day grocery delivery, on orders over $35. You can become an Express Member for $99/year or $9.99 per month.
Without Express Membership delivery fees start at $3.99 per order, which is in addition to a 5% service fee and tips.
I started on a free trial of the Express Membership and upgraded immediately. We’ve had 1-2 deliveries per week now since mid-March. I think the Express Membership has more than paid for itself.
Instacart has a few other fees for each order.
In addition to the annual membership fee, there is a 5% service fee, with a $2 minimum. If you’re an Express Member (annual member) your service fee will be lower. There is an additional service fee for alcohol delivery. The service fee covers overhead and expenses for the Instacart service. The service fee is not a tip.
You can (and should) add a tip for your shopper, which is at your discretion. The tip is separate from the service fee, and 100% of the tip amount goes to the person that shopped your order.
Instacart defaults to 5% of your order value, but I tip more than that. Once you increase your tip amount, Instacart will make it your new default going forward. They give you the option to revise the tip each time you check out.
My personal opinion on tipping: Please remember the shopper is hand-selecting groceries for you. They are essential workers during this pandemic. They may have lost their regular job and are delivering groceries to help make ends meet. Tip as generously as you are able.
You will also notice, items on Instacart are priced higher than in-store prices. This is part of the way Instacart makes money, and it’s a premium you pay for convenience.
Even with higher prices on Instacart, I think I save money by planning out my groceries and avoiding impulse purchases I would make if I was in the store.
Tips for Ordering
How to Get Same-Day Grocery Delivery
If you order at the right time, you can get same-day grocery delivery. It’s best to order in the morning. In my area, I have found if I order before 9 AM on Monday and Tuesday, I can get same-day delivery within two hours.
When lockdowns were in place across the US, it took up to a week to get a delivery slot on Instacart. Again, to get the best delivery options, you had to order early in the week and early in the morning.
Instacart recently added a lot more shoppers to the network to meet the increased demand. Since May, delivery times have greatly improved. I always get same-day delivery now.
If you want to use Instacart, I recommend signing up now and get used to placing orders. After a few orders, you’ll know the ins and outs, and learn the best ordering days/times for your area. That way, if there are future lockdowns that limit delivery slot availability, you’ll be prepared.
Use the Instacart App to Chat with Your Shopper
For the best experience, I recommend using the Instacart App on your phone. You can enable notifications in your phone settings, so messages from your Instacart shopper will pop up on your phone like text messages and you can respond quickly.
Also, be sure to approve replacements after placing your order. Instacart will let you know which products may be low in stock. You can look at their recommended replacements and pre-approve them. You also have the option to select “do not replace this item”, in which case, the amount for the item will be refunded. I use that feature when there is a certain brand or item that we want specifically that doesn’t have a suitable replacement.
You can make special requests. If something you want to order, doesn’t show up in search on Instacart, there will be a “Special Request” button at the end of the search results. To add a special request, you need to enter the name of the product (include the brand name), the quantity you want, the general location in the store, and a photo. You can take a photo or add one from your camera roll.
I created a photo album in my iPhone photos for food pictures. I just screenshot them from google and add them to the album. That way it’s easier for me to make the same special request in the future. Although past orders are saved and easy to re-shop, they don’t save special requests.
I’ve noticed when I’m ordering from Target, Instacart doesn’t show me any Target brands like Up&Up, Good&Gather, or Simply Balanced….some of my favorite things to get at Target. Not sure why that is, but you can add those items as special requests and you’re shopper can still get them for you. I prefer doing this on Instacart instead of using Target’s Shipt service because I can use Instacart to shop other stores under the same membership. Shipt is limited to Target only and has its own annual membership fee.
Your Role After Ordering
Plan to be available during the shopping window to reply to chat messages. With Instacart, your shopper can send you messages while they are shopping. It’s best if you can reply quickly to answer their questions or approve replacements.
After scheduling your order, Instacart will notify you via text message that your order has been received. You’ll get another text message when you’re shopper begins shopping. I always like to reply to that message with “Thank you for shopping for us. Please let me know if you have any questions.”
With Instacart, you are part of the entire shopping process. The person shopping your order will send chat messages through the Instacart App or website to ask questions and notify you if an item is out of stock. They will also ask if you want a replacement if there are similar items available. Often times, they will send you a picture of the store shelf so you can see what alternatives are available.
Delivery Method and Tips
You’ll be notified when shopping is complete and your order is on the way. Your shopper will deliver items o your doorstep.
I recommend putting a note in the delivery instructions section at checkout. Mine says, “Light grey house with turquoise door. Please leave groceries on porch and I will bring them in after you leave.”
If you want your groceries left outside your garage door or a side door, you should specify your preferences.
I include the note about our house colors because the house numbers are hard to see from the street. Also, the last two numbers of our address and our next-door neighbors are reversed. We’ve had other deliveries go to our neighbor’s house. With my note, we’ve never had an issue with Instacart deliveries.
Selection and Stock Availability
This has been a rollercoaster but has gotten better lately. What I love about Instacart, is the shopper can chat with you if something is out of stock and recommend replacements. Other than high demand items like toilet paper, disinfectants, and canned soup, I’ve usually been able to get suitable replacements.
I’ve found it’s worth entering a special request, even if Instacart says an item is out of stock. If it shows as out of stock, you won’t be able to order it. But you can make a special request. This has worked out for us many times on frozen items in particular. The actual stock in the store does not match Instacart. So, make use of the special request feature.
How Instacart Keeps Earning my Business
Besides the convenience of same-day grocery delivery, Instacart helped me support my grieving family.
The week my mom passed away, I didn’t want my dad and sister to worry about groceries. My sister is a healthcare worker living with my elderly father. They had been taking advantage of senior hours and healthcare worker hours to grocery shop. I didn’t want them to have to worry about grocery trips for a few weeks. They were already exposed to a lot of risks making “end of life” visits to my mom in the nursing home.
I ordered groceries for them through my Instacart account. You can have multiple delivery addresses. There are no additional fees to deliver to other addresses. Once I set up their address in Minnesota, it showed me local stores I could order from. They usually shop at Cub, so I ordered from there. When the shopping started, I interacted with the shopper to make sure they got all the groceries they needed.
My mom passed away the night before the scheduled delivery time. I asked the shopper last minute to add facial tissues to the order for my grieving family. I also let the shopper know I was ordering for someone else and to leave everything on their doorstep to ensure contactless delivery.
I made sure my dad and sister knew when the groceries were arriving. I also told them not to answer the door and that I had already tipped the shopper through the app. They didn’t have to worry about anything.
I’m so thankful for modern technologies, like Instacart, which made a very difficult time for me and my family a little easier.
Sign Up Now
It takes a few orders to learn the ins and out of Instacart. During peak times and increased demand, it can be hard to find delivery windows. Experienced Instacart shoppers have the advantage. Get started now: