Today, we will discuss another popular meal delivery service, Instacart.
Just like any other delivery, Instacart aims to take away the stress of shopping from the customers. It might seem like an effective way to manage time, saving you the three or four hours dedicated to shopping each week, but is it really for everyone?
If you aren’t a stranger to online grocery shopping, you have probably come across names such as Sun Basket, Hello Fresh, and Home Chef. These are all popular meal delivery services. These companies serve customers all year round and cater to the grocery shopping needs of busy people everywhere.
This review will give an overview of Instacart and describe the operation of the delivery service. It will also cover the costs of operation and give a step by step description of the ordering process.
You will also get some tips on how to save money, tip your shopper, and the general costs of using Instacart’s services and finally, I will give my opinion on whether the service is the choice for you or maybe it’s not worth the hassle. After all, not everything is for everyone.
Let us get to it.
What Is Instacart?
An online grocery delivery service company; that is exactly what Instacart is. The service delivers your groceries right to your door. Instacart’s are not everywhere yet though, some areas have the service and some don’t.
Regardless of this, if you are in Canada, chances are Instacart is available in your area. Why is this? Walmart Canada and Loblaw stores alone cumulatively offer Instacart’s services across five hundred and fifty (550) retail stores across the nation.
A quick way to check if the service is available near you is by checking the website. Once you enter your postal code, you will be informed if the service is available in your area.
If the service still isn’t available near you, no worries, it will get to you soon. Instacart has plans to make itself available all over North America.
We will examine the process of placing an order in more depth later on, but for now, here’s a quick glimpse into the process.
The first step to making an order is to visit the company website. Once there, find the products you want, add them to your grocery shopping list and there, your order is done. It’s that simple.
An employee will get to work on your order and shop for your items on your list. When this is done, your groceries will be delivered to your house or desired location. In essence, it is a beautiful and simple process.
Online grocery shopping is a very noteworthy thing. For me, it is the game-changer that helps you save on time and sometimes money. Regardless, this doesn’t mean it is for everyone, we will discuss this later.
There is staff dedicated to updating the inventory on the site. So, if you had worries about not finding a particular item, there is no cause for alarm.
How Much Does it cost to use Instacart?
To start with we will discuss how much your items cost. Frankly, this depends on the particular item you are buying and the store that’s selling it. So you can look forward to either buying at the same price or at a slightly marked up price.
The Instacart website informs you whether the price stays the same or if it will be higher if you choose to use their services.
If you are a frequent shopper at other stores like Wegmans, you are informed that the item prices are slightly higher. Despite this, if you compare receipts, you will find at most a $12 difference in total costs. I find this a reasonable and acceptable price to pay for someone to go shopping on my behalf and deliver the items to my door.
You should take note that not every store has price markups. Check beforehand before completing your purchases. I want to stress that Instacart is providing you with a service, so it should be expected that there will cost slightly more than regular shopping.
Regardless of the price increase, Instacart can still help you save money in two specific ways.
It stops impulse buying. You are only going to buy things that are on your list and are essential for satisfying your needs. This helps you curb your impulses and stop you from buying things that just catch your eye or fancy.
You also save up on transport costs. No need to fuel up to pick up things at your door. It also lets you dedicate your time, your most important resource to other activities, especially if you are self-employed.
Shopping with Instacart also boosts your budgeting activities. You get to see your previous orders and this helps you plan your spending.
Coupons and sales also help you save money on items.
Now, let’s talk about Instacart fees
1. General Usage costs
This is usually where people lose interest in Instacart.
Well, not just Instacart, almost every service suffers from this. No one wants to pay extra fees.
I get it. But we have to remember, this is a service. They are not out to make life cheaper for you, just better and easier. So, they need the extra motivation to keep working.
Here’s how Instacart’s fees work.
Any order over the $35 mark, plus a regular delivery (over 1 hour) will incur a delivery fee of $5.99. We both know that getting over $35 when grocery shopping is not all that difficult. And I think paying someone $5.99 to deliver my groceries to my home is not all that bad.
If you opt for the Instacart Express membership, then you pay $149 for the service. You also get free deliveries on all orders higher than $35. This free delivery applies all the time.
So you see, you can easily make your money back easily.
You also don’t have to pay for busy pricing and there’s also the fact that ordering from multiple stores does not come with an extra fee. This is a big deal actually.
Consider this, fruits are cheaper at one store and meat is cheaper at another, you can order across stores without worry. So you can have someone visit as many stores to ensure you get the best deals.
Signing up for Instacart Express is especially convenient if you are a frequent shopper or you at least shop weekly. Instacart has a 14-day trial period, so you can check it out to see if it is for you.
2. Instacart: Service Fee or Tips?
Services fees and tips are also worth considering.
Instacart claims that it charges a service fee to cover costs and for taking care of employees. But this money isn’t seen by your shopper or the driver that delivers your goods. Consider leaving a tip instead of a service fee.
Well, as I said earlier, the shopper and the driver won’t see the service fee. Tips on the other hand go directly to your shopper. You can choose to do several things with this information.
You can choose to pay the service fee and as well give your shopper a tip. You can also choose to pay the service fee alone and have the company sort itself out. Finally, you can choose to set the service fee to zero and tip the shopper alone. This is easy to do. Click the place it says change, click waive when it prompts you, and you are done.
Tips can also be given in cash when the shopper visits your home to deliver your goods. While tipping is optional, I am a fan of it. After all, your shopper takes all the stress of shopping off your shoulders.
So, that’s all there is to Instacart’s fees. Honestly, Instacart meets the needs of a lot of people, especially those looking to eat healthier while saving a chunk of their time for other activities.
In case you are wondering, any item you can find in a regular store is available on the website too.
Using an online service will also help you stick to meal plans and such while saving you lots of extra time. So maybe, Instacart’s is not such a bad idea after all.
Which brings us to our next topic.
Who doesn’t benefit from using Instacart?
While there are many benefits to using Instacart, it still is not for everyone.
If you are all about saving money and shopping with coupons then maybe Instacart isn’t for you. While Instacart does provide coupons to its users, there are still markups and fees attached to using the service. If these extra costs are not worth it then maybe don’t use Instacart’s services.
Also, if you are picky about choosing your fruits and other items, then Instacart might not be the best fit for you. Personally, I don’t have issues with people picking my items, but this isn’t true for everyone.
If there are specific instructions for your shopping, Instacart lets you add specific instructions for each item. So you can tell them how you want your meat sliced or what condition you want your fruits in.
You can also chat your shopper up once they start picking out your groceries. We’ll discuss this later.
Finally, if you are not fond of doing things in a new way, then Instacart isn’t for you. While the website is not difficult to navigate, getting around it might still be a daunting task for some. If grocery shopping the old-fashioned way appeals more to you, then Instacart is not for you.
That said, Instacart is for you if:
You struggle to find time to go grocery shopping.
You aren’t overly concerned about coupons and sales.
You don’t mind someone else doing your shopping for you
If any or all of this is you, then you should consider using Instacart’s services. You will benefit quite a lot from using their services.
Now let’s talk about something else.
How does Instacart work?
This where things get slightly technical. Here’s we learn how to use Instacart.
First, you need to visit the Instacart website. Once there, you will need to input your postal code. This will prompt you with a list of stores that you can shop at.
That’s’ it, it’s that simple. Pick a store and start shopping for the groceries you need.
If this isn’t your first visit, then you will see a list of orders made on your previous visits to the website. You can also choose to just search for the items you want in the search bar. Once you find what you want, you can proceed to add them to your cart.
Items on sale, items that have coupon offers, and possible deals on items have their indications below them. Once the item is added to your cart, the indicator moves to the top right corner.
Once items are added to the cart, you can make reviews and add specific instructions. This is the first chance you get to ‘talk’ to your shopper. Try to be as detailed as possible in your instructions, this will help you avoid issues of confusion later on.
Adding instructions is straightforward, simply click on instructions, type in your instructions, and click save. That’s all it takes.
Once you click checkout, you will be informed of your delivery time. This can be within 2 hours of your order if it’s a particularly big order. You can also schedule deliveries for later during the day if you will be busy or otherwise occupied.
Once you have set your delivery time, you can finally decide on what to do with tips and service fees. Personally, I recommend paying both, but you can also choose to pay just the tip.
And then you can process your order and watch the magic happen.
While the process is already straightforward thanks to the website, Instacart took things a bit further by creating the Instacart App. This facilitates easy communication between you and your shopper.
You will instantly get a message that lets you know when your order has been placed.
After that, you get a message from your shopper. This is when you get to talk about any other thing you might have forgotten to say before. You also get the chance to communicate about any substitutions that might pop up in the event of the shopping.
The chat feature is also important to the entire process. It completely removes the issue of having a stranger shop for you. Once the shopping starts and till the delivery is made, someone is always talking to you.
So almost all your questions end up being answered all through the ordering process. This keeps you and the shopper on the same page constantly.
While the chat feature is also available on the website, the app is the best choice to go with.
Once shopping is done, you will get notified through a message.
And then there’s my personal favourite message “when Instacart is on its way.” Why? This lets you go about your day as planned and still be ready to receive the groceries when they arrive.
You also get notified when your groceries are just five minutes away. This is the last message you get before your delivery.
You should ask them to use as little plastic bags as possible. This makes moving things into your home easier and is also good “going green” practice. Make sure to recycle your plastics.
Screwed up orders
What happens in case of screw up? Well, Instacart rarely gets it wrong, but mistakes do happen. In situations like this, email Instacart and you either get an almost immediate delivery or an instant credit in your account.
I think this is a great way to do things. A refund ensures that your money doesn’t just disappear but it kind of defeats the point of using their services in the end.
This is why I think the fact that they make another delivery to cover for mistakes is the better choice to go with. Nonetheless, both options are good.
Their customer service is also quite receptive and helpful. So you will find listening ears when you make a complaint.
What’s the Final Verdict on Instacart?
Honestly, I think Instacart’s services are amazing and totally worth the extra costs. Personally, I think everyone should use it. Like I already said not only does it save you some time, it also helps you save up on money indirectly.
If you have been thinking of how to organize your schedule better and save up some time, online grocery shopping could be the solution you need. It is also an excellent way to ensure that preparing meals for the week remains a priority.
So why not go ahead and give them a try? I think you will find it to be an all-round lovely experience.
Thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts.
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Sagar Sridhar is a personal finance blogger from Canada. His genuine passion for personal finance coupled with his unique style of writing is what stands out. Professionally, he is a computer engineer, agile certified and has a master’s degree in Project Management. His writing has been featured or quoted in the leading Canadian publications such as Credit Canada and many other personal finance publications. While he is juggling between his day job and blogging, he is the main author on this blog and has miles to go before making the final pit stop.