This article was originally written in 2015. Instacart is much more available in 2020 than it was at the time. They also deliver from Aldi, and we take advantage of their services at least a couple times a month. We pay the annual fee for free delivery and find it well worth the convenience. 2020 updates are in red throughout the article.
I really love grocery shopping! I do. And, I love doing it as part of our family outings. I love the whole sensory experience – sight, smell, touch and sometimes even sound and taste (free samples!). I love reading the labels and calculating comparative costs. However, four kids appears to be my tipping point where sometimes it’s just easier to send my husband out on his own. This weekend, my 3-year-old crashed head first into our cart, cutting open his head and turning our Saturday outing into an urgent care visit and requiring an updated Tetanus shot.
Enter Instacart. They are now in Minneapolis — mostly downtown, but working their way into my Northeast neighborhood. They have not made it to my location, but I work downtown. I decided to give them a try and had my groceries delivered to my office.
What is Instacart?
Instacart is a personal shopper program for groceries. It’s similar to Coborn Delivers but the groceries come from your choice of participating stores — such as the Wedge, Target, Whole Foods, Petco and Cosco. Instacart can deliver your groceries in as short as an hour. The delivery fee is a little lower than that of Coborns; but, unlike Coborns, Instacart allows and encourages tips — so it actually comes pretty close.
Who Am I As A Grocery Shopper?
We currently do 80% of our grocery shopping at Aldi. We buy our meat from ReadyMeats — our neighborhood butcher shop. The remainder of our shopping is done at little ethnic shops and Eastside Co-op. We don’t shop Cub, Beyerlys, Lunds or Walmart; and very rarely shop at Target. I haven’t used Coborn Delivers since it was Simon Delivers.
We choose to support our co-op with our WIC vouchers. A good portion of our summer vegetables come from a CSA. We work really hard to eat as organic as our budget allows and healthy foods are a high priority. We buy very little packaged food and junk food. Our grocery budget falls around the USDA’s “thrifty plan” guidelines for feeding a family of six.
What I Bought.
I had $20 to play with when I made my order. Obviously, this is not enough to be a true shopping trip, but it was enough to get a good idea of the service. I chose to order from the Wedge, since that would be the most similar to my own co-op. I ordered the following groceries:
Organic Bananas. I ordered Bananas because I am a finicky produce shopper. My kids love bananas, but I only like them when they are near perfect. The shopper, did a very good job choosing bananas. I actually ate one right away. I ordered 2 pounds. I received 1.8 pounds. I give extra points for knowing that 1.8 is better than 2.2.
Sunleaf Naturals Shampoo & Body Soap, Rose Gernium and
I would have liked to have tested out their service with raw meat and eggs, but I didn’t want to carry them home on the bus. I did ask my shopper if they take special precautions with these items. Mostly, they make sure that perishables are the last thing they purchase so the buyer can get them into the refrigerator or freezer quickly. My shopper drove. It sounds like they also hire bikers for this job. I wonder how eggs would fare in a bike delivery situation.
Will I Use Instacart in the Future?
Maybe. There would be a learning curve to get my grocery bill down to what I currently pay. I know my neighborhood stores well enough to know which stores offer which items at the best prices. I would also miss doing the shopping, but I wouldn’t miss having two in the cart and two roaming free while I try to concentrate on getting the best food for the lowest price. You can use coupons and rewards cards through Instacart, so if I were to get back into couponing, I might be able to be thrifty. My husband uses the app. We have a regular list that he works from when making an online order. If something is not available, we are offered alternatives. Sometimes these make sense, sometimes they don’t, but we make the final judgment call.
The prices the customer pays for their grocery items is the same as they would pay at the store. There is a delivery charge of $3.99 for two-hour delivery or a scheduled delivery. For $5.99 you can get the groceries delivered in an hour. I used the two-hour service and got my groceries in about an hour. If I was doing a week’s worth of groceries, the extra $3.99 would not be too bad. However, until they get to my neighborhood, I would have to carry my groceries home on the bus, so I would be doing far less than a week’s worth. For $99 a year, you can get free delivery. For a bus-riding daily shopper, this would be a good option. Either way, tipping your shopper is highly encouraged and, because my husband has worked this type of job, for me it is mandatory. This brings the extra charges up to $8.00 to $10.00. That’s two gallons of milk — something to keep in mind.
Since I rarely use a car, we have been contemplating becoming a one-vehicle family. If this happens, having Instacart would be a blessing for those times when our van isn’t running. That has been a sticking point for us since our Vanagon is over 30 years old, but with a year-round grocery option, this just became feasible.
I love the fact that the customer is given a reusable bag that they can then return to Instacart if they want. I have too many reusable bags, but I still prefer them to one-use bags. Generally our shopper just grabs bags for us. If we remember, we try to request paper bags. Otherwise, they’ll go with plastic.
Obviously, I can’t use WIC vouchers with Instacart. This will be an issue for a few more years for me.
I also like supporting the co-op I belong to, but I suspect they will join the Instacart family as it moves into my area. No, they never did, but we use them for Aldi shopping.
For me, Instacart will be a nice safety net for now. As my kids get older, stop receiving WIC, and start getting involved in more extracurricular activities, it may become something I’ll revisit. I value our family time and this could give us a little more. Yes. As our kids got older and busier, the convenience of instacart has saved us from having to get take out more than once.
Instacart paid a portion of my grocery bill to facilitate this review. The opinions are my own. See our Snow Day Survival Guide for a list of other delivery services.