Is Instacart Grocery Delivery Worth It: My Instacart Review

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I first learned of the Instacart grocery delivery service when my oldest daughter moved to a new city. It was her first job after college, and I wanted her to have a fully stocked refrigerator and pantry. Because I was placing an order from afar with Wegmans, the only way I could get everything delivered was to sign up with Instacart grocery delivery.

These days I only use grocery pickup and delivery. And when I get my groceries delivered, it’s always through Instacart. Seems I’m not alone.

instacart grocery delivery service

According to Supermarket News, last month 73.5 million Americans placed a supermarket order online. This is a 24 percent increase from the month before.

Is Instacart Grocery Delivery Worth It: My Instacart Review

Even as stores start to open back up, I’ll likely continue to use Instacart grocery delivery service. Why? Well, for starters Instacart, in my area, works with a local mom-and-pop grocery store. So I’m legit supporting a local business.

Next, here’s another reason I’ll continue to use Instacart–and it has a local angle, too. By using Instacart grocery delivery, I’m employing someone locally, too. I know times are tough and many people are finding become an Instacart Shopper to be a good option for bringing in extra cash.

I always tip 20% when I place my Instacart order. It’s the same rate I would be tipping a service person in a restaurant–if I were going out to eat these days (I’m not). You can add the tip right in the app.

Do you like the idea of supporting a local business? You may be able to, too, by using Instacart grocery delivery.

I just read in Supermarket News that Instacart has partnered with an organization that represents more than 3,000 independent supermarket retailers nationwide. By doing so, Instacart can online shopping options to stores that might not otherwise be able to afford a delivery service.

How does Instacart grocery delivery work

To use Instacart grocery delivery, you’ll need to set up a my Instacart account. To do this you can download the Instacart app (Android or IOS for iPhone) or you can use the Instacart website.

Once you get there, you’ll need to enter your zip code. That’s to see if you’re in one of the Instacart locations. Not everyone is.

When I first moved to Western Pennsylvania, Instacart wasn’t an option for me. But now when I log into my Instacart account, I see three shopping options for online grocery orders and home delivery. They are shopping at Rite Aid using Instacart, Aldi and my aforementioned locally owned grocery store, which has just one location.

instacart grocery delivery homepage

Using the Instacart app and interface

What makes shopping easy is the fact that Instacart remembers what you ordered from your last trip. So if you know you buy the same things every week, you can just click on “Re-order.” Instacart will bring up everything from your last shopping trip and add it to your cart.

instacart reorder screen
instacart reorder screen

If anything from your last order–or which you want to add this time around–is sold out, you won’t be able to add it. The item will appear “greyed out” within Instacart.

Finally, when you add a “popular” item to your cart, Instacart will prompt you for a replacement–just in case the items goes out of stock. You have three options with these replacements.

  1. Accept the replacement the Instacart AI chooses for you.
  2. Choose your own replacement option
  3. Tell Instacart not to replace the items

Once you checkout, you’ll have the option to set the tip for your Instacart shopper. It defaults to 5%. In my opinion, that’s too low. Like I said, I make the tip 20%, which is what I would be giving to a restaurant server if I were dining out. 

Adding to your Instacart order

In fact, one of the nice things about using the Instacart grocery delivery app is that you can continue to add items to your order after you’ve checked out. You can continue to add items until the Instacart Shopping “picks up” your order and starts shopping it.

I’ve found that the shoppers tend to get your order about two hours in advance of the delivery window you’ve selected. So as long as you keep this timing in mind, you can continue to add items until minutes before the shopping begins.

If you have notifications turned on–and I suggest you do–Instacart will let you know when your shopper has started your order. At that time you cannot make any more changes.

Walmart working with Instacart now

If you live in the following four regions, you’re in luck: you can get your groceries from Walmart delivered through Instacart:

  • San Francisco / Bay Area, CA
  • Los Angeles/ Orange County, CA
  • San Diego, CA
  • Tulsa, OK

Here’s my review of Walmart Grocery Pickup.

Instacart Express now Instacart+

Note: in June 2022 Instacart introduced a new version of Instacart Express. Called Instacart+ it’s an Instacart membership with extensive benefits. This includes:

  • Free deliveries on orders of $35 or more.
  • 5% back on certain pickup orders
  • Reduced service fees

Instacart grocery delivery review: the drawbacks

One of my frustrations with Instacart is that, unlike other grocery shopping apps, you’ll choose your delivery time after you’ve filled your cart. I know that sometimes shoppers will find that they’ve made an order. Then they go to checkout and a delivery time that’s convenient for them isn’t available. I wish Instacart would let you pick your delivery time before you start shopping.

Here’s an Instacart hack to workaround the fact that you can’t choose delivery time until after you’re done shopping. Because I have an Instacart Express Membership, I just need to get $35 worth of groceries in my cart to checkout and qualify for free delivery.

So I’ll add just $35 worth so I can checkout and choose my time. Then I’ll go back into the app and continue adding everything I want in that shopping trip.

Another Instacart drawback has to do with out of stock items. There is no way to know if an item that you wanted to buy is actually back in stock by the time your Instacart shopper starts shopping. If it was “greyed out” when you placed your order, there is no way to ask to Instacart to notify you when the item comes back in stock.

Communicating with your Instacart shopper

Another nice feature of Instacart is you can follow (virtually) your Instacart shopper as they shop your order. You can see what they’ve added to the cart.

If they have to make any adjustments–says your bananas weighed less than you expected–you can see that, too, in the form of an instant “refund.” And, if they find something is out of stock and have questions, they’ll ask.

Normally, I pre-select my replacement options. This makes the shopping trip easier for the shopper. But sometimes, even with replacement options, the person can’t find what I’ve requested.

For example, one time I had ordered a lot of organic produce. The shopper messaged me, “They seem to be entirely out of organic produce today. Do you want regular instead?” Another time, the bread I wanted was out of stock. So the shopper messaged me to find out what I wanted to do.

instacart shopper message

This was great. Because rather than just not buying me any bread, that person gave me an option. Now, granted not all Instacart shoppers are as engaging or communicative.

With my last order, I didn’t hear anything from the shopper at all. Not even when I messaged to say, “Hi. I’ve got the Instacart app open as you shop, in case you have any questions.” Not even a “thank you” or “Ok.”

I do wish that you could request certain Instacart Shoppers in the future. Most recently my shopper named Casey was fast, responsive and great with substitutions. I would have requested Casey again in a heartbeat, but that’s not how Instacart is set up.

Why signing up for Instacart Express makes sense

I decided off the bat that signing up for Instacart Express made sense. That meant I was paying $9.99 a month for membership. What did membership get me? Lower Instacart fees and free delivery as long as I order $35+ worth of items.

However, I recently transitioned to an annual membership to save money. It cost me $72 or $6 a month. With just two deliveries in a month, it justifies the membership, since I would have been paying $3.99 for delivery without it. Since I’ve been getting an Instacart delivery once a week, it makes so much sense.

Note: every Instacart membership includes a service fee. There is no way around it. On my orders, it usually comes out to between $2 and $3. I don’t love it but then again I don’t love going to the supermarket these days. So for my time and sanity, I’ll pay that service fee.

What is the service fee?

The Instacart service fee is applied to all delivery orders. If you’re not an express member, it’s 5% of your total. If you are an express member, like I am, the fee is as low at 1.9%. The fee is, basically, how Instacart makes money.

FYI, if you choose to do Instacart pickup, you will not be charged the service fee.

Instacart pickup

So, how does Instacart pickup work? Well, according to Instacart, any order that qualifies for Instacart delivery service will also qualify for Instacart pickup. The caveat? The store where you’re shopping needs to offer this pickup option.

You’ll know this when you log in, add items to your cart and then go to check out. It is when you’re checking out that you’ll have the option to choose delivery or pickup. My local grocery store does not offer this option. However, if yours does, this is how Instacart explains it will work:

” When your order is ready for pickup, you’ll get a text or app push notification on your phone, along with pickup instructions.

When you get to the store, follow the instructions to let us know you’ve arrived.

Depending on the store, you’ll either pick up your order inside or wait while we bring your order out to your car.”

Where Instacart pickup is available

Being able to pick up your Instacart orders is a fairly new option for shoppers. From what I can tell it launched recently after a successful pilot program.

As far as I can tell, the following stores are offering Instacart Pickup:

  • Aldi
  • Cub Foods
  • Food Lion
  • Price Chopper
  • Publix
  • Schnucks
  • Smart & Final
  • Sprouts
  • Tops Friendly Markets
  • Wegmans

The company says Instacart Pickup is available at hundreds of stores locations in 25 major metropolitan areas, including Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Minneapolis, Nashville, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.

This article on placing a supermarket order online has the most up-to-date list of brands that use Instacart for pickup.

Stores offering Instacart grocery delivery service

Other supermarkets are using Instacart for grocery delivery. Here are the ones that you can use Instacart grocery delivery service, as I can currently determine.

Please note: In some markets these grocery stores use Instacart. In other markets, these same stores might use Shipt or Postmates for their grocery delivery services.

If you’re aware of other supermarket chains that let you use Instacart to shop with them from home, please post a comment to let me know. I’ll research it and update this post as necessary.

Non-grocery stores that offer Instacart grocery delivery

Instacart continues to add more stores where you can shop with them and not just for groceries. For example, you can use Instacart to get anything from Rite Aid delivered–except for prescriptions.

Recently, Supermarket News wrote that Instacart had partnered with Big Lots stores to offer delivery service. This service is available in 47 states and nearly 1,500 store locations.

According to that article, you can use Instacart for same-day delivery of the following kinds of items from Big Lots:

  • groceries
  • household essentials
  • beauty and personal care products
  • pet supplies
  • home decor
  • office supplies
  • toys
  • arts and crafts products

Speaking of pet supplies, Instacart is one of the services that Petco uses for same-day delivery. Petco also uses Shipt. I’m guessing which service depends on where you live.

Finally, you can use Instacart to shop at Winco. Winco is a food service supplier.

Save money on future Instacart orders

Want to know the best way to save money on future Instacart grocery delivery orders? Share your promo code link with friends and family.

When you’re in the Instacart app or on the website, you’ll see a prompt that says this:

“Earn $50 in Free Groceries.

Send friends $10. Get $10 yourself. It’s a win-win.”

instacart promo code

So by sharing your Instacart promo code link up to five times, you can earn up to $50 off a future Instacart order. I need to double-check when this $50 off resets. Is it every month? Every year? As I have not, personally, referred anyone yet, I’ll let you know what I find out.

Instacart works with EBT SNAP customers

Did you know that if you use EBT SNAP you can also use Instacart? This convenience rolled out in 2022.

Right now Instacart has a deal exclusive for EBT SNAP users: Pay with EBT SNAP on Instacart at select retailers & get free grocery delivery or pickup on your first three $35+ EBT orders. This is good through 6/30/22.

Instacart expands beyond grocery delivery

These days you can use Instacart to get more than just groceries delivered. According to Supermarket News, shoppers at non-grocery stores, like Michaels and Best Buy, can also use Instacart for deliveries. 

In fact, here are some of the other retailers that have partnered with Instacart:

  • Dick’s Sporting Goods
  • Bed Bath & Beyond
  • Sephora
  • 7-Eleven
  • Big Lots
  • Staples
  • Vitamin Shoppe
  • Costco
  • Petco
  • CVS Pharmacy
  • Rite Aid
  • Walgreens

When you launch the Instacart app, you’ll be able to see which of these non-grocery stores in your area are working with Instacart. In fact, when updating this post, I checked the Instacart app on my phone to see if I have new stores available to me. And I do.

If you’ll see the image below, you’ll notice that many of the retailers I’d mentioned, above, are now available to me for delivery through the Instacart app. If you haven’t signed up for Instacart by now, what’s keeping you?

instacart app new stores

Overall thoughts on Instacart grocery delivery

By using Instacart grocery delivery service, I’m able to support two local businesses, if you will. That would be the mom-and-pop, independent supermarket that uses Instacart. And the Instacart Shopper who may be working for Instacart as a way to make ends meet. We tip well–20%–because we are blessed to be able to do it.

And unless something significant happens in my life, I’ll continue to use Instacart for my grocery delivery. Now if I could just get my local Costco to expand their “zone” to include my town so I could shop at Costco from home, too.

Here is my review comparing Costco with Boxed.

11 thoughts on “Is Instacart Grocery Delivery Worth It: My Instacart Review”

  1. I’VE BEEN USING INSTA CART FOR
    SEVERAL MONTHS AND HAVE
    NOTHING TO SAY EXCEPT GOOD
    THINGS ABOUT THEM. EXCELLENT
    SERVICE AND PHONE ASSISTANCE
    WHEN I NEED IT. SHOPPERS ARE
    VERY FRIENDLY AND EFFICIENT.

    Reply
  2. Yeah, I understand about tipping and paying a service fee, but a delivery, service and tip, PLUS a markup on the actual items I buy? That was just too much for my blood. To me charging more for the same items than when shpp8ny in the store should be illegal.. Feels like price gouging, especially in a pandemic, when ordering delivery is the safest option for everyone. Due to this, I won’t ever be using any delivery service again. They all do this, from instacart, Ubereats, etc. Its total robbery, and isn’t really talked about.

    Reply
  3. Instacart stinks literally. I used Peapod for years in other states, no problem whats so ever. Then moved to Philadelphia and just recently this is after they turned to Giant, whoa, I found out that Instacart would deliver my groceries. Half of my groceries were missing. Then they never came because wonderful Instacart couldn’t find a driver???

    I decided to order straight from Instacart, twice from Wegman. Both times there was NO driver to pick up my groceries, app said delivery would be 4 hours late.

    They have no available drivers in Philadelphia with no one to talk to who knows anything. I’ve had to cancel 2 deliveries with Wegman via Instacart because NO driver and it was getting late. I canceled the orders 3 times, with Giant and then with Instacart.

    I canceled my “no grocery order” and called them last night to deactivate my account. Spoke to someone overseas who said she would. They have no US customer service. Not done today. After 4 phone calls to their nasty customer service overseas they said they deactivated my account, but could’t send me a confirmation email. I made Giant deactivate my account, will never use them again. After Peapod they went downhill badly. No food available, no reliable service with Giant

    S0mething about your blog and you raving about Instacart makes me believe that they are giving you money to advertise them. I may be wrong, but if you look at reviews on BBB and consumer reports, they are the absolute worst service .

    Reply
    • I’m so sorry that this was your experience. Giant has its own delivery options now so I would recommend ordering directly from the store. Here is a link to sign up: https://www.leahingram.com/giantdirect I used to live in the Philly suburbs so just tried my zip code to make sure this is available and it was in Bucks County where I used to live. Hopefully it works for you.

      Reply
  4. Trying to find information about the actual grocery prices you are charged when using Instacart. Are you paying shelf price or are the items marked up? There’s a new Schnucks opening soon in my town that will offer pickup only but I’m finding no helpful information at all on either Instacart or Schnucks websites. I’m only familiar with Shipt where the individual stores determined whether or not to mark-up their prices. For example Meijer charged on average 8% extra per order but Target was zero. That can get very expensive after adding up all the fees, service charges, pickup/delivery charge, product mark-up and tip. Most likely I’ll end up sticking with Walmart curbside pickup. Even though their produce sucks, their service is completely free.

    Reply
    • In my experience I paid the store price when using Instacart. I would get a receipt with my order so I could check. But as far as grocery pickup, I’ve never been upcharged for that at the store. There might be a pickup service fee, but you’d pay that for delivery, too. I hope that helps a little bit.

      Reply
  5. Instacart was great until I started discovering missing items and most recently, an entire order! I informed them and asked for a refund, they not only denied me, but deactivated by account! Instacrap even said they wont be reactivating it. Say what?! The photo the shopper took wasn’t even of MY house! No apology, refund, nada. They simply dont care! Guess they expected me to eat the loss. I’ve reported it to my bank. You’re better off shopping yourself, or if unable, maybe ask a friend or relative.

    Reply
  6. Instacart ripped me off! I ordered groceries from Kroger that were delivered by Instacart. The bill seemed high, but they said they had no receipt. I looked online at my receipt and almost $60 of extra food was on the receipt! This was food I did not order, nor did I receive this extra food. I called Instacart 3x and spoke to people who said a supervisor would call me back, but nobody from Instacart ever did. I went down to my store and the store manager refunded me the money. I will NEVER use Instacart again because of how they wouldn’t help me.

    Reply

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