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.

Fast forward two years, and I haven’t stepped foot in a grocery store in nearly four months. Maybe you haven’t either. But I’ve been able to stock my refrigerator and pantry. How? Our family has been using Instacart nearly exclusively to have our groceries delivered. Seems we’re not alone.

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.
instacart grocery delivery service

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

I’ve had experience using an app to shop for groceries. This includes with Peapod when I lived outside of Philadelphia. (Here is my review of Peapod.)

Because of that, I was familiar with the Instacart interface. It’s really easy to search for and add items to you cart.

Using the Instacart app and interface

What also 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 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 stalk, I mean, watch 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 your 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 about a year ago 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.

If I’ve missed a brand that you know offers Instacart Pickup, please post a comment. I’ll look into it and update this Instacart review accordingly.

Stores offering Instacart grocery delivery service

Earlier this year I wrote an article about where you can place your grocery or supermarket order online. That article included 39 stores that were offering grocery delivery through their own program, Peapod, Instacart or Shipt.

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 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

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

As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I haven’t set foot inside a supermarket in months. One of the reasons is I’m in a high-risk health group. Also, my mother in law is one of the nearly 110,000 people who have died in the past few months. We’re being super careful with where we go and with whom we spend time.

In addition, 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.

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