My Completely Honest (and Unapologetic) Instacart Review

Instacart is an online grocery delivery company that is completely changing the way we grocery shop. All you need to do is place an order, then someone does all your shopping, and within a couple hours (or a timeframe of your choice) your groceries will be delivered to your doorstep. It is the perfect solution for a busy lifestyle. I started using Instacart last year and have placed over 30 orders since then. I feel very familiar with Instacart and this is my honest review.

Instacart Online Grocery Delivery Service Review

**This post contains affiliate links. I will receive a small commission if you decide to use Instacart – at no extra cost to you. However, this is my completely honest review and you are by no means obligated to use my links. If you do thanks so much for supporting my site. 

If you follow my blog then you already know I’m no stranger to purchasing groceries online. I’m a huge fan of Home Chef, Hello Fresh, and Sun Basket meal kit delivery services. I order from one of these companies at least once a month. Also, I order groceries through Thrive Market every other month or so. My time is limited and I take full advantage of all the benefits online grocery shopping has to offer.

Today I’m super excited to talk about Instacart. I’ve been using Instacart since this past September and, honestly, I believe it’s one of the best things to happen to grocery shopping. By using Instacart I’ve easily put 3-4 hours back into my schedule a week – maybe even more.

If you’re ready to try Instacart, and don’t want to read my entire review, you can sign up here.

I’m not saying Instacart is for everyone but it definitely meets the needs of busy people who want to eat healthier and save time – lots of time.

In this review I’ll give an overview of Instacart and share my personal experience. I’ll take you step by step through the ordering process and what to expect.

I’ll talk about the cost of using Instacart, how to tip your shopper, and offer some money-saving tips.

Last, I’ll share my opinion on who I think would benefit from using Instacart and who I think wouldn’t. Like I said, Instacart isn’t for everyone.

Let’s get started.

What is Instacart?

Instacart is an online grocery delivery service company that works with local stores to deliver groceries to your door. Sweet! Not all areas have Instacart yet. I live in a suburb outside Buffalo, NY and we just got Instacart last year. You can go to their website and check to see if Instacart is in your area. If it’s not available yet don’t worry because it’ll most likely be there soon.  

I’ll give a more detailed look, later in this post, into the process of placing an order with Instacart. Here’s a quick snippet for now.

To place an order with Instacart you go on their website, search for the products you want, add them to your grocery list, and place your order. Simple. Then an Instacart employee gets to work shopping for your items and, when their done, delivers your groceries to your door. It’s a beautiful thing.

I’m telling you, ordering groceries online has been a huge game changer for me. Personally, I think it’s a saving grace but of course it’s not for everyone…I’ll get to that in a minute.

All the items you find in the store are found on the Instacart website. Just in case you’re wondering there are employees regularly adding inventory to the Instacart website.

This brings me to the next Instacart question people have…

How much extra money does Instacart cost?

Let’s first start with the cost of items. Depending on the store, and the items you’re purchasing, most are either the same price or have a slight markup. It will say on the Instacart website whether or not you can expect higher prices by shopping through their site.

I shop at Wegmans which states that items are slightly higher than in stores. However, when I  compared my Wegmans receipt (they bring you back the Wegman’s receipt too) to my Instacart receipt there was between an $8 and $12 difference in price – and that included the tip. So to me, $12 is an acceptable price to pay for someone to do my grocery shopping and deliver the groceries to my door.

Not all stores have markups so you just need to check ahead of the time before purchasing your items. Keep in mind, Instacart is a service – that also needs to make money – so it should be expected that there will be an extra cost associated with it.

Even though there is a slight markup I do feel that Instacart saves me money for two reasons.. One it prevents impulse shopping. I have my meal plan, grocery list, and only purchase the items I need. Second, I save money in gas because I don’t need to drive to the store. This also save me tons of time and in my self-employed world time is money.

Another financial benefit to purchasing groceries through Instacart is I can see all my previous orders online and this helps with budgeting. I can see, in front of me, the amount of money I spend every week and this helps me stay intentional with my grocery budget.

Last, Instacart does offer online coupons and sales so there’s plenty of opportunity to save money on your favorite items. You can see below the different saving options.

Instacart Review

Let’s talk a little bit about the Instacart fees.

I think this is where people get turned off by Instacart – everyone hates to pay extra fees. I get it. But again, remember this is a service. Their whole business is to make it easier for you to get groceries – not necessarily make it cheaper.

Here’s the fee structure. If you spend over $35 and opt for regular delivery (over 1 hour) then the delivery fee is $5.99. Clearly, it’s not difficult to spend over $35. And even if you don’t shop through Instacart all the time, $5.99 isn’t a bad price to pay to have someone shop for your groceries when you’re in a pinch.

Instacart delivery fees

I opted to sign up (and pay for) an Instacart Express membership. This was $149 and includes free delivery over $35 all the time.  I already made my money back.

It also means never paying for busy pricing and that you can order from multiple stores with no extra fees. This is huge! So if eggs are cheaper at one store and meats are cheaper at another store you can order from both with no worries. I use Instacart weekly so signing up for Instacart Express was a no brainer. They do have a 14-day trial period to see if you’d like it.

However, if you never tried Instacart before then I’d try it once and see what you think.

If you’re ready to try Instacart you can sign up here.

Another fee to consider when shopping through Instacart is their “service” fee and also the tip. Let me first talk about the service fee. Instacart states that the service fee is for their employees and to help cover costs. But it’s not a tip and the shoppers, and drivers, that take care of your order don’t directly see that money.

Therefore you can change the service fee to zero and add in a tip that your shoppers will get. Just click where it says change and then click waive.

Then you can add in the tip – or just give them cash. 100% of the tips go to your delivery person. Of course tipping is optional but I highly recommend tipping your Instacart shopper. This is an amazing service that makes your life better.

Click “add” next to tip at check out and then add in the tip you’d like.

This is what it looks like after the tip is added.

Anyway, this is what you can expect in terms of cost with Instacart.

In my honest opinion, I haven’t experienced my grocery budget exploding since using Instacart and I order 1-2 times a week. I think the extra mark up on some items balance themselves out with items that are on sale or not marked up. Plus ordering my groceries online helps me stick to a meal plan, meal prep, and gives me hours back into my schedule <— this is worth the extra $10 or so.

If you’re ready to try Instacart, and don’t want to read my entire review, you can sign up here.

Who would and wouldn’t benefit from Instacart?

Now that I gave you an overview, and went over the cost, let’s talk about who would and wouldn’t benefit from Instacart. Obviously, I love using Instacart, and recommend it to everyone that’ll listen, but it’s not for everyone.

Let’s start with who wouldn’t benefit from Instacart.

I think that if you’re a coupon queen, and overly concerned with saving money, then Instacart might not be in your best interest. Like I said Instacart does provide coupons, and sales, but there are markups and fees associated with using this service. If you don’t think these extra costs are worth it then Instacart won’t be a good choice. 

Also, I don’t think Instacart would work for someone who is very picky about choosing their fruits,  vegetables, and meats. I can tell you from my experience I haven’t had any issue with an Instacart employee picking out my food. But I know there are some people who don’t like the thought of someone else picking out these items.

If I have any specific requests then there’s a section under each item to type in instructions. For example, I have given instructions to pick out “ripe bananas” or to make sure “turkey is sliced thin”.

Also, once a shopper starts to pick out groceries you can communicate with each other via chat which helps a lot. I’ll talk more about this in a little bit.

Last, I don’t think this would work for someone who doesn’t have the patience to learn a new way to doing an old habit. The Instacart website is easy to use but it’s still going to be new and different to someone just starting out. We are all used to shopping for groceries the “old-fashioned” way so stepping outside our comfort zone and ordering groceries online might be too outside the box for some people.

If you like to grocery shop, shop the sales, go to different stores, and don’t mind spending the time doing so then most likely you won’t benefit from Instacart.

Now let’s talk about who would benefit.

If you struggle to find time to grocery shop, don’t stay consistent with meal prep, and could use extra time during the week then online grocery shopping is the something you would benefit from.

Prior to online grocery shopping I was having a hard time staying consistent with weekly meal prep – I just didn’t have the time or energy to get to the store. Now I put together a meal plan, shop for the all the ingredients on Instacart, and within 2 hours my groceries are delivered. This has completely streamline my weekly meal prep process. If you see yourself in this scenario then Instacart would work great for you.

Also, if you’re not over concerned with coupons, and shopping around for the best deals, then Instacart will work for you too. Basically if you don’t mind spending a few extra bucks to get more time in your schedule then Instacart will work great.

If you don’t mind someone else shopping for your groceries then you’ll have no problem using Instacart. Like I said earlier, there are ways to communicate with your shopper, and as long as you take advantage of those tools, then you’ll enjoy using Instacart for groceries.

If you’re ready to try Instacart, and don’t want to read my entire review, you can sign up here.

How does Instacart Work?

Now I want to show you how Instacart works. The first thing you do is go into the Instacart website and put in your zipcode. This will show the stores that you can order from. Pick your store and then start ordering groceries.

How does instacart work

If you’ve ordered before you’ll see previously ordered items listed. If not, you can simply type into the search bar the item you’re looking for and then add it to your cart.

You can see below the items that are on sale, have a coupon, or deals on eligible items. As you add items to your cart it will show in the right top corner.

After you add items into your cart you can review the items to make changes or add instructions. This is where you will first communicate with your shopper. Be very detailed if you have instructions for certain items. Remember, they can’t read your mind.

To add instructions simply click on instructions and then it will show like this. Type your instructions into the box and click save.

After you checkout, you’ll be prompted to pick your delivery time. Depending on what you order you typically can get items within 2 hours – I placed a big order this time. Also, I knew I wasn’t going to be home until later so I schedule delivery to be later in the day. So when I got home my groceries came 1/2 hour later. It was great!

After you pick your delivery time then you’ll remove the service fee and add a tip. Of course, this is your choice but this is the way I do it.

Then you’ll place your order and the magic begins

From there you’ll be able to see the process of your order on the website.

However, I strongly recommend downloading the Instacart App. This makes it incredibly easy for your shopper to communicate with you.

You’ll get a message immediately letting you know your order was placed.

The next message you’ll get is from your personal shopper. This is when you can communicate any other needs you might have forgot to put in the instructions. It’s important to have your phone near you while they shop so your shopper can ask any questions or get approvals for substitutions.

I just want to talk a little more about the chat function because I think this feature elevates the concerns people might have about “a stranger” shopping for their groceries. From the moment someone starts shopping for your groceries, until they get dropped off, someone is communicating with you. So if there are questions on either end you both can talk to one another. This helps you to be on the same page with your groceries.

You can use the chat function on the website but I think it’s best used on their app.

When your shopper is done you’ll receive a message letting you know.

And my favorite message – when Instacart is on it’s way. I find this to be very helpful because you can still go about your day but also be prepared for when the food arrives.

And last, they send a message when your grocery delivery order is about 5 minutes away.

This is what my last Instacart haul looked like. I know that’s a lot of plastic bags, and could be a turn off to some people, but that’s how they deliver your items. My advice is to ask them to put in as few bags as possible and then make sure to recycle.

Now I’m ready to meal prep for the week!

You might be wondering what happens if Instacart screws up an item or if something is wrong. In my 30 orders I’ve had 3 mistakes. Once they forgot to deliver my chicken and the other two they grabbed the wrong product. In all cases, I emailed Instacart and they had new items brought to me or instantly credited by account. Their customer service was very receptive and helpful.

Overall, I think Instant cart online grocery delivery service is amazing, worth the extra money, and I recommend it to everybody. Like I said it easily put 3-4 hours a week back into my schedule – if not more. Using online grocery delivery has help me organize my time much better, stay consistent with meal planning, and keep weekly meal prep a priority.

If you want to meal prep and eat healthier BUT struggle to get to the grocery store then Instacart online grocery shopping is definitely an option that I think would work for you. 

I would love to learn more about your experiences with Instacart or other online grocery delivery services. Share your thoughts, or experiences, in the comments below.

If you’re ready to try Instacart, you can sign up here.

Comments

  1. Thank you for reviewing this service! I’ve been curious about it… and just might try it out. I don’t love the plastic bags.. and I am a bit picky about my produce. What comes to mind is an avocado – have you ever ordered that? SO many variations of ripeness!

    • Hey there! Yes I’ve ordered avocado a few times. I give very specific instruction on the type of ripeness I’m looking for. I also tell them if they can’t find it then I don’t want it. I hope you give it a try because honestly it is such a huge time saver.

  2. instacart treats their employee’s really bad and I hope something else can come in and replace them

  3. Hi,

    Thanks for your review. Are you able to request a specific shopper, especially if you liked working with that particular one?

  4. Kathy C. says:

    Another plus of Instacart over other grocery delivery services is NO BULKY PLASTIC BINS/CRATES to hold onto until the next time the delivery person arrives… everything is delivered in paper bags. I hated having the big bins in my way from previous delivery services. Do keep in mind that you should be home when your items are delivered, though. Don’t want that ice cream melting!

  5. Will the Instacart delivery driver carry in the groceries for elderly customers with limited mobility?

  6. I just had my order dropped off. The shopper was extremely rude. She rung the doorbell and proceeded to run back to her car before I could say anything. I also had an item missing. This was my second time using the service. Not sure its the right one for me.

    • I’m so sorry to hear that. I’ve never had a rude shopper. I have had a couple wrong items but I’ve order well over 40+ times now so it’s not a huge deal. And customer service has always been great to credit my account or have someone drop off my item right away. I’m sorry you had that experience. I hope you talk to customer service because they can help make it better or at least refund some of your money. I use Instacart 1-2 times a week and I personally find it such a life-savor.

    • Michelle says:

      I had so many negative experiences with Instacart, I dropped them. I had a situation with a driver that I complained about, and Customer Services did nothing to rectify the issue. Also, after I had joined, they suddenly added on the service fee, which was not what I agreed to in the beginning. Going to try Shipt instead.

  7. Hi! I’d love to try instacart to save time since traffic is such a pain in my area. I cannot get your link for free delivery to work though. Any thoughts why I’m having trouble? I didn’t see a promo code in your post.

    • It should work. Try this link https://track.flexlinkspro.com/a.ashx?foid=1111187.139018187&foc=2&fot=9999&fos=1

      That link is for free shipping on your first order. There’s no promo code.

      • This was a great review. I have shopped for IC for a year now. I enjoy doing it in the evenings after work and on weekends. I try to do the best I can do. I really appreciate your point of tipping the shopper. It’s amazing how many people go in a delete the tip. Instacart has recently made the service fee mandatory and they have included a default tip that can still be changed. I hope your readers give it a try and I do hope they get great shoppers. It’s very important that customers enjoy their experience. Again thanks for your review

  8. MikeNYC says:

    Posted 6/17/18 4:50 PM EST
    I’ve had 3 surgeries so delivery is important to me right now, although my supermarket is 1 block away. I used instacart for the 2nd time yesterday (didn’t get a plan yet till I tried it out), and I was TRULY SHOCKED at the bill.
    I purchased 1 item. A Prime Beef Tenderloin from Costco as I was craving a good steak. The receipt is as follows:
    Items Subtotal $132.10
    Delivery Fee $7.99
    Tip $6.60
    Service $9.91
    Total $156.60
    The Shock came when I looked at the Costco packaging and saw their price label stating $112.00 !!!
    I called, even spoke to a manager and was told they Mark Stuff Up in ADDITION to the fees! and I should have checked the pricing policy for that store. In other words: “To Bad, So Sad”. For me. The net takeaway is… I paid $156.60 for an item that was $112.00. I absolutely do not mind the delivery fee or tip. They’re expected. But the markup TOTAL of $45.00 seems pretty outrageous

  9. Nice review, Thank you.
    Where I live you must either supply your own shopping bags or pay for the store brand plastic bags. How would this work with InstaCart ?

  10. I was charged $19.95 for 5 peaches, not 5 lbs…. 5 peaches….and getting a credit for the full dollar amount has proven difficult. There were also charges in small amounts debited from my bank that were not on my receipt.

    • Sorry you had that experience. I use Instacart every week and never had that happen. Even when there is a slight issue customer service has been quick to respond and rectify.

  11. Hi…Thank you for your review of InstaCart
    I’ve been toying with the idea of grocery shopping online seeing as it is after work I don’t have the energy nor the time. (I’m on my feet alllll day as it is; as a dog groomer), so I get my workout at work. So, I’m shopping around for the best service since there are a few services to choose from in my town. Of the 3 grocery stores near me, (Stop&Shop, Price Chopper, ShopRite), I usually shop at Price Chopper, but sometimes shop at Stop&Shop where I know I can get other items not sold at PC. Now, on Price Chopper’s website, they use InstaCart as their delivery service.

    Do you know if there is any difference between going through the grocery store’s website or going through the InstaCart website separately? Or if by signing into Price Chopper’s website, am I automatically linked into the InstaCart site? If so, what are these differences? If I go through Price Chopper’s website, are InstaCart’s service fees incorporated into the product pricing rather than at checkout or not?

    Also, have you ever used Peapod at Stop&Shop? If so, what experiences can you tell me about from using that service? If not, what made you choose one service over the other, (pros/cons)?

    • You’re welcome. We don’t have those other services in my area yet so I only have experience with Instacart. From my experience you need to purchase the items through the instacart website. Once you create an account, and add your zip, it will list out all the stores in your area that use instacart. Choose the one you wish to use and then order your items. My advice is to test out the different services with smaller orders and see which one you like the best.

  12. There are several issues in your review that are not accurate and misleading however since your review was from March, it is probably due to Instacart changing their pricing policy and membership terms. Originally the membership meant you weren’t charged a service fee unless you ordered during one of their peak times. They now have the service fee-that you mentioned but it’s shady business to sell something and change the terms.
    My biggest issue is with the markups they charge and how they explain them. They indicate that some stores charge more for their shoppers which is not true.

    They increase the store cost by an inconsistent amount and instead of honest and transparent pricing, they provide a “store receipt” online implying that is the item costs

    The difference is huge
    My instacart receipt at check out looks like-
    Item list from the store-$156.20
    Service fee $7.81
    This means I am paying $7.81 for the luxury of the service plus my tip.(unless they are bad I always go over the 5%)

    In reality what I am really paying is

    $130.00 for the actual items
    $33.81 for the luxury, plus tip.

    This is misleading and unless we know the actual price of everything we have to trust that they are being accurate.

    You mentioned saving money when one item is less elsewhere but when you factor in $35 per order minimum, you’re spending a whole lot more for that item, buying $35 worth of items at an increased cost plus fee and tip.

    Each shopper is different and using a service like this comes with the understanding they aren’t going to look at dates and freshness like I would and pick my produce out like I would. But when items are not there, they seem to have a much more expensive substitute and often they just didn’t see the original item.

    The other problem I have had is the replacements being made without my approving the item and refunding an item that wasn’t there without giving me the chance to adjust things and they don’t always reply to your message.

    If someone would pay $130 for example, is it worth paying a company about $40 to do it for you, knowing things may not be exactly what you want?

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I continue to use Instacart 1-2 times a week and haven’t had the experience you outlined in this comment. Honestly, Instacart has been such a game changer for me.

      I’m still able to remove the service fee and add the tip I want. I feel they clearly state that prices are going to be more using Instacart. I know that going into it. Personally, I haven’t experienced my grocery budget expanding because of Instacart. If anything I save money because I only purchase what I need. Also, I pay the yearly express membership and have made my money back with that since I do use Insacart weekly.

      Last, I’ve had minimal issues with getting the wrong items. Anytime I did Instacart quickly refunded my money. The shoppers I have always communicate with me throughout the entire shopping process. I write a lot in the notes sections of the items I’m most picky about. Since this review I’ve used Instacart another 20+ times. I find Instacart to be worth every penny. It saves me so much time during the week and keeps meal prep a priority for me.

      Of course it’s not for everyone but it works for me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think it’s important for people to see both sides.

  13. Cathy Wrigley says:

    I would like to order express for my Mom in another state. How will that work?

  14. Thanks so much for this review (read after I placed my 1st order) . I love the fact that I have the option to pick from a few different stores…not many but more are coming. In my area there is only one real competitor…and 2 buy online and pick up in store. Like other reviewers, I too have had several surgeries in the past couple of months (most recent as yesterday…could not attempt the store today upon discharge and could have sent a family member but this is so much easier) and even though I planned far ahead in advance for items I’d need while recuperating, thete are a few things I firgit or simply used in the 2 weeks I prepped prior to being admitted, so for me…paying the mark up and service fees is a luxury…but one I don’t mind at all. Mostly because of the same day delivery and if I’m really impatient…2 hr delivery…love that! The other service is next day at the earliest…some times even 2 days, depending on the time the order has been placed. Plus, I can order from several stores at the same time.
    So far, only have encountered a couple of issues…1) the website was down briefly when I tried to place my order…not long but still inconvenient (my impatience…not their fault) 2) they do not take debit cards…which is really ok…not trusting a service for the 1st time…my credit card I can maintain…my bank account not so much. 3) I’ve already received 2 messages stating they’ve pushed my delivery time to a later time…again only a minor inconvenience and if I really needed it by a certain time… I should have ordered earlier in the day.
    About an hour yet…fingers crossed …will update shortly

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