7 Tips on Saving Money on Instacart

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I'm a huge fan of grocery shopping online. It's convenient, especially since I don't have a car. I also love having one convenient app where I can virtually shop at multiple stores for groceries (and other non-grocery items) that my household needs.

My preferred online grocery store service is Instacart (second to that, Vitacost). It comes with major benefits you don't see elsewhere. You can chat with your shopper, easily add last-minute items, choose fast shopping times, and be very specific about your expectations (by adding a note on your product choice and by selecting replacement item preferences). 

However, I'm not always a fan of the price.

Sometimes Instacart can be costly. Their prices can be higher than if you shopped in the store and many customers have complained about grocery items being swapped for more expensive options. 

Today, I wanted to review a few ways of saving money on Instacart. Keep in mind, if you are the type to use a ton of coupons in your grocery shopping service, you may not like Instacart. You probably are already saving money if you can shop in the store with coupons. But that brings me to the question:

Why Should Anyone Use Instacart?

Instacart was launched in June 2012. I confess I was an early user. I started shopping there back when they used to bring groceries in cloth bags, and you can shop for Whole Foods through the app. So, if you are wondering if Instacart is right for your specific shopping needs, I wanted to review that with you. Instacart is ideal if you:

  • Tend to be an impulse shopper in the grocery store
  • Have a terrible time sticking to a shopping list
  • Don't have a car
  • Don't have time to shop
  • Hate grocery shopping in general
If any of those qualities sound like, you are the perfect person for Instacart. But let's go back to the reason why you visited this post in the first place: how can you save money using this service?

Let's review a few tips:

How to Save Money Shopping on Instacart

There are ways to spend less money on Instacart. However, if you already use coupons and frugally grocery shop, you may not need Instacart. It's not exactly the most money-saving way to get groceries, but there are techniques that you can apply to make your grocery total a lot cheaper. Here's how:

  • Choose a store with in-store pricing.
Each store can vary according to its pricing policy. You see, some stores offer in-store pricing, and others do not. Here's what to look for:

Pictured above are the stores you'd see if you were shopping in my area (Portland, Oregon). Do you see the stores that say "in-store prices" right below their delivery information? (For the screenshot I shared, that includes just Petco and CVS. So, not the longest list.) The ones that say "in-store prices" are the ones that go with an in-store pricing model. Usually (but not always) that can mean they have lower prices.

You can find out what yours does when you select the store you want to shop at and click their pricing policy. My preferred store tends to be New Seasons, and if you see in this top-right section, you can learn what their pricing policy is:

For this store, they have different prices than what you see in the actual store. Usually, that means they're more expensive.

So, if you are trying to be as frugal as possible, go with the stores that follow in-store pricing.

  • Compare prices for products.
Let's pretend you are shopping for Swiss cheese. But not any Swiss cheese. You want Sargento Swiss cheese. 

At the very top of the website (or at the bottom, on the app), you can search for items in particular. I searched for Sargento Swiss cheese. It gave me a whole list of stores that not only carry Sargento Swiss cheese but all KINDS of Swiss cheese. But the first one listed was Fred Meyer. For argument's sake, let's say I'm not a Fred Meyer shopper, but rather, a Safeaway shopper.

Here's the pricing for Safeway's Sargento Swiss cheese:

You see? Safeway lists the cheese as $4.69 down from $4.99. Deal, right?

Well, hold your horses. Because I want to point out something. Let's go to Fred Meyer and see THEIR pricing for Sargento Swiss cheese:

Fred Meyer lists their cheese as $3.79. Now, that may not seem like a big deal, but that's a $.90 difference. And that can make a big difference at your grocery bill.

So, while I don't recommend you go down this massive rabbit hole of price comparison (because I've done that/do that and it doesn't end up being worth it), it's at least worth comparing. Even if you aren't looking for a particular name brand, other stores may be listing a lower price than your usual go-to store and it's worth looking at. It's also important to note that neither Safeway nor Fred Meyer have in-store pricing and Fred Meyer's is still cheaper than Safeway. So, that's why it's worth the comparison. But like I said, the end price of the grocery store total, may not be that noticeable, but it can make a difference.

  • Take advantage of their deals, when you can.
I'm not exactly the type to encourage people to take advantage of deals just for the sake of a deal. In fact, you can end up spending a lot more just to buy things that are on sale. However, if you know you'll buy a particular brand or product, and you have the funds to buy things more than you need at the moment in order to save money, go for the deal.

With that in mind, Instacart has a lot of deals. And it's worthy of taking a look at. However, don't go for it to just save $5 when in reality you really don't use the items you've bought (or you are open to a cheaper choice). 

  • Join Instacart Plus.
I am part of Instacart Plus, and it's worth every penny. I joined because of the sheer amount I use Instacart. I'm shopping at least every other day (I prefer doing smaller orders rather than one large bulk order for the week). You get free delivery over $35 and get faster delivery. Plus, if you choose to pick up your order, you can save 5 percent. You also get lower service fees.

I don't like having to pay service fees any more than the next person. However, every delivery service has them. And what I like the most about Instacart is their reliable service and communicative shoppers. So, if you start using Instacart regularly, join their Instacart Plus program.

  • Select your replacement items (or add notes).
One of the complaints I've heard is people is they don't like the is that shoppers may choose more expensive alternatives if the original item isn't available. I highly recommend that you choose an alternative item or make a note about what you want the shopper to choose.

Remember, these are people like you and me who are prone to mistakes and missing the mark. Many shoppers are doing multiple orders, so it's easy to lose track. 

I recommend choosing an alternative or saying don't replace. Here's how you do that:

Let's pretend I want this Q Mixers ginger ale, so I've added it to my cart. When you do, you can scroll down on the website (and in the app) and select a replacement:

So they may recommend a replacement, which you can go ahead and accept. Or, you can add a note there. However, if you want an alternative option, go ahead and select, "other options" and they'll allow you to choose an alternative. Give yourself the best possible experience by choosing an alternate.

You do save money in the long run by doing this. I always check my order when I receive it to make sure I got what I wanted, however, not everyone may do this. So, save yourself time and money by selecting alternatives in advance.

  • Review your order when you receive it (and let Instacart know about any wrong choices/mistakes)
I always review my order when I receive it to make sure I wasn't charged for anything missed, charged for poorly chosen items, etc. Make sure you review your order once you receive it. Instacart has been really good about giving me store credit or refunds for anything I shouldn't have received and was charged for (or items I didn't receive and was charged for).

  • Take advantage of their $35 free delivery minimum.
This is something that you may only notice if you are an Instacart Plus member. Instacart does have stores that will do a free delivery at a $10 minimum with a much faster delivery time than the original store. The prices for products found at the "now" versions of your favorite store are higher. 

Remember that Q Mixers ginger ale I wanted?

This is the price at the normal New Seasons store I like:

And this is the price at New Seasons Now:

That's more than a dollar more for this soda at the same store. It's not worth it! The "now" version of your store where you get free delivery at a $10 minimum is ideal if you truly just want one item. Otherwise, it's not worth it.

I hope I've offered some helpful tips for saving money on Instacart. If you have other tips to share, let me know in the comments! I

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