Grocery-Delivery Services Review – Day 1 Looking at Instacart

Grocery-Delivery Services Review – Day 1 Looking at Instacart


Grocery-delivery services and curbside pick-up services are all the rage right now for many demographics, and especially for us moms.  Whether you’re out of milk and can’t leave the house while your toddler is potty-training or you don’t have the patience to take all three kids into the store with you, there is a service out there begging you to use it.

I’ve often wondered which service …

  • Is the best for me?
  • Can get me what I need the fastest?
  • Is the cheapest?
  • Is the easiest?
  • Is just hands-down better than the others?

I’ve used a few different ones off and on over the past year or so, but I hadn’t spent a lot of time making comparisons.  Well, I’ve spent the past few weeks researching the available services here in Austin and I want to share with you the shocking results.  **Note:  I’m reviewing the services available where I live in Austin, but most of these services are available in many cities across the country.

This 5-day series is going to provide you with details and honest reviews about 5 grocery-delivery services and 2 curbside pick-up services:


How Did I Compare the Grocery-Delivery and Pick-Up Services?

Within the span of a month I went online and tried to order groceries through the various services.  I’ll explain this process for each service, the fees for the service as well as the comparative cost of the groceries.

At the end of the week, I’ll wrap up the series by sharing with you my favorite grocery-delivery services in a few categories:

  • Price
  • Service
  • Variety
  • Ease of Use
  • Overall


This post contains my honest opinions about the various services, but it does contain affiliate links.

Alright, let’s get to it!

Comparing Grocery-Delivery Services in Austin

I compared 5 grocery-delivery services:

If you’re like me, it often boils down to “how much is this going to cost me?”  Unfortunately, each of these services splits up their costs in different ways so it’s not very easy to figure out which is the cheapest.  You have to look at product prices, delivery fees, monthly or annual fees, services fees, tips, etc.  The two tables below will help illustrate the pricing differences.

The first table illustrates the various pricing structures of the grocery-delivery services available here in Austin.

Pricing Structure Comparison of Grocery Delivery Services - Austin

Under each service’s individual review below, you’ll find more details about each service and related fees.

You also need to think about the price of the products through these various services.  I made these two tables to illustrate the various prices of items we regularly purchase.  If Amazon Prime Now or Randall’s did not offer the exact same product that I could find through the other services from H-E-B, then I listed the price of the most similar product in this first table.

I’ve also included price comparisons from Costco through Instacart and Burpy.

Comparing Prices of Grocery Delivery Services from Costco - Austin

Now, let’s talk details about each service.  Today I’m starting with Instacart.  Check back in tomorrow for more about Shipt, and I’ll review Burpy, Amazon Prime Now, and Randall’s later in the week.  Plus, don’t forget to read my final post on Friday with my winners in various categories and my OVERALL FAVORITE GROCERY-DELIVERY SERVICE!



I think it’s safe to say that Instacart has the largest presence in my immediate community. The company began delivering groceries here in 2014 and has a pretty good reputation for delivering what you want when you want it.

How It Works

You go to the Instacart homepage, enter your zip code, create an account, and select from one or more of the stores which Instacart delivers from.

Instacart Start Screen


In my area, we can order from H-E-B, Costco, Whole Foods, Snap Kitchen, Spec’s, Total Wine & More, CVS, Sur La Table, Tomlinson’s, and PetCo.


Instacart Store Options


I love these options!  If they’d just add Trader Joes it’d be perfect.


Time to Shop

Once you’ve picked your store, you can either just search for an item in the search bar (which conveniently narrows your search to the store you’re currently viewing) or you can browse by department, available coupons, or your items (which are items you’ve previously purchased).

Instacart Shopping Start


You can browse through the available items, scroll over the item you want, and click add.  It’s super easy.



I’ve always ordered from my laptop, but you can order directly from the app too which is really easy to use.


The Shoppers

Instacart shoppers will try to find the freshest products for you.  Remember, they get tips for their services, so there’s definitely an incentive for them.  I’ve never received produce or meat that didn’t exceed my expectations.

I will say, though, that one time I had mascara on my list (yeah, you can even add random things like mascara) and the shopper grabbed the waterproof version instead of the regular version I ordered.  This is certainly a minor error (as I’ve done the same thing myself), but it’s a great reminder to add extra notes if you’re picky about a particular item (i.e., “I prefer ripe avocados”) or know that there are multiple versions and want to clarify which one (“make sure this isn’t the waterproof kind!”).

With Instacart, the person doing your shopping is not the same person that delivers your items.  So, keep that in mind when you’re tipping or reviewing these separate activities.



As with all of the other services I’ve used, Instacart will substitute an item if it’s not in stock at the store.  This can be somewhat frustrating but understandable.  In the past, shoppers have regularly texted me while they’re in the store to let me know if something’s out of stock and if their proposed substitution will work.  However, if you’re not right by your phone you’ll miss it and they’ll choose the substitute themselves.  You can leave comments to not substitute any items if unavailable or provide substitutions though.

Also, I want to point out that the shoppers might not be shopping at the store you’re used to shopping at yourself.  For example, I always shop at the Four Points H-E-B but the Instacart shoppers shop from the H-E-B at Anderson Mill and 620.  This can be important because something might be in stock at your H-E-B, but they’ll say it’s out of stock.  For me, though, the store they shop at typically has a better variety of products.


Order Adjustments

If a shopper hasn’t begun working on your order, you can go in and modify your order.  Without fail, I will discover I’m out of milk or eggs within five minutes of placing my order (if ordering online) or getting home from the store myself.  I love that you can go in and update your order.


Product Prices

One thing you need to be aware of when shopping through Instacart and other grocery delivery services is that prices very likely are NOT be the same through the online platform as you’ll find in the store.  Instacart has different pricing agreement with their stores.  The website states that prices will vary when purchasing items at H-E-B, Costco, and Spec’s.  Prices may vary when shopping at Whole Foods.  And, you can find “Everyday Store Prices” (which reflect average in-store prices but might not include in-store sale prices) at Total Wine & More, Snap Kitchen, CVS, Petco, Tomlinson’s, and Sur La Table.

Instacart Prices

Now that I’ve looked into a few of these grocery-delivery services and corresponding prices, I think Instacart’s prices are very reasonable.  They are usually higher than in the store, but when I compared items across the platforms, they are often the best.


Sales and Coupons

If it’s your first time ordering from Instacart you can have your order delivered for free.

Instacart offers several coupons but most of them are “Buy 2 and save x amount.”  Most of the other coupons available aren’t for products I typically buy.

Instacart Coupons


Checking Out

When you’re ready to check out, you click on Cart in the top righthand corner of your screen. You are required to have a $10 minimum order by the way.   Your shopping cart pops up on the right side of your screen, dividing up your items by store (if you’ve added items from multiple stores).  Then it’s a straightforward process of checking out with your items.


When you click checkout, you then get to choose your delivery time.  As you see in my screenshot here, certain times are considered busy times and you will pay more for delivery then. We’ll talk about delivery fees next.


Delivery Fees

Instacart offers a pay-per-use option and an unlimited pricing option.  The table below outlines the general delivery pricing for the Austin area:

Just to be clear, you will be charged a delivery fee from each store even if you order from multiple stores in one order.

I usually see busy fees of a couple dollars added to the delivery times between 4 and 6 pm on work days.  However, you might have noticed in the previous screenshot that there were a few busy times.  This screenshot was from 2:40 pm on a Sunday which makes sense that it’s busy.  Everyone wants their groceries for the week then!

Instacart Express is the unlimited pricing option.  With Instacart Express, you can pay either $149/ year upfront (which works out to be $12.42/ month) or $14.99/ month if you don’t want to be obligated to use the service all year.  The advantages to Instacart Express are that you have unlimited free deliveries and you will never have to pay busy pricing.  However, as you see in the table above, your order must be over $35 or else you’ll pay $9.99 for delivery.  So, you should sign up for Instacart Express if you use Instacart more than twice a month for regular deliveries over $35.


Additional Fees

My biggest complaint about Instacart is that there are several additional (and perhaps overlooked by the average user) fees that can add up.  In addition to the delivery fees outlined above, there is also a 10% Service Amount automatically added to your total.  According to the website, the service amount is “used by Instacart to provide high guaranteed commissions to shoppers through the Instacart platform.”  This is not a tip, though, and does not go directly to the shopper who delivered your order.  Instead, it seems more like a tip share.  This amount can be removed or adjusted to a different amount before you place your order but I know I’ve confused it before with the tip.

Instead, the tip is something you can add through the website or app before or after delivery is made.  After digging around on the website, I learned that it either goes to your personal shopper or delivery driver, depending on the region in which you are shopping.  I wish this was more clear because I’d like my tip to be split between them (since they are two different people).

Plus, I’ve had a delivery driver text me after dropping off my order and viewing the tip I provided her through the app, wanting to “let me know” that my tip is actually shared between her and the personal shopper.  In other words, she didn’t like my tip.  Well, I chose from one of the suggested options through the app!  This rubbed me the wrong way and I actually didn’t use Instacart for a long time after that.


Pick Up Fees

Instacart also offers a service at Whole Foods where they shop for you and you can pick it up at the store.  Yes, it saves you some time but it’s not as easy as curbside.  I’d rather just pay for them to deliver it to my house (unless I’m heading that way without the kids).

If you choose to pick up your order at Whole Foods, the only Austin area Whole Foods with this option is at the Domain.  For orders over $35, the fee is a reasonable $1.99.  If you haven’t spent that much, the fee is $5.99.


Instacart Wrap Up

What I love:  The variety of stores available through Instacart is hands-down the best in Austin.  I’ve also used Instacart enough to know that I can depend on the service and there likely won’t be any surprises.  I also like the website – it’s easy to use and pretty.  The prices are decent too.

What I don’t love:  The service charges and fees.  Although the individual item prices are very reasonable, the fees make it very difficult to figure out how much this is actually costing you.  These various fees across the platform could easily mislead customers.  Plus, I’m sure it’s frustrating for shoppers and deliverers since many customers could think the service charge includes a  tip.


That’s it for Day 1 of the Grocery-Delivery Services Review from Four Points Mom.  Do you use Instacart?  What do you love or not love about it?


Keep reading … here are the next reviews: