Insta-grocery-shopping. Yeah, I do it. Or have someone else do it, rather. 

It feels like it was only a few months ago that grocery services like Instacart and Peapod were first making the rounds on social media and the outcries against them were everywhere.

  • How could you be so lazy?
  • How could you trust someone to pick out your produce?
  • Groceries are so expensive, how can anyone afford to pay someone to shop for them?

Early adopters were characterized as the hipster, upper middle class (or higher) types, lounging by their pools while their privileged kids were swimming in their slide-equipped pools, Starbucks in hand. Meanwhile, everyone else was stuck playing grocery bumper carts at the Sav-a-Lot trying to squeeze a week of dinners out of a $20 bill.

Or maybe those were just my Facebook status updates.

Yeah, I was an early “hater”, but then I became an early-ish adopter once I became car-less for a while. Oh, irony. You have such mysterious ways.

Now I’m a reluctant lover of the concept, but I’ve managed to break down the excuses logic of why it makes sense for me despite the (admittedly) added costs of delivery and tip.

First of all, I’m busy. Yes, I’m the kind of busy that makes grocery shopping a real pain to accomplish on a regular basis. To make my household run smoothly, there are almost daily trips for paper towels, toilet paper, water, Diet Coke, diapers, etc., etc. For some reason, we have never quite narrowed down our usage rates to be able to make these part of the semi-monthly grocery runs. We don’t have enough room in the house to buy in bulk, either.

The whole point of that paragraph was to explain that my grocery service usage has nothing to do with being lazy. Maybe a little organizationally challenged at times, but definitely not lazy.

Second of all, I have an anxiety issue. You might never guess it if you met me in person because I’ve learned to manage it pretty darn well (see also: alcohol); however, I’m a big believer in the fact that no matter how well handled, certain types of anxieties never actually go away. They just relocate and surprise you unexpectedly when you figure out where the anxiety went instead. Thus, I pick my battles and find workarounds for the rest of it.

Grocery store anxiety (a close, less paralyzing cousin of “social anxiety”) is one of those anxieties I pretty much just let lie. A grocery service that helps me avoid feeling panicky and frazzled for a couple of hours twice a month is an awesome alternative to 1 am shopping trips (my other workaround).

Third, I actually spend less money using a service like Instacart. How can that be? Well, impulse buys don’t happen when you’re constantly seeing your purchase total as you add foods to your cart online or on your app.

I used to play the guessing game for what my total would be at the grocery store, but it turned into “I can’t shop without X amount of dollars in my account because I don’t want to have to put anything back once I’m at the register”. With a grocery service, I see that total start to skyrocket and then I go back and review my menu. Hmm, we’re doing pork chops on Friday, so do we really need a pork roast on Sunday? I think I can just use up that box of spaghetti in the cabinet. Stuff like that.

I’m also not tempted by all the food packaging screaming my name. My step mother used to tell me I was a marketer’s dream come true. I still can’t really argue that, although I’ve trained myself to be more of a movie critic for ad campaigns than a willing moth to the marketing flames these days.

With Instacart, the only stuff I see is the stuff I’m looking for to make a specific recipe. Oh, and Whole Foods prices on Instacart are the same as in store. (That isn’t the case for all their stores.) Also, I am able to shop at BJ’s without having a membership.

So there. In both cases I’m saving money. There are even regular “free delivery” deals when you purchase certain products, which I do without even meaning to most of the time.

Finally, and this ties in somewhat with the anxiety thing, grocery services let me purchase foods from stores whose customers drive me nuts. Yeah, I’m talking about you, Whole Foods customers. I mean, maybe not you specifically, but if you’re not a rude person by nature, you know what I’m talking about. The people that work for Whole Foods have always been pretty great from my experiences, but the people that shop there are some of the most entitled jerk offs I’ve ever encountered.

What do I mean? I pop over to the cheese display and someone literally comes up next to me (like, no personal bubble next to me) and reaches across me to grab a cheese I’m in front of. No, “excuse me” or anything. If that had been one time, one person, maybe I’d let it slide. It happened to me three times one shopping trip by three different people. I promise you I’m not a slow shopper, and all three times I had just gotten to that section. That, combined with regularly being nearly run over by people in their carts not even giving a flying flip that someone’s standing in the aisle, and Whole Foods is just an anxiety nightmare for me. Instacart has been amazing for this little problem of mine.

Now, I’ve been to Whole Foods enough times to learn to deal for the most part when I really really want something and it’s not enough to merit a personal shopper. It’s eyes on the prize, no eye contact – don’t even let my eyes fully focus on any other person walking around. And be quick because any pause that lasts more than .8 seconds and you’re getting run over like a tourist in Times Square at rush hour. If the trip is for 5 items or less, I’m good. Any more, and Instacart is getting my money.

See? I told you there was a logical breakdown in my head about this. Feel free to borrow any of my excuses reasons.

Oh, and just a note on the Amazon Fresh thing since I’m supposedly talking about all grocery services and only really mentioning Instacart… I tried to use it once and my order was canceled. Also, I can’t really plan my meals out far enough ahead for it to be of any use to me. Seriously, there can be a 3 or 4 day wait sometimes, and then what do I do when it’s canceled? I don’t remember if the funds were released immediately from my bank card when my order was canceled before, so I can’t lodge a complaint on that if merited. The same issue goes for Peapod. Deliveries fill up quick.

Instacart isn’t always immune to this, either, especially around the bigger holidays, but here’s a pro tip if you’re an Instacart user and haven’t realized this: If you grab your spot first thing in the morning by quickly adding the bigger bulk stuff and checking out with an afternoon delivery, you can then take your time and add things to your order up until your shopper begins the rounds. I’ve had to abandon carts before because delivery slots filled up while I was still shopping and nothing was available until the next day. Yeah, I swore a few times.

Man, this was much longer than I anticipated. Thanks for sticking out my share! Talk to you soon.

-DJ

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