I used a local produce delivery service for a while many years ago, but the produce quality was declining, and the company was substituting local products for organic but continuing to charge organic prices. They also were substituting for items that I very specifically had said NO SUBSTITUTIONS on my standing order form. I had a phone conversation with the company owner; I found him to be arrogant and ignorant. He didn’t really seem to care about anything I was upset about, but he tried to convince me that local and organic were equivalent in the big picture. At that point, I canceled my subscription. I still cringe when I see that company’s delivery trucks on the streets of Austin because it was such a bad experience by the end.
In recent weeks, my body has been weak because of the intensity of the medical treatment I have been undergoing. A friend suggested that I really should save my energy and use Instacart instead. Because of that bad experience with the produce delivery company, I was hesitant to try another delivery company’s services, but I decided that since the fridge was echoing, I needed to find some food before my kids rebelled. I didn’t want to tax a friend’s generosity again by having her take my teens shopping, so I plugged myself into Instacart while curled up on the couch. It took me quite a while to get my order together, but my preferences are now saved and ordering in the future will be very quick and easy in comparison to the first major trip (which was about 2 weeks of groceries for my family).
Instacart offers the first delivery free, but it is courteous to tip the shoppers/drivers for their services despite the free delivery. I am a very generous tipper, yet it was less than if I’d paid a personal shopper to do the shopping for me. In addition, the company did the best job I’ve ever had when a friend or stranger bought me groceries. The programming allows one to indicate a substitution or not; the user can also add notes about any given item. If they don’t have an item listed but you know that the store carries it, you can request it and upload a picture to help the shopper find it. I had six items, five of which were fairly common, that I requested that weren’t in the database. The shopper was able to find them all for me. The only thing that I think needs some major improvement on the Instacart pages is that the produce selection shows what might possibly be available throughout the year, not what is actually in the store at this time of year. For example, Instacart had many organic stone fruits (peaches, plums, etc.) listed, but they are not yet in season or available in stores yet.
When you check out online, you are able to indicate a one hour delivery window (or you can pick up at the store). I selected a 6-7 pm delivery time, and my driver texted just before 6:30 that she was on her way and would be there in 5-10 minutes. My kids helped her unload the car (though that was certainly not something she was expecting from her response). The driver was sweet and polite to the kids. She gave me a list of everything that they didn’t have as well as a kind note wishing me well. I was really thrilled with how well the whole process went.
I subsequently logged in to see how much delivery charges would be if I had Instacart bring me groceries again after the “first one free.” For my local Whole Foods, the grocery prices are the same as the shelf prices at Whole Foods. Depending on the delivery time I selected, the delivery charge was between $2 and $8 total! I was shocked how low it was. Even with the tip for the driver, that still is an incredibly reasonable rate for the service provided. I was thrilled to discover this, and I will be using Instacart again. I regret not doing it sooner now that I’ve had such a great experience. Instacart also does shopping at Costco and another local grocery store which may come in handy for me.
A friend of mine in New York uses FreshDirect for her grocery delivery. She has her health, but she despises grocery shopping. Instacart seems to be targeting most of their marketing toward “busy people” who don’t have time for shopping for groceries. However, I think Instacart missing out on a huge market: The chronically ill, the disabled, those undergoing medical treatment, and new parents. All of these populations have members who can use help with grocery shopping, if not regularly, at least on occasion. In addition, Instacart has gift cards which would be great gifts for someone whom you might want to help but who lives in another city or state. Most parents with a newborn (and especially those with twins or higher order multiples) would be happy to have someone else do the grocery shopping for them far more than they need another pair of baby booties!
Overall, I am pleased to have found this new resource for assistance; I hope they continue to grow and thrive in the Austin area so that I can rely on their services for years to come.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC