Instacart logo in front of grocery bag full of fruits and vegetables

10 Instacart Shopper Tips You Should Know: 2021


The Instacart App allows couriers the flexibility to plan their workday around their schedule, but sometimes this can leave individuals unsure of how best to plan their work and spend their time. As a result, Instacart shopper tips are always a useful topic to research and stay on top of to make sure that everyone is taking full advantage of their workday.

Table of Contents

1: Don't be afraid to be selective with your batches

While many beginning shoppers may feel compelled to take every order that comes his or her way, drivers will eventually learn what deliveries are worth their time based on order size, time spent with pickup and delivery, and overall distance driven.

Many delivery drivers report having trouble with fitting large orders from big-box stores into their vehicles while others specifically look for bulk orders because their vehicles can accommodate large volumes and they live near these particular stores. Beginners would do well to pay attention to their individual situation and figure out which order sizes and route distances maximize earning potential.

2: Pay Attention to Peak Pay

Sometimes Instacart will offer extra money on top of a given base delivery rate in an effort to get more drivers out on the road. This can be especially prevalent during certain days or around certain holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, or even New Years when delivering alcohol.

Drivers should take advantage of these extra payments around holidays but also notice what days of the week are likely to be more active and incentivize Instacart to activate Peak Pay. This will likely vary from market to market, so couriers will have to pay attention to their local markets to make the best decision.

3: Prioritize being as quick as possible (while being as safe as possible)

When people first begin shopping with Instacart one of the most common questions is how much money they can make. While the specifics will vary from market to market, the success a courier has within a given geographic area will ultimately come down to how efficient a delivery worker is with accepting batches and how quickly he or she can complete said batches.

This does not mean driving recklessly but recognizing that most grocery stores have similar layouts that drivers can use to complete their shopping for a client as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Orders that require communicating with the deli should be made first, so one can place the order and then continue shopping for other items while the store staff is preparing the deli item. Some Instacart shoppers bring their own small carts or bags to the store as it can be easier to maneuver than the store’s full-size shopping carts.

Inexperienced couriers or those dealing with large orders should also mark items off on the Instacart as “found” on the application as they shop. This can reduce any confusion and amount of double-checking needed to ensure that the entire order has been completed when finally waiting for the cashier.

Fresh foods that require cooling or refrigeration will almost always be found around the perimeter while boxed and/or canned food is placed in the perimeter. Drivers will typically be shopping in stores that they are familiar with in their neighborhoods, but this can be a useful idea to keep in mind when shopping in an unfamiliar establishment.

Instacart shoppers who are delivering in and around cities should always keep change on themselves for parking meters. One should always be aware of the parking situation when picking up or delivering batches. Finally, don’t speed or risk running a red light as any fines related to parking or driving can cut deeply into one’s business expenses.

4: Be in contact with your customer

One simple but often overlooked way to increase your reputation as an Instacart shopper is to communicate with the client that you are shopping for and keep them informed. This can be especially useful with a big or confusing order that can clear up any complications ahead of time.

Send a brief message introducing yourself once you have accepted a given order, keep the client abreast of the situation if their order requires any substitutions or replacements, and let him or her know if anything is taking longer than usual, whether you be stuck in traffic or the store is having trouble locating a particular item.

Customers will always appreciate being informed and knowing that you care about completing their orders. This can’t hurt when translating to how much they might tip.

5: Reach out to the delivery community

While it might be easy to feel like you’re operating on your own as an Instacart shopper, one must always be aware of the community around them. Instacart offers a support care line for all of its shoppers, but even more importantly, shoppers can always connect with one another.

Not only does Instacart host its own Facebook page for drivers to connect on, but there are multiple blogs and subreddits where drivers share tips and advice with one another. This can be especially helpful for a new driver trying to figure out the intricacies and best times to work Instacart in his or her city.

6: Bring an insulated carrier for hot and cold foods

This can be especially important when delivering in extreme climates. Insulated bags can keep rotisserie chicken warm through a Minessota blizzard and ice cream frozen when driving through Miami in the middle of the summer. Many online vendors have cheap insulated bags for sale.

Even many of the stores you shop at will have insulated packaging for sale. When finalizing a delivery, always be sure to drop bring the insulated items last to avoid the amount of exposure the items have to the outside weather.

All of this can improve your quality of service, both improving the customer’s final experience and your reputation (as well as the chance of them leaving a tip upon delivery).

7: Charge your phone!

Delivery personnel with old phones that lose battery power quickly will soon learn the importance of having a fully charged phone before a day’s work with Instacart, as the application will require extra battery power out of a given phone. It would behoove any driver to make sure that his or her phone is fully charged before heading out to work.

Drivers that plan on spending a long day making deliveries might even consider investing in a power cord for their vehicle or buying a remote power bank to recharge their phone if the battery runs dangerously low.

8: Track expenses

New Instacart partners need to remember that every cent put into and mile driven in their personal vehicle is considered a business expense. There are multiple applications available for both Andriod and iPhone platforms that track miles driven. Couriers should also keep their gasoline receipts and any repairs that might come up when working with Instacart.

Because drivers are considered independent contractors, all expenses incurred on your vehicle can be billed as personal tax deductions. Mileage, gasoline, and wear and tear on your car are to be considered when working with Instacart in order to maximize one’s earnings after calculating operational costs.

9: Queue your batches

Couriers who have completed at least 60 orders for Instacart will unlock the ability to stack their batches. This is when a delivery worker can pick up orders for two different customers at the same store.

This will require a bit more diligence on the worker’s part as the two different orders must be purchased and kept separately, but they can be a great way to improve a delivery driver’s efficiency.

Instacart partners should always use their best judgment as double batching orders might not be worth it if both clients are very far apart or they would have to take a very complicated route to complete both orders.

10: Personalize your delivery

Another way to make yourself stand out and improve your rating as a shopper is to try just a little harder to make the client remember you. Even something as simple as making sure that delicate items such as eggs and bread are left on top of a bag can go a long way.

A congratulatory note when completing orders that include items for a newborn or a bag of dog treats when the order calls for pet supplies can leave a lasting impression on customers that will incite them to reach out and leave compliments for Instacart on your exemplary conduct.

Sometimes the smallest gestures can leave the largest impact.

This video from Katie Heflin at The Rideshare Guy has 10 more tips to improve your Instcart earnings.

People also asked:

How often does Instacart pay delivery workers?

Instacart pays its delivery personnel weekly through Stripe services. Deposits are made each Wednesday for the amount accrued from the following week (Monday through Sunday).

Couriers are also entitled to all of the tips they are issued by clients with no hidden fees or service charges. Instacart partners are required to provide banking information as all payments are issued via direct deposit to a given individual’s bank account.

How can I receive more orders on Instacart?

Many new shoppers are concerned about the lack of batches they receive, especially if their market is not located in a highly populated city. Instacart makes a point of starting drivers out slow to make sure that they are not overwhelmed by workflow and understand the process. The company operates on a crawl-walk-run model with its partners.

Drivers will see orders sooner than others once they accrue a volume of work. Drivers are also provided ratings by the clients they deliver to, much like other delivery and client pickup applications. Drivers who have a high volume of batches delivered along with high ratings from customers will receive report pickups before newer drivers and/or those who might not have as many positive customer reviews.

This makes it especially important to optimize delivery logistics along with putting a personal touch on each batch to make the customer feel special.

How do Instacart partners pay for delivery batches?

This is one of the many reasons that Instacart partners must clear a basic driving and criminal background check to be approved by Instacart. All couriers are issued an Instacart debit card to pay for the orders they pick up. This means that Instacart partners never have to pay for the orders that they pick up for customers or wait to be reimbursed by Instacart for the purchases.

These purchases are monitored by Instacart, so drivers must be careful to only use the card when working on deliveries. Furthermore, the Instacart debit cards are strictly to be used for delivery purchases at grocery stores. Drivers are not to use the Instacart cards for gasoline or vehicle maintenance as this is the responsibility of the courier.

Some drivers even recommend keeping the Instacart card in a separate place, so that there isn’t any confusion when doing personal shopping as opposed to purchasing batches for Instacart.

Can Instacart replace my day job?

While Instacart may be a viable stream of income for an individual in an active market with very little expenses, it is probably not going to replace an individual’s 9 to 5 job if they have significant expenses such as a family to support or a mortgage.

That being said, it can be a significant source of additional income, especially if they love driving and making people’s days better.

These Instacart shopper tips can be useful for anyone with the drive and ingenuity to hit the streets and work with Instacart. While a strong work ethic is invaluable, those who are set on maximizing their revenue streams also need to work smart.

Potential Instacart workers should always set themselves up for safety and efficiency by planning their workdays around peak delivery times and not being afraid to be selective in the logistics of each batch they commit to.

That being said, once a courier accepts an order, he or she should do all within reason to complete their delivery and make the client feel a personal touch with each order. This can both maximize earnings and guarantee that both parties gain an enjoyable experience out of the transaction.