3 Reasons Instacart Is Cheaper Than Going to the Grocery Store

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  • Instacart saves shoppers time and energy, in addition to money.
  • Mix and match Instacart with traditional in-store shopping for the best experience.

It frequently comes back to kids.

I live with a mom of two teenagers. We all have food preferences and dietary restrictions (including allergies to gluten and dairy). Traditional grocery shopping -- dragging the kids around town during work hours -- wasn't cutting it.

Enter Instacart, the grocery delivery app.

Eight months after switching to Instacart, it's clear the service helps keep me from overspending at the grocery store. Of course, there are caveats. Unlike what some folks claim, Instacart doesn't necessarily save you gas money (more on that later).

But easy delivery has made our life easier. Less costly. Here are three reasons Instacart is cheaper than going to the grocery store.

1. Shoppers save time

In-person shopping sucks up more time and energy than a Twitter doomscroll. According to the Time Use Institute, the average person spends 41 minutes in the grocery store per shopping trip. Too long. I'd rather spend that time earning money or learning something new.

My housemate used to spend over an hour per trip dragging her kids to grocery stores like Sprouts. Now, she spends 10 to 20 minutes buying groceries on Instacart. Features like "Buy It Again" make repeat orders easy.

Grocery shopping is manual labor by another name. Shopping on grocery-delivery platforms like Instacart can save time better spent elsewhere.

2. Shoppers can compare prices quicker

Savvy shoppers hunt for deals across stores. While some might prefer to memorize which stores are best for what, others need extra help. Instacart makes it faster to switch stores and compare prices.

My household shops at both Sprouts and Ralphs. Sprouts is our favorite, but Ralphs sells Cheerios (a household staple). On Instacart, we can compare the price of Cheerios across stores. If another store sells Cheerios cheaper than Ralphs, we'll switch stores.

Note that Instacart only lets shoppers order from one store at a time. That makes price comparison tougher, but comparing prices on Instacart is still faster than doing so in person. Have price paralysis? Choose from the best grocery stores to save money.

Tip: Use two monitors or a phone/computer combo to compare prices side-by-side on Instacart.

3. Shoppers avoid impulse buys

Kids want things. Like brownie bites. And cute marshmallow cereal. When the whining starts, it's all too easy to toss these things into the shopping cart (against your better judgment). Plus, you tend to forget what your pantry needs when you're wheeling around Ralphs.

Instacart gives my household the freedom to second-guess. We toss whatever everyone wants into the cart, and decide what to cut at checkout. If we accidentally order too many sweets, we cut some out. If we suddenly remember we need gluten-free salad dressing, we add it to the cart. Easy.

No need to worry about holding up the line for a last-minute return. Instacart reduces impulse buys by giving shoppers the power to second-guess. Skip the impulse-buy insanity by ordering online.

Should you use Instacart all the time?

Not necessarily. For one thing, not all stores deliver through Instacart. You'll have to shop in person at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and Costco (or through their websites, if available). I supplement my online deliveries with monthly Costco and Trader Joe's trips.

Plus, there's the rumor that Instacart saves shoppers gas money. That's only technically true. Instacart might -- maybe -- save shoppers gas money if they live far from the supermarket, but in reality, the cost of tips often cancels out gas savings.

For example, the default Instacart tip is 5%. On a $50 dollar order, shoppers tip $2.50. If the cost of driving to the store is, say, $0.58 per mile, that means only drivers who travel more than four miles to the store will save on gas by using Instacart. Bigger tips will reduce savings even further.

Finally, Instacart shines when you order in bulk. The lowest fee costs $3.99 per order on orders over $35. We have an Instacart+ membership, which costs $99 per year. Perks include free delivery on orders over $35, among other things.

Mix and match

Shoppers who tend to impulse buy, who dislike in-person shopping, and who spend more than $35 per trip may find Instacart cheaper than shopping in person. To my household, the savings in time and mental energy are huge. The best grocery credit cards will save shoppers money on their regular grocery shopping, too. Consider mixing and matching delivery with in-store shopping to maximize your savings.

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