We all only have 24 hours in a day, so how is it that some of your fellow Instacart shoppers can double or sometimes even triple their order delivery volume?
It all has to do with how you use your time.
Rather than leave you in suspense, we’ll delve into the strategies shoppers use to guide you into becoming the best Instacart shopper around.
17+ Instacart Tips & Tricks to Know
We’ve included an overview of our top picks below. For detailed information on each pick, scroll down.
- Learn the Lay of the Land
- Use a Power Bank
- Start and End at the Deli
- Know When to Replace Items
- Learn the Fastest Routes to and From the Stores
- Weigh Produce All at Once
- Always Replace Items Within a Customer’s Range
- Don’t Accept Every Order
- Take Batch Orders
- Use a Receipt-Scanning App
- Bring Insulated Food Bags
- Make a Plan
- Consider Paying the Parking Fee
- Look at Pictures of the Order
- Pay With Your Instacart Shopper Card
- Use a Collapsible Grocery Cart
- Provide Quality Service
1. Learn the Lay of the Land
Working as an Instacart shopper can take you to grocery stores across your city and even over state lines in some instances. While two ShopRites can be laid out differently, the aisles tend to contain about the same items.
It helps to get to know the grocery stores in your area as you begin accepting Instacart orders. The best way to do that is by shopping there yourself. You’ll have an easier time remembering where items are located.
Of course, stores change their layouts all the time, so make sure you keep up-to-date so you’re not disoriented as soon as you walk in.
2. Use a Power Bank
As an Instacart shopper, you’re on your phone all day, checking for grocery shopping jobs to pick up, communicating with customers, double-checking their lists, and mapping out routes to their homes.
If your phone’s battery can’t handle it, you have to spend time charging it at home before you can pick up more work. Those hours add up.
A power bank or a car charger will work wonders. This way, you have a reliable way to charge your phone, so you never have to miss a moment of action.
3. Start and End at the Deli
Standing around at the deli can be a waste of time for Instacart grocery shoppers. Imagine the pain of waiting idly near the counter multiplied by however many orders you take that day; you end up losing hours each day!
Here’s a handy tip for expediting the process: Make a beeline for the deli when you arrive, and let the staff know what the Instacart customer ordered. They’ll hold the cheese and cold cuts until you return for them, which should be at the end of your trip.
4. Know When to Replace Items
If you spend more than two minutes looking for the item a customer requested, reconsider how you manage your time.
It’s one thing to spend time seeking an item if the customer didn’t designate a replacement, but if they did, that’s what those items are there for.
If you’re in the general area where a type of food is kept, Oreos, for example, and you don’t see any Double Stuf Oreos, that means they’re likely out of stock. Checking other areas where they sell cookies but don’t have Oreos won’t help you find what you need.
Instead, if the customer is okay with regular Oreos, grab those. And if they don’t mention having a preference, get in touch with them through the app and ask!
5. Learn the Fastest Routes to and From the Stores
It helps to shop at places you’re familiar with when you first become an Instacart shopper; you might already have a few shortcuts you take to your favorite pharmacy, pet store, or grocery store.
If not, do some research in your spare time before accepting the order, mapping out ways to get there faster. Learn the traffic patterns of the neighborhoods if you can, as nothing sucks up time and gas more than traffic.
6. Weigh Produce All at Once
Another time-suck when shopping for Instacart is weighing produce items separately. You might find one scale over by the potatoes and another by the pineapple, but that doesn’t mean you have to weigh your veggies first, then your fruits.
Instead, gather the produce the customer has asked for, then weigh it all at once, one by one. Adjust the weights within the Instacart shopper app, then continue shopping or check out.
7. Always Replace Items Within a Customer’s Range
Remember, the customer is always right, so if they want an item you can’t find, don’t change tact completely. For example, if they want gluten-free crackers, buying non-gluten-free isn’t a reasonable substitute.
People have preferences. Perhaps they have a dietary intolerance, or they’re watching their weight. You’ll never know why, but you should respect that when your customers ask for something specific; it’s usually for a good reason.
8. Don’t Accept Every Order
This might seem counterproductive if you’re trying to maximize your earnings, but it’s anything but.
Instacart graciously tells you how much gas vs. how much cash each job will earn you. If the job will take you longer than the pay warrants, or if your base pay and tips will go straight toward filling up your gas tank, skip the job.
It’s not worth the lost time, fuel, and ultimately, money. You can fill the time you could’ve spent on that job doing local runs.
9. Take Batch Orders
If you can time this right, it’s a great way to make the most money when working through Instacart. You can shop for one, two, or maybe even three customers all at the same store, bag everything up, and deliver the orders one at a time.
These are known as double batches (or triple batches for three orders).
If the customers happen to live within a decent radius of one another, that further saves you time as you plan your grocery delivery schedule, freeing up your day to take more work.
10. Use a Receipt-Scanning App
Multiple apps will pay you to scan your receipts, including Ibotta, Receipt Hog, Checkout 51, Fetch Rewards, Shopkick, and ReceiptPal, so download them!
You can upload paper or digital receipts, getting paid for keeping track of what you’re spending and where. This is one of the best means of passive income in your line of work, and the extra money can help if you have some slower days as a service shopper.
11. Bring Insulated Food Bags
This next tip is about improving the satisfaction of your Instacart customers by ensuring you get rated highly and that more users trust you to take care of their shopping orders.
An insulated food bag might cost more than your average reusable grocery bag, but it’s better at maintaining food temperatures for hot and cold products.
If your customers ask for a hot meal right from the chef’s counter, you can deliver it and still expect it to be relatively warm. Milk and eggs will maintain their chill, and frozen items won’t entirely thaw (and, in the case of ice cream, melt!).
It’s a small step that makes a big difference as an Instacart driver.
12. Make a Plan
With Instacart, customers can add to their orders until an Instacart shopper begins shopping. That puts you in an advantageous position, as you can see the customer’s entire order before you start planning.
For example, if you know they want eggs and milk, those are both in the dairy case, so there’s no sense in grabbing eggs, then seeing milk on the list later, and going back to the dairy case and picking it up.
Do the same for all the other items on the customer’s list, from frozen foods to snacks, meats, and produce. It’ll save you time on each trip.
13. Consider Paying the Parking Fee
To save time, biting the bullet and paying for parking is sometimes your best option. No, Instacart doesn’t reimburse shoppers for parking fees, as customers can live all over, not necessarily in areas with paid parking.
By all means, don’t overspend, but if parking only costs a few dollars, you’ll save time and gas by parking in a paid lot rather than idling around, driving in circles down the same block, and hoping a free spot opens up.
14. Look at Pictures of the Order
Most foods have associated images. These photos are as much for the customers’ convenience as yours.
You don’t have to memorize every last detail of the food images, especially considering orders can have 20 to 50 items and very often more, but get a good idea of what you’re looking for.
For example, if a food product has green packaging versus blue for another variety, keep that in mind as you peruse the aisles.
15. Pay With Your Instacart Shopper Card
Instacart issues you a payment card called an Instacart Mastercard. Use that card when paying for customer orders rather than your own personal credit or debit cards. Also, keep the receipt.
This will make it easier to ensure you receive your Instacart payment when the time comes.
16. Use a Collapsible Grocery Cart
People always congregate around the shopping carts, eager to pick one up or deposit theirs. Skip the crowds by using the collapsible shopping cart you bought.
This efficient solution compresses and fits in your car, but the biggest advantage is how you can wheel your groceries right up to your car rather than carry bags through the parking lot.
17. Provide Quality Service
Okay, so maybe this isn’t a hack, but it seemed like a good note to end on.
As much as you can prioritize making the most money and speeding up your deliveries, remember that the people on the other line are customers waiting for their groceries. Don’t sacrifice quality and accuracy in the name of speed!
Over the years, Instacart shoppers have found the most efficient ways to do their jobs. Now, you have access to these secrets, hacks, and tips so you can improve with each new order you accept.
Good luck shopping!