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How Does Instacart Pickup Work? (What you need to know!)

Whether because they’re homebound, or just too busy to hit the grocery store, more and more people are turning to Instacart for grocery delivery or pickup. But if you’ve never used them, you’re probably wondering how does Instacart work?

Instacart Pickup allows you to order your groceries online on their website and set a time to pick them up at the grocery store you select. Instacart also has e-coupons you can apply to your order. Just set a time to pick up your order and you’ll receive a notification when it’s ready.

But there’s a lot more to know about grocery home delivery or pickup, including how far in advance you need to schedule and whether you should tip the Instacart employees.

So let’s keep going!

Grocery shopping can really be a hassle, especially if you have kids that need to come along. You can save yourself a lot of stress and hassle just by ordering your groceries. Instacart will deliver them to you or have them ready for you to pick up when you’re ready.

It can feel like a weight has been lifted when your grocery shopping is done for you.

But how does it work? Does Instacart charge for pickup and delivery? Should you tip the pickup person?

I’ll answer those questions and more.

Just keep reading!

Ready to start ordering from Instacart?

CLICK HERE to go to the Instacart order page.

How do you pick up orders on Instacart?

Instacart isn’t available in every area for delivery. However, Instacart Pickup may be an option for you.

Instacart Pickup allows you to order your groceries online and set a time to pick them up. Just go to the store when you are ready to get your groceries.

When you start looking for a grocer to order groceries from for pickup, you’ll search by zip code. From there, you’ll see a list of available grocers. Just pick your store and start shopping!

Instacart has e-coupons they can apply to your order and you can shop sales, too. Once you’ve filled your cart, select the time you want to pick up your order and submit payment.

When your order is ready for pickup, you’ll get a notification with directions for where and how to pick up your groceries.

The best way to stay in the loop about the progress of your order is to download the app to your phone.

This will also make it easier for you to notify your shopper when you are on the way to pick up your order and then when you arrive. This makes picking up your groceries quick and simple.

Depending on the store, you will either wait in your car for Instacart to bring it to you, or you will go inside to pick it up. Many stores have designated parking spaces for you to wait.

Make sure you pay attention to the text or push notification you get from Instacart for instructions on how to retrieve your groceries.

How much is Instacart?

Yes. Instacart charges for both pickup and delivery. But how much does Instacart cost?

Instacart charges a 5% fee. But they sometimes charge higher prices on the food items too. You may also be charged more for peak times or rush delivery.  However, Instacart Express customers always get free pick up or delivery with orders of $35 or more.

So if you can pick up your order at an off-peak time, you’ll save a little bit of money.

You may also get charged more if you want to pick up your order sooner rather than later. Just like with the delivery service. When getting groceries delivered, they will charge more to have groceries delivered in an hour. They charge less if you pick a delivery window that is more than an hour out.

However, Instacart Express customers always get free pickup with orders of $35 or more.

Instacart Express is Instacart’s membership program. It’ll cost you $99 per year or $9.99 per month. These rates are subject to change, and may even vary by location. Go to to see what the rates are in your area.

$99 per year tacked on to your grocery bill can really be a lot, especially if you don’t use the service often. So, if you are going to pay for it, you should consider using the service consistently.

Sometimes you can find discounts for the service, too. Sign up for their mailing list or check out Groupon to see if you can get the membership for a lower rate.

Do you tip the grocery pick-up person?


Instacart shoppers are providing a service. They are making your life easier and saving you hours of shopping time. Certainly, that is worth something to you.

Like many other folks in the service industry, a large amount of their pay comes from tips.

Instacart shoppers make sure that the produce is fresh, search for the best expiration dates, and make sure you get the best deals.

They shop just like you would, so they really earn that tip!

Instacart recommends tipping drivers 5% when they deliver your groceries. But in some cases, you may want to tip a lot more than that. Luckily, I go into much greater detail on Instacart tipping in a recent article.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Not only are they doing the shopping, but they are bringing you your groceries. In certain areas, they can even bring them to you in an hour or less!

Do groceries cost more with Instacart?

It depends.

Instacart charges more for certain stores, but sometimes there isn’t any added markup fee at all. It depends on which store you’re shopping at.

There was a recent outrage because customers found out that the average markup is just that: an average. Instacart holds the right to raise prices higher than the quoted percentage.

Keep in mind that it doesn’t affect all stores. However, it’s still something to remember when you’re considering using the service to replace your shopping altogether.

The best way to know whether or not you’ll be charged more at a specific store is by reviewing Instacart’s pricing information page.

According to that page, it’s the retailers themselves that set the prices charged through Instacart.

Don’t let the potentially higher prices steer you away from the app, though. Instacart is a thriving business for many reasons.

The convenience value alone is enough to make the markups well worth using the service. There’s certainly a line where it’s probably a better idea to do your own shopping. Still, it all depends on the markup percentage.

In some cases though, Instacart charges up to 25% more than the store!!

To read more about Instacart’s pricing, and see what stores have that kind of mark up, check out my recent article. I get into all the details on how to figure out which stores will charge you more through Instacart and which won’t.

What stores does Instacart go to?

This really depends on your location.

Instacart serves zip codes all around the country and is one of the most widely available grocery delivery and pickup options.

You can check Instacart’s website to see if they’re available in your area. You can even sign up to be notified of any updates if the service isn’t available for your area or your favorite stores.

Instacart works with lots of stores. It works with big chain stores as well as small mom and pop stores. It works with places like CVS and wine shops, too.

However, if you are a Trader Joe’s fan, you’re going to have to go to the store yourself.

Trader Joe’s prides itself on providing value to their customers. Instacart’s pricing was causing Trader Joe’s to pass along unsustainable cost increases to their customers. As a result, they stopped making delivery and pick up available to their customers. (source)

Whole Foods Market also ceased working with Instacart when Amazon bought them. But they now have their own delivery and pick up system. (source)

Final Thoughts

Instacart grocery pickup is a really convenient service. It can save you hours of shopping, especially if you have a larger family.

In this article, I talked about the convenience of Instacart pickup as well as the cost.

I talked about how much Instacart charges for groceries, as well as their fees. I also talked about whether you should tip your shopper and at what stores the Instacart service can be used.

Most importantly, I answered the question: How does Instacart pick-up work.

Do you use Instacart? If not, are you going to start?

Ready to start ordering from Instacart?

CLICK HERE to go to the Instacart order page.

Photos which require attribution:

Instacart_PwG_anim_02 by 姿穎 呂 is licensed under Public domain

The Grocery Store Guy, part of the Middle Class Dad family of websites, is reader-supported and when you make a purchase through some of my links, I  may earn a small commission from the sale, which in no way increases the cost to you. Learn more HERE.
Jeff Campbell