Contents:

    When you sign up for a new gig like Instacart, chances are you want to hit the ground running – and earning. Sure, you could slog through as a newbie, learning as you go…

    Or you could take advice from our contributors – people who shop with Instacart right now and who’ve been doing it for a few years – and learn from their mistakes!

    If you’re considering signing up for Instacart but want to make sure you can earn the most in the shortest amount of time, take a look at our top tips below for shopping faster and earning more. 

    This article is sponsored by Instacart but all opinions are our own. 

    How to Maximize Earnings as an Instacart Shopper

    From when I started shopping with Instacart, I’ve been able to increase my batch rate by $6! While your numbers may vary (based on where you live, demand, etc.), following our tips below can help you maximize your earnings. 

    1. Prep The Night Before

    Making good money with Instacart, or anything else for that matter, does not happen by accident. 

    Spend time the night before making sure everything is in place, so you can hit the ground running the next day.

    Pick out your clothes, and have your bags, boxes, battery packs, or anything else you may need ready to go.

    If you don’t have a divider, boxes (like the ones Costco uses) work too – the goal is to keep separate orders apart from each other so you don’t mix them up!

    Not sure what you need? The best Instacart shoppers say it’s crucial to:

    • Have a divider, for when you accept multiple orders
    • Use an insulated bag, especially for frozen items!
    • Bring a phone charger and make sure your apps are all up to date before you head out!

    2. Get Frozen Items Last

    Even if the first item on the app is a frozen item, don’t go there first.

    For one thing, your customer will see that you picked that frozen item, and will be concerned about it melting the entire time. Second, the item will indeed melt and the item could be marked as damaged!

    Nobody wants a box of these melting in their car!

    The best Instacart shoppers hit the frozen food aisles last – and don’t forget your insulated bag, of course!

    3. Dress Like It’s A Job

    Dress for the work ahead of you. Instacart’s a fairly active gig – you’ll be getting in and out of your car, doing a lot of walking, and occasionally some steps. 

    I’m far from the person to tell you what to wear that’s comfortable, but also keep in mind that you’ll definitely be interacting with people (store staff, and potentially customers) so while you don’t need “business casual”, you also don’t want to be in PJs!

    Why is this important? Two reasons:

    1. I’ve noticed, as an Instacart shopper myself, I’m more likely to get tips from customers if I greet them in comfortable but decent clothes. 
    2. There’s literally nothing worse than feeling uncomfortable while you’re out shopping and driving. When I’m uncomfortable, I usually end my services early – and that’s definitely not conducive to earning more!

    4. Go to Stores You’re Familiar With

    Choose which stores you’d prefer to shop at.

    For me, I have 4 stores I will shop from, and if when picking my batches those stores aren’t available, I’ll wait till they are.

    Why shop at a familiar store?

    • I know those stores 
    • I know where things are 
    • I’ve become familiar with employees 
    • I can get in and out fast, usually half the time Instacart has for the batch.

    Why is this so important? Because it’s all about maximizing your time while out! The more efficiently you shop means you’re on to delivering faster, accepting your next batch faster, etc. Time is money!

    5. Start Early Even Before Stores Open

    The early bird gets the worm. Shopping with Instacart is no different.

    A lot of people will start in the afternoon, or even mid-morning, but what you may not know is there are a lot of batches available first thing in the morning.

    I’ve found that you can actually start getting batches before the stores even open. If a store opens at 9, I’ll see batches starting at 8:30 that I can choose from.

    Not only that, but the ones I’ve found are usually more money and easier to get first thing in the morning because there are fewer shoppers out there trying to get batches.

    6. Try Delivery Only Orders

    I haven’t had many of these lately, but if I see a delivery-only order, even at a store I don’t normally go to, I grab it.

    You get paid the Instacart batch payment and a tip, and all you have to do is walk in the store, grab the groceries, and drop them off. 

    I’ve been able to do several of these orders back-to-back and have done three different batches in an hour before because they were just delivery only.

    Again, these have been a lot less lately, but are great to get when you can!

    7. Shop Efficiently

    As I mentioned above, time is money and the savviest Instacart shoppers shop quickly because they know the stores, they know where items are, and they move quickly.

    You are not window shopping, and you are not taking your time to make decisions on things. You are there to do the shopping and deliver.

    Yes, it’s important to make sure you’re picking quality items, but you also need to shop as efficiently as possible to get out, without hurting quality.

    Worried you’re not that efficient? It’s okay! At the beginning, accuracy is the most important, and of course, you want to get things right and not pick the dented fruit.

    The point is, don’t overthink it! You’re not shopping for your future mother-in-law who changes her mind without telling anyone. You’re shopping for a customer who wants the items listed – so get out there and shop!

    8. Order At The Deli And Come Back

    The other day I had a batch and the customer was getting rotisserie chicken from the deli. When I got there they didn’t have any ready, so I asked when they would have one ready.

    They said it would take at least 15 minutes, so I left, did the rest of the shopping, and came and got that last.

    Place deli orders ahead of time, then double back for them

    This applies to the deli, meat department, or seafood: put the order in, go shopping, and come back to get the item(s).

    9. Have Pre-Made Messages To Send

    Communication is the key to a successful Instacart shop. You need to make sure you’re communicating with your customer as much as possible.

    An easy way to do this is to have some pre-made messages ready, and you can just put names in. Google Docs is a great place to store this, or the Notes app on your phone.

    Contributor Jeff shared his delivery strategies and notes tips:

    “I keep a few key messages on my notes app for easy copy/paste access.

    Here are a few examples of standby messages:

            “This is your driver Jeffrey, I’ll be arriving in a few minutes in a red car.”

    “I will be leaving your order where requested and will need to take a picture.”

    “Your order says leave at door, but delivery instructions say ‘hand to me’, which would you prefer?”

    “Can you please let me know the building and apartment number?”

    You can tailor these to your liking, and add your own. Having frequently used, pre-written notes saves a ton of time and stress, and usually helps keep your ratings up.”

    10. Park Close To Cart Depot

    Every little thing you do takes time, and no detail is too small to help you save time and maximize earnings. Picking a good parking spot can make a huge difference.

    Picking one close to the door may not be the best option. Instead, park near the cart depot, so that way once you’ve loaded the car up, you can put the cart away and leave quickly.

    Bonus points if you can also be near the exit and a car depot!

    No, you should not abandon your cart in your parking spot, either. Think of the other Instacart shoppers!

    11. Ask For Help – Employees

    As a Millennial, I understand many in our age group don’t necessarily like finding or speaking to employees. It’s time to put your game face on and do it, though, especially if you can’t find an item or if an item is missing from its usual place. 

    Yes, sometimes the store won’t have the item, but you are at least able to tell the customer “I asked the employee to check the back and they don’t have it,” which will help your rating.

    Get to know your store employees! They can be incredibly helpful, especially at a store like Publix, which I’ve found to have friendly employees and customer service.

    Don’t wait though – while the employee is checking, keep shopping.

    Employees also can give you some great tips on how to find things quickly! Getting to know them well means they’ll likely help you in the future as well.

    12. Look Through The List Before Shopping

    This is really a must. I cannot tell you how much time has been saved by me looking through the list ahead of time.

    Walking by an end stand, or seeing something not where the app says it is because I know the whole list has saved so much time.

    When you get to the store, you get to see the list of all the groceries, and where they will be in the store.

    Take time to look at the list now, before you start shopping. This will guide you through which items you may want to grab first, last, and in between.

    A lot of times there are items that the app doesn’t say where they are, but if you’re knowledgeable of the store, and take the time to look at the list, you can be done in no time.

    13. Replace Quickly

    I cannot say this enough, do not overthink your shop! As I said before, you’re not shopping for your capricious granny. You’re shopping for a customer who, most likely, has ordered from Instacart before and has taken the time to choose exactly what they want. They want you to succeed, too!

    If you can’t find an item while shopping, immediately tap the “can’t find” button in your app. 

    Most of the time customers have already picked an alternative in case they don’t have it. Even if they don’t, the app will make a suggestion.

    Most of the time it’s an easy replacement. If something is way different, don’t do it, but don’t spend minutes deciding if you’re going to replace or refund. You can also always send a chat to the customer to clarify what they want.

    14. Timestamp App

    I’ve previously shared ways Instacart shoppers can protect themselves in case the worst happens, but despite your best intentions, things can go awry.

    While it hasn’t happened to me, I’ve seen on my Nextdoor app (thanks, neighbors!) that grocery delivery and other orders can be swiped by not-so-nice people, so that when your customer looks for their order, it’s gone – and they say you didn’t deliver it!

    The easiest way to get around this unfortunate situation is to take a picture of the order when you deliver it. Even better is to use the Timestamp camera app that will include exactly when the picture was taken. It’s free, too!

    While you could use your camera app, using the Timestamp app will keep everything in one place on your phone, and make it easy to find later.

    Takeaways for New Instacart Shoppers

    If you’re new to Instacart shopping and feel a little overwhelmed, it’s okay – I get it! Luckily, Instacart is really not that hard to get used to quickly.

    If you’re comfortable grocery shopping and are reasonably organized, there’s no reason you won’t be successful shopping with Instacart!

    Get started shopping with Instacart today!

    -Tyler @ RSG

    Tyler Philbrook

    Tyler Philbrook

    Tyler Philbrook is a part-time Rideshare driver and freelance writer focused on finding the best ways to make money while enjoying life. Published on Disease Called Debt, Saving Advice, featured on The Penny Hoarder, and a mention in Pat Flynn's Superfans book. My favorite app for rideshare driving is Waze and Gridwise.