Tips and Tricks for Becoming an Instacart Shopper

Gig Platform Resources

  • All Posts
  • Tips and Tricks for Becoming an Instacart Shopper
PUBLISHED BY Alwin Wong / July 7, 2020

Get paid to grocery shop – becoming an Instacart Shopper with a performance-driven mindset

Do you enjoy grocery shopping? What if we asked if you could get paid grocery shopping for others on your own schedule? If you’re nodding your head, then becoming an Instacart shopper is the gig for you!

Instacart shoppers work for the gig platform Instacart, a grocery delivery and pick-up service that allows customers to order groceries from the comfort of their own home. You have probably seen a few Instacart shoppers at your local grocery store scurrying through each aisle to fill their carts.

Becoming an Instacart shopper is great for individuals who want to pick up a side hustle or for current gig workers looking to diversify their income. Like most gigs, it is flexible and will work around your schedule! Here’s what an Instacart worker had to say on

The Rise of Instacart

As more consumers are striving for convenience, the demand for more delivery service platforms, like Instacart, has been on the rise. This means that more gig workers are needed to keep up.

Looking back at the beginning of 2020 just as the world was going under lockdown, the need for Instacart shoppers skyrocketed. Roads became empty as more people were staying safe at home. To reduce the frequency of going out, many turned to delivery platforms to have food and groceries delivered straight to their doors.

Instacart became an essential service for many families overnight. The demand for online grocery delivery has seen exceptional growth since the start of 2020 with customer order volume up more than 500% year-over-year. To meet the surge in demand for grocery deliveries, Instacart hired 300,000 new workers within a span of a few weeks.


If you are looking to join the growing demand as an Instacart shopper, you probably have a few questions such as:

  • What is Instacart?
  • What is an Instacart shopper?
  • How does Instacart shopper work?
  • How much do you make with Instacart?

 You’ve come to the right place because we will break it all down for you!

Being an Instacart shopper is exactly what it sounds like – you become the personal shopper for each order assigned to you. The way you earn with Instacart will depend on whether you’re a full-service or in-store shopper.

Full-Service vs In-Store Shoppers

Full-service Instacart shoppers are independent contractors working for the platform. You will carry more responsibilities as a self-employed freelancer, but hours are flexible and there are no strings attached. As a full-service Instacart shopper, you will handle everything from start to finish. You will have to go to the store, pick up everything on your list, then deliver it to the customer’s doorstep.

You can decide how much you want to work, when you want to work, and which deliveries to take on. Everything is accessed through the Instacart application on your phone so you can either be notified whenever an order is available near you or look for orders available.

As for pay, this will depend on each order and the location, but there is no limit on how many batches you can fulfill. This means the more work and effort put in, the more income you can potentially make. Plus, you get to keep 100% of customer tips!

It can be difficult coming up with an exact figure of how much an Instacart shopper can make since the pay is based on variable factors such as the size of the delivery, number of items, distance traveled, time, and of course, tips.

According to an interview of a full-service Instacart shopper from Minneapolis, he stated that he averages at least $25 an hour. His pay does vary week to week, but he can earn over $2,000 working for Instacart in a week with half of it coming from his tips which is why we always emphasize the importance of customer service. 


On the other hand, in-store shoppers are part-time employees of Instacart. These workers focus solely on doing the shopping during set shifts and hours predetermined by the company. Because they are Instacart employees, there is little to no flexibility and the income potential is capped.

In this article, we will be focusing on full-service Instacart shoppers along with Instacart tips and tricks to increase your efficiency.

How to Become an Instacart Shopper


If you’re looking into how to become an Instacart shopper, all you need to get started is access to a reliable vehicle for deliveries and a smartphone to manage your gigs. There are also other requirements to be mindful of which is outlined here by Instacart. But if you’re a seasoned gig worker then you’re more than likely already equipped and ready to start.

For those new to the gig economy, you should start familiarizing yourself with the requirements of becoming an independent worker. We have our Ultimate Guide to Working in the Gig Economy to help you prepare for a fulfilling career becoming an Instacart shopper.

Once you have downloaded the Instacart mobile application and signed up as an Instacart shopper, then you are ready to take on gigs and start earning. Here are a few Instacart shopper tips and tricks to help you increase efficiency and income potential!

Instacart Tips and Tricks to Increase Earning Potentials

Minimize Your Time Driving

The first of our Instacart shopper tips to help you maximize your efficiency is by sticking to one zone. Choose a zone that you’re familiar with which will probably be close to where you live. If you spread yourself across a large area, you will spend too much time on the road. It’s important to remember that you are being paid per order, not by the hour!

When you minimize your time driving, you can get the job done faster. The faster you can get the job done then the more you can potentially earn per hour, especially during busy seasons!

We suggest picking an area you’re familiar with because you will be more comfortable with the environment. You’ll know all the shortcuts and usual traffic flows that can help you better navigate between each location.

Keeping yourself to a smaller area will also help reduce your business expenses. In our blog post about financial tips for freelancers, we emphasize the importance of keeping your expenses low. As an Instacart worker, you are responsible for expenses like gas, auto insurance, and car maintenance. Reducing these expenses and your mileage means you will be able to keep more of the money you make… and be closer to your long-term financial goals.

Familiarize Yourself with Stores

Do you ever walk into a new grocery store for the very first time and stand there thinking to yourself, “where do I start?”.

We recommend sticking to stores you’re already familiar with and getting to know them very well, so you don’t feel scattered and lost while on the job. The less time you spend searching for items means you can squeeze in more orders within the hour!

Learn where each section is, how the aisles are organized, and memorize the overall layout of the store. Knowing this ahead of time will increase your picking speed and hourly rate. If you do come across items you aren’t familiar with, don’t be afraid to ask a store associate for help.


Aim for Efficiency

The faster you can get your orders completed, the more work you can take on and the more money you will make. Working at the highest efficiency will help you get there! As already mentioned, getting to know the floor map of the stores will be extremely helpful.

Another one of our Instacart tips and tricks to help you work faster is to review your order before accepting them. Try to accept orders that won’t require a lot of time searching. If you see a lengthy order with items you’re not familiar with, maybe they’re worth skipping.

Produce, center aisles, then frozen.

Most grocery stores are laid out similarly–you enter where the produce section is and then the frozen items are usually near the cash registers. When you shop, aim to cover produce, center aisles, and then save the frozen items for last to reduce the amount of walking back and forth.

The last thing you want is to have melted ice cream and soggy microwavable meals in your cart. Your customers wouldn’t be too happy with that either.

Once you have a groove going and you’re packing orders at an efficient pace, you can start fulfilling multiple orders at once. Grab hand baskets and place them in a cart to separate each order, then you’re ready to go! Remember to quickly review the orders ahead of time so you have an idea of what items you need to grab at once.

Stay Prepared

As they say, proper preparation prevents poor performance. A few tips for Instacart shoppers to help you stay prepared include:

You do not want to deal with your phone dying halfway through an order or having to rush to the nearest gas station in between trips. At the end of each workday, fuel your car and charge your power bank to prepare for the next day. It’s like laying out your outfits the night before, but with your Instacart essentials!

We also recommend packing your essentials into a small bag or in a secure jacket pocket the night before. Avoid lugging around a large bag or any unnecessary items that can slow you down during your trip. Stick to what you need… which also includes study insulated bags because how else will frozen items stay cold?

Make the Customers Happy!

Finally, don’t forget about the opportunity to increase your tips. Instacart shoppers get to keep 100% of their tips. This is extra money in your pocket!

You want your customers to be happy with their order. They are putting their trust in you and often, they will compensate you for a job well done.

Put yourself into their shoes to understand what they would appreciate from the Instacart experience. For example, if an item isn’t available at the grocery store then ask the customer if they would like a replacement. This prevents customers from having to go back to the store themselves or having to submit another order.

Deliver in the best condition

When it comes to delivering the order to their door, make sure everything is in great condition. Avoid crushing any of the items, giving them bruised produce, or handing over melted frozen goods. Pretty common sense but working to prevent these issues ahead of time will go a long way. This goes back to having a study insulated bag with ice packs and having multiples to ensure nothing is crammed.

We hope these Instacart shopper tips were helpful! Now you are well on your way to becoming an Instacart shopper fueled with a performance-driven mindset.

If you need financial help as an independent worker, we regularly create helpful resources. Join thousands of other gig workers and sign up to be a part of our community!


Alwin Wong

Alwin is the Growth Manager at Moves and a part-time freelance photographer. With the rise of the gig economy, he is excited by a world where people can have greater flexibility over their work and challenge the norms of having a traditional 9-to-5 job. Alwin is also an avid travel enthusiast and Toronto Raptors basketball fan.

Join our newsletter!

No spam, just good stuff.

Thanks for signing up!

Check your email (spam too) for a confirmation from us.