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Instacart Redux: Better, but…

So after the amusingly failed first Instacart adventure, in which I ordered stuff from Costco and got nine apples instead of the dozen that CC routinely dispenses, I decided to try again with AJ’s, which stocks produce in the way that grocery stores do (as opposed to CC’s warehouse mode) and which carries some things that Costco does not.

  • Again I found that things I buy all the time do not exist in the online environment.
  • Blue cheese is always sold in its crumbled form and never in chunks, even at a store where you could expect consumers to know better.
  • Though I know that AJ’s carries the fresh-baked bread I favor, you can’t order it online. Well, you can, but…
  • Flour has been cleared off the shelves, but…
  • It’s impossible to second-guess what a young person who never cooks from scratch doesn’t know.

This time I sent explicit instructions to RING THE DAMN DOORBELL. This worked. The kid — a very young woman — did alert me to the fact that she had arrived.

Again the service was very prompt. She showed up in less than two hours.

While she was at the store, she called to say the usual five-pound bags of flour were absent. However, she’d found some exotic kind of flour that was described as “extra fine” and…and…she didn’t know what it was. Would it be OK to get that?

Sure, said I.

Well. What she showed up with was a two-pound package of real, grown and packaged in Italy, Italian flour.

I couldn’t believe it.

Italian wheat is grown without the massive applications of pesticides and chemical crap that American wheat growers dump on their crops. That appears to explain why people who believe they’re “gluten-sensitive” can eat pasta and bread in Europe without getting sick: the EU legislates against the use of toxic products on food crops.

The US is fighting to force the EU to let growers use these products, but the last I heard, the EU was holding out.

The result is that pasta made in Europe, especially in Italy, simply tastes better than American-made products. Because it’s made from higher quality, less adulterated ingredients.

AJ’s carries pasta made in Italy, which is now the only kind I buy. But I had no idea they also carried Italian flour. If I’d known, I’d have had her buy a couple of packages.

The avocados I asked for were hard as rocks — perfect for a softball game, but not so much for eating. It’s hot, though, and so I expect within a few days they’ll ripen.

So. It looks like there may be an art to grocery shopping online. Apparently you learn this art as you go. So far the techniques I’ve picked up are as follows:

  • Expect that your shopper will know nothing about real food. They’ve all grown up eating highly processed fake food and so cannot be expected to understand much about fresh ingredients.
  • So if a choice requires any kind of finesse, explain what is needed in Instacart’s “comments” box. Yes: they give you a chance to enter a few words to explain things. Next time, for example, I’ll explain that avocados should be soft but not mushy to the touch….and definitely not hard as a baseball.
  • They deliver much faster than you would expect. Be prepared to receive the stuff within two hours or so.
  • Tell them to ring the doorbell. Use the comments section for this instruction. Put a sticky on the door pointing out where the doorbell is, if it’s not obvious.

Practice makes perfect. I guess…


4 thoughts on “Instacart Redux: Better, but…”

  1. Thanks for the Instacart tips, I haven’t used the service yet. I kinda enjoy going to the grocery store because it get me out of this place and also, I can be awfully picky about produce.
    I didn’t know that about EU wheat crops. I don’t buy flour these days, but will try to buy Italian pasta if I can find/afford it.

    • Yeah, I’d sure ‘druther do my own grocery shopping, but I think with some practice a person could figure out how to get Instacart folks to pick out at least some adequate produce. The problem apparently is that the young people who take on these jobs — probably as side gigs — seem by and large naïve about food and about cooking. It was a “thing” in our generation when we were their age — remember the Julia Child craze? — but seems not to be important today.

    • It’s $8 for one-hour delivery; $6 for two-hour. But they have various plans. There’s a flat annual fee of $99 — at least, that’s what they’re saying here. Some websites say it’s $149. Right now they’re pushing a come-on at me of $99.

      That sounds like a lot, until you figure in how a) how much you spend on gasoline and b) how often you go to the store. If you’re paying someone for every grocery visit, you’ll probably plan your purchasing more carefully, rather than darting off to the store for every little thing you forgot or decided on a whim you must have. I haven’t bought gas in two months, and the tank is still 2/3 full. I normally spend at least $30/month on gasoline.

      The other thing that would happen, if you were paying someone to schlep groceries to your house, is that you would plan your purchases a lot more carefully, rather than trotting off to Costco or Safeway every time the spirit moved you. A flat fee plan would allow you to send these couriers off several times a month. $99 divided by 12 months would be $8.25 a month, about what you’d pay if you had no plan and restricted trips to one a month. But it would represent a significant savings if you sent them out once every week or 10 days. And certainly if you sent them twice a week.

      My guess is, if you figured the savings in gas and wear & tear on your car, it would be a wash at worst; at best you’d come out ahead.

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