How to get started as an Instacart Shopper

So you wanna make money as an Instacart Shopper but don’t know what to expect? You’ve come to the right place. I’ve been working as an Instacart Shopper mostly full-time since January of 2020 and have completed over 1,200 orders.

Disclaimer. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, This means that at no extra cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you decide to signup or purchase any products or services through those links.

Many people sign up to be an Instacart Shopper but don't actually start shopping because they don't know what to expect. They're afraid they'll accidentally accept an order and are on the hook for it right away. 

Don't worry, I'll guide you through the steps and will give you some details around what to look out for during your first order. 

Like I said, I started as a full-service Instacart Shopper at the beginning of 2020 without any idea of what was to come. 2020 was of course a crazy year so my success on Instacart that year was driven by the chaotic circumstances, mainly a surge in new customers. 

Nevertheless, even in 2023, I still use the same strategies that helped me succeed in 2020, going from my very first batch of $18 to getting $50 to $100 batches. Here is a comparison of my very first batch to a batch at the same store, one year later.

Batch earnings example on InstacartScreenshot of my first batch and one year later at the same store

I thought my first batch was the hardest thing I'd ever done so don't expect to make tons of money your first day, week or even month but stick with it and you'll get the hang of it. 

Regardless of whether demand is high in your area, below are the basics to get you started. Instacart provides some very basic and in my opinion, silly training with virtually no gritty real-life scenarios.

Sorry Instacart but you didn't prepare me for some of the things I've encountered over the years so on-the-job experience will really be your best bet.

Yes, the best way to get good at being an Instacart Shopper is going out to shop so don't be afraid to go out there. Your first order will probably suck, heck, you first week will probably suck (mine did) but don't give up. Instacart is a great way to make money if you stay away from low or no tip orders.

Higher tipping orders will ensure you'll do well so don't settle for crappy no-tip orders.

Ready? Let's get started!

Instacart Shopper Signup

Signup is easy. If you haven’t already done so, signup here.

Then, you’ll be prompted to submit a picture of your license and car insurance.

After that, Instacart will run a background check that includes criminal and driving records. Once you pass that, you’ll be notified.

If demand for Instacart in your area is low, Instacart will put you on a waiting list. It happened to me and took about 6 months, which was fine because I had another gig at the time. 

I will say that Instacart orders in my area have declined since May of 2021 so as a backup, I signed up for DoorDash and have recently been doing UberEats and Grubhub so I can give you guys feedback on each app.

If you’re looking for how to get started on those, see here for DoorDash, here for UberEats and here for Grubhub or for a side-by-side comparison of Grubhub vs. DoorDash vs. UberEats, here.

I'll link to these again at the end of this page. I'll also link to my other pages that provide some important Instacart Shopper Do's and Don'ts as well as Instacart Shopper training and a more detailed look at how much Instacart pays.

Either way, I recommend you have one of the other food delivery apps as backup even if you want to do Instacart as your main thing because of demand changes and app glitches.

Please note that in some areas there is a waitlist to be an Instacart Shopper, so in the meantime, sign on to the other apps so you can start earning some extra $$.

Once you’re cleared to shop, you will be prompted to take a picture in the app to verify it’s you. Just follow the in-app steps, it's all super easy.

Now that you’re all set, you’re probably wondering how to grab an order. I know I was nervous to click on an order because I didn’t know if that meant I was accepting it or just checking it out.w

This is often a deterrent and many people don’t get past this step to go out for their first order (batch). 

Let me walk you through the process of finding your first batch below.

Finding your first batch as an Instacart Shopper

Once you’re ready to get started, hit “Go online”. You’ll see a screen saying “Looking for a batch” then it should show you a list of available batches (orders) with the $ of the batch, if you’re shopping for 1 or more (up to 3), the name of the store, how many items and the distance. Sometimes it says there are no batches. Keep swiping up to refresh the screen.

Screenshot of Instacart Go online home screen

I wouldn’t recommend doing a 2 or 3 customer order your first week, leave that for later. I still hate double orders because one is usually a lower tipper that otherwise wouldn’t get picked up as quickly so I just don’t love them but I have had some big double orders.

That’s up to you but don’t take a $15-$25 double order unless there are only like 10 items total. Just stick with one customer the first few times and then work your way up to 2 customers. I’ve only done two triple orders. Again, you’re gonna waste a lot of time shopping for AND delivering to three people so make sure it’s at least a $40+ order.

Also, please don't take orders where you have to shop at two different stores unless you have ice packs and insulated bags for the first order while you shop the second at the other store.

Example of available batch screen

You can click on a batch (don’t worry, you won’t accidentally be on the hook to shop, there’ll be another step) and see more details like tip amount and pictures of the items. 

In my area, the average Instacart order pays $9 so I can see right away that neither of these have a tip so I wouldn't even bother looking further into them.

There are tons of no/low tip orders on Instacart and they're not worth your while, yet I know many shoppers accept them.

Instacart Costco order

As you can see, this example is also not great. While it's not a long delivery distance, the tip between the orders is very small. You'd select the back arrow to go back to the available batches screen to find a better one.

I just wanted to show you that it takes a bit to accept a batch so you don't have to worry about accidentally accepting a batch.

If it’s a higher paying batch, you don’t have much time to look at all those details so you have to be quick to hit "Accept”.

Only once you hit “Accept” will the batch be yours. It will say transitioning batch and you’ll see the customer’s name and address and if you click on the item count or info icon you’ll be able to view the customer’s items. I actually always familiarize myself with the items before I start shopping.

If you’re not already close to the store (never pick a store that’s more than 10 miles away at least not on your first batch. I recommend going to stores nearby and waiting for an order in your car).

You have to head to the store right away to start shopping even if Instacart says the order is not due for a few hours.

Before you leave, make sure you have you have either your Instacart debit card or Apple pay (or whatever your phone uses) set up.

I've had shoppers in front of me who forgot their card and also didn't have Apple, Samsung, Google or whatever pay on their phones so they had to abandon their orders.

You'll need your physical card for Aldi orders and I recommend having it in your car at all times once you receive it.

How to add Apple pay on Instacart

Shopping your first batch

Once you arrive, slide to “start shopping” and well, start shopping.

Your first batch as an Instacart Shopper is going to be a little challenging since you are trying to navigate the app and also don’t know the store layout.

Below are some tips to consider. I have a whole slew of training pages I'll link to in related pages at the bottom.

Don't worry, you don't have to remember everything but these are some pro tips I wish I'd known.

A few helpful hints so you can become a 5-star Instacart Shopper

At the beginning of your shopping, message the customer to let them know you’re happy to shop for them and you’ll let them know about unavailable items, etc. I have a canned message I copy and paste from my notes app so I don't have to waste time typing it.

Many customers don’t respond. If the customer responds, that’s a good thing because you’ll know they’ll be responsive when it comes to approving suggested replacements.

Being an Instacart Shopper is vastly different from shopping for yourself. You’ll see items you never knew existed in aisles you never walked down before but don’t get flustered.

It will take longer than you’d like and you’ll see the clock ticking but keep you calm and if you can’t find items right away, be polite to a store employee and ask. Many Shoppers are incredibly rude to grocery store employees and only hold their phone up without being courteous.

I’ve made some incredible buddies at grocery stores that have helped me find stuff I never knew existed and saved me a ton of time. I still ask even after shopping 1,000+ orders but I generally know my stores’ layout pretty well by now.

Some of us don’t understand that good people skills will help you become a better Shopper and in turn maximize your earnings. So just be polite and ask for an item. You can of course hold the phone up to show the employee the item but just be courteous and say excuse me or something a regular human would say. Seriously!

Whatever you do, don't shop for frozen items (especially ice cream) first even if the app lists them first. That's just common sense. I've spoken to dozens of customers who said they knew an inexperienced shopper because they went to the frozen aisle first. Think about it, you might spend an hour shopping so why would you get ice cream first? You don't let your ice cream sit out on the counter at home (OK maybe you do but regardless) for that long so why would you leave it in the cart while shopping? 

I recommend knocking out deli and produce items first because those take the longest. You’ll have to weigh pretty much every piece of produce, which is annoying but is important. I sometimes don’t start the clock (I don’t swipe start shopping) until I’m done with deli and produce. This is where I use the item info to start shopping without actually starting the clock.

Don't make replacements when an item is unavailable. I know this goes against your logical inclination since refunds usually cut into your tip but customers dislike when you make replacements willy nilly. 

When I first started, I relied on Instacart's suggestions. It turns out, customers hated them and along with my own replacement suggestions Instacart and I were wrong 9 out of 10 times so don’t bother making a replacement. Just let the customer know something is out of stock and if they have a possible replacement in mind. Even if they don't respond, I'd err on the side of caution and refund with a message saying why you refunded.

It’s weird psychology but most customers prefer to select a replacement or be presented with options rather than you making a replacement without contacting them.

Just message them and if they don’t have a replacement, just refund the item. Trust me on this, yes you might lose a couple of $$ on the tip but you’ll get a good rating. Customers appreciate when you let them know that you’ll be issuing a refund for an unavailable item even if they don’t respond.

Don’t worry about this on your first few orders.


OK, hopefully you’ve made your way through the store, asked store employees for help when needed and either refunded or replaced items (with the help of the customer) and shopped frozen items last. 

Now head to checkout.

Checkout is generally smooth unless it’s Aldi where you’ll have to bag as well. Always double check to make sure you have the cashier scan the customer’s store loyalty card if applicable.

Also, make sure the bag person doesn’t make the items too heavy. I’ve had many broken bags and a few broken items as a result of way too heavy bags so just mention that right as the person starts bagging. I often bag the groceries myself since I know what weight I want the bags to be. 

Just follow the app’s instructions to complete checkout and head to your car. Securely load the bags into your car. 


Slide “Start Delivery” and your navigation should also start or select navigate if it doesn't. Make sure you read delivery instructions before you start driving so you know what to do when you get to the customer.

Most customers just want you to leave the bags at their door but sometimes they have specific instructions as to which door, etc. 

There is one thing that new Shoppers (and delivery people in general) forget that customers mention quite often and that’s leaving room for the customer’s door to open. Many customer’s doors open outward so when you place bags in front of their door, make sure there is enough room for them to be able to open their door so they’re not blocked in.

This is important!

Or else...

If the customer comes out to meet you be polite and say hi, how you’re doing or whatever you want. Again, you’ll make mad tips if you actually have customer service skills.

For that hour or so you’re shopping for the customer and delivering, you’re the service person just like a waiter is when you’re eating at a restaurant. It’s just that you don’t get trained on customer service skills by Instacart like the waiter would by the restaurant.

Once you’re done unloading the bags, swipe finish delivery and you can move on to the finding the next batch nearby or call it a day. I called it a day after my first batch because I was so exhausted.

You did it! You completed your first batch as an Instacart Shopper

That’s it! You have what it takes to become an Instacart Shopper. Ready to get on the road? Sign up for Instacart here.

In the coming weeks, you'll get to know your area better and you'll be able to decide which batches to take and which to leave. It's quite a bit of trial and error to get it right based on what's available in your area.

I really recommend getting good at a few stores so you're not always driving all over the place and lost at different stores. The long-time 5-star Instacart shoppers in my area all just shop at a couple of stores and have done so for years. So it doesn't matter if your town just has a couple of stores, get to know them and you'll do well.

Related Pages

Here's a super quick 5 step training to help you succeed as an Instacart Shopper from the start.

f you are looking for something more in-depth, check out my Do's and Don'ts of Instacart, here.

If you want to find out more about how much Instacart pays on average, check that out here.

For geting started with DoorDash go here, UberEats, here and Grubhub, here.

I also have a comparison of DoorDash vs. UberEats vs. Grubhub, here.

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