/ frugal

A Detailed Look at How I Avoid the Grocery Store

I have not been to a grocery store since late August. Except for last weekend when I was out of town visiting family, but I am going to let that one slide. I have managed this, with limited extra costs, because of Instacart, Google Express, and a bit of grocery planning. My budget is $215/month for groceries and I rarely go over. This budget even occasionally includes things like laundry detergent, paper towels, and Costco Membership.

I did not actually intend for this to happen. I parted ways with my car in August because I wanted to see what life was like without it. I did not sell the car, but I left it with a parent that lives two hours away.

After I did not have an accessible car anymore, the most difficult thing was getting groceries. I like to buy things in bulk, and it is not the easiest thing to do on a bike. Although, to be fair, I have never tried that hard. A bike trailer is an option that I have never tried.

The Setup

I primarily use two different grocery delivery services. These are Instacart and Google Express. I pay for Instacart Express for $15/month. This is part of my grocery budget. Google Express does not require payment, but you will have to pay a delivery fee if and only if your order is under $35. I find it pretty easy to hit that mark every time.

I shop at only two different stores at the moment: Whole Foods and Costco. I also pay for a Costco Membership at $60 per year. I can order anything from Whole Foods through Instacart. I can order almost anything from Costco through Instacart with a 15% markup. I can also order from Costco through Google Express, but only dry goods (and non-grocery items). Through Google Express there is no markup.

In Saint Louis, Instacart has always had the option to deliver within one or two hours, except for after 10PM. With Google Express, the order usually comes in two days. I believe that it can come next-day if you are in a bigger city.

Instacart also has a $35 mark. If your order is under $35, you will have to pay for delivery even as a member. Over $35, and you do not have to pay. However, it is expected that you tip the drivers. I typically tip $5 per order. So, I pay about $15 per month and probably make three orders, so that is $30/month that I pay for grocery delivery. That is the total amount, since I pay nothing for Google Express.

Note that I could get by without tipping Instacart drivers, but I do not advocate this practice given the the controversy around tipping already.

This is everything I need to enable a no-grocery-store life. So, what do I buy?

The Groceries

Let's break down the month of November.

November 3rd

On November 3rd, I made three different orders, through two services, from two stores.

Google Express

expresscostco-1

Most of these items will last longer than a month. The oatmeal could easily last me six months. The rice will probably make it 3-6 months since it is winter and I eat more rice-based meals during winter.

Instacart

The first Instacart Order was for Costco.

instacartcostco-cropped

The carrots, broccoli, and peas last me an entire month. Notice that I bought four salsas total. I did this in order to hit the $35 mark at both stores. This meant paying one extra dollar due to markup, but I think it was worth it. All three of my orders were within $2 of the $35 mark (before tax).

The last order was for Whole Foods.

instacartwholefoods-cropped

These are the weekly items. I normally eat rice + beans as the staple of my (every) meal and add one vegetable. On days where I run out of beans (I cook them from dry), I will use the tofu. The ice cream (and La Croix) were non-essentials, but I wanted to do all my deliveries that day instead of waiting until I needed something more.

Moving on... The rest of the orders for the month are all through Instacart.

November 11th

nov11

About a week later, I need more beans, tofu, and most importantly, milk. I go through quite a lot of soy milk. Sometimes Whole Foods does not have it, and the Instacart shopper sends me a message and I can approve item replacements.

November 24

nov24

Pretty self-explanatory. You will notice that I was not over $35 on this order. This was because of the corn replacement. Since my initial order was over $35, I do not have to pay the delivery fee.

This sums up my grocery deliveries for the month. I did make four Instacart deliveries this month as opposed to the normal three. If you add up all the totals for the month it adds up to $205.65. This is just over-budget, but I did buy some bulk items this month like the $16 of rice and oats. Additionally, I roll-over my budgets, so I did not actually break the budget this month. I still have $10.21 left in the account.

There you have it. A month of groceries, without going to the grocery store.

Did you even notice it was all vegan?